Best Direct Drive trainer to buy RIGHT NOW

As of today, March 25, 2020, what is the best direct drive trainer to buy (not a smart bike)? I just won my battle with Saris and am getting a refund check for $850 after a series of failed H3 and need something comparable to buy fairly quickly.

Primary uses are TR interval training, so ERG mode is important (though power is not since I powermatch with pedals), and Zwift free-riding, so the ability to handle the 17% radio tower climb, as well as being able to adjust to various terrain is important too.

I live in the USA and my two candidates right now are the Wahoo Kickr, and the Tacx Neo2 or Neo 2T (unsure of the difference between the two). I know a few of these threads exist, but its been a few months since the most recent round of smart trainers hit the market so wondering how things are doing for people who have used them for a little while.

Price is important, but I’m willing to spend a little more to get something better and/or more reliable. My worry with TACX is ease of service seeing as they are not USA based. I also know there are other brands out there I may be missing, so let me know what other higher end trainers i should check out. Personal anecodes are welcomed!

I don’t think you can go wrong with either of your 3 options. You might have troubles find the NEO2 as it is just the older version of the 2T. I personally have a KICKR Core and despite the numerous treads you see here about it, I have not had any issues with it since I bought it in August 2019. It also doesn’t hurt to check out DC Rainmakers guide either. I don’t think any new high end smart trainers have been released recently.

Was there any particular reason that you went with the H3 in the first place?


H3 is the “best for erg mode” according to @dcrainmaker, but that trainer is clearly not working for OP. I think Neo 2/T would be my follow-up choice, due to lack of calibration need. But OP doesn’t care about power, so I guess Kickr or Neo are both equally good options. Tough call between the two. I’d say Kickr Core and save the money.

What’s the main difference between Kickr and Kickr Core?

Simulated grade. So if you’re using Zwift at 100% difficulty and want resistance to simulate a full 20% climb you need the Kickr. Core does 16%. And the Kickr has a heavier flywheel, so I guess more of a long coast period once you stop pedaling, maybe closer to “real” road feel. Finally and most importantly, fewer reported issues as far as I can tell. That means a lot more than the other two points, but Wahoo customer service is reportedly excellent and will sort out any problems with the Core if you have them. Newest production runs should be problem free.

Edit: note that you don’t need a trainer that simulates 17% to do the radio tower climb. I guarantee you won’t notice the difference! Most people use the default anyway, which halves the simulated grade.

Beyond the above, the Core only does 700c wheels.

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Or save a lot of money, forget erg mode and get this

Not ideal for Zwift but for any TR users with power meters it’s a great option. I’m very content with it.

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What is true is that the axle height is not adjustable on this Core frame (like it is on the main Kickr). The fixed rear axle height used is based upon a 700c Road wheel size. But you can use it with any of the bikes that fit per the specs above.

The only issue is the need to use a riser block of different heights, to get the front axle at a height you desire (level with the rear or 1-2" higher are most common) if you use something other than a 700c roadie (or happen to have a preference for a different front axle height anyway).

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I’m amazed there are any of those unicorns out there, especially new. I stumbled on some old design and/or patent documents that show a version of that with rocking ability, like the Kinetic R1 trainer. They never sold them that way AFAIK, because of the Kinetic patent.

I got mine on eBay in the fall and there were two listings. I’m guessing this was the other one, still unsold!

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That is kinda tempting (as a trainer horder :stuck_out_tongue: ). Cool to have a dumb direct drive option, at least in concept.

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Also funny you should mention that, as back pain has me looking to add rocking to mine (watched your DIY video this very morning).

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I’m leaning towards the Kickr just because I feel service will be easier than working with TACX overseas, and the price is better. Seems to do everything I need.

For those using the Kickr in ERG mode, how does it do with holding power smoothly during interval training, how quick does it ramp up to the intervals?

Question for @dcrainmaker if hes around to answer, how is the Kickr in ERG mode compared to the H3? What does the H3 do better than the others? I am wondering what kind of trade-off I can expect coming from an H2 and H3 over the last 3 years

@GPLama can probably speak to this too. I think they’ll say it sometimes feels like hitting a wall when the power jumps to an interval in erg mode. While the H3 has the perfect timing, a couple seconds of ramp up. I’m sure it doesn’t matter much. Kickr and Neo both get glowing reviews overall, and your Kickr reasoning is sound.

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Nothing that a few scraps of wood can’t fix.

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Correct, I didn’t state it, but I see that as non-issue and not something against the Core. I think it is a great option at that price point.

Which is quieter between the Core and H3?

No real advice, as I’ve had bad experiences with the Kickr and swore off the brand…though I still have my Kickr V1. I am considering another trainer, and taking a hard look at the Neo 2T.

There are complaints about the Neo, particularly on the power side. But, since you say you don’t need it, you might have better luck than others. It is a lot of money, though, to use PowerMatch with.

I’d say it’s a line ball. I can’t recall either being noisey.

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