Author Topic: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.  (Read 3541 times)

Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« on: October 21, 2020, 08:32:00 am »
In the pre covid "leave the house" world we had a Tacx iMagic trainer and used it for a few years during the grottiest of winter days.  It's purpose was to keep us at touring fitness and we enjoyed the blocky Dutch west coast landscapes of the 32 bit system and the odd Tacx classic ride dvd.

We don't have any compatible computers for this old thing any more and are looking at a replacement.  We'd like the hopefully improved 64 bit less blocky landscapes and even video footage of rides but primarily it is a motivation tool for general fitness plus an outlet against grotty days and current and future covid limitations.   

Another unknown is all this subscription stuff.  We don't think that we are really interested in this but can we get what we prefer without it any more?

Should we go dumb trainer, smart trainer or connected smart trainer?  Should we get the roller type or the newer style which connects the bicycle drive train directly to the machine replacing the back wheel?

mllePB will be the biggest winner on whatever system we buy but I will also use it for a bit of exercise now and then.

Opinions of the panel most welcome please.

PaulF

  • "World's Scariest Barman"
  • It's only impossible if you stop to think about it
Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2020, 08:55:06 am »
What's your budget?

Where will it be used? As in will you or your neighbours be bothered by the noise? The roller type are cheaper but noisier.

Does it have to be smart, i.e. with the computer controlling the resistance through the ride or are you happy to adjust manually?

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2020, 09:05:04 am »
Budget is not an issue.

We were hoping that folk would tell us their experiences and help us weigh up the pros and cons.  We would prefer smart. 

Noise:  yes, the old iMagic was noisy.  As we live in a terrace quieter would be better.


fboab

  • It's a fecking serious business, riding a bike
Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2020, 09:13:25 am »
There are two decisions to make - what to ride, and where.
What - You will get a much better experience with a direct drive smart trainer. It will be (MUCH) quieter and much more reactive. Only you can decide if that better experience is worth the added money. If you and mllePB are not the same size and switch out bikes, it's probably easier to have a wheel-on trainer. Unless you are "training" and "need" accurate power, you will be able to pedal to moving pictures that move in approximation to your pedalling even with a dumb trainer. Like everything else, the more you spend, the better the experience.

Where
We're big users of Zwift in this house. It's a rolling one month subscription which you can pause at any time.
The social aspect- you can chat (with actual voice and ears over discord, or typed within the app) with other riders, which means it's much less boring. There are fewer courses than some (RGV / BKOOL /FULGAZ) but the user base is huge. I have ridden more hours/kms on Zwift inside, than outside, in both 2019 & 2020 - it's worth getting togged up for an hour which I am too lazy to do for outside. Our bikes are permanently set up and ready to roll in our spare room, which makes a huge difference to whether you bother or not. It's not just racing - rather the opposite. You find a group who ride at about the same pace as you, and get to know them when you ride with them regularly on a variety of 'terrains'. Because of the size of the user base, that same pace is easy to find- from amateur handcyclists doing 1w/kg to virtual pros doing 5+.

For me, the best indoor setup is the one you will use. I have never managed to do that with any previous software. I have made actual real online friends from around the world by playing a videogame controlled by my legs.
TSS is not Total Sex Score, Chris!

LMT

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2020, 09:21:14 am »
If budget is not an issue then a Tacx Neo 2T. One of the best smart trainers on the market, quiet and has a road like feel.

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2020, 09:53:38 am »
A "Smart" trainer that can interact with Zwift would be my recommendation. I have a (relatively) simple mid-range Elite Directo that plays nicely with Zwift.  The CW review says it's noisy, but I have mine mounted on the type of rubber matting tiles you get for workshops (about 10mm thick and spongy), so any noise is damped quite well. And of course the sweat / perspiration is easy to clean up.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2020, 10:01:47 am »
I've never been able to make the "real video" apps that work with a Smart-trainer work for me. The video is inevitably shot by fit young things who don't ride at my ancient pace, so the downscaling in speed leads to something of a slideshow. I much prefer the smoothness of Zwift - even though it's a cartoon.

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2020, 10:44:05 am »
Upgraded from the semi-smart Elite Turbo Muin to really smart Wahoo Kickr with rocking.

The semi-smart was fun and got me a lot fitter without having to change gear.  I lost 6 or 7 kg during lockdown.  The Kickr is definitely worth it though because it does help to need to use gears and the rocking feature makes standing on the pedals easier.  The Kickr is said to be very accurate which if so means the Muin is not far out provided the belt tension is right (use a torque wrench).  The Muin stores large compared to the Kickr and is hard to transport.  The Kickr has a folding stand and a neatly placed carrying handle that is very useful.

