Trainer advise

Hi everybody,

I just got myself a gravel bike and started cycling 30 days ago and I am just loving it. I wake up in the early morning 2-3 times a week and then I cycle in the area nearby my home (I live in an hilly area), and then I have a 4 hours trip every weekend.

Anyway, being an absolute beginner and not being in a great shape, I am having trouble to go through the uphills and I would like to keep on training. But since the weather is getting chilly and probably won’t get any warmer in the next months, I am thinking about zwift to improve my level and being ready for next spring.

I am thinking about getting a set up in the basement of my house where I have plenty of space, and of course I have to get a trainer. I have read a lot about it, but before buying I would like to get some advise from this community since you have surely much more experience than I have.

So, my thoughts are:

  • I won’t need to move it anywhere so I would be happy with something fixed.
  • I don’t care much about the noise.
  • I feel like having a trainer which adapts automatically to the info received from the app is a nice feature.
  • A maximum slope of 10% which I have seen around in some trainers doesn’t feel like a lot. Am I too ambitious?
  • A used trainer would be welcome if you think it’s worthy.

And yet I would possibly like to try to stay on 400€ level if possible.

Could you help me with any comments and suggestions coming from your experience?

Thanks

i’m generally a big fan of the kickr snap – it’s wheel on, but also pretty affordable. you can go cheaper, but use this one as your benchmark.

for cost, though: you’ll need a computer to run zwift on, too, and eventually you might also want a tv to plug into. cheapest option for computer is appletv. 40ish inch TVs are only about $200 these days.

other things to consider: heart rate monitor, cadence monitor, floor mat (this is probably required – a lot of climbing usually means pools of sweat), “sweat net”, fans, maybe a wireless keyboard

finally, don’t underestimate how corrosive your sweat is. if you like that new gravel bike, you need to clean it a LOT. otherwise you might find it pretty wrecked in the spring! i have a bike i only ride on the trainer, and i’d definitely be nervous to ride it outside now – the corrosion is visible in some places!

Thanks Dan, this was really helpful. A couple questions:

I was thinking about using the smartphone which would cover both tv and computer’s job. Would that be possible?

As per the heart rate monitor, would it make sense to buy something which I could use also outside? Like now I’m only relying on my fitbit and on the app komoot for the path. Any suggestions?

For the sweat, I had already thought about a fan and I heard that covering the bike with a couple towels would do the trick, at least to protect the bike, does it work in your experience?

Smartphone is definitely possible, if the trainer you get can communicate via bluetooth. Others will
chime in, but I don’t think you can use a smartphone in any way other than through bluetooth. It’s just a tiny screen, so it’s not very immersive.

You don’t need an HRM to use Zwift, but perhaps you want one for “proper” training. And yes, it makes sense to get one you can use outside, too.

Draping a towel over the bars/stem can protect that area, but it won’t protect the bottom bracket area from whatever drips down there or trickles down the frame tubes and ends up there. Honestly, some creative application of saran wrap can do wonders.

So, the kickr snap would cost 500 € but it has the bluetooth. Is there any dedicated platformwhere I can look up for a used one? Or should I just for a general platform like ebay?

Any HRM you can suggest?

Do you use a cycle computer when riding outside (e.g. Garmin, Wahoo)? If so I would just get a HRM from the same brand. Just make sure that you get one that has both bluetooth & ant+ as a lot of smartphones don’t have ant+. Ant+ works well with cycle computers and doesn’t eat the batteries as quickly as bluetooth does.

Make sure that your basement has good wifi as you’ll be using that to connect to Zwift.

I started off using a smartphone (iPhone) to run Zwift, it worked fine, but just isn’t as good as a decent sized screen. iPad isn’t bad if you have one. I switched to Apple TV plugged in to a computer monitor which works great, have now switched to Apple TV in to a Smart TV as I’m using the monitor as working from home.

Read through this carefully: https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/the-smart-trainer-recommendations-guide-winter-2019-2020.html

Paul, I don’t use any cycle computer, only my fitbit and the app Komoot. So, I was having a look to the Garmin HRM-Dual which seem to be not to expensive and seem to have positive feedbacks. What do you think about it? I was thinking to something which I can integrate with a cycle computer later, maybe next spring.

Fez, thanks for the link, it confirms what Dan suggested: Kickr snap seems to be quite a good deal.

Yes, I’ve heard good things about the Garmin dual, should work with almost everything going forward.

I used a Kickr Snap with an iPad extensively last winter. Works great. It is surprisingly immersive as long as you get the screen reasonably close to your head (I built a custom stand out of scrap wood).

The Snap isn’t very accurate, and is very sensitive to how much contact there is between the tyre and the roller - make sure its just enough to not slip in use. Wheel-on trainers are just not as good as direct drive. I also know its inaccurate because I just started using a Tacx Neo 2T and suddenly “lost” perhaps 40w…! However, the inaccuracy of the Snap is fine, just as long as you understand its probably not reflecting your real life power. The point is that it helps you get fitter. I started riding outside again in May and immediately broke all my PBs on all the local routes I’ve been doing for years…!

Thanks Justin. Many of you named this “being immersive or not”, which I actually didn’t consider very much as a parameter: I thought that as long as I know what I am up to and I can read clearly the info, it would be fine for training. I don’t expect cycling on swift as being like the real cycling anyway. Based on your experience do you think I am underestimating this?

Also, do you have something like an app or something which you use out for planning the path, see the elevation, check the indications etc.?

For me the immersive aspect is important, because it’s easier to forget I’m in the basement going nowhere on a static trainer! I think that helps me to push harder. Reading info quickly on the upcoming route, where other riders are, your HR and cadence etc is also much easier if the screen is bigger. I don’t use any additional apps to do route planning, but you may have a more organized approach to training than me - I mostly do races or TT because the competitive aspect makes me work harder.

This is a good site to look at routes and plan your ride.
https://zwifthacks.com/app/routes/

I also have ZwiftPower open during races.

I should have mentioned this site, much easier to actually find an event to join than the official Zwift list, and it can be filtered in a whole load of ways to focus in on the kind of rides you’re looking for and when, as well as the elevation and length of the rides.

Perfect, thank you.

So, in case I want to set up something with a TV screen, which is the easiest way to go? would I need only a smart TV, may I do the pairing with the smartphone, or I need a laptop connected via bluetooth to the trainer and then with an HDMI cable to the TV?

You should be able to do trainer > smartphone > tv (via an hdmi cable from phone to tv).

I think the easiest is probably using AppleTV to run the app, plugged in to a TV/Monitor, though the remote doesn’t work fantastically, it’s not too bad for me.

I picked up a 28" LG Smart TV on Amazon recently for just under £200. I think the apple tv is about £150’ish