$600 smart trainer vs $1200 trainer: is a high end trainer twice as good?

My Elite Direto recently gave up the ghost. I contacted Elite & diagnosed the problem with their help but the lead time on the component that will probably fix the problem is looooong. So & I started to engage in the spread-sheet intensive effort of buying a new trainer & planned to sell the old trainer & sell it whenever the parts were available.

Somewhere in the middle of building the spreadsheet I thought, ‘Brennus, you are a multi-millionaire. It might not make perfect sense to spend 8 hours agonizing over a few hundred smackers.’ What am I saving it for, right? So I just went down to the bike shop and bought the most expensive trainer I could walk out of the store with: wahoo kickr. Easiest sale that associate ever made.

I purchased my beloved Elite Direto out of the Performance Bike liquidation for right around $600…a little less. The kickr cost right around $1200…a little more. The kickr is twice as expensive, is it twice as good?

Well, the Kickr is better, for sure. Let me count the ways…

Performance/Ride feel

1.) No clunk. Whenever you start up a workout on the Direto…at some point just before or during the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown the Direto will ramp resistance up to 400-500 watts for a second or so. This became known as ‘The Clunk’. Same thing would happen if a workout was stopped briefly to answer nature’s call or pick up a dropped remote/water bottle. No Clunk operation has got to be worth $100 or so.

2.) Much, much quieter. I can soft pedal on this trainer while watching TV with the fam and it doesn’t bother anybody. $50.

3.) Much faster slew rate. Any interval at or below 20s duration started to be a little dubious on the Direto. Much better on the Kickr. I estimate resistance slew is somewhere between 3x and 4x faster on the Kickr. This isn’t a real big feature bonus for me but it can matter for some. $20.

4.) There is a different ride feel. I was skeptical about this but it is true without a doubt. The flywheel feels more pronounced on the Kickr. At similar gearing & cadence the Kickr spindown time is a lot longer than the Direto. This isn’t something that has a lot of value to me but it matters to a lot of users (or so they say). $5.

Tertiary Features

1.) The feet have some wiggle. For my weight & setup there is maybe 4mm to 7mm of wobble. Surprisingly, this made a big comfort difference for me. Probably, the relative effect will vary from rider to rider, but at the 120+ minute mark working on the Kickr is a lot more comfortable than the Direto. Just to give you an idea, the Direto has approximately as much play as an industrial high-carbon steel I-beam. Maybe a little less. $40.

2.) The kickr has a neat little integrated adjustment so you don’t have to guess your way to an appropriate setup based on wheel diameter. That means you don’t need a riser block. No big deal but worth something. $10.

3.) The kickr has a better handle. :smiley: Maybe industry leading! I could do farmer’s walks with two Kickrs, no prob. $5.

Nerd Tweeks

1.) Kickr has multiple bluetooth bands. I wanted this feature for some nerdy pursuits that I’ve always wanted to do. Big deal for me but probably a non-event for most. $150.

Ok. Let’s add it all up. Ummmm…calle it $400. Kickr is worth $400 more than the Direto in my opinion.


I have an older Kickr I bought used from a team mate. I’d have never paid $1200 for a trainer but now that I have it, I love it.

That said, I’d probably buy a Kickr Core ($720 on sale) as I don’t really use any fancy features. I use the power meter on my bike and ride in resistance mode. Probably, most any direct drive trainer would work for me.


Trainers on sale….use RIDEWITHZWIFT20 for additional 20%. Screaming deals.


Yeah, when I went in to buy the Kickr the sales associate offered me a Core for $680. What a straight up fella. That is a good deal & probably at his own expense? I bought the kickr anyhow.

No cassette with the core. No 5mm wobble on the feet. If I can’t have a 5mm wobble on my trainer feet then I just don’t want to train. :rofl: Is the Kickr worth $500 more than the Core? No. Not in my opinion. Not even close.

But I bought the Kickr. So there it is. :smiley:


Yeah I bought a core because it seemed like better bang for the buck than the kickr… but everytime i get it out and set it up i do wish it had a carry handle. Kickr looks like it folds and stores better as well. I can’t really complain though, the core is great (and i already had a spare casette anyway).

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I’m available for adoption :angel:


don’t know of this code or reqs.

Your shipping address doesn’t meet the location requirements for the coupon code you entered.

The code worked for me this morning. Grabbed a Neo2 for $948 out the door. Couldn’t pass up a deal like that.

Now to explain it to the boss…


it was a tough buy for me at purchase time. Costs more than most of my “non-cyclists” have spent on bikes in their lifetime…

Now that I have it, I seriously cant imagine not having it. Im down 40#, up 45w on my FTP. I actually get excited to workout, instead of “just doing it”

I got mine for around $900 on sale. literally weeks before the bike boom. Best money Ive ever spent, and way cheaper than the meds I woulda been on if I didnt start taking fitness seriously


I just want to add that kickr power readings look just like the ideal power curve. That’s hooey. They must be calculating power based on some readings from the flywheel.

I measured power at the pedals & it’s not that different than the Elite Direto. If you eliminate the 20s after the beginning of an interval and before the end of an interval, the population of power errors to ideal for the Kickr is not significantly different than the Direto. Unless you set alpha to 0.16 or more.

At the point where there are large changes in power the Direto is underdamped and the Kickr is overdamped. So the Direto has a few seconds of descending oscillations above and below ideal power whereas the Kickr zooms up to ideal and then approaches ideal asymptotically. Since the slew rate on the Kickr is so much better the overall mean error during the 10 seconds following a large change in ideal power is much closer to zero.

But the way Kickr power looks on the workout graphic is a complete misrepresentation of reality.

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Now buy a Neo and do the same! :smiley:

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I was honestly surprised at how different a rocker plate is. Sounds like you’re experiencing a small bit of that epiphany.


Open the Wahoo app and connect to the Kickr. Turn off Erg Mode Power Smoothing. Carry on.

Keep ERG Power Smoothing On, and just start threads about how crappy other trainers are.



Like others have said, this can be fixed in software. However, if you are unhappy with erg mode, try resistance mode. I have spent so much time on a dumb trainer, that I prefer resistance mode for anything above Z2.

“Like others have said, this can be fixed in software.”

You can fix the picture. You can’t fix the difference in slew rate. Or at least I haven’t found a way. Why would you want to set the slew rate lower?

Also the damping. Why would you want it underdamped? I would think most would WANT the response to be a little overdamped.

The high end trainer is always a better value buy than a mid grade trainer. IMO

I would find it hard to rec a mid grade trainer of a non smart one.

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I went from a Kickr Snap to a Neo2. Yeah - the more expensive one is a lot better!

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  • How have you tested and compared this setting and the results to resistance changes?

Recent comment:

Prior comment:

I am probably confused here, but I thought you were critical of the artificially smooth data initial. Now you are advocating for it or something close to it?

My main grip with the ERG mode smoothing is the all too common reality that people often start with a Wahoo trainer and then end up getting a real power meter in the step progression. They immediately assume something is wrong with the power meter due too the very jagged looking power graph. I run out of toes and fingers when I search to find precise those topics on this forum.

Wahoo is setting up a false reality and it leads to frustration and confusion far more often than it should. This forum is just one place I see it. IMO, it’s a terrible setting and has little if any real benefit.

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