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Smart Bike Trainers Roundup From InterBike

This year at Interbike, smart trainers were out in full force. We didn’t see much new from the big companies like we did at Eurobike last year but we are seeing new companies trying to enter this market with new innovation and new smart trainers. Some you might be familiar with and some are new to enter the U.S. market.

Wahoo Fitness

Wahoo Fitness introduced the Climb last month at Eurobike and a new KICKR. Since I wasn’t at Eurobike when they introduced the Climb, I was eager to try it out and see what it feels like. A couple of things worth mentioning here:

  • The Climb will be available sometime in November and probably before the Holidays and will cost $599.
  • If you own KICKR 1 or KICKR 2, the Climb won’t work and I don’t think Wahoo will release an upgrade kit. They tried and tried hard to make the previous version compatible but due to hardware design, using the Climb with older KICKRs can actually damage your bike. So if you want the Climb, you will need to get the latest KICKR or the new KICKR SNAP that was introduced earlier this year. Any KICKR you order today from Wahoo is compatible with the Climb.
  • If you’ve seen some videos of the Climb with Zwift, you probably noticed the change in gradient isn’t smooth. I’ve asked about this issue and according to Wahoo, this is due to Zwift sending gradient signals every 1-second to the KICKR. They are working directly with Zwift to smooth it out and it should feel much better by the time the Climb is released.

STAC Zero

I am excited about what this company is doing. If you aren’t familiar with them, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. The company completed their Kickstarter campaign and started production just last year so they are relatively new in this market.

STAC Zero makes the quietest trainer on the market. The reason it’s so quiet is that they have no moving parts. Its proprietary magnetic braking technology generates resistance without actually touching the wheel of your bike. I will not dive into the technology behind their resistance unit but you can read more about it here and here is a full review of their first trainer by DC Rainmaker. I haven’t had a chance to review it because their current model isn’t entirely smart.

They are working on a smart version that is ANT+ FE-C and Smart Bluetooth compatible and will work with any third-party app that supports these protocols such as Zwift, TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest and others. According to STAC the smart version will be accurate up to 1% according to their own tests. The trainer will also come with a rechargeable battery that will last up to 10-hours and can be easily recharged using a micro-USB.

The company will provide an upgrade kit to current STAC customers, so they don’t have to purchase a whole new trainer. The upgrade kit should be available sometime in the Spring of 2018, full production trainers should roll out sometime next Fall.

Minoura 

The Japanese company is looking to enter the U.S market with their Kagura smart trainer. This wheel-on trainer is an electromagnetic trainer and regular mag trainer. It actually allows for switching between the two modes when powered but default to just a magnetic trainer when not powered with 4-level resistance. Minoura claims the trainer max wattage is an impressive 2000 watts and up to 20% slope all with a +/-2% accuracy. That’s very impressive for a wheel-on trainer. For comparison, the CycleOps Magnus and Wahoo SNAP support up to 1500 watts. Only the Kinetic Smart come close with 1800 watts.

The trainer also has a rigid locked arm for power riding and hard intervals. You can also release the arm and it becomes a “gravity trainer”. With this mode, the rear wheel won’t be locked onto the rear tension roller. Basically, the trainer will give you a little bit of back and forth movements. I had a chance to preview it at Interbike but will get a better feel of this mode when I get my hands on a production unit soon.

The Kagura is currently selling in Japan and UK and it’s on its way to the US. It should be available sometime in October. It’s ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth compatible and will work with all third party cycling apps such as Zwift, Kinomap, TrainerRoad, etc.

Bkool

Bkool had three two different trainers on display. The Bkool Smart Pro 2, which is an updated version of their Bkool Smart Pro, and the Smart Air Direct Drive, and a new smart bike.

The Bkool Smart Pro 2 is an updated version of their Bkool Smart Pro with improve ventilation, quieter and offer more adjustability to accommodate wider hubs and wheel sizes from 20″ to 29″. Just like the previous Smart Pro, this one provides resistance up to 1200 watts and +20% slope. They dropped the price to $589 from $599. This trainer is also ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible but as with all Bkool trainers, to make it ANT+ FE-C, you will need to connect it to the Bkool Simulator app and turn on ANT+ FE-C.

The Smart Bike is a smart spin type bike that is adjustable and automatically adjusts resistance when paired to the Bkool simulator or a compatible app such as Zwift. It measures speed, cadence, and power up to 1,500 watts and simulates grades up to 20%. However, Bkool is trying to market this bike as smart spin bike and geared more toward virtual spin classes, something similar to what Peloton is doing — kind of.  The company is continuing to work on keeping its customers within their ecosystem. With the Bkool Smart Bike, you can pick a workout from their spin classes within their Bkool simulator. The workout is led by an instructor. The bike resistance will automatically adjust resistance and automatically calculate your fitness level as you do more workouts. The Smart Bike will be available next month and retail for $1,199.99.

You can adjust the seat height and the height of the handlebar. You can use your own cleats but not the cranks.

The Smart Bike will be available next month and retail for $1,199.99.

The Smart Air is Bkool first direct drive offering that has a built-in power meter. The trainer has a unique design and suppose to offer a horizontal rocking system while providing up to 2000 watts and simulate up to 20% grade. The trainer is Bluetooth compatible and ANT+ that can be updated to ANT+ FE-C after connecting it to the Bkool app. This is the company’s way to make its customers download the app and check it out before leaving for another cycling app.

However, the Smart Air was somewhere in a FedEx truck and missing from the show. I’ve only seen a computerized rendering of this trainer. I came back the next day and it was still not there and unfortunately had to catch my flight back home before I got the news that FedEx was able to finally deliver it. DC Rainmaker was able to see it and wrote a little bit about it in his post here.

The company is taking pre-orders and it retails for $1,099.99.

Bitelli

I’ve covered this trainer a bit in the past but finally had a chance to ride one in person. Bitelli is taking on the trainer market in a different way with their rollers like trainers. The initial ride feel was impressive. Each trainer has a wide screen TV attached with a library of real cycling videos.  The video quality was very good and the trainer responded to changes in gradient very well. This is probably as close to outdoor riding you will get indoor.

Each model had two blowers in front of you and the Lux version has four fans in front. Fans adjust speed as you go faster. I didn’t know how the fans will feel but they actually felt really good and strong and enough air was blowing to keep me from sweating profusely. The trainer simulates downhills as well and you can just stop pedaling and enjoy the little break.

You can read more in-depth look on the Bitelli in my earlier post here.

 

 

 

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