kurt kinetic road machine

As winter is approaching, indoor trainers will become more and more popular (yet more and more despised, at the same time, due to boredom).

As we approach that time of year when the cold, wet weather typically sets in, it is time to look into indoor riding options. You can choose between rollers and trainers, but the stationary trainer is the standard tool of the trade for most riders looking to train indoors.

Before I talk about stationary trainers, I should mention that I greatly prefer riding rollers. But if you’re sure that a stationary trainer is right for you, here’s what you need to know:

Choosing a Stationary Trainer

What kind is best for you?

There are traditional wheel-on stationary trainers (“wheel-on” refers to your rear wheel staying on your bike). Those attach to your frame and rear wheel. They are available in wind resistance, magnetic resistance, and fluid resistance models.

There are two trainers out there that are highly regarded. First, the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine. It looks like most other trainers, but the quality is top-notch. Second, there is a small company which makes the 1UpUSA Trainer. This trainer has a unique design and has won many awards, so I encourage you to take a look.

Prices are typically $200-400.

Newer models are direct-drive trainers. These replace your rear wheel.

The Wahoo KICKR is a big name. Tacx is also big in this arena. The CycleOps H2 is gaining ground.

Prices are ~ $800-$1200.

Wheel-On Stationary Trainers ($250-500)

Here are five indoor trainers including popular models that have been getting rave reviews for years as well as a couple new, high-tech offerings:

1. CycleOps Fluid 2

CycleOps has always had a nice flagship trainer option. Cyclists have been buying this for years, and many shops even use a CycleOps Fluid 2 unit for bike fits.

In the $300 range, there is a very popular trainer called the CycleOps Fluid 2. This is a very common trainer to be seen in bike shops for doing bike fittings, and based on the number of reviews out there, many cyclists must own this themselves.

But of course, opinions vary. You will see a wide range of reviews covering this trainer.

Website: www.CycleOps.com

2. 1UpUSA Magnitude Trainer

One trainer that’s very popular around the online cycling communities, yet I rarely see in person, is the 1Up USA trainer. How popular? It has been voted “Best Trainer” seven years in a row by MountainBikeReview.com and RoadBikeReview.com!

You’ll have to check the site to read all the details that set this trainer apart from the rest, but the number one reason is the Centrifugal Pressure Resistance, which I can’t explain other than the fact it is supposed to provide a more realistic ride than any fluid or magnetic trainer!

While the original was just $299 shipped, this one is $449. You can also get the eSmart model for $899.

Website: www.1up-usa.com

3. Kurt Kinetic Road Machine

The other extremely popular fluid trainer is the Road Machine from Kurt. This is a fluid trainer with smooth resistance and good road feel.

This comes in a classic version ($305) as well as a smart version ($369) and a smart control version ($512).

Website: www.kurtkinetic.com

4. Kurt Kinetic Rock & Roll

kurt kinetic rock n roll trainer

Like the stability and resistance of a stationary trainer but the feel of rollers? Then this new trainer from Kurt Kinetic might be just what you’re looking for!

This is called the Kurt Kinetic Rock & Roll Trainer because instead of being a solid frame, it incorporates a floating pivot, allowing the trainer frame to move around, which means you can sway the bike side-to-side as you ride.

It should feel more realistic, at least when standing and sprinting, and be easier on your bike.

There are just two potential problems I see.

First, the pivot better be strong and durable. Wouldn’t want to ruin a perfectly good trainer with one weak part. Second, the $600 price tag is almost double the cost of the regular Kurt Kinetic Road Machine (which is basically the same trainer but without the pivot).

Does it look like a good idea? Yes, a more natural road feel from a trainer would be great. Would I pay an extra $250 for it? Maybe.

Prices start at $549 and then $675.

Website: www.kurtkinetic.com

5. Blackburn Fluid Trainer

Blackburn has come out with an updated fluid trainer to expand your options. It is supposed to be as good as the others, but it’s $100 or so less, so it’s definitely worth considering. It also comes with a lifetime warranty.

$300

Website: www.blackburn.com

6. Tacx Flow

The Flow Smart offers all the necessary features you need for a fully interactive indoor cycling experience. It connects to most popular training apps, like Zwift, Tacx and Trainerroad. And its wheel-on design allows for easy setup and storage. This trainer is the perfect winter training tool.

All Tacx trainers are smart trainers.

This is one of their lower price options at $369.

Website: www.tacx.com

Direct-Drive Stationary Trainers ($900 and up)

Very expensive trainers, but very advanced and high-tech. Very quiet.

1. Wahoo KICKR

The #1 most popular and well-known.

Lots of add-ons available, including the Climb.

Website: www.wahoofitness.com

2. Tacx Flux 2

A smooth ride and extremely silent.

$900

Website: www.tacx.com

3. CycleOps H2

Direct drive design features widest bike compatibility and quiet performance. Electromagnetic resistance provides a precise and controlled workout every time. Integrated cadence, speed and power data – no external sensors needed. Seamlessly connects to virtual training apps with dual ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth standards. Zwift certified.

$1200

Website: www.CycleOps.com

4. Elite Drivo II

Claimed to be “the most accurate interactive home trainer in the world.”

$1200

Website: www.elite-it.com

5. Kurt Kinetic R1

The Kinetic R1 is the only interactive, direct-drive smart trainer that allows your bike to move naturally. More comfortable, more realistic, and a more complete workout, the app-controlled R1 electronic trainer immerses riders in a world of virtual training to help you enjoy training more than you ever imagined. A massive flywheel and quiet, direct-drive operation provide a realistic road feel. App-controlled, interactive resistance pairs to apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, and more.

$1050

Website: www.kurtkinetic.com

Further Research & Perspective

You will see a wide range of reviews covering each trainer. That seems to be the case with almost every trainer in the $50-250 price range though. No one trainer is going to please everyone.

If you don’t mind choppy resistance and lots of noise, a $75 trainer might be great for you. If you need super smooth resistance and perfect silence, you probably won’t be happy unless you fork over the $350.

It can be a tough decision. So that means doing some more research and maybe trying out a few trainers on your own is a good idea. If there’s one specific model you’re looking at, here are places to see reviews:

If there’s one person that will be up-to-date on the latest indoor trainer technology, it’s Ray Maker of DC Rainmaker. His site is full of tests, reviews, data, etc.

Do your research, but don’t over analyze the decision or it will be summer again before you pick the right one! Good luck, I hope you find a good one for your needs!

This article was originally published on November 2, 2008. It was revised and updated on February 17, 2019.

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4 Comments
  1. Kurt Kinetic all the way…I’ve used mine for a few years now and it awesome. The most road like feel of any trainer I have used and it can’t leak fluid. Its built really solid.

    I did have a problem with the screw that you turn the knob on to apply preasure to the wheel. It stripped. I called Kurt Kinetic and a live person answered the phone on like the second ring and she was able to help me right away. No questions asked they sent me a replacement screw and knob. I had it in 3 days.

    I also learned that putting a few drops of chain lube on the tensioner bolt prevents it from binding and stripping, not to mention it makes it alot easier.

  2. @Bradley

    Thanks for chiming in with your experience! With the purchase of something like this, customer service should not be overlooked.

  3. I hate trainers and I boy have I tried a lot of them over the years. However, the Rock & Roll is different; much more comfortable, stable, and closer to true riding on the road. That said, it is still a trainer, so you will need your normal distractions (DVDs, loud music, etc.) It also really engages your core when you stand and sprint.

  4. These trainers are all top of the line and high quality (I’ve tried the first four,) but the only trainer for me these days is the Kurt Kinetic Rock N Roll trainer.

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