Current state of dedicated trainers? [Smart Bikes]

Wildfire got the house. Lost my Wahoo Kickr Core and my 2012 Roubaix Apex Compact that was my road bike and what I usually mounted on the trainer. Just replaced the bike with a 2020 Roubaix Comp Ultegra Di2 (w/disc brakes). Not sure how comfortable I am with the idea of just getting another Kickr Core and putting the shiny new bike on it, so I was looking at dedicated trainers (Tacx Neo Bike, Wahoo Kickr Bike) instead. And it might make it easier for my wife to use the same trainer setup come winter. But…

All the reviews I’ve read suggest that all of these are still experiencing early failures, manufacturing issues, etc. Is that clearing up or do I need to wait for next year’s releases?

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Far from conclusive, but it seems that the main brands are still seeing some teething issues with the smart bikes. My frame of reference comes from following the related blog posts from DC Rainmaker. I subscribe to each one and see a comment about each one nearly every week or two. My takeaway is that they are all workable to a point (some better than others) and none is a clear winner at this time.

Worth your time to review the comments sections to judge for yourself.

Maybe @dcrainmaker can give a better short summary?

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I’m so sorry to hear about your house. We lost ours 3 years ago and it’s still hard in different ways and at unexpected times.

I don’t have any advice on the trainer situation. When we lost our house I was more into guitar and I had some success reaching out to guitar companies for discounts on replacement gear. You might try the same. I felt weird doing it, but it helped, especially when you’ll need insurance money (hoping you’re covered) to go as far as possible getting the rest of your life together.

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So sorry to hear about your house, but glad you’ve been able to replace some of what’s been lost.

I also got a new bike and didn’t want to put it on a trainer. I went the Stages route. It’s different than a bike on trainer setup. If you like perfect, smooth graphs in TrainerRoad, this isn’t the bike for you, but if you want something built like a tank, totally silent, and able to make your legs beg for mercy this IS a great product.

I’ll be bluntly honest, if you had ANY smoothing turned on with your KickR, you’ll probably be driven nuts by the Stages, but if you had the Wahoo set so you could see how much variety there was in a typical pedal stroke, Stages is great. It really shows all the little inaccuracies we input into the pedals…unfortunately this also means you can be in a situation where the numbers bounce around more than you’re used to. To me, I see this, but I don’t feel it, so all is good.

I also really like Stages support. Call them and you’ll talk to a live person in a matter of seconds.

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What I would consider is how long is the warranty on these things and is there an avenue to have it repaired or refurbished 4, 6, or 8 years from now. I know that if I spent that kind of money on a stationary bike I’d expect it to last a decade and I’d expect to be able to buy parts if I wore anything out.

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Sorry about the house , must have been tough?

Would you not be better buying a Smart trainer like the Tacx Neo 2 and buying a cheap secondhand bike 2 year old and fitting that, It would give you second bike that you might even use when the weather not so good. Or you just leave it set up all the time and hence easy to just hop on and do a quick one hour of sweet spot (Abbey.)

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While not the OP, here’s what was involved in my decision making process toward getting a smart bike:

  • Gearing options with a click - I have two bikes. 12 speed road bike. 9 speed tri bike. Where I live, it’s flat as a pancake. The only way I can practice climbing is on the trainer. With a smart bike, I can click a button and climb with the correct gearing to match what I will actually use outside.

  • Fit - I can clip on aero bars, twist a few knobs and I match my tri bike fit in about a minute. Take another minute and I’m back to road bike position. Have a day where my back is really bothering me, bring the bars up and back a bit. (I’ll have days where my back won’t let me ride my actual bike, but I can always make the smart bike work.

  • Maintenance - Wipe bike down when done is the limit of the maintenance. No making sure the front tire still has air. No drivetrain lube and adjustments. Nothing. (Granted, most people that have a dedicated trainer bike do no maintenance but I’m too anal for that!)

