Help deciding on a direct drive trainer

Hi everyone.

After three years of using a wheel on trainer (Tacx Flow) I’ve finally decided to upgrade to direct drive. It will be used 90% of the time for TR in ERG mode, with the occasional Zwift ride.

I’m in the UK and looking to spend £700 or less and have narrowed my options to the kickr Core or H3 (although willing to consider other options too!)

The Kickr Core retails at £699 but I am able to get 20% off so £560. The H3 is currently available for £700 so a little more but still within my budget. The H3 seems to compared with the Kickr and Neo so which are in the next tier up so I wonder whether it is it worth paying extra for? Are there other models worth considering?

Also, there seem to lots of good used deals on trainers bought during lockdown and barely ridden. Ordinarily I am happy to purchase used bike parts from careful owners but there seem to be a lot of reliability issues so even units which aren’t abused seem to go wrong. Am I right to be cautious or are they reliable in the main?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks for the link to DCRs guide.

Fortunately, most trainers seem to be back in stock in the uk so I have options…

Probably worth adding a few details-

  • I’m not too concerned about noise as I train in a detached garage

  • Trainer doesn’t need to moved once in place

  • Relatively light cyclist so not worried about max power ceilings

Given the above, would the H3 offer anything above and beyond the Kickr Core?

I would get the one that has the easiest return/replace/service options

They both will do what you need, both work great with TR or Zwift or any others. They both have had their dud products in recent past, but seem to be past that.

So you likely will get a good one, but if you don’t, who will you help you the most? or make it the easiest to get it taken care of? Go with that one!

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Do you already have a power meter? I had a similar debate a few years ago and decided to keep my tacx vortex and buy a power meter so i had reliable readings both inside and out.

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My only advice (not that it seems to be on your radar) is do not buy ELITE.

They look nice and advertise impressive accuracy figures, but I’ve struggled immensely with the build quality, their apps are all over the place and next to useless and their support is more or less completely useless.

I’m currently looking at replacing my Drivo with a Kickr. I’m looking at the Kickr rather than the core because one of my (many, many) complaints about my Drivo is in a hard sprint the trainer sometimes tips to the right, which I’ve seen raised by Kickr CORE users online too. Arguably not worth the extra £300 and not an issue if you use a rocker plate, but worth bearing in mind if you do a lot of sprint training or virtual racing indoors.

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My only direct drive trainer experience is with the KICKR CORE refurb that I’ve been using this year. I settled on it based on the DC Rainmaker buyers guide. No complaints here!

Thanks for the advice regarding customer service/ warranty - on this front Wahoo seem to be great and indirectly helps with the question regarding buying used!

@Olly I have PMs on both bikes which I prioritised as I was having accuracy issues with the Vortex. Now use power match, but there is a fair amount of lag as the trainer and pm talk to one another…

@DukeMcA good point Re stability. Will bear this in mind

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in that case then direct drive would be the way to go. I know what you mean about the lag. On short intervals, it can be annoyingly slow to react. I will probably upgrade to direct drive once prices calm down a bit and would likely go for the core.

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This paragraph is from the DC rainmaker round-up too:

However, the one strength of the Hammer series has always been just how darn good it is at ERG mode. If TrainerRoad were ever to acquire a trainer, I’m pretty sure they’d acquire the Saris Hammer series. Seriously. There’s no trainer that works better on TrainerRoad than the H3. Period. If you live in TrainerRoad, then you’ll love just how good the H3 feels. So smooth, so purposeful as it shifts between intervals. If I wasn’t so lazy moving around trainers, I’d probably ride the H3 anytime I rode TrainerRoad”.

I have a Kickr core and I’m very happy with it, having said that, although I don’t do much erg mode training. I think you’d be happy with either. If you are using powermatch you might not be particularly interested in accuracy claims but they are very similar, 2% vs 2.5%.

I’ve been using the Kickr Core for a bit over a year now and am super happy so far.

The trainer is a little slow starting and ending intervals in ERG mode (a bit under a second), but as the duration stays the same, I really don’t care.
It’s very good in simulation mode, and I have recently shifted from ERG mode to running the trainer on Zwift in simulation mode while using my phone and PM for workouts. This way, I have to react to changes in incline, which makes the whole thing a bit more fun and like an outside workout (without crossroads, traffic and descents - well none of the latter in my area anyway :-(). It’s way harder than ERG mode though…

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Thanks everyone for the input.

Went for the Kickr Core in the end as it seemed a solid choice and it was the one I was getting the better deal on…

First TR workout today and Powertap pedals on the trainer bike were reading around 5-15 watt difference (trainer is lower). Could this be down to watts lost in my drivetrain? Seems like a lot!

That direction (trainer lower) at least makes sense. Sometimes the difference is inverted which gets things more confusing.

The wattage delta is not completely useful with knowing the power that you were at for that delta. The real thing you need to evaluate is the percentage of difference, not pure / raw wattage.

And as a short, and largely useless comment, your experience is typical and not an exception. There are countless topics in here where X trainer is different than Y power meter. It is the common case to have a delta between the two.

The ultimate reason is likely a mix of factors and not easy to state without knowing a fair bit more than you shared. Are both devices properly calibrated / zero offset? Is the drivetrain clean and not excessively worn? What trainer mode was used? What gearing was used? And more are likely. It’s a complex issue that is not easily answered, unfortunately.

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Assuming both trainer and PM are 2% off, and the trainer is on the low end and the PM at the high end of the range, there would be a difference of up to 12W at 300W and 10W at 250W.

I had a 4W difference between my trainer and Stages crank the other day at an average wattage of 240W (240W Stages, 236W Kickr Core). According to my Assioma pedals on the other bike, my right leg contributes a bit more than my left leg, which would mean that the Stages crank values should be a bit too low. You could thus argue that the apparent over-reading of the stages crank partially compensates for the fact that it is only left-sided. I also did ramp and 20’ tests in two different labs on calibrated medical/scientific Cyclus trainers and the Stages readings were almost identical.

Anyway, I use the same values when training/riding with all three devices (Stages, Kickr, Assioma) and never felt that any of them gave me unreasonable data. Daily changes in performance have a greater impact in my opinion.

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I was having 5-15 watt difference in the recovery valleys - at around 100 watts so definitely more than 2%. I was checking ad hoc in the devices tab on TR rather than taking an average.

Have put another bike on the trainer now, which has 4iiii crank based pm to see where that lands.

What is the best way to make a comparison? I was thinking of recording with my PM as an indoor ride on my headunit and compare against TR file from the Core

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Sounds good. I’d warm up the trainer for 10’ and perform a spindown before doing the workout.