Benefits from upgrading turbo?

Hiya. I’m curious as to if I should bother upgrading my trainer. I have a Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+. It’s wheel-on, I also have a power meter.

Given I have a power meter, is it worth upgrading? I’ve read there will be a better ‘feel’, more range for hills etc. But I was wondering if anyone has made the leap and noticed a benefit? It’s potentially a lot of money so am curious to get feedback as to if it will make a difference before making the leap.



Hi Andrew,
I upgraded from a wheel on dumb trainer to direct drive Hammer Cyclopes. Your trainer is a lot more capable than mine was and you listed some of the biggest benefits between the two. If you do not plan on racing you’re probably fine. If you do want to race you’d probably want an accurate and consistent platform. All wheel on trainers are susceptible to power variations due to wheel/rotor interaction but you imply that you use an independent power meter. I’m not sure how Zwift controls your trainer if the power numbers are not coming from that trainer but that’s just my ignorance. Perhaps it is common for people to use a smart trainer with a separate power meter. The direct drive is smoother and quieter has more range and can be easily calibrated. You can pick up a hammer smart trainer on sale for probably $600 or $700 which is still a lot of money depending on how often you use it.

A very big difference from an upgrade will be Zwift being able to control your trainer, which will mean that you’ll be able to feel it being harder to pedal as the gradient increases. Right now you’ll just be finding yourself going slower when going uphill, since the Qubo Digital Smart B+ isn’t a controllable trainer. A properly smart (controllable) trainer will mean that you actually feel the hills. This will actually help because it’ll be more realistic and you can push harder against that increasing resistance.

Can’t speak for the Cubo specifically since I never tried one, but the bad news is you shouldn’t expect an upgrade in “feel” with a direct drive trainer provided that you come from a good wheel-on trainer, good trainer tires, proper tyre and roller pressure and a fresh calibration.

In fact, some direct drive trainers may even feel more artificial because they’re one or more steps removed from the physics of outdoor cycling. In a sense a wheel-on trainer is the closest you can come to outdoors on a trainer because the physics is more similar.

It’s just that direct drives are somewhat more consistent in their telemetry, and that they are oh so much more convenient if you switch between outdoors and indoors on a regular basis.

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In simulation mode Zwift sends a grade (of the hill) to my trainer, and the trainer then decides how much resistance to apply. After that, it’s up to me to generate power to overcome the resistance, and the power reading is used to move the avatar in the game. It doesn’t matter if that power reading is coming off your pedals or the trainer flywheel.


The Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ isn’t a controllable trainer. So Zwift doesn’t (can’t) control it at all.

I have the Elite Novo Smart which has the Qubo Digital Smart B+ module, and it is controllable by Zwift (the clue being the Smart in the names)!

“from a good wheel-on trainer, good trainer tires, proper tyre and roller pressure and a fresh calibration.”

I think his trainer only responds up to 6% grade so he may be missing something there because there is a lot of climbing in Zwift that exceed 6% but otherwise I totally agree with every you say IF you maintain your setup which takes a little bit more work than a direct drive.

As an aside, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the default trainer difficulty setting is 50%. There’s not a lot of climbing in Zwift above 12%, so halving the grade (which is what 50% setting does) gets you the right range for your trainer (not necessarily for the bike gearing that is sat on it).

Hi all. Thanks for your comments! The trainer I have is controllable by Zwift - the resistance changes as the hills go up. And you’re right, the maximum is only 6% incline. But I figure with a power meter I’m not really missing much / getting incorrect data.

I do look after it - I ignore the calibration of the trainer as I have the power meter, but the tyres are maintained (I’m on my third in 18 months!) etc.

I think you might have convinced me not to upgrade… Thanks for your help everyone!

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My apologies. I was confusing the Elite Qubo with the Elite Muin. By the way, the word “Smart” doesn’t mean what most people would think when used by Elite. The “Elite Turbo Muin Smart” is not controllable.

On the original point though, everyone I know who has upgraded from a wheel-on trainer to a direct drive trainer has said that the difference was like night and day. Sure, you can try hard to get your wheel-on trainer to be set up properly, and of course a power meter will help. But there’s no chance of wheel slip with direct drive, no messing around with tyre pressure and roller tension, and usually a much better “feel” reported due to a more substantial flywheel. Each to their own, of course, and the issue of whether it’s “worth it” is a personal one.

My apologies too for being too smart about Smart. Thanks Elite marketing team!

im using a kinetic rock and roll control wheel on trainer, on which I use my retro 1980s 6 speed bike.

It sometimes has problems with wheel slip and really needs a training tyre.
This isn’t a problem as its a permanent fixture on my turbo.
There used to be calibration problems, but now I use Garmin V3s power pedals ( shared with my road bike ). It is BLE only and needs a dongle for my old iMac
I was looking at a direct upgraded trainer, but because of the 6 speed I wouldn’t be able to use my retro bike, id have to swap my road bike on and off.
My current turbo limits me to 10% grade (and a power i’m not sure id ever reach)
It would be nice to get to 20% grade, but in Zwift a real limit ( can adjust difficulty, but I usually ride at 1) of 10% isn’t too much of a problem.
So i’ll stick where I am.

I’m upgrading to direct drive for these reasons:

  • no more tire wear
  • no more pumping up tires every ride
  • calibration-free with new kickr
  • theoretically faster response time

i spend a lot of time calibrating and fiddling with the setup for the wheel on, and I’m excited to reduce that!

