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  1. #1
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    Trainer question

    I have a 'dumb' fluid trainer and I really can't stand using the thing for more than an hour or so. I get so bored. With winter just over the horizon I was thinking of getting a smart trainer to use with zwift to help keep it interesting.

    All I am really looking for is an interesting interactive experience to keep me riding when the weather sucks. I see the tacx vortex smart recommended a lot as a budget option. What am I compromising on vs a more expensive option? Does it matter if I am not interested in structured training and whatnot?

  2. #2
    The Slow One.
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    This is just my experience/perspective:
    I've been riding the trainer for six months out of the year, 6 days a week. Very rarely do I do anything longer than 60 to 90 minutes. I get on, do what I planned on doing, and then get the hell off. That means a lot of higher intensity workouts.

    I used to ride to videos. I have the entire WCP Northern Classics collection, and I'd rotate through them a few times a season to the point where I could "sing along with Phil and Paul" at any point in a particular race.

    When Zwift was in beta, I jumped on the bandwagon, and haven't watched the videos again. I keep them for the day my network dies.

    I ride a dumb trainer (LeMond Revolution) with a power meter. Not having automatically-adjusted resistance doesn't really bother me. I've tried it on several smart trainers and really haven't been overwhelmed. I prefer "direct-drive" trainers for their "road feel", so when I wear out my second LeMond I might move to whatever the flavor of the month is. That should be sometime in the next decade.

    I don't race or do group rides, mainly because my schedule rarely conforms to them. I don't ride the schedule, and use the world hack to stay on Watopia. I'm pretty boring that way, but at least I don't have to ride the city courses. I try for PRs on sprints or other segments. Maybe I take a jersey, maybe I don't. Sometimes I use people as rabbits to push a little harder. It's just a distraction from the fact that I'm expending a whole lot of energy and going nowhere.

    As far as I'm concerned, riding a trainer is riding a trainer. Some approximate the resistance of actual riding better than others, but it's nothing like the open road.

  3. #3
    gazing from the shadows
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stregone View Post
    I have a 'dumb' fluid trainer and I really can't stand using the thing for more than an hour or so.
    Maybe interactive prompts would motivate you to do 2 hour rides on the trainer. Maybe not. But I also think shooting for being able to endure such a thing is generally the wrong approach for most people.

    I would suggest that you might have a better time if you think more about shorter intense workouts, and give up the long saddle time rides in the winter. Do something else for the 2 hour workouts, if you need them. Depending on what "winter" means for you, that might be CX or MTB, snowshoeing, trail running, rowing (indoor, probably), playing some full court basketball, circuit training weights so your bones don't break when you crash... whatever.

    If you keep cycling fitness pretty high with short and intense trainer workouts, and use the winter as a chance to cross train, you might find yourself with more improvement next year than if you ground out 2-3 hour rides on a trainer all winter.
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  4. #4
    I love to climb!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stregone View Post
    I have a 'dumb' fluid trainer and I really can't stand using the thing for more than an hour or so. I get so bored. With winter just over the horizon I was thinking of getting a smart trainer to use with zwift to help keep it interesting.

    All I am really looking for is an interesting interactive experience to keep me riding when the weather sucks. I see the tacx vortex smart recommended a lot as a budget option. What am I compromising on vs a more expensive option? Does it matter if I am not interested in structured training and whatnot?
    For what you describe, you may not miss much going with a cheaper smart trainer. A more expensive one will give you more features, but will you need/ want them? A more expensive one will replicate steeper hills more easily. The vortex only replicates up to 7%, iirc. Some hills are as steep as 17% on Zwift, but the vortex won't get any more difficult after 7%. More expensive ones can also manage higher wattage. If you have a really strong sprint, you may be more powerful than the vortex can replicate. Of course, that would only be during a short, intense effort, as the vortex can more than replicate normal riding wattage.

    A wheel on trainer like the vortex can have the same issues that all wheel on trainers have from time to time, like tire slip, that you won't get with a wheel off style. And since power is applied and measured at the tire instead of the hub, there might be a slight lag in response compared to a wheel off style.

    But, generally, even wheel on smart trainers like the vortex work very well. So you'd likely be quite happy with it.

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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stregone View Post
    I have a 'dumb' fluid trainer and I really can't stand using the thing for more than an hour or so. I get so bored. With winter just over the horizon I was thinking of getting a smart trainer to use with zwift to help keep it interesting.

    All I am really looking for is an interesting interactive experience to keep me riding when the weather sucks. I see the tacx vortex smart recommended a lot as a budget option. What am I compromising on vs a more expensive option? Does it matter if I am not interested in structured training and whatnot?
    OP, I have no experience with the Vortex Smart but I have a CycleOps Magnus which is in the same ballpark. I use it with both Zwift and Rouvy. In hindsight I wish I had spent more money on bought a wheel-off style trainer. My complaints with a wheel-on trainer are
    - louder
    - less power accuracy
    - requires more frequent calibration
    - incline (this is my biggest complaint) - even though the Magnus claims it can support 15% it doe not come close. At my weight (190lbs) it stops applying more resistance at about 9.5%. This really detracts from the experience and with the Vortex rated at 7% that might be a major downside

    There is a big price difference between wheel-on and wheel-off trainers and these addressing these downsides may not be worth spending another $500-600 for some folks

  6. #6
    jkc
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    Get a direct drive trainer if you can. I have a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine and an Elite Drivo. Discounting the "smart", the direct drive is far easier to deal with and keeping consistency between efforts. December will be my second year on Zwift. I tried a few other options to keep company (Golden Cheetah, Road Grand Tour, VirtuGO, Elite Real, Sufferfest video, Netflix, YouTube, etc) but Zwift has been the most engaging. Besides seeing other riders rolling along, the ability of the "smart trainer" to simulating undulating terrain is a big component of engagement. I think Tacx will be rolling new lineup soon so you might want to wait. Also you may want to check other forums, Facebook, blogs, etc to get a sense of manufacturer support. Lots of great posts on Neo but mixed on lower ends (seems to depending on geography and batch).

  7. #7
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    The new Wahoo Fitness Core really gives you a lot of value. You can read the review at dcrainmaker. It is basically last year's Wahoo top of the line KICKR.

  8. #8
    Old and in the way.
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    I was bored riding rollers, so I went with a smart trainer and Zwift. It worked for me. I bought the Wahoo Kickr Snap, their "wheel on" smart trainer. If I were going to do it again I'd get a direct drive trainer, like the new Wahoo Core. They're better, no question. As far as Zwift goes, well, it beats the hell out of the usual TV or videos.

  9. #9
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    I was looking at the kickr, but I can't justify spending that much atm. What would the cheapest direct drive worth buying be?

  10. #10
    The Slow One.
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    As mentioned, the Core is a lot cheaper than the Kickr. There are a few other options in that price range, and I've seen factory serviced Kickrs advertised recently for like $650.

    As sort of a smart, wheel-on/direct drive hybrid, there's always the STAC Zero.

    I'm inches from buying the base (no power/dumb) trainer as my travel trainer. Compact, silent, lightweight... yeah, it checks off a lot of boxes for me there. DCRainmaker seemed to think pretty highly of it and the company.

    The nice thing about going with the base model is that I can upgrade it to the smart trainer (if I ever want to) without buying a whole new trainer, with a very minor weight and size penalty.

    Coming from what is the loudest trainer known to man (the LeMond Revolution), I'm not sure how I'm going to react to a silent trainer.

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