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5 bike trainers to survive confinement

And tips to know how to buy smartly

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Since COVID-19 confinement was decreed, there have been two things that are tremendously sought: a drug supplier and a bike trainer to train at home. I can't help you with the former, so I'll try the latter...

Taking a look at the cycling sales groups on Facebook these days will only show ads of “looking to buy a bike trainer in Murcia”, “ooking to buy a bike trainer in Madrid”, “ooking to buy a bike trainer in Barcelona”, and so on with all the cities. It is certainly the most sought after by everyone and, right now, whoever has a bike trainer has a treasure.

But before you turn crazy when buying a second hand (or new) bike trainer, I'm going to set out some guidelines for what to look for.

Actualización 19 de marzo

Si estás buscando rodillo, cada vez tienes menos donde elegir. Ya está casi todo agotado. Y todos de la gama alta (los más caros). Os dejo un resumen rápido de lo que queda disponible en estos momentos:

Types of bike trainers

I will focus exclusively on smart bike trainers. Today, if there is a reason to use a bike trainer is to do it with external apps. The bike trainers on which you have to adjust them manually make little sense today.

A smart bike trainer allows an external app to adjust the hardness of the bike trainer. Therefore simulators such as Zwift or Bkool will make it harder when we face a climb, training apps like TrainerRoad or SufferFest will make it harder or softer depending on the intervals that the training program marks, or you can even download the training that your coach has designed in TrainingPeaks and let a Garmin Edge control the resistance.

In short, the possibilities offered by this type of bike trainers are far superior to those that are not smart, and the difference in price is not so much.

From there we can establish three types of bike trainers:

  • Bike rollers: These are the lifelong rollers in which you do not take out any wheels. There are not many options within smart rollers and it is an option that is not for everyone. It's not that they're dangerous, but obviously if you're not aware of what you're doing, you can fall from it.
  • Wheel-on bike trainers: The most economical option. On this type of bike trainer you will simply have to mount the entire bike, and you will be using your rear wheel. You can choose to use the same wheel and tire, or have a specific one for this use.
  • Direct drive bike trainers: It is the ultimate wave in bike trainers. In this case you remove the rear wheel and the bike is placed on the bike trainer. A few years ago it was an option only reserved for the most expensive ones, but now they have fallen to the mid-range. If you want a quieter option and with more real road feeling you should opt for a bike trainer of this type.

Technical aspects to consider when selecting a bike trainer

As I am going to focus exclusively on smart bike trainers (I do not recommend to anyone buying a “dumb” trainer), it's time to talk about one of the most important parts of the trainer - connectivity. Of course it is not the only one, then you have to consider whether the trainer has a power meter or estimates the power, the maximum power allowed and maximum slope it simulates, etc.

But for all that to work satisfactorily, the first thing to take into account is that the trainer connects with the apps we are interested in.

As with sensors, in bike trainers we find the same types of connectivity: Bluetooth Smart and ANT+. Through either of these two standards the trainer will transmit speed, cadence and power to the device (s) with which it is connected. Any Bluetooth or ANT+ compatible device can receive these signals (Garmin, Polar, Suunto, apps...).

Within these connections we can look specifically at ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth FTMS. If the roller has both communication methods we can be sure that it will be possible to use it with any device.

Then, in the Bluetooth part, things can start to get complicated. FTMS is a relatively new standard so before its existence each manufacturer used a private communication channel. This is where we may encounter problems if the trainer does not support Bluetooth FTMS and its Bluetooth communication channel is not compatible with applications.

This is what happens for example with the Zycle bike trainers (the old Bkool). They have no direct support in Zwift using Bluetooth, only on Bkool. The trainer comes with an ANT+ adapter to be able to use on your computer (that way it would be compatible with Zwift); but whether you want to use it with an iPad, Apple TV or similar, we will be complicating life needlessly.

Recommended bike trainers

Here I will create categories by price, because I suppose that is the fundamental aspect that will make you decide for one option or another. Everything will depend on whether you only want it to use these days of confinement or you will continue to use it in the future (believe me, it is a very interesting option to do quality workouts in a short time).

Buscador de chollos

Cheap bike trainer

Tacx Vortex Smart

Undoubtedly the Tacx Vortex Smart is the best option right now if you want to spend little money. This trainer allows to simulate up to 7% incline and 950W of power. That power limitation can be a drag if you're interested in making very explosive intervals in a short time (sprints), but if you just want to roll on Watopia, you won't have any issue.

Garmin Edge 820 - ANT+ Roller

Tacx announces that it has an accuracy of +/- 5% because it has no power meter and the flywheel is only 11.8kg, but for 249€ (239€ with the code NEWES if you're a new customer or create a new account) we can't ask for much more.

See offer on Wiggle

View offer on Chain Reaction Cycles

Mid-range bike trainers

Without a doubt it is in the middle range that you will find more interesting options because that is where the fight is right now. And although there are still wheel-on trainers in this price range, I consider the direct drive trainers to be much more interesting.