Very easy to set both up to use with Zwift.  I've just bought a monitor to complement the tablet so hopefully will be able to read it easily without specs.
Sic transit and all that..

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2020, 10:59:44 am »
With a direct drive trainer you can position the bike vertically (at least mine - Elite Zumo) and get most of the floor space back when not in use.

I found Zwift boring and have no interest in watching virtual scenery. Alas Zwift is terrible about giving you audio cues if you just want to do a structured workout while watching something else. I need to find something better.

You find a group who ride at about the same pace as you

Out of interest, how did you go about this? Not just riding around, surely?

fboab

  • It's a fecking serious business, riding a bike
Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2020, 11:07:22 am »
With a direct drive trainer you can position the bike vertically (at least mine - Elite Zumo) and get most of the floor space back when not in use.

I found Zwift boring and have no interest in watching virtual scenery. Alas Zwift is terrible about giving you audio cues if you just want to do a structured workout while watching something else. I need to find something better.

You find a group who ride at about the same pace as you

Out of interest, how did you go about this? Not just riding around, surely?
Join a group ride. Zwift's big win is the social aspect- their built in training plans have major limitations.

Another hurdle with Zwift is the slightly secret squirrel nature of how to get the most out of it. You can do with using 2 devices so you can run Zwift AND the companion app. A couple of additional websites (at least) to search for rides, to assess your progress, to connect fully with the social groups. Lots of the Teams are social groups, and they all use Facebook for comms.

Easiest way to find an appropriate group ride (or race, or group workout, if that's what you're wanting) is here: https://zwifthacks.com/app/events/

Filter by pace, distance, time, course, organiser... Nigh on impossible to do on Zwift's own site.
TSS is not Total Sex Score, Chris!

Fennec

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2020, 11:27:20 am »
I agree with everything fboab has written.

Zwift’s other group ride option now is the pace partners. They’re effectively (almost) always-on group rides at various paces, as there’s always a group around the pacer. They’re a new feature and it’s still early days, but they have potential.

I enjoy the dynamic of riding in a group on Zwift as it adds interest/discipline to the session, though I’m not one to chat.

I knocked Zwifting on the head over the summer. I’m using it for midweek riding now, and longer weekend rides when the weather’s crap. I’ll probably carry on with a session or two a week all through next year though, as I benefit from the more intense sessions. I gravitate towards long & slow on the road.

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2020, 05:12:20 pm »
Tried the pacers once recently and not sure I understand how to get the best out of them but it certainly gave me a workout!  I think it was called Coco Chanel and only the 3rd fastest out of 4..
Sic transit and all that..

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2020, 06:18:19 pm »
I’d go smart trainer that talks both Bluetooth and Ant+.  What you link it up to is up to you, and you can chop and change. RGT Cycling has about six virtual courses available for free with no subscription.

I control my smart trainer through either the Tacx app or RGT cycling app on my iPad. The iPad mounts on the handlebars.

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2020, 07:09:46 pm »
DCRainmaker is the go to place to read about all the options, I have an elite direto, when I bought it the best value direct drive, the market moves quickly though.

https://www.dcrainmaker.com

zigzag

  • unfuckwithable
Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2020, 07:25:30 pm »
i've come to conclusion that companies can't (or don't want to) make a trainer that's reliable, accurate, quiet, has realistic road feel and has stable connectivity. there are some "good enough" trainers, mostly in the premium sector.

fwiw, i use neo 2t and would probably recommend it - it's better than most. or a neo bike, if more than one person will be using it.

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2020, 09:37:29 pm »
Thanks for the contributions so far.  Very interesting.

We talked about this over supper and refined what we are ideally looking for.  We like the virtual scenery type presentation that our old tacx gave us but we'd rely like to just pick somewhere to "go for a ride" and find ourselves there virtually whether it be a good streetview type scenario or computer generated landscapes.  We're not really interested in racing or training programmes specifically, rather just "getting out for a ride".  The old tacx also gave an elementnof resistance for hill climbing which added to the enjoyment.

Perhaps a smart trainer would be seen as overkill but we'd not use a dumb trainer nearly as much because the interest element would be missing for us.

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2020, 11:35:49 pm »
My experience may be slightly at odds with others, but I'm enjoying Zwift on a dumb, wheel-on trainer.

