Zwift and Trainer Road have changed the indoor bike training and made it a lot more enjoyable. If you haven’t tried either one of these applications, then it’s probably time to get ready to update your training setup and look into one of these options to make indoor training a lot more enjoyable.
First, to be able to use Zwift, Trainer Road, Bkool, CycleOps VirtualTraining, Sufferfest, or any other cycling software and take advantage of all the interactive features, then you need a smart bike trainer that is compatible. The trainer must be able to communicate via either ANT+ or Bluetooth with your PC/Mac or tablet and interact with the software.
Which smart trainer is best for Zwift or Trainer Road?
To simply answer your question, and if you just want something that works and the price isn’t that big of a deal, then I would go with the Tacx NEO. At$1,600, it isn’t the cheapest option out there. Check our Price Tracker for the best price.
However, the Tacx NEO is hands down the best trainer for Zwift. Actually, I am pretty sure Tacx designed the NEO with Zwift in mind.
Why is the Tacx NEO the best trainer for Zwift?
- High Accuracy: With -/+1 accuracy, The Tacx NEO is one of the most accurate trainers I’ve tried and best of all, you don’t need to calibrate it. Accuracy is important especially if you want to use Zwift Custom Workouts in ERG mode.
- Road Surface Simulation: The NEO is currently the only trainer with road surface simulation. Which means, you will experience the feeling of riding on cobblestones, gravel, off road or other types of roads, all while you are indoors. How cool is that!
- Descent simulations, which means the trainer speeds up when you are going down a hill, up to -5% grade. You can get into your aero tuck position and let the trainer coast down the hill and give your legs a little break after hammering that climb.
The Tacx NEO will also work with Trainer Road via PC or a tablet. It will connect with Trainer Road via Bluetooth or ANT+.
If spending $1,600 is out of your budget, then for $1,200 you can get the Wahoo KICKR. The KICKR has been around the longest in the Smart Trainer market (not counting Computrainer here), and you will have all the features you need to run Zwift or Trainer Road via ANT+ or Bluetooth. It simulates incline up to 20% and max watts up to 2000 watts. Accuracy level is on par with the Tacx NEO. The only thing the KICKR doesn’t have is the motor to simulate descents and doesn’t have road surface simulation.
If you are planning on using Trainer Road as your primary training app, then you might want to consider the KICKR since it is currently the only trainer Trainer Road support ERG mode via Smart Bluetooth.
Update: TrainerRoad now has Bluetooth support for Tacx. Read about it here.
The reason most apps don’t support ERG mode over Bluetooth is that, unlike ANT+, there’s currently no industry-wide standard for controlling smart trainers with Bluetooth. That means app developers would have to start from scratch in order to support each new device.
The exception to that usually is the Wahoo KICKR. The KICKR was the first smart trainer on the market and came out much before ANT+ FE-C. Due to its popularity and the fact that no other trainer existed at the time, most app developers implemented custom code for the KICKR to work over Bluetooth.
You can purchase the Wahoo KICKR directly from Wahoo Fitness.
The CycleOps Magnus is probably the best smart bike trainer for Zwift or Trainer road on a budget. For $600, the Magnus can simulate up to 15% incline and max power up to 1,500 watts. If you do some research, you can even find it for around $400. The lowest we’ve seen is around $435 + shipping. That’s a great price for this trainer.
The KICKR Snap is also a very solid option and I highly recommend it.
Anything cheaper than that, you will run into real road feel issues, accuracy, and other issues. When selecting a smart trainer to work with Zwift or any cycling training application, accuracy becomes critical.