As in previous cases, the differences between the two models will be in precision, power and maximum inclination and the weight of the flywheel. It is in that last factor where there may be differences in sensations, because the greater weight of the flywheel the more similarities with the use on road we will find and more “real” you will feel the pedaling.

However, beyond the maximum power, I am sure that if we did a blind testing of four or five trainers in this price range, no one would be able to tell which is which.

Tacx Flux S

Within this category both Tacx Flux S and Elite Suito are among the most interesting options. However with Suito we have a problem: right now there is no stock. And since we need it yesterday because we're going to go crazy being locked up in the house, we have no choice to wait.

Within the Tacx direct drive trainer range there are two Flux: the Flux S I'm talking about and the Flux 2. The S is basically the original Tacx Flux but at a cheaper price and with redesigned internal parts.

Tacx Flux S

Allows up to 1,500W of power and 10% of incline simulation. The flywheel is 6.7kg (but simulates 22.8kg) and has an accuracy of +/- 3%.

See offer on BikeInn

See offer on Wiggle

Wahoo KICKR CORE

Wahoo is one of the leaders in terms of indoor training trainers. It's where the company was born and where it has earned all the reputation it has. The KICKR CORE is a silent trainer that is also compatible with KICKR CLIMB, an accessory that you can place on the fork to simulate the inclination of ascents and make it even more real.

5 rodillos para pasar el confinamiento 1

It simulates an incline of up to 16% and allows to reach up to 1,800W with a 5.4kg flywheel. Wahoo usually has refurbished units with up to €200 off, so if you hunt any, it's a very good option for a very well made trainer.

View refurbished offer on Wahoo

View offer on Wahoo

High-end bike trainers

In this range we find maximum exponents of each of the brands. What today represents high-end is what tomorrow will be mid-range, so it is a very interesting category to follow even if our budget is not enough for any of these models.

The price difference with the mid-range models does not justify the extras we receive, unless you are interested in having the best of the best. They are somewhat quieter, somewhat more accurate and have better road feel, but it's not an abysmal difference.

Tacx Neo

In the high-end segment the Tacx Neo is king. It has everything: good construction, good reliability, good feeling... and also has vibration to simulate different terrain surfaces (earth, wood, stones, etc.).

The feeling is not the same as doing the Paris-Roubaix, but it encourages the change of terrain in the training sessions of Zwift.

Within the Tacx Neo range we have been seeing several models. The Neo 2 came out after the original model, the latter being the Neo 2T. The truth is that there are no big differences between any of them except small internal differences that have been corrected over time. I use the original Neo and I have no problem nor see the need to renew it with either of the two new additions.

Tacx Neo

Yes, it is true that the original model presents the problem that it can “slip” if we make a very sharp change of power. It's like the real wheel slipping on ice. But the truth is that I have only “suffered” this issue in some Suffer Fest workouts, but in normal use even with intervals it is something that does not appear.

Otherwise it is a trainer in which precision (+/- 1%) prevails and supports up to 2.200W and a maximum inclination of 25% in its current 2T version; but above all its silence. When I pedal on it the only thing I hear is the drivetrain, there is hardly any noise coming out of from the trainer.

It also has a function in which it simulates descents, accelerating when the incline is negative. To do this it has to be plugged in, because that is another possible option offered, operation without connection to the mains powered exclusively by pedaling.

See offer on Wiggle

View offer on Chain Reaction Cycles

Wahoo KICKR

Along with the Tacx Neo, the other model that comes to mind when you think of a high-end roller is the Wahoo KICKR. It doesn't have as many additional functions as the Tacx, but it's built like a tank.

It is equally reliable, quiet and accurate, and although it does not have the ability to vibrate simulating surfaces, it supports CLIMB.

Wahoo KICKR

Like the Neo 2T, it supports up to 2.200W but its maximum incline simulation is 20% (more than enough). The accuracy advertised by Wahoo is +/- 2%.

As in the case of the KICKR CORE, there are also refurbished units to save a little money.

View refurbished offer on Wahoo

View offer on Wahoo

 

There you have it, a good number of bike trainers at different prices to be able to spend these confinement days pedaling at home. I have tried to select models of which I have found units in stock for immediate delivery. Of course there are more models of different brands, but it all depends on the price and stock of the moment.

If you have any questions about these models or about any other, do not hesitate to make use of the comments you can find below.

And with that... thanks for reading!

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20 Comments

  1. Hello
    He leído tu articulo con mucho interés. Tengo una mondraker chrono carbon 2019 con rueda de 29. Llevo buscando un rodillo sin éxito. Según tu criterio ¿ cuál se ajusta a las características de esta mtb?
    Thank you very much.

  2. Hello,

    El enlace me lleva al inicio del mismo artículo.