Before lockdown, I couldn't be bothered with trainers at all. I'd had some rollers back in the day, and hardly used them. I began to think again because it was more difficult to get out; because, after a little incident involving a double bypass last year, I was under strict instructions to take regular exercise (and I suddenly found myself neither cycle commuting nor able to go to the gym that I had joined); and because my cycling club started to promote Zwift club rides and so on, in the absence of normal activities. I think it was also a factor that, in the gym, I'd found that I preferred the virtual-reality ride routes on their static bikes and walkers, rather than watching TV like everyone else.

I still wasn't going to spend a fortune, so I dug out an old fixed-wheel bike and got a dumb, wheel-on trainer from my son-in-law, who had a spare. I rather liked Rouvy, which uses real-world videos, but signed up with Zwift because that's where the club was. I've got hooked. I'm now doing more of Zwift than the long walks I was doing at first. I'm also on Zwift more often than out on a real ride, because an hour or less on Zwift seems worthwhile, whereas I'd rather go out for at least half a day on a proper ride, and my need for utility riding has dropped to almost nil. To be fair though, as people pointed out to me early on, there are loads of videos on YouTube and the like, of social and training rides and routes. If you're not bothered about your effort level relating too much to the speed at which you travel, you can just put those on a screen and "ride" along - that's what they are for - without any need for a subscription.

You do need sensors on Zwift, at least if you have no power meter - speed, cadence and heart-rate. I don't have a pain cave - just a mild-discomfort patio outside - so a PC screen isn't practicable and I use a fairly basic Android tablet mounted on my stem. That set-up was pretty good for me. There's no variable resistance, but I look at it like this: you spend a lot of money so that Zwift can make it harder when you're going uphill. Then, you use variable gears to make it easier again. Or, you stick with a single gear, and imagine that Zwift made it harder, then imagine that you just made it easier again. You still end up going really slowly uphill, and really fast down, either way, and pedalling at about the same rate throughout as you would with all that extra kit. Maybe I'm missing something, but I've still not been convinced of what ;D

The thing that did get frustrating was the speed I was going at. That's probably specific to my individual trainer and readings - it's hard to tell. But I did seem to be a lot slower than in real life, and longer rides and bigger hills were taking impracticably long. After posting about this here and in one or two other places, I got a very generous offer from another YACFer on an older power meter, and I'm now using that - but still on single-speed (it's a freehub type, so I'm using a single-speed convertor). The effect of that on my speed has been remarkable - I've actually overtaken some people, and I'm now probably faster than in the real world - but otherwise, my previous paragraph stands.

I haven't done any of Zwift's training programmes, just the various rides that it offers. But you do get hooked on collecting the badges for completing different routes. If you do Audax, you'll understand. And you can get hooked too on collecting enough "drops" to "buy" faster bikes and wheels. Or, if you prefer, to "buy" classic steel ones. And there's a feature that my club, at least, call "the elastic", that keeps you together on group rides, so that you sort of go at the average of the speeds of all the individuals - they dragged me up the Col du Zwift to the radio tower my first time, rather like, decades ago, schoolfriends dragged me up the Cat & Fiddle my first time there.

As has already been said, there's a wide range of rides to join, or you can ride alone (as I usually do). You're encouraged to interact with others - the equivalent of shouting "Dig in!" or similar is to give a "Ride on" as you pass, or are passed by, others. And the club are now trying to get me involved in riding some virtual club 10s - our usual inter-club series with some other local clubs has also moved onto Zwift.

Anyway, that's me. YMMV, as they say.

Pedal Castro

  • so talented I can run with scissors - ouch!
    • Two beers or not two beers...
Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2020, 07:43:00 am »
Thanks for the contributions so far.  Very interesting.

We talked about this over supper and refined what we are ideally looking for.  We like the virtual scenery type presentation that our old tacx gave us but we'd rely like to just pick somewhere to "go for a ride" and find ourselves there virtually whether it be a good streetview type scenario or computer generated landscapes.  We're not really interested in racing or training programmes specifically, rather just "getting out for a ride".  The old tacx also gave an elementnof resistance for hill climbing which added to the enjoyment.

Perhaps a smart trainer would be seen as overkill but we'd not use a dumb trainer nearly as much because the interest element would be missing for us.

In that case give Veloreality a try (free trial). I use Sufferfest for training but if I want to do an easy 2-3 hour ride which has to be indoors there's nothing better than riding in some parts of the world I've actually ridden in RL. This system works best with a smart training so it adjusts the resistance depending on the slope and the faster you go the scenery passes at the appropriate rate.

