Time to Get Serious and Go Smart

(Andy Roche ZZRC 2.5 LEAD) #1

Hi all,

Over 500 Zwift miles ridden on my dumb cyclops fluid 2, garmin cadence sensor and Zpower, but now after getting through the ballot for this years Ride London 100 I think its time to take the plunge and go smart.

I know there are lots of posts about which are best but for me its either “big bangs for my bucks” and buy the Tacx Vortex Smart (£270 isn in UK) OR go direct drive and buy Tacx Neo (cheapest I’ve found at £950) or Wahoo Kickr (£950).

I’m leaning towards the Kickr, but will have to sell a kidney of two and is it really that much better than the Vortex Smart?


(DB Smith (65+)) #2

My 2¢:

I tried a Kickr for 3 weeks. It had an issue with the rear derailleur hitting the trainer flywheel cover such that some gears could not, physically, be used. Wahoo is aware of the issue (and you’ll see it in some online posts). They had no solution (or even a good explanation). Kickr was also very LOUD.

I returned the Kickr and got a Kickr Snap (wheel-on) and I’ve been very happy with it. I paid $600 from an US online shop, no sales tax and free shipping.

FWIW I considered the Neo before buying the Snap – I was impressed by several online videos demonstrating how quite Neo is. I have to say that, IMO, Snap is nearly as quiet (MUCH quieter than Kickr) and that pretty much obviates the Neo’s main advantage. If the Neo was priced at USD 1000 that would sway my opinion but, at USD 1400-1700 (prices I’ve seen), I think Snap is a much better value (at $600 or $650).

Other points in Neo’s favor (from what I’ve read) are (1) the power-on in descents (more realistic in that it allows you to coast) and (2) the Neo apparently allows the bike to move a bit instead of a rigid mount.

(Eric Oshlo) #3

I have both a Tacx Vortex and a Kickr (not the Snap) in different locations. Both work well with Zwift riding, but I do prefer the Kickr (particularly for Zwift workouts) for several reasons: 

1) the Kickr contains a true strain gauge power meter whereas the Vortex calculates power from wheel speed (not unlike zPower) and thus depends critically on setup, tire pressure, roller tension, etc. I have a separate power meter on my bike, so this is less critical to me, but the Vortex & my power meter read substantially different if I just rely on the Tacx spin down calibration. I can get them close by adjusting the roller tension but that’s a trial and error process. The Kickr and my power meter readings are almost always within 2-5% once the Kickr is warmed up.

  1. being direct drive, the Kickr doesn’t wear down tires or need a trainer tire/spare wheel for trainer use.

  2. the Kickr is much sturdier and substantially built. That might be a positive or negative if you plan to move it around a lot.

I have not encountered the derailleur problem DB Smith mentioned on either my Shimano Di2 bikes, one 10spd, one 11spd. I will agree that the Kickr can be a bit noisy, but I generally wear headphones, so it’s not a significant issue to me.

The price difference between the two is significant, but there are differences. Whether they are worth the price difference is down to affordability and personal perspective.

Never having seen or ridden a Neo, I can’t comment on it.

(Cleve Waterman 69y/o) #4

Noise is important to me and at age 67 I am unlikely to overpower the Snap that I ended up buying just a few weeks ago.  I have been impressed with how quiet the Snap is. I haven’t heard a Kickr in person, but the videos I have seen have an “air raid” quality to the sound. Even in a small room, the Snap’s noise is tolerable.

My main complaint with the Snap is the need to do a 10 minute spin down calibration before each ride, as well as airing up the tire. So far I have not been successful in doing a calibration with Zwift running, so I have to do the 10 minute calibration before I start up Zwift. Over the course of a year, I will ride about 500 miles just doing calibrations. It would be great if Zwift could incorporate the spin down into their software, especially the structured workouts.

(DB Smith (65+)) #5

@cleve waterman

I’ve found that, so long as you check tire pressure and roller tension before each ride, it isn’t necessary to do a spindown before every Zwift session. 

Have logged 1000 miles and only done (perhaps) 3-4 spindowns. Assuming you can leave your bike mounted in the Snap between rides. 

Having said that, it would be nice to have the ability to (easily) do a warm up before starting the Zwift course. 

(Kermit deFrog ( PAC )) #6

For what it’s worth, I have none of those trainers.

After some agonising research, I have bought a Bkool Smart Trainer and it is not having any of the aforementioned traits/issues.

It is half the price of a Kickr but a bit more than the Vortex (if I remember correctly).

Yes, the bike will need to sit on the roller and will have some tyre wear but I have now ridden 3500 km and reckon i will do easily another 2500 km before tyre change. I see this as not a problem.

I have it in a little room with the wife next door and there is no problem with noise as it is really the quietest i have heard in comparisons. I don’t even have to close the door. (… and no, she is not deaf).

There is no need for calibration, spin down at all.

It is a very solid construction that also folds down if not in use.

It also gives the bike a bit of movement and give rather than being unnaturally stiff. This feels a lot better when sprinting or up-hill out-of-saddle action.

No need to ever adjust roller tension as the Bkool works on rider weight to press on the rollers. No problems when out-of-saddle as bike will not come back up on its own.

Plug in, connect and swift off. 

Sofar, after 3500km not a single problem at all. Very happy.