    En mi caso también tengo una 29″, KTM ultra race de 2015, es de aluminio, ¿Cómo saber lo de la compatibilidad? Me cogeré algo básico porque prefiero siempre ir por aire libre.

    Enhorabuena por tu página.

    1. Thank you, Pedro.

      Ya está corregido el enlace.

      Todos son compatibles, lo único a tener en cuenta es que el rodillo trae el cierre de rueda tradicional. Si tu bicicleta tiene el sistema Boost (el eje es más ancho y el cierre es a rosca), entonces necesitas comprar el adaptador aparte.

      1. Hola, una pregunta por favor, tengo una merida big nine de 8v y veo que todos los rodillos con transmisión directa son de 9v a 11v. ¿Existe alguno al que poder poner un cassette de 8v y que no suceda nada negativo?

        Thank you

        1. Lo único que necesitas es añadir los espaciadores necesarios para que la tuerca del cassette fije bien todos los piñones. Si no me fallan las cuentas, son dos espaciadores de 1mm lo que vas a necesitar.

  3. Good morning.
    Tengo una giant tcr adv 1 2019.
    Quería cambiar mis actuales platos 52-36 por 50-34,
    Pero al comprar el tacx neo, le
    Tengo q comprar un cassette.
    Estaba pensando poner el cassette de la giant,(11-30) al rodillo, y ponerle a la bici un cassette 11-34.
    Es factible hacerlo y así ganaría lo que iba a ganar con e
    Cambio de platos? Soy muy nuevo y no conozco nadie que monte en bici.
    Thank you

  4. Muy interesante, como todos tus artículos. Yo me planteo comprar cinta de correr, pero por lo que veo son precios altos y dudo de las calidades. Podrías aconsejarme algo al respecto?
    Thank you for your help.

    1. Thank you Jose

      En cuanto a cintas de correr es algo que no tengo ninguna idea. Y personalmente no me gusta recomendar cosas sobre las que no tengo ningún tipo de criterio…

  5. Good morning, Eduardo,

    Tengo serias dudas entre el Tacx Flux S y el Wahoo Kickr Core

    A día de hoy tengo bicicleta de carretera con cambio Sram force de 12 velocidades, ¿para el primero me haría falta algún adaptador? Cual sería y dónde puedo conseguirlo? Para el segundo imagino que con el propio casete de mi bicicleta valdría verdad?

    Muchas gracias por tu tiempo

    1. Javier, en cualquiera de los dos casos necesitarías un núcleo compatible de 12 velocidades. Aparte, supongo que si tu bicicleta es nueva tendrás frenos de disco y usa el eje de tipo Boost (el que es más ancho y entra a rosca). Ese tipo de eje tampoco está incluido con los rodillos y también es necesario comprarlo aparte.

      Puedes usar el casete de tu rueda actual, aunque lo más cómodo es comprar uno para dejar instalado en el rodillo. Lo cierto es que el menor desembolso que vas a realizar de toda esta historia…

  6. Buenas. Gracias por tu artículo.
    Podría utilizar el Tacx Vortex Smart en una MTB de 27.5?

    De ser posible probablemente tendría que hacerme con una rueda específica no? Podrías recomendar alguna?

    Thank you

    1. Sin problema, pero como dices necesitas un neumático específico (el rodillo destrozaría los tacos) o, simplemente, uno liso.

      Además, si tu bicicleta no tiene el cierre típico de palomilla y tiene eje boost, necesitarás también un adaptador.

  7. Hello,

    Muchas gracias por el artículo, muy interesante.

    A día de hoy los rodillos están más solicitados que el papel higiénico, ¿Conoces alguna página donde haya algo de stock o previsión de haberlo a corto plazo? Tenía uno encargado pero los de mammoth me han cancelado el pedido y me han dejado tirado.

    Un saludo y a cuidarse!

    1. Al principio del artículo tienes enlace a las secciones específicas de cada una de las tiendas, sólo para productos en stock. Hay ciertos modelos que todavía tienen stock

  8. Hola Eduardo, gracias por tus artículos son siempre muy completos y “currados”.
    Respecto al Tacx Flux S y el Wahoo Kick Core ¿cual crees que merece más la pena comprar? No termino de decidirme por uno u otro. El precio es importante pero no sería determinante si realmente mereciera la pena. Y no me importa esperar a que haya stock porque le voy a dar bastante uso.
    Thank you very much.
    A salute!

    1. Gracias Alberto.

      Ambos son dos muy buenas opciones, pero si fuese mi dinero, me inclinaría probablemente al Wahoo. Pero no considero que sea muy superior, así que si la diferencia de precio en el momento de la compra es importante, optaría por el más barato (que será el Tacx). Si el precio es similar, Wahoo. ¡Si finalmente lo compras, recuerda que si lo haces a través de los enlaces de la página estarás colaborando con ella!

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