Smart trainers have taken the indoor cycling world by storm, helping recreate some of the challenging conditions of riding outside without the cars, smog, or lousy weather. These trainers are brilliant and offer a fantastic ride experience. They can tell you wattage, replicate hills, execute workout programming and get you ready for when racing comes back around. Check out these options for the Best Smart Trainers and hit the road faster than ever this spring!

Direct Drive Smart Trainers
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As the name suggests, direct-drive trainers require users to remove the rear wheel in order to install the bike on the trainer. A cassette mounted to the trainer allows the driver put power directly to the trainer. Direct-drive trainers strike a good balance between price, performance, accuracy, and size. These are the best options for the widest range of riders.

Saris H3 Smart Trainer
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Taking cues from the Saris Hammer Trainer, the new H3 can replicate real-world inertia and give riders real-time data feedback. This resistance comes from the 20-pound flywheel built to handle 2000 watts and replicates a 20% climbing grade. All stats and output arrive via Saris power meter internals. The resistance is supplied via an electromagnetic resistance system for quick resistance changes while cruising in virtual training environments such as Zwift. The H3 also calculates cadence, speed, and power and is equipped with internal cooling (because all those watts can heat up.) The H3 even has "over-the-air" firmware updates, dual-band ANT+, and Bluetooth compatibility, making it easy to pair with many head units. The Saris H3 can fit an array of axel sizes both thru and quick release. Plus, clocking in at 59 decibels at 20 mph, the H3 is library-level quiet - nearly 5x quieter than the predecessor, the H2. Meaning you can be in the pain cave and not wake up the baby.

Pros:
  • Easy setup
  • Multiple axel configurations
  • Adjustable feet for nonlevel flooring
  • Super quiet
Cons:
  • Rovvy update app interface could be improved
Price: $999.99
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Wahoo KICKR Core
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Wahoo burst onto the scene with the KICKR and set a high benchmark for indoor direct-drive smart trainers. The new Wahoo KICKR Core has nearly all the same features as its KICKR brethren but with a price that is easier to handle. The KICKR Core supplies electronically calculated resistance and can simulate up to a 16% climb. It has a super sturdy base that is perfect for max efforts. Pair that with the new KICKR Climb, and you can take your training to a virtual reality-level experience. The KICKR Core integrates with all Wahoo accessories, creating an authentic outdoor experience. It's also easy to set up and breakdown. Power, cadence, and all essential metrics are standard, and it's very durable. The KICKR Core works with QR, 12x142, and 12x148mm dropout spacing, so all bikes in your stable should work just fine.

Pros:

  • Easy setup and tear down
  • Super wide footprint for super out of the saddle efforts
  • Cost-effective for anyone looking to get an excellent trainer experience
Cons:
  • Belt eventually needs to be replaced.
  • There are quieter options, such as the Saris H3
Price: $899
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Tacx Neo2 Trainer
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If you’re looking for something that will give you the sensations of a ride, this is it. The NEO2 boasts several features; wattage with great accuracy can fit many QR/thru-axle designs, etc... The most impressive to me was the need for no power while using the unit. The NEO2 stores a charge, and you can ride while getting power data, transmitting to Zwift or your head unit, all while the plug isn't connected. It's fantastic stuff, not only from a conservation standpoint but from the warm-up and traveling perspective as well. Besides that, the NEO 2 offers real-life cobbled and wooden (think the boardwalk on Zwift) sensations while virtually riding. That means when you hit the cobbles, you feel the cobbles, same with the brick roads in Richmond. It's a novel feature, but when you're spending a lot of time riding virtually, small sensations like this energize you and break up the ride. You don’t need to employ a platform on the TACX NEO 2 either, another great feature of the trainer. The flywheel body has a slight side-to-side movement to allow the rider to rock side to side without a large platform or balance balls. The rear axle of the NEO 2T Smart is also redesigned to make it compatible with more bikes without adapters. It is directly compatible with all modern axle standards for road and mountain.

Pros:

  • Ride without being plugged in
  • Symmetrical and easy to center on mats and rocker blocks
  • Small side-to-side movement helps with natural ride feel
  • Mimics real road feeling with cobbles and planks
Cons:
  • Pricier than similar options
  • Sharp axle plates can scratch and mar frames
Price: $1400.00
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Elite Direto XR Interactive Smart Trainer
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If you’re looking for a slick Italian design topped off with new-age virtual racing internals, the Directo XR interactive is worth a long look. The plug-and-play design gets you training in as little as 5 minutes; no assembly required; comes with a Shimano/SRAM 11-speed cassette pre-installed - should work with Campy but no promises. The unit can generate up to 2,300 watts via an electronically-managed magnetic brake and a 10 lb. (4.5 kg) flywheel, which simulates riding up a 24% slope.

The Directo measures power with +/- 1.5% accuracy via an integrated Optical Torque Sensor (OTS). For those who like to use their sensor only, the Direct also supports ANT+ (FE-C, Power, Speed & Cadence) and Bluetooth. It’s compatible with all significant indoor bike training software, including Zwift, TrainerRoad, Kinomap, Rouvy, The Sufferfest, Bikevo, and more, plus Elite throws in a 1-month subscription to Zwift and a 12-month subscription to its own “My E-Training” service. The Directo is compatible with 130 and 135 mm quick-release frames and includes an adapter for 142 x 12 mm thru-axles (Boost 148 x 12 mm adapter not included).

