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2017 In Review: A Look at The Best Smart Bike Trainers

Black Friday and Cyber Monday of 2017 are in the books. Many of you scored some really good deals on bike trainers. If you missed the big sales, check out my Holiday Deals page.

Last year, I did a year in review and looked at trends and some numbers. As expected, 2017 was much bigger and more people are moving away from the old classic trainers into smart bike trainers.

We’ve seen new models enter the market from well-established companies and new companies trying to make their way and take some of the market shares.

The Wahoo KICKR and SNAP are still dominating, especially in the U.S. market. Tacx is closing the gap with their Tacx NEO and the Tacx Flux. Elite is also starting to make a big push with their new and popular Elite Direto and Elite Drivo.

The charts you see below are from Google Trends. Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. Likewise, a score of 0 means the term was less than 1% as popular as the peak.

THE LEADERS

As you see in the chart below, I am looking at the most popular smart trainers to measure interest over the year for each brand. I am only concentrating on Wahoo’s trainers, Tacx, Elite, and CycleOps.

As you see below, Tacx is leading worldwide interest and Wahoo Fitness is right next to it. Elite is starting to trend higher due to their mid-range direct drive trainer, Elite Direto that was introduced last Summer. CycleOps is also trending higher but they have a lot of work to do to catch up to the leaders.

When looking in the United States only, Wahoo Fitness is dominating the market with their Wahoo KICKR and Wahoo SNAP. CycleOps and Tacx are close but you can see CycleOps is starting to trend a little higher. That’s probably because of some of their Zwift sponsorship and recent heavy promotion of their CycleOps Hammer.

BREAKOUT TRAINERS

The Elite Direto by far was the best trainer of 2017. Elite announced the Direto in July and it started shipping late summer. The Elite Direto is a mid-range direct drive trainer and retails for $900. The trainer worked right out of the box and received raving reviews from many. (you can read my Elite Direto review here). Its lower price, superior accuracy and quiet noise made it a very attractive offer and it’s putting a lot of pressure on the higher end trainers.

BEST CYCLING APP

As expected, this category is basically being dominated by Zwift. TrainerRoad is 2nd but it’s not even close. Rouvy is trending right behind TrainerRoad and The Sufferfest is behind. All other cycling apps aren’t even measurable when comparing to the leaders.

BEST INNOVATION

Zwift went public with their Apple TV app mid-November after 6 months of beta testing. Many Zwifters quickly adopted the app. A month later, over 20,000 miles were logged by Apple TV users according to Zwift cofounder, Jon Mayfield.

MOST ANTICIPATED PRODUCT THAT DIDN’T MAKE IT

Wahoo Fitness introduced the Climb at Eurobike. They also modified the KICKR to make it fit the Climb and introduced the KICKR 2017. Wahoo Fitness was hoping to have the Climb ready to ship during the holiday season. Unfortunately, due to technical and production issues, the Climb has been delayed and hopefully we will see it early 2018.

WHAT DO USERS WANT?

According to our own poll, when asked what is the most important thing when shopping for a new trainer, over 30% said accuracy was their most important feature. Good road feel came in at 28%, followed by price and noise came in last at 17%.

 

WHAT’S IN FOR 2018?

Couple of trainers I am looking forward to testing this year:

  • The MyCycling from Technogym. This is a higher end direct drive trainer that is priced well above everyone else including the NEO. Look for a full in-depth review early next year.
  • Minoura Kagura is another trainer that we should see in 2018. This is a wheel-on trainer that is impressively quiet. Minoura claims the trainer max wattage is an impressive 2000 watts and up to 20% slope all with a +/-2% accuracy.
  • STAC is coming out with a new smart trainer. The STAC Zero offers a zero contact resistance unit, which means no noise,  and no tire wear. They are working on a smart version that is ANT+ FE-C and Smart Bluetooth compatible that should be available next year. It will work with any third-party app that supports these protocols such as Zwift, TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, KINOMAP and many others.
  • TACX is also working on their desktop cycling app. Currently in beta and available to download for Windows only. The software is promising and offers another way to ride real-courses or create your own. A Mac version is currently in the works and should be available early 2018.
  • Zwift for Android. Zwift is currently only available on iOS (iPad/iPhone) or Windows desktop, Mac OSX, and Apple TV. They announced an Android version at Eurobike and was expected to be released later this year. However, the company ran into some issues with Android but we should see a version coming out in the first quarter of 2018.

 

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