Current state of smart bikes

I’m a mountain biker that started using trainer road about a year ago when I broke my arm and couldn’t ride outdoors for a couple of months. I bought a Kickr and really was surprised by how much I enjoyed using it. I’m now doing 80%+ of my rides on the trainer (on my mtb). I thought about buying a road bike just to keep on the trainer but I’m a former roadie from 20 years ago and don’t have any interest in road or gravel riding.

So, I’ve been thinking about picking up a smart bike to do my riding on, rather than putting “miles” on my very high-end full suspension mtb. I’ve been reading the reviews of the KICKR Bike, Tacx, Stages, Wattbike, etc and it seems they all had their fair share of teething challenges out the gate. What’s not at all clear to me right now, is what’s actually the best option these days now that they’ve all been out for a while.

So, what’s the current state of the market for smart bikes? My only real requirement for a bike right now is that I need to be able to wheel it out of our spare bedroom when we have guests staying with us. FWIW, I only train with TrainerRoad (always in erg mode) and don’t really have any interest in Zwift.

What should I buy?

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I have no idea about Smart bikes but if I was looking at that market I’d check out DC Rainmaker and GPLama

Smart Bike Shootout: Wahoo KICKR Bike vs Tacx NEO Bike vs Wattbike Atom | DC Rainmaker – Cycling. Technology. More.


I’d research the current state of warranty and repair for these things. If it breaks 1 month out of warranty, can you get parts? Can you get someone to fix it if it’s complicated? Or, are you just out $3000 when it conks out after 2.5 years?


I think smart trainers and (likely) smart bikes are in bad shape in this regard. For my out of warranty wahoo the offer was send it back and get a discount on a refurb unit. This isn’t an attractive support policy for smart bikes. I think belts (for the trainers that use them) are about the only part that they sell, even when there are quite a few parts that are reasonably user serviceable. My understanding is that treadmills for instance are much more serviceable than smart trainers.

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Definitely a big concern for me. I have an elite direto and was able to replace the belt after 3years of use. I’m hoping to get at least 5years of use out of it. I hate spending $700+ on something thinking I’ll be lucky if it lasts over 5 years.

Let me start by saying I have a Stages SB20.

The state of the smart bike market is very early days:

  • Everything is basically a Gen1 product
  • None of the bikes have been out long enough to know “true” long term durability. And even if they had been like trainers, there is no true reliability numbers publicly available
  • Besides erg mode, what do you care about or not? For example, does the built in “climb” functionality of the Kickr bike matter to you? I’m guessing no from what you said your use case is, so do you want to pay for it?

From what you said, I think the SB20 could be a good solution. I’m found that with the latest firmware updates, erg mode with TR is pretty good. This is the only mode I use, and I have 162 workouts on it. Besides an annoying fit / finish item when I first got my SB20 which I fixed by Googling, it’s been trouble free. While it does have wheels, it weighs a ton, so if you need to move it frequently, this will be a PIA.

I have no personal experience with either the Kickr, Tacx or Wattbike. The owner of a high-end shop in SF has the Kickr bike, and he loves it. But that is completely 2nd hand anecdotal.

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You already own a smart trainer. Why not buy a $600-800 entry level road bike? It will take up the same amount of space as a smart bike but can actually be ridden on the road if you do choose. The smart bike won’t be any different than your smart trainer plus bike.

Do you plan to sell the smart trainer and then buy a smart bike?


Yes, I plan to sell the Kickr if I buy a smart bike. My first plan was to actually go buy an inexpensive road bike. But after keeping an eye on the local listings, it seems like nobody has them in stock. It would also mean that I’m the only person who can ride it. While my wife doesn’t ride at all, it would be nice if she could get on the trainer and do an occasional workout if she’s so inclined. That made me start thinking about smart bikes as an option.


I have had an SB20 for almost a year and am satisfied. The implementation of ERG is different from Wahoo, though. To compare apples to apples, go into the Wahoo app and turn off ERG Smoothing on your Kickr. This will give you an idea of how ERG looks on the SB20. On short intervals (<1 min) on the SB20 it’s better to use resistance mode as it can take 10 seconds to reach the target power. As for your wife, it’s very easily adjustable to accommodate multiple riders without tools.

This is actually the reason I bought the SB20, and sold my Kickr + dedicated trainer bike: so my wife could utilize the trainer. She uses it exclusively in free-ride / resistance mode, so the Dreamdrive functionality is perfect for her, as she can make very small gear / resistance changes.

