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The eight best turbo trainers for Zwift

Thursday, September 27th, 2018 9:33am
Category: Latest News

Before the invention of Zwift, indoor training was so dull people literally exploded with boredom. Yes… literally.

With the cost of wiping down walls cutting into the profit margins of bike retailers everywhere, it was necessary to invent a way to make turbo training interesting… and Zwift is it.

Spiriting you away to a virtual world of online, multiplayer cycling, Zwift has transformed home-based training for riders around the world.

Some 500,000 people have logged into Zwift since it launched in 2014, clocking up 125 million miles last year alone.

The number of subscribers is growing fast, with riders accumulating over one million miles every day throughout 2018 – on course to triple the 2017 total.

In a nutshell, there is a nut, but what’s important is that Zwift is changing the world of cycling training and it’s not slowing down.

Smart turbo trainer vs traditional trainer

Smart turbo trainers are fitted with multiple devices they can use to ‘talk’ to computers or cycling software on your phone.

The more sophisticated the model, the more performance tracking-tech – from simple ANT+ sensors, right up to cadence and power sensors.

This is important for a great Zwift experience. If you’re only using a few, badly calibrated sensors, you’re not getting the full experience. Once you start plugging in your heart rate monitor, power meters, and cadence detectors, you’ll see a new world opening up for you – maybe literally. Some events on Zwift won’t allow you to enter without some of these readings.

The speed sensors on traditional trainers, used to communicate with a standard cycling computer, can be used to talk to Zwift through ANT+, but in reality you’re only getting a small slice of the action.

Smart trainers, especially the latest generation, collect a lot more information, facilitating a two way conversation and allowing Zwift to adjust the resistance of your trainer depending on the onscreen gradients. For many, this is where the magic happens.

OK, I want to Zwift – what do I need?

Getting started on Zwift is easier than you think. Much easier.

OK, a bit easier.

You’ll need a computer capable of running Zwift, so a Mac or PC with decent power (the Zwift website has full details of processor requirements), or a phone. Until recently, only iPhones could run Zwift but in the past few months a beta version for Android phones has become available. It’s not available in some regions, it doesn’t work on some devices, and you’ll have to do a bit of digging to find it. Sorry.

How do turbo trainers and computers communicate?

ANT+: ANT+ is a basically a radio signal that allows your trainer to communicate its speed to a receiver, which fits into the USB port of your computer or phone.
Bluetooth: Bluetooth is another radio frequency protocol used by some trainers to communicate with computers or phones. Because many modern phones and computers have Bluetooth receivers fitted as standard, you may not need an additional receiver like you would with ANT+.
FE-C: FE-C stands for Fitness Equipment Control and describes tech that can feed back to a piece of training equipment, adjusting things like elevation or resistance.

Then you’ll need an ANT+ USB dongle, or a Bluetooth enabled device. This is how your trainer will communicate with Zwift. However, if you have a Smart Turbo Trainer, all this will be already taken care of.

Buying a Smart Turbo Trainer

The huge increase in Zwift use means getting a smart turbo trainer is becoming an essential. The decision to go smart is pretty much made, so it’s really just a matter of finding the right one.

Getting the most out of Zwift, however, means not only maximising the number of sensors but also their speed and connectivity capabilities. You also have to factor in practicalities such as size and noise to ensure you’re training as often as possible.

To help you make your decision, here’s eight of our top picks, with some guidance as to which one may suit your individual needs:

Tacx Neo Direct Drive Smart Trainer

This Tacx Neo Direct Drive Smart Trainer offers the best in power and intelligence while boasting the quietest operation currently available. A highly realistic road feel is delivered through a hugely powerful motor, providing incredible levels of resistance while maintaining smooth operation.

I did wonder if spending this kind of money on an ergo would be worth it, and the answer is yes. If you regularly train indoors, especially on Zwift or Trainer Road this is worth every dollar.