Pros:
  • Easy setup and tear down
  • Super wide footprint for super out of the saddle efforts
  • Cost-effective for anyone looking to get an excellent trainer experience
Cons:
  • Belt eventually needs to be replaced
  • Not as quiet as all the top end trainers
  • Elite App is not great for updating and trainer communication
Price: $899
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Wheel-On Smart Trainers
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The world of smart trainers is evolving with every new release, and the wheel-on trainers aren’t getting left in the dust; they’re getting better and better. So if you’re looking to upgrade from your current setup, the following trainers will connect you to Zwift Island and beyond.

Wahoo KICKR SNAP
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With a weight of 38 pounds, the KICKR SNAP it's not the lightest trainer available. But the KICKR SNAP isn't trying to be the lightest or the most portable. Instead, it includes a 10.5lb high-inertia flywheel with an easy-to-use wheel-on design to mimic the feel of the road to a maximum power output of 1,100 watts. Though it's foldable, the KICKR SNAP Power Trainer needs to be connected to an external power source and must be controlled by a separate device, so it isn't the trainer you'll want to bring with you for pre-race warm-ups.

Pros:
  • Sturdy and stable feel
  • Solid real-life feeling and response to quite sprints well
Cons:
  • There are lighter options for riders who need to travel with their trainer
Price: $499
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Tacx Boost
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The Tacx Boost is new on the trainer scene but takes lots of cues from its brethren - besides the colors. The Tacx Boost is a primary wheel-on style trainer that connects via the rear axle and is straightforward to mount. The Boost comes with a 3.5lb flywheel placed against the rear tire for max wattage and a realistic feel. Tacx says the brand new Boost can simulate a natural feeling of riding on the road, and we have to agree with them. The Tacx Boost can simulate up to 9.18kg of mass inertia from its 1.6kg magnetic resistance flywheel and offers 1050-watts of resistance. The Boost comes with ten levels of magnetic resistance that's controllable via a lever attached to the handlebar, so you can apply as much or as little as you need, with the maximum reaching 1,050 watts to fight against. Unlike other wheel-on trainers, the Tacx Boost has a concealed resistance unit, which Tacx claims will reduce noise and allow for manual resistance control. While the Tacx Boost is not a smart trainer out of the box, if you combine it with a speed sensor or power meter, you could add another level to your training, tracking your speed, distance, and power output, and integrating this with platforms like Zwift, TrainerRoad, and the Tacx Training app.

Pros:
  • Super cost-effective
  • Excellent resistance with magnetic flywheel
  • Packable and easy to bring for race day
Cons:
  • It needs some extra components to make it 100% “smart”
Price: $299.00
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Indoor Smart Bike Trainers
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For those who plan on having a dedicated indoor set up all year round, the full indoor bike set up is the next level. The idea of an indoor gym-style training bike has changed drastically over the past couple of years and is growing in users daily. Now the bikes mimic everything from hills, cobbles, drafting, and even braking (on the top end). So if Zwift and virtual training are your go-to and you would favor a hard ride indoors than a ride on the roads, these are your bikes!

Wahoo KICKR Bike
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KICKR BIKE offers unprecedented innovations for a stationary bike, such as integrated grade changes, customizable gearing, and simulated shifting to create the most powerful, personalized, and realistic indoor training experience. Choose from either using professional bike fit measurements, taking a photo to measure your bike, or entering body measurements to personalize the fit to your outdoor bike’s exact geometry. The KICKR BIKE can also be customized with your handlebars, pedals, and saddle. The virtual shifting technology of the KICKR BIKE is programmable to match the exact gear ratios, a number of speeds, cassette tooth count, and groupset from the leading manufacturers - SRAM, Shimano, and Campagnolo. A digital display communicates both gearing and grade, so you always know where you are during every stage of the ride. So now you can keep your outside bike ready to roll, and your inside bike can take the abuse.

Pros:
  • A real bike, brake lever feel, and all
  • Ability to ride and feel immersed in the virtual experience; hills, freewheeling, braking, and turning
  • Many different crankarm length adjustments for precise fit and feel for any rider
Cons:
  • Premium products come at a premium price
  • Could be too much bike and adjustments for casual riders
Price: $3,499.99
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Stages SC3 Indoor Bike

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Commonly, indoor bikes such as the Stages SC3 would only be found in spin studios and health clubs. More and more, riders are looking for a dedicated indoor bike to complement their "outdoor" steeds.

The Stages SC3 is what happens when passionate riders build indoor bikes. Ergonomically engineered for simplicity and function, the SC3 seamlessly and wirelessly connects to your technology via Bluetooth and ANT+. And the SC3 is the only indoor studio bike that comes standard with a Stages Power meter and self-generating EcoSCRN display. Indeed, Stages has taken the guesswork out of training, both on the road and in the studio. Many elite outdoor cycling teams and individuals choose Stages Power because when using the most accurate performance measure, they can develop and adhere much more precisely to their fitness goals. Plus, because it's easily adjustable, everyone in the house can use it without the hassle of swapping bikes in and out.

Pros:
  • Studio quality and built for abuse
  • Built-in display with power, Heart Rate, and more
  • Easily swap over fit numbers, and anyone can ride
Cons:
  • Very large, could be too much for smaller spaces
  • More of a studio bike than an actual indoor bike replacement
Price: $2,519.99
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