Going from Dumb Trainer to Smart

I’m guessing this question has been asked many times before, but I’m planning to get a smart trainer - either a Saris H3, Wahoo Kickr v5 or Tacx Neo 2T - in the very near future. Hoping to test ride all 3 this week or next. I’m wondering what I can expect going from my Kinetic Road Machine with Inride sensor to one of these smart trainers. I’m particularly interested in how big climbs will feel. Right now, I just shift down into a harder gear to get more watts to move my avatar up the mountain. I’ve been able to get into a pretty good rhythm doing this and I’m thinking climbing may feel harder on a smart trainer. I’m also wondering if I’ll lose watts or my FTP will go down when going to a smart trainer from my dumb trainer, or if perhaps the opposite could be true (FTP going up)? Any thoughts on this? When I did a very short test ride on a smart trainer a couple weeks ago, it felt so nice, very smooth and natural. It seemed like I could find watts that I never could find on my dumb Road Machine trainer (very small sample size). It seemed fairly easy to push into higher watts than I was used to, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to maintain those watts as easily. What are people’s experiences when going from a dumb trainer like my fluid Road Machine to a smart trainer? It seems like the fluid sort of slowed me down at some point and the effort seemed harder on the dumb trainer and perhaps less natural? Does that make sense? Also, if you have any advice on what smart trainer to get (H3, Kickr or Neo 2T), that would be appreciated. Any advice, tips, ideas greatly appreciated!

This is the most difficult question to answer. I would say read everything on DC rainmakers reviews. https://www.dcrainmaker.com/product-reviews/trainers

Will your FTP go up or down that you will have to see I have seen people go up and down.


The smart trainer will allow shifting as IRL…resistance goes up automatically as the road goes up. Unless you are studly, you will shift to a lower gear.
Wattage will most likely be different. With KK, Zwift is working off a curve. How accurate? who knows.

I have two H3’s and both have a knocking issue at 100% on the difficulty slider. I bring it down to 40-60% just to spin it up. I am big and slow and on the tower hill I could overheat at 100%…250watts at 40 rpm or something. No issues or knocking at the lower settings.

The H3 works but I would look at the K5 first.

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this youtube channel has great reviews and showdowns:

both are excellent and have pros and cons

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Another good resource is this ZwiftInsider article series

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Hi Andy,
what ever you decide, try to keep your old set up, that way if you experience a problem with the new purchase, you’ll have a backup.
Happy days, no Zwift down time.


For me one of the most important decisions when it comes to making a choice between manufactures is.

What is their support like?

There are some horror stories out there about trainer failures, multiple breakdowns etc…


Yeah you are 100% right Stuart.
If you can, I’d strongly suggest to buy from a LBS.
I had to return 2 trainers, and had no problem getting a full refund on each occasion.
I think the LBS is a better bet as the manufacture I guess will only want to put a bandaid on a problem rather than give you a refund.

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Hi Andy. I had a Kinetic Road Machine w/sensor for a couple weeks before upgrading to the Kickr Core. The Wahoo is soooo much quieter. Actually, one of the first things you’ll probably do is tune your shifting to quiet your drivetrain! Also, note that depending on how much wear your existing cassette has, you may need to make rear derailleur adjustments when going from the trainer to your bike wheel. (Or you could spring for a new and matching cassette to make that transition more seamless).

Your FTP will likely change, as you’ll be getting a more accurate power reading from the new trainer.

Biggest adjustment will be resisting the urge to shift gears. You can shift while in ERG mode, but you won’t need to very often. Shift a lot and you’ll just be in an endless cycle of the trainer chasing your shifting while trying to maintain the wattage. It’s a very different feeling, waiting for the trainer to adjust as your cadence changes but you’ll get the hang of it after a couple of rides. The Kickr Core has a small lag adjusting to cadence changes, so on workouts with, say 20 second sprint intervals, the app recommends disabling ERG mode for those intervals.

Based on my experience, you’re going to have a vastly improved riding experience with a direct drive trainer. It’s going to be all about your cadence and your focus. Good luck!

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Thanks for this great detailed reply! I’m really looking forward to riding the hills and doing some racing with the new smart trainer, even more than ERG mode. What is your experience doing a long climb with a smart trainer as opposed to the Kinetic Road Machine? Do you find the long, steep climbs harder with the smart trainer? It feels like with my dumb trainer, I get in a pretty good rhythm and always have enough gears left to make it easier on the climb if I need to. Do you ever run out of gears when climbing on the smart trainer on a climb like Alpe du Zwift or Radio Tower? Maintaining high wattage in a race and staying with the pack just seems so hard with my dumb trainer. I wonder how much the constant fluid resistance bogs me down when trying to maintain the wattage? I guess I’ll find out soon enough! :slight_smile: Thanks again!

ERG mode is what’s going to make the hills and the races more life-like. You’re now controlling the wattage with your cadence, more than your gears.

Big ring in the front, middle cog in the back, you’ll rarely need to shift, even out of the saddle on a 10% climb. The only times you’ll need to shift are if you want to switch to a high cadence and your legs aren’t making it on their own. The in-game reaction times to chances in your cadence are going to be so much quicker.

Sorry for all the questions, but you use ERG mode even when you’re racing in Zwift? Does that mean you’re not really feeling the hills, or is the resistance changing in ERG mode in relation to the incline? I didn’t know people raced in ERG mode. I actually don’t mind shifting to account for the inclines because I feel like it’s more realistic. But, I’m looking forward to testing everything out!

My bad. Long day. You’re right, ERG mode is off for races and group rides, but on for workouts. I meant to refer to the game/trainer feedback where you do feel the inclines and descents.

No, I think the previous post to yours was in error. ERG mode is used by smart trainers to control your wattage during a workout. To my knowledge, you cannot be in ERG mode for a race. In ERG mode you don’t shift. The trainer adjusts resistance based on your cadence and the predefined power output for the training block you are in.

Sim mode is the setting for free rides/races where your trainer provides resistance based on the simulated gradient you are riding. You need to shift gears to maintain a comfortable cadence and power output.

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