That’s smart to have something your wife can use too. A friend of mine bought a used / very cheap gym bike (good quality but got one for like $100-200) and a set of power meter pedals. You wouldn’t have erg mode but that’s one route

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Wattbike Atom owner here and after some initial teething issues I think it’s a fantastic piece of equipment.


You’re a grown man and I’m sure making sensible decisions, just a word of warning.

You have a system now that you enjoy and is specific to your riding, on the same bike no less.
Is the damage/use on your high end bike by riding indoors really that high?
Is your wife ever going to be using that thing more than a few times?
Is riding a non-mountain bike on the trainer going to be sufficiently specific for your riding outdoors?

I see your reasoning, but also never change a running system


Not much specific info to add except a strong +1 for the SB20. I also upgraded from a Kickr, and as @rswagler1 notes Erg mode is more visually variable (as Kickr does massive smoothing of output), but the ride experience is rock solid.

And yes it’s very heavy, but the wheels make movement easy if you don’t have to deal with stairs.

In a similar position to the OP and would also give a thumbs up to the Wattbike Atom; they’ve been in the game longer than most and comprehensively let you know what is covered.

Just a note that if you end up buying a bicycle instead of a smart bike, and you truly have zero desire to ride road/gravel, I think it would make sense to buy a cheap used hardtail (or even a new hardtail) with similar geometry to your high end mtb. My trainer bike has very similar geometry to my outside bike, but is aluminum. If I’m going on cycling trips that require me to bag and ship the bike, I ship this one and worry a lot less about damage to my nice bikes.

While nice bikes are hard to find in stock, the lower end stuff is plentiful at our local shops who are getting regular deliveries again now.

I am also now shopping for a new trainer set-up. So far, I have consumed all of the DCRainmaker and GPlama contents available, read as many reviews as possible, but still cannot decide.

Here is my reasoning randomly for both sides, so any feedback would be appreciated.

  • Noise is the most important factor. In ERG mode, most high-end smart trainers are quiet enough, but in sim/slope mode the decibels get high really fast. I would spend 90% of my time in ERG mode (TrainerRoad), but hate the feeling of being limited. With this set-up, I could not do Zwift free rides or racing, because of the noise.
  • If purchasing a smart trainer, I would also be getting a dedicated trainer bike. The good thing is, in case my pride and joy were to break down or have a mechanical, I could still use Bike #2 and ride it outside. (Would most likely get an aluminum frame gravel bike for the geometry and ability to actually ride gravel if ever needed)
  • My PM is spider-based, so I could not use bike #2 with power outside, but that would only be a minor issue, but an issue nevertheless.
  • Price for a smart bike or a smart trainer plus a dedicated trainer bike would be around the same I reckon
  • I would be using the unit alone 99% of the time for now, but hopefully move together with my significant other within a year, who would also use the unit, thus having the ability to quickly change rider position would be more important.
  • Most of the reviews emphasize smart bikes are still Gen1 and have their issues, but based on the fact that there were no new models during this year’s bike shows, a new version might not come any time soon. I have heard many good things about Wahoo customer support, so in case it were to break down, I am confident I could get support quite fast.
  • I have zero mechanical skills, so having a bulletproof unit that I could hop on at any given moment just sounds very appealing.

Random thoughts in random order, but I just need some external validation before making such a big investment.

Looking forward to any comments!

Key question: What is your timing? That is, when do you HAVE to make a decision / buy something?

Honestly, if you don’t have to buy something now, I wouldn’t.

On your list, to me the key determining factor is the importance of a partner being able to use the trainer. If this is key, then the only option (short of switching bikes) is a smart bike

Thank you for the reply!

I currently only have one bike on this continent, and another road bike 7000 miles away, and due to travel issues I do not know when I can go and get it. The weather will continue to be nice in Japan for a month or so, but the timing will be soon. Do I absolutely HAVE to buy one? Of course not. I can ride outside in the rain! do I WANT to? No. :smiley:

As for the partner, that would be something later next year, so my purchase decision will still be done based on my selfish current needs :sweat_smile:

The Atom is probably top of my list. I also understand they have great aftersales - particularly for us in the UK.

Arguably Wattbike has also been doing this longer than others - so hopefully this is reflected in the reliability.

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