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I think it really depends on how much you use it and how you use it.

I went from a wheel on dumb trainer that was recognized by Zwift but not controllable to a Hammer direct drive for $650. I’ve done 120 races and rarely ever do a group ride, event, solo ride or non-race event. For me it was a good investment.
If I was using it occasionally and mostly for training or just riding I wouldn’t have upgraded.

I just went to a direct drive from a wheel on trainer. Went from a Kinetic smart control to an Elite Suito. The difference is not night and day. The Suito is better in that it responds a little faster to changes in power, calibrate it only once unless you move it around, not having to deal with the tire and roller.

That said the Kinetic had better “road feel” if that’s a thing on a trainer. The 12lb flywheel combined with the inertia of the wheel/tire allowed for a much longer spin down. It wasn’t any louder either. My only issues with it were, erg mode was not great and having to crank down the roller and do a calibration nearly every ride. I had some tire slip when using an older tire but none with a new tire.

Overall the direct drive is worth it to me mostly for the convenience.

When I first tried Zwift and decided I wanted to buy a setup, I looked at the model you have and the Elite Zumo.

I’m very happy with the Zumo and at £427 it’s quite a nice entry point for a turbo trainer. GP Lama gives it a very good rating on YouTube.

I have had a problem with it so it’s not perfect but I think it was self-caused so PM me if you buy one.

The return service is good if you do have a problem (was for me anyway).

Built in sensors, picks up easy, easy to put the back wheel on for an outdoor cycle, easy to put away with fold in feet. I recommend. Maybe easier to upgrade when it’s sub £500?

ok, weighing back in here now that i have both wheel-on and direct drive:

i rode a Kickr Snap wheel-on trainer for about 3 years. i just upgraded to a Kickr 2020 direct drive, and have ridden it 4 times. here’s my initial impressions.

  • i agree that it is not night and day. the differences are subtle between Kickr and Kickr Snap. in fact, they are so subtle that i would say you should probably ALWAYS buy the Snap first until you are sure you’re going to ride the trainer a lot. save the money!
  • not having to pump the tire and/or stop at 10 minutes in to do a spin-down is INFINITELY AWESOME. i hated that so much on the Snap!
  • the “road feel” on the Snap is better than the Kickr. something about having to turn that rear wheel just feels more like “on a bike outside”.
  • the “responsiveness” to changes in resistance is much better on the Kickr. it’s really nice and smooth how quickly this thing responds. however, i think this is part of why the “road feel” is missing – it just feels more like a trainer than a bike.
  • the new feet on the Kickr that underwhelmed GPLama and DCRainmaker are pretty awesome for me – the Snap didn’t move at all, and the swaying motion of the Kickr is very welcome. (and i am on a mat, too!)
  • the power is definitely more accurate on the Kickr. i could feel the difference between rides on the Snap, even if i did calibration spin-downs. sometimes, i even got a “bad spindown” that would elevate or depress my power readings by as much as 30-40 watts (this was rare, but incredibly frustrating!). i was never sure if my power was ‘correct’ on the Snap, but i can feel consistency on the Kickr.
  • no more trainer tires! i had two CycleOps tires that warped from heat, and a Tacx one that shredded little bits of blue rubber everywhere. i doubt it will ever cover the difference in cost, but it’s yet another convenience to not have to worry about this. also, if you leave the tension on with the Snap, you can develop a little hop in your tire which you can both feel and hear until it works its way out.
  • i’ve got a slight grinding sound in one of the cogs on the cassette i put on the kickr. obviously, didn’t have that problem on the cassette on my actual rear wheel. not too big a deal, but an observation.
  • i haven’t changed my “trainer difficulty setting” yet (about 25-30% today), but i think i will need to increase it for the Kickr – the setting i have for the Snap seems like it doesn’t leave me “big enough” gears on the Kickr.

i’m very happy with the Kickr – the conveniences of no trainer tires, no tire inflation, no spin downs, some side-to-side motion and faster/smoother resistance changes are absolutely worth it to me.

but – i do not doubt/regret my decision to start with the Snap at all. it’s an awesome trainer, and until you ride it so much that you get sick of spin downs, you’ll never notice the difference between the two! (also – i rode something like 7.5k miles and 430k vertical feet on that Snap, and it’s still functioning like the day i bought it – it’s a tank!)


Awesome post, thanks! Very useful. It pretty much reflects what I suspected - there’s a difference but it’s not earth shattering. I’ve started one of the training plans and am finding it difficult to hold a consistent wattage. Part if it is probably me, but I suspect part of it is also have a budget trainer and only a left hand side power meter. I’ve done a 180 again and I think I’m going to upgrade, but potentially looking to save a few £ and get a second hand one. Saw a second hand Tacx Neo going for about 40% of the price of a new Tacx Neo 2T which seems like a good deal.

Good to know the Snap is bullet proof. I don’t mind the spindown after 10 minutes. I treat that initial period as my warm up, do a quick spindown calibration, and then straight into the workout. My trainer tyre is holding up well, and this was a cheap and cheerful one from Halfords. I don’t over tighten the roller, just enough to get a good spindown time.
Honestly at this point I just can’t see myself upgrading to DD, the Snap + Zwift fulfils my goals. The price of the Kickr (or Core) just doesn’t justify it, for me anyway.