I bought the Neo (instead of Kickr) specifically due to the low noise due to neighbours being close by, and it sure is quiet. Even at high intensity big ring efforts, my fan makes more noise than the Neo. The extent of resistance is amazing, my sprinting power is around 1300 watts and steep inclines on zwift (when set to maximum resistance) brings me to a grind where im flicking back through my gears to find granny (just like in real life). Its made Zwift just so much more immersive, and compared to my old fluid trainer I can really feel the difference in workout intensity. I can tell this will make me stronger. Desbos, customer reviewer.

Tacx Neo Direct Drive Smart Trainer

Elite Drivo Turbo Trainer

Smooth and quiet with unparalleled interaction, the Elite Drivo Direct Drive Smart Trainer is the ultimate training companion. Get all the metrics you need delivered with pinpoint accuracy to help you reach your ultimate goal.

Having ridden the Drivo regularly for over a month I would certainly recommend it to anyone operating in the top-tiers of amateur competition and would-be professionals. The 2000w maximum resistance and 24% maximum slope give you access to everything from a bunch-sprint in Abu Dhabi to a third-week climb of the Stelvio in the (dis)comfort of your own home.

Elite Drivo Turbo Trainer

Bkool Smart Pro II Trainer

The Bkool Smart Pro II Trainer features a bespoke design alongside reduced noise, greater range of smart resistance, and is ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart compatible.

Compared to my previous trainer, this is hard work, but in a good way. The set up was easy, the pairing straightforward and the Bkool simulator software is fun to use. In the few days I’ve had the unit set up I’ve done a couple of classes, a couple of hill stages and a couple of FTP sessions.

A great product for the price. TheGirlsDad, customer reviewer.

Bkool Smart Pro II Trainer 

Tacx Genius Smart Trainer

This interactive trainer offers the most advanced brake of all the Tacx trainers with rear-wheel drive, so you can enjoy a highly realistic cycling experience. The motor brake is able to apply a maximum power of 1500 W to the back wheel and will speed up during a descent.

Set up was easy and the free app for android is great. Tested using the demo film and was impressed with the braking effect, my last turbo was basic and I had to turn up the tension to simulate hills. Just like being on the road, as you approach hills you zip through the gears to keep going. The braking effect was better than expected TBH, was just expecting a slight change but as it ramped up to 9% you really had to work. Really quiet, compared to my last turbo it was silent! Lenny101, customer reviewer.

Tacx Genius Smart Trainer

Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control Turbo Trainer

The Rock and Roll Smart Control is the only smart electronic trainer that allows your bike to move with you for a more realistic road feel and a stronger core. This system delivers an immersive experience in the saddle, with efficient, targeted workouts and ride simulations that exceeds your expectations.

Buy if: You want a smart trainer that offers a smooth ride as well as some out of the saddle and cornering fun too.

Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control Turbo Trainer

Tacx Vortex Smart Trainer

The Tacx Vortex Smart Trainer is an interactive Smart trainer with an electro brake. This resistance unit can reach a maximum resistance is 950 Watt and realistically mirrors gradients of up to 7%.

Using this trainer with Zwift and I can say it’s converted me from someone who used to not use a turbo as it was boring to someone who actually likes using it

If you’re a Strava premium member this is a no brainer as you get 2 months free on Zwift so plenty of time to try it out .. Happy Zwifting! Turbotim, customer reviewer.

Tacx Vortex Smart Trainer

Wahoo KICKR Smart Turbo Trainer 2018

Boasting the most realistic indoor training experience Wahoo has to offer, the all-new KICKR Smart Turbo Trainer provides an immersive static workout by combining top-end technology and instant analysis as you bring your outdoor ride indoors.

Wahoo KICKR Smart Turbo Trainer 2018

Wahoo KICKR Core Smart Turbo Trainer 2018

The Kickr Core is Wahoo’s most advanced smart indoor bike trainer, providing unrivalled realism with quiet operation for the perfect indoor training experience. Its proven flywheel technology and the advanced algorithms of Wahoo’s legendary indoor bike trainers will help you focus fully on the virtual road ahead.

Wahoo Kickr Core Smart Turbo Trainer

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