Direct trainer or smart bike

Hi all

I’m new to Zwift, and safe to say already addicted! A few months in and I’m already planning on how to upgrade my gear for a better experience.

To get me started I bought a hybrid bike (I didn’t have a bike previously) and an Elite Novo Smart wheel on trainer. Really pleased with both and loving the experience so far.

If I upgrade kit later in the year I have a few questions:

  1. is it worth getting a smart bike (ie Wattbike Atom) rather than a direct drive trainer and a road bike? I’m very unlikely to go outdoors much, only really to cycle with the kids which is why I got a hybrid. I’d quite like that to be easily accessible and if I go direct drive I’ll get a road bike for the trainer. Basically is the extra cost for the Wattbike atom worth it? For around £700 less I was looking at an Elite Suito trainer with a Trek Domane AL2 road bike.
  2. If I do get a road bike for the trainer, does it really matter how good it is? I’d like to get something decent enough so that if I ever get the time to go out on the road I have the option, but I doubt it’s worth spending £1k plus on a road bike. Thoughts on the Trek Domane?
  3. last question - for some short term gains with my current set up, I’m thinking of upgrading to clip less pedals and cycling shoes. Is that worth the outlay?

Thanks all!


  1. Read reviews of the smartbikes at Go to Youtube and search for videos by GPLama. Ray and Shane have reviewed all the bikes and 98% of the trainers. DCRaimaker published his recommended trainers and did a shootout of all the bikes.

My view: never know when you might ride outside. A Kickr 5 (2020) and a decent bike is much more flexible and roughly the same cost as a smartbike. STAY AWAY FROM SPIN BIKES. they claim compatibility with Zwift but sometimes it takes jumping through hoops. That all said Smart Bikes are cool. Just make sure you do not have thigh rub on some of the thicker tubes of some models. Ray’s head-to-head of the three smart bikes made this observation: Smart Bike Shootout: Wahoo KICKR Bike vs Tacx NEO Bike vs Wattbike Atom | DC Rainmaker If it was me, I would check out the Stages bike that was not in the shootout but reviewed a bit later. Scroll through his Blog.

  1. Not really. If buying new or recent 10 or 11 speed will work great. If you get one of those 12 speeds make sure the cogset is the same width as 11-speed. Also with the gravel bikes the largest cogs (42-50 tooth) might interfere with the trainer. 7-8-9 speeds will work but may require extra spacers.

  2. Oh yes. Stiff soles increase the power transfer.