I would say for me it did improve my training, mainly because I had (and still have) 8 speeds, so trying to nail power targets was kind of frustrating for me. With erg mode, I don’t have to worry about being in the right gear, I just love having ERG mode.
Direct wheel off trainer was more of a game changer for me. No more slipping wheels or worn out tyres.
I never use ERG. I don’t like it. I also think there is some value in holding a certain power rather than letting ERG do it for you.
A smart trainer improved my training because it was my first power meter but if I had to make one purchase I’d rather have a real power meter (even a $300 Stages or 4iiii) and a dumb trainer especially if you ride outside.
I finally upgraded to a wheel off kickr and I have to say I love it. It’s way more comfortable and enjoyable to ride. If you ride a trainer a lot, then I’d say that wheel off is a good investment. I still use power from my power meter with my Kickr and I don’t use ERG.
I think I got better work out with my fluid resistance DD trainer (Elite Muin) but the smart trainer has brought more interactive virtual cycling (RGT) which has been quite good for keeping me entertained during this period when we/I have been going out less. Ironically, I bought the smart turbo for that reason last year thinking chemotherapy might stop me getting out, it didn’t really, I wasn’t expecting not to get out this year
“Did a smart triner improve your training?”
Ring it up for another ‘yes’.
I can wholeheartedly say that a smart trainer coupled with TR workouts definitely improved my training and performance out on the road. I’ve just come off the back of General Build and some tailored VO2 weeks using the smart trainer and performance has improved. See the post below if you’re interested. Most were done on ERG - the General Build session and the Endurance sessions - but I did the VO2 sessions on Resistance mode.
Moving from a similar cheap smart trainer to simple rollers has improved my training.
I started out using erg on a taxc flow, but had lots of issues with erg/powermatch (think TR might have solved that now), so started to use it as a dumb trainer. Then bought rollers just to try and riding them is so much easier, no faffing about with the bike and riding is more natural. Tried to use my trainer again for zwift, but hated the feel of it and now haven’t used it in months. I’d say that if you buy a smart trainer, buy a better one to improve ride feel.
I have had a smart trainer and used erg almost exclusively for two years. Until about two months ago when I revamped my training. I love using resistance mode now. Reflecting back, I don’t think using erg made my training better. It made it easier because I didn’t have to pay attention.
The thing I love about my DD trainer is the built in power meter and no tire changes. However, I have a dedicated trainer bike so I am living the life of luxury. The cassette doesn’t have a ton of gears though, so I prefer to change the resistance via the percent bar on the computer.
Take the plunge, before the Wife notices…
I went from wheel on to Kickr and while it hasn’t changed my performance it’s just a nicer experience and I don’t dread getting on the trainer like I used to
Direct drive smart trainer is very convenient. Just like electronic shifting… But not necessary to get a good workout. I faced the same dilemna, and I chose to invest in a good DD smart trainer (Cycleops H2) for following reasons:
I did not want to buy a dumb trainer and ask myself during the next few months"maybe a more expensive DD smart trainer would be better?" and finally buy one anyway. So I went directly with the overkill solution, to not have any excuse for skipping or bailing workouts because of a possibly bad setup
Don’t underestimate the power this fancy new item on your bike or setup can have on your motivation during few weeks/months. It will fade away for sure (just like when you have new bike), but if it is a motivator to jump on the trainer with a smile during the coming winter, it is worth taking.
Spending bunch of money forces you to use that damn thing consistently
I would definitely get a PM for the bike first. Consistency is what makes you faster and using the same device inside and out is by far the best way to do this. However, I would recommend a Direct drive turbo for sure. I use the Cycleops H2 and power match my Quarq PM and have found them both to be excellent for years! Everyone has a preference and opinion on this, but I think you just get used to whatever setup you use. Spending hard earned cash on a sweet setup is definitely great motivation though!
I can’t quantify improvements, but going from an old fluid trainer to a Wahoo Kickr Snap hasn’t likely resulted in physiological improvements. However, it’s made riding on the trainer more enjoyable with “smart” capabilities. Things like Zwift, FulGaz, and locking it in ERG mode make indoor training more enjoyable.
Are you using a power meter or cadence sensor with your regular trainer and basing workouts off of that?
That was the big thing for me – my Wahoo Kickr was the first time I ever trained with real data. Its been a game changer and has sent me down the rabbit-hole of tech and metrics for all my rides, indoor and out. I used Zwift first, and its alot of fun, but TR is kicking up my training to new effort levels I didnt realize were possible. But its the data that is key.
If you can get real-time data on your workouts on the regular trainer… you probably dont need the smart trainer. ERG mode is nice, but its a luxury that you dont seem too enthusiastic to invest in. and its not a necessity. and i’m not sure if it makes you a better rider. I use it with TR training, but I’ll let others debate the merits of ERG.
For me, I’d rate a smart trainer higher than a power meter, unless you plan to train outside, or you need more flexibility that a power meter gives.
I went from Wheel on → Direct Drive → Direct Drive + Power Meter → Smart Trainer.
My n=1 is that a power meter is a nice to have of the latter two. I don’t really use it outside, as my outdoor rides are social or headspace. I don’t race anymore, but even then, you either have the legs or you don’t.
Whereas I use my Hammer 1 much more, especially now with remote working, it’s getting near daily use. I’m recent to zwift, but can’t imagine it’s much of an experience without a smart turbo for racing or social rides (again, this is important to me with lockdowns!).
Pre-covid, I used my power meter with hybrid rollers for many of my workouts. I snapped the belt of my hammer, and while waiting for the replacement I was back on that. I’d really forgotten how much a cognitive load matching gearing/ power/ cadence was compared to erg. Especially for high intensity workouts.
As for did it improve my training - Yes. It improved my consistency, as a smart trainer takes some of the effort out of the equation (see cognitive load). I could never manage to watch TV on a “dumb” trainer and maintain power on target. I also find I can do the cadence drills easier, and the short sprint/ vo2 max intervals, where chad says keep cadence up in the recovery, I can actually do now.
Erg is over-hyped. Direct drive is the real benefit. And sim mode in Zwift can be fun.
Like others have posted above, I’ve abandoned Erg and find my inside and outside training are now closely matched. For what it’s worth I bought a power meter before the smart trainer, and use my bikes power meter inside and outside.
I think that’s n=1. I find erg a great advantage, reduces my cognitive load, which therefore helps my consistency.
I think it would depend how much training you do outside. For me, I don’t. Well it’s not normally “junk” km’s, but I’m not worrying about the power output.
For me ERG is better than using a dumb trainer. My workouts are set to the correct power and I get to choose my cadence, instead of my gears dictating that to me. For example, I remember with my gearing when I wanted to peddle at 90rpm, my gears meant that to get the right power I’d either have to be below at 85 rpm, or above at 95rpm. With ERG, I make the choice.
Lets put it this way, if you get a smart trainer you’ll never voluntarily get on a dumb trainer for training again.