(Noel Nunkovich *USMES*) #7

I’ve spent fairly significant time on Kurt Road Machine (with power meter), Vortex Smart, and Neo. The Neo is, by far, the nicest trainer I’ve ever used. The Vortex was nice as well and honestly I’d still be using it if I hadn’t stumbled upon a one-off deal on the Neo that I simply could not resist  (even the guys in the shop I bought it in couldn’t believe the price).

My only issue with the Vortex was, as @Eric Oshlo said, the variance between Vortex and power meter. Even that wasn’t an issue for me with the Vortex, it was really more an issue with Zwift since currently you can’t ride workouts in erg mode with both smart trainer and power meter paired so you’re forced to choose between erg mode or less accurate power. The Neo is pretty close to spot on with my power meter so it’s no longer a problem. The Neo is also ridiculously quiet. I wasn’t sure about it at the time but I’ve also come to like the Neo’s relatve lack of rigidity as well. It’s firm enough that you feel secure while also being able to move around just a little bit. 

(Juan Ferres [BRT]) #8

I don’t think smart power trainers are really needed for a good Zwift experience. What is really an improvement are the direct drive trainers (no wheel friction, just chain to cassette).

I tested several smart power trainers willing to buy them and discovered that they were not what i need. In Zwift, when you reach a climb, you better start pushing in order to not getting stuck! So, you already got the effect of a smart power trainer.

Add another option to your list: 

Turbo Muin B+. It was the first direct drive trainer and the real revolution. A great italian design, rock solid, and realy stable. It’s crazy silent and the resistance is bases in a fluid. This fluid is getting more dense as you push. I think it’s more natural and create a better feeling than motor resistances. 

The basic Turbo Muin B+ is 395€, quite inexpensive.

The Real Turbo Muin Smart B+ cost 1010€ here in Spain. This is what you call smart. 




(DB Smith (65+)) #9

Lots of interesting comments and recommendations. One recommendation I think all would agree (but no one has mentioned):

Whatever you decide to purchase, be sure you buy from a source that will (1) give you the right to return without penalty after a short trial and (2) stand behind whatever you buy – honor the warranty without making you go back to the manufacturer.

Smart trainers, as a product category, are pretty new and even a small bit of internet research will quickly confirm that, no matter what you buy, there is a good chance that you will experience some issues – maybe small, maybe not so small. 

For every product named in this thread you will find some users who swear by the trainer they bought and an equal number who swear AT the trainer they bought.

Until you’ve actually used the trainer you select (ideally for at least a week or two), in your own home and with your own bike and Zwift configuration, you cannot be sure that you will be happy with your choice.

The absolute best advice anyone can give you is to be very sure that, whatever you decide to buy, you buy from a source that will cooperate (quickly and pleasantly) with you if you have a problem.

(lukas ranicar) #10

hey andy another option is buy a power meter and keep your trusty fluid 2. you can then train with power outside too and use it to pace your ride london 100. hell you could buy a power meter and a vortex smart for the price of a kickr,

i tried a vortex smart but was not satisfied with it, felt it lacking in build quality,  my 2nd session on it it reverted to some sort of recovery mode. so i sent it back,  may have just had a bad unit but thats one guys experience. 

i think if you got used to riding with watts inside you would really miss it when you  went outside.

(Andy Roche ZZRC 2.5 LEAD) #11

Thank you everybody who has taken the time and effort to reply to my post. You have all posted valued comments and I will consider them all carefully before I make the plunge.

I will definitely look at the Bkool Smart trainer and Turbo Muin Smart B+, but I can definitely relate to the idea of power meter instead of a smart trainer.

I like the idea of training with watts (should have done it a while ago) and if I’m honest I use the Zwift workouts more than just riding Richmond/Watopia or group rides so maybe a power metre instead of a smart trainer is the better option.

I’ll have the best of both outside and virtual world covered then and maybe that is the sensible and most rounded thing to do. As I ride campag it will be a pedal power metre option for me (maybe the great value of the Favero bePRO).

When you consider spring and longer days are around the corner a power meter is the way forward and keep my “dumb” cyclops fluid 2 for supplementary workouts.

Thanks again for all your valued comments it is greatly appreciated


(Noel Nunkovich *USMES*) #12

If power meter in lieu of a smart trainer is an option, I’d certainly go that route if training (vs. just riding on Zwift) is your goal. Smart trainers are nice, and as previously mentioned I own a couple of them, but I had power meters on all of my bikes before I ever invested in a smart trainer. If the choice is either/or, I’d go power meter and dumb trainer every day of the week.

Just my $0.02.

(Eric Oshlo) #13

Notwithstanding my Kickr vs Vortex comments above, I absolutely agree with Lucas and Noel. A separate power meter is much more versatile, accurate and useful year around than a smart trainer and I likewise had a Quarq power meter long before I bought a smart trainer. 

Zwift works wonderfully with an independent power meter. Once you have that, all you will miss by not having a smart trainer is active change of trainer resistance controlled by Zwift; however, you can accomplish much of the same on your own by shifting gears when you see the grade change in Zwift.

(Andy Roche ZZRC 2.5 LEAD) #14

Thanks to everyone who have been good enough to find the time to comment on my post. I am going to purchase a power meter and then as many have suggested I have the best of both worlds . . . . . just got to decide which one of my two children to sell to fund this urgent and necessary purchase.

(Michael Shirey) #15

Sell both and get a Kickr.  

(Noel Nunkovich *USMES*) #16

Ok, I’ll bite. Sell both what and get a Kickr?

(C oach Paul Ozier) #17

Love my CompuTrainer. Feels like the real world, easy to set up and Zwift.