It does have a system of "racing" against your previous attempts at each course if you want to but that isn't particularly useful if you are just riding to get the hours on the bike done.

If they have a video of roads you have ridden, I have 2, West Flanders and Col de Columbiere, it's brilliant to relive those rides although passing by bars you have previously stopped for a drink is tempting to...  :P

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2020, 08:03:19 am »
Thanks for the contributions so far.  Very interesting.

We talked about this over supper and refined what we are ideally looking for.  We like the virtual scenery type presentation that our old tacx gave us but we'd rely like to just pick somewhere to "go for a ride" and find ourselves there virtually whether it be a good streetview type scenario or computer generated landscapes.  We're not really interested in racing or training programmes specifically, rather just "getting out for a ride".  The old tacx also gave an elementnof resistance for hill climbing which added to the enjoyment.

Perhaps a smart trainer would be seen as overkill but we'd not use a dumb trainer nearly as much because the interest element would be missing for us.

In that case give Veloreality a try (free trial). I use Sufferfest for training but if I want to do an easy 2-3 hour ride which has to be indoors there's nothing better than riding in some parts of the world I've actually ridden in RL. This system works best with a smart training so it adjusts the resistance depending on the slope and the faster you go the scenery passes at the appropriate rate.

It does have a system of "racing" against your previous attempts at each course if you want to but that isn't particularly useful if you are just riding to get the hours on the bike done.

If they have a video of roads you have ridden, I have 2, West Flanders and Col de Columbiere, it's brilliant to relive those rides although passing by bars you have previously stopped for a drink is tempting to...  :P

And this can link to a "smart" trainer I guess?
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Pedal Castro

  • so talented I can run with scissors - ouch!
    • Two beers or not two beers...
Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2020, 08:28:25 am »
And this can link to a "smart" trainer I guess?

Yes, you need a smart trainer so the software can control the resistance. I have an Elite Direto which I selected after analysing the options using DC Rainmaker's review as referred to above.

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #20 on: October 22, 2020, 08:37:55 am »
Brilliant - I'd just found that DC Rainmaker article, to check if my trainer (also a direto as it happens) would meet the ANT+ FE-C requirements.  :thumbsup:

ETA: From what I can see, if a trainer works with Zwift via ANT+ it'll work with V-Ride too.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2020, 09:49:33 am »
Yes, you need a smart trainer so the software can control the resistance

One thing to bring up is that "smart" and "controllable" aren't interchangeable. There's at least one product on the market - the Elite Turbo Muin Smart - that uses that word without being controllable. That confuses a lot of people.

Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #22 on: October 22, 2020, 10:39:35 am »
A trainer is controllable if it supports the FE-C protocol.

fboab

  • It's a fecking serious business, riding a bike
Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #23 on: October 22, 2020, 11:51:11 am »
Thanks for the contributions so far.  Very interesting.

We talked about this over supper and refined what we are ideally looking for.  We like the virtual scenery type presentation that our old tacx gave us but we'd rely like to just pick somewhere to "go for a ride" and find ourselves there virtually whether it be a good streetview type scenario or computer generated landscapes.  We're not really interested in racing or training programmes specifically, rather just "getting out for a ride".  The old tacx also gave an elementnof resistance for hill climbing which added to the enjoyment.

Perhaps a smart trainer would be seen as overkill but we'd not use a dumb trainer nearly as much because the interest element would be missing for us.

What you're looking for, in marketing speak, is engagement. Historically you have had that through moving pictures. I get it from social interactions (this has been more important while working from home- I miss people). drossall is getting it through a combination of social (his IRL club) and the gamification of zwift - all that levelling up and stamp-collecting of badges. The more athletic / stats minded get it from workouts, erm, working.

I don't think a smart trainer is overkill. It's like using a PC for browsing, sure, you can do it on a black and white grey & green 2004 phone screen, but the experience is much nicer.

Get the smart trainer. Try out the options - they almost all have free trials.
TSS is not Total Sex Score, Chris!

PaulF

  • "World's Scariest Barman"
  • It's only impossible if you stop to think about it
Re: Turbo / smart trainers - what to buy and what to avoid.
« Reply #24 on: October 22, 2020, 01:03:25 pm »
I’ve been mulling over a smart trainer for a while now and pulled the trigger on a Wahoo KICKR this morning. Will it talk directly to an iPad or do I need an ANT dongle?