  • Price - when I really did the math, after the cost of a top end trainer and finding a used bike that would at least get close to my size, I was close to the cost of a smart bike. Now, if you live somewhere that used bikes are still plentiful, you’re golden, but down here, in South Florida bike shops look like locusts went through them and the used market is crazy inflated. I think there will be amazing deals on used bikes in 5 to 9 months, but if you want a solution NOW the pricing just wasn’t too far off for me.

So, it all depends on the user as to what matters and what doesn’t. I’ve gone through 4 trainer set ups in a year. The only thing I couldn’t make work was a wheel on that needed to be set up and torn down with each use. I live somewhere with year round outside riding, I couldn’t make myself drag out all the crap when I could just go outside. Now that I have a dedicated bike (that can be made to match either of my irl bikes with a click), in a dedicated place, with all the “stuff” needed to use it, I’m much more consistent with training.

For me, having a dedicated trainer setup is a massive plus - whether that’s achieved from having a smart bike or a permanently set up smart trainer plus dedicated trainer bike (“trainer mule”) that always remains attached to it.

That being the case, a question then is whether the trainer setup needs to be shared between people or whether in reality it’s a solo rig that will only, or almost only, be used by one person. Clearly, a smart bike offers faster switching between positions than a trainer mule, so if multi-user that’s a massive attraction.

For me, multi-user was a possible nice-have, not a must-have.

IMO a smart trainer + trainer mule combo offers a more “robust” and “maintainable” setup. What I mean with those quoted terms is that system failures can usually be resolved more easily and more quickly with less recourse to the manufacturer, without a single point of failure taking the whole thing out. Obviously, issues with the trainer mule bike can be readily fixed by pretty much anyone, while catastrophic failures with the trainer can be resolved if necessary by replacement with another trainer of the same or different brand, offering various options to get your setup going again, quickly.

Conversely, that is the weakness of the smart bikes: a great, no-maintenance option when working as designed, but being a monolithic system borderline catastrophe when they fail and you face the logistical issues and potentially lengthy wait while the issues are resolved, if you are unlucky.

My heart said smart bike, but my (risk manager) head said don’t rely upon remaining lucky, so for me a trainer + dedicated mule won out. I built the dedicated mule from a v cheap frame, inexpensive bits and a 105 mechanical groupset. This has worked well, and I perform a clean/wax lube on the derivetrain about once per month to keep it running sweetly. This route seemed the best option for me at the time, and with hindsight that remains the case.

Others with different requirements - particularly the frequent multi-user question - will reach different conclusions - that’s what makes a market! Figure out what the most important issues are for you and the answer of which route to go down should become much clearer.

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@AldridgePrior makes a REALLY good point…if you can buy a frame and BUILD a trainer bike, AND you’re the only person that needs to use it, that would be an awesome system.

For me, it’s all about having a bike that is always ready to go. No excuses for those days when I look at the calendar and thin…WTF is Coach Chad thinking!!!

I have a Wahoo KICKR bike and have been very happy with it. The three main reasons I switched to a smart bike were cleanliness, adjustability, and to remove mechanical failure from the equation. I am NOT a bike mechanic by any stretch of the imagination and having to deal with derailleurs and stuff and things not shifting quickly was something I was very happy to avoid.

Not having any oil or grease in my bedroom was another huge plus. Nothing gets on my carpet, Nothing gets dirty. Huge plus.

Although my wife still has yet to take a turn on the KICKR in the many months I’ve owned it, she said just the other day that she wants to try. I knew this would happen eventually and once you figure out the right measurements its a quick adjustment to get it all set up for her. I think this will pay off in the future.

I haven’t really had any complaints about it. I am not super happy about the forced saddle tilt and sometimes get numbness from this, but I need to spend some more time seeing if I can fix this. One time (out of probably 100 workouts) I had an issue during a Zwift session where the gears stopped shifting. Of course this happened on a 16% gradient so not ideal timing lol but I got to the top of the KOM rebooted the bike, and it never happened again.

The ease of switching gears is REALLY nice and now that I have started using TR in ERG mode I think it’s a great solution. Happy with my purchase.

BTW, very sorry to hear about your loss. Hope you are doing okay.

EDIT: Typos

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