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Best Indoor Trainer for Winter 2020-21
Second lockdowns are upon us in the EU and UK, now is the time to buy your lockdown/Winter Indoor Trainer whilst there’s still stock. The first lockdown saw global stocks of indoor trainers vanish from the shelves and even now, as you’ll see below, some brands have still not replenished their stocks.
I’ve ranked the Top 3/best indoor trainers available in each broad price category and a quick justification of those ranked best. I’ve tried to include trusted home turbos from historically trusted suppliers, taking into account what is in stock right now or likely to come into stock in late 2020.
Best Indoor Trainer – Budget
Your old bike on the Tacx Flow will produce accurate-enough power, you’ll probably need a special trainer tyre but that’s it. TACX is now owned by Garmin, so you get the security of support from THE leading home cycling electronics company.
There are even cheaper options than the Tacx Flow but connecting them to Zwift may not be super-straightforward.
Best Indoor Trainer – Mid-Range
As price bracket goes up, so there is an increase in the smart, electronic features you get as well as better accuracy. Naturally, you can talk to Zwift or have your Garmin control the resistance during a structured workout. Realistically, these 3 options also all require a special trainer tyre as your normal tyre isn’t sufficiently durable.
- Wahoo KICKR SNAP – $499, £429, Eu483.91. This is almost a no-brainer with the lowest price and all the sensible smart features you need
- 4iiii Fliiiight $599 – on par with the KICKR SNAP. Get it if you can find it for the same price. Or any price…currently out of stock everywhere (Nov 2020)
- Saris/CycleOps M2 – $499 currently out of stock everywhere (Nov 2020)
Elite Tuo & Zumo would be sensible too if you can get hold of one.
Best Smart Trainer – High-End
You’ll get all the Sufferfest, Zwift-fest, Garmin-fest love you could ever sensibly need in this price bracket. These are all feature-full indoor trainers where you simply take off your rear wheel and put them on the trainer.
You won’t go wrong with any of these and my personal preference would be to cycle in silence with the Wahoo. You might prefer to stick with a one-brand solution to match your bike computer with Garmin (Tacx) or Wahoo, or you might have space constraints in which case go for the Elite which perhaps also just edges it with the overall spec including accuracy.
- * Tacx Flux 2 (improved 2020 model) – $899, €799, £699
- Wahoo Fitness KICKR CORE – $899, £699.99, Eu789.59
- Elite Direto X – currently out of stock everywhere (Nov 2020)
Best Premium Indoor Smart Trainer for Home Usage
The standout feature here for me is that this new price bracket brings you notably higher accuracy than the previous price band. Of these, the Tacx and Kickr are more accurate than the Saris. I don’t think the price is going to be an issue for you here but if you still want something ‘cheap’ then the H3 gives you a lower price than the other two, also edging out the Direto XR. Garmin’s Tacx NEOs seem to sell in greater numbers because they are Garmin or maybe they just have slightly better specs of things that you probably won’t need ie the ability to simulate road-noise, steeper uphills and faster downhills.
- Tacx NEO 2T – $1399.99, £1199.00, Eu1352.47 – Everyone buys these, they’re super quiet.
- Wahoo KICKR 2020 – $1199.99, £999.99, Eu1127.99 – I prefer this, it’s super-quiet too and just as accurate.
- Saris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3) – $999.99, £747.99, Eu957.67 – To save a few bucks and still get a great spec
Best SMART Bike
These are indoor smart bikes that are specifically designed NOT to look like a real bike and yet are simultaneously designed to match a real bike in every possible way, down to the feel of the gear shift. I’m not entirely sure why I’d ever buy one of these other than to save the faff of taking my favourite bike-of-the-moment down to my pain shed. That said, they look REALLY cool.
More serious riders will welcome the precision and ease of shifting from road bike configs to TT configs; or from changing your setup to that of your partners.
Wahoo is the clear winner as it is the joint-most-accurate, has 3x BLE connections, and is the only one with proper brake levers. Even though the Stages is about $500 cheaper than this Wahoo, at this price does that saving really matter to you? Tacx is simply second-best in this category to the Wahoo and that’s why it’s cheaper…because it’s not as good.
- Wahoo KICKR Bike – $3499.99, £2999.99, Eu3382.87 – The best.
- Tacx NEO Bike Smart – $3199.99, £2299.00, Eu2593.27
- Stages Bike – SB20 – $2899.00, £2700.00, Eu3045.60
- Wattbike Atom 2020 (not USA, 170mm cranks, 2% accuracy)
Peloton? nah. You’re too cool for that.
Most Accurate Indoor Trainers
If you are interested in the most accurate turbo trainers then take a quick look at this short post where I highlight all the most accurate trainers.
Q: What do I Need for Zwift?
You’ll need a fan, a PC/MAC/AppleTV/Tablet, a bike and a trainer. An old trainer just needs a cheap speed sensor attached to your bike whereas the SMART Turbo trainers can change resistance in line with changes to grade on Zwift. A more comprehensive list, including optional items, would be this
- Turbo trainer or rollers
- Cadence sensor and speed sensor with ANT+ &/or Bluetooth
- Windows PC, Mac, Apple TV, iPad/iPhone or Android tablet/smartphone
- An ANT+ and/or Bluetooth receiver for the data by the sensors
- Heart rate sensor
- Power meter
- Smartphone (Runs Zwift Companion app eg for making a turn)
- Trainer mat
Q: What are the problems with cheaper trainers?
A: Nothing, they all do Zwift and all will help with your training. I had a detailed answer for this but even the cheap ones are fine for most people. As the price goes up, so do the number, quality or flexibility of the features and, generally, the features are equally available on each brand. I used to have a super cheap trainer and I was ‘better’ then than I am now with my fancy top-end Kickr.