With the aid of interactive online training services, no longer is indoor training associated with visions of sweating it out in a pain cave with nothing but your thoughts and the pain in your legs for company. With the right smart trainer and third party software, ride characteristics like hills and road surfaces can be simulated, providing riders with a more tailored training experience.
The ability to connect to external software is what sets these trainers apart from their analogue counterparts. There are two main drive types available in direct-drive and tyre drive, however, internally driven smart stationary options also exist. A number of different resistance types exist for smart trainers including fluid, wind, and magnetic. Not sure where to begin? Our ultimate indoor trainer buyers guide is the perfect place.
When it comes to price, Smart trainers will typically be more expensive than their unconnected counterparts as a result of the electronics and smart resistance features that hide within. Expect to see entry-level tyre drive options starting from around AUD$500, with direct drive trainers starting closer to AUD$1,000.
So if you’re looking to train smarter, see below for our picks of the best indoor smart trainers to be had in 2018.
Released in mid-2016, the Tacx Flux set the cycling industry alight by being one of the first mid-range direct drive trainers that provided a realistic road-feel as well as a host of connectivity features. With a claimed power accuracy of +/-3% (although sources indicate that it’s much more accurate than this), a 7kg flywheel as well as ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart connectivity, the Flux is perfect for riders wanting a cheaper entry into the direct-drive smart trainer market.
- Price: AUD$1,099
As well as producing a range of quality cycling accessories, Italian company Elite are one of the industry leaders in smart trainers. Aimed at the mid-range, the Direto direct drive trainer is fitted with an integrated powermeter boasting impressive power accuracy (+/- 2%) and also hosts a number of connectivity features. The unit is housed in a sleek aesthetic that’s easily stored when not in use. Power output is rated at 1400 watts and the Direto is said to simulate gradients up to 14%. As well as it’s connectivity features, the unit is also compatible with road and MTB frames, including 142x12mm thru axles which makes the Direto practical regardless of your riding preference.
- Price: AUD$1,199
American company CycleOps has been producing trainers and trainer accessories for 15 years. The Hammer represents CycleOps’ first foray into the direct drive smart trainer market and comes loaded with compatibility features. With a claimed power meter accuracy of +/-3%, the Hammer is within spitting distance of its rivals. Connection of these internal sensors comes via both ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart connections. The Hammer boasts a beefy 9kg flywheel for a realistic road feel, making your efforts indoors feel exactly the same as they would outdoors. So if it’s a refined, top-end smart trainer you’re after, the Hammer is worth considering.
- Price: AUD$1,649
JetBlack Whisper Drive Smart
Indoor trainers are the heart and soul of Australian company JetBlack Cycling, who has been producing some of the best fluid trainers available. The WhisperDrive Smart represents the first fully integrated smart trainer from the company. The trump card of the trainer is its ability to run without cords. Being pedal powered, the trainer is perfect for use where space is at a premium. With dual Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, 2500 watts of resistance and a 6.5kg flywheel, the trainer provides riders with a realistic road feel and the ability to connect up to third party riding services online.
- Price: AUD$1,199
The KICKR from Wahoo Fitness has been operating at the pointy end of the smart trainer market since its introduction in 2014. Now in its fourth iteration, the KICKR is widely lauded for its realistic road feel, solid powermeter accuracy (+/- 2%) and near silent operation. The trainer is compatible with both thru axle and quick release equipped bikes, offers up 2000 watts of resistance and is able to replicate slopes up to 20%. The KICKR is also compatible with a host of accessories including a Bluetooth operated fan that simulates headwinds, as well as an indoor grade simulator for added indoor realism.
- Price: AUD$1,599
Released in conjunction with the Hammer direct drive trainer detailed above, the Magnus represents CycleOps’ flagship option for tyre drive indoor smart trainers. With integrated dual ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart connectivities, 1500 watts of electromagnetic resistance and a powermeter courtesy of sister brand PowerTap, the Magnus is perfect for those wanting all the benefits of a top-end smart trainer, at a more affordable price.
- Price: AUD$729
For riders wanting a portable, self-powered realistic smart trainer to take with them to events, or stow away quickly and easily when not in use, the Bushido Smart from Tacx is worth considering. The Bushido offers up 1400 watts of magnetic resistance, a combination of a physical and virtual flywheel provides up to 60kg of inertia and a maximum simulated slope of 15%. The unit also features dual ANT+ and Bluetooth smart connectivity, meaning that it’ll connect to your favourite third-party training application with ease.
Bkool Smart Pro 2
Spanish company Bkool has been offering its value-packed smart trainers to consumers since 2012. The Smart Pro 2 sits as the company’s premium tyre drive option and boasts some solid specifications including; 1200 watts of resistance, 20% maximum simulated slope, Dual ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart control and 12 months access to the premium Bkool training platform.
- Price: AUD$899
Proudly made in Italy, the Rampa is an interactive wireless smart trainer that is capable of automatically adjusting its resistance when paired with compatible third-party apps. Sitting as the flagship tyre drive option in the Elite smart trainer line up, the Rampa offers up 800 watts of resistance, can simulate gradients up to 10% and is fitted with an elastogel roller that both reduces noise output and wear on your rear tyre. In addition to third-party training apps, the Rampa ships with a 12-month subscription to Elite's own My E-Training software, complete with training plans, virtual routes and more.
- Price: AUD$799
Wahoo KICKR Snap
Serving as the tyre drive equivalent of the direct drive KICKR featured above, Wahoo boldly claims that the KICKR Snap offers the most realistic ride experience of any tyre drive smart trainer. Boasting an integrated powermeter(+/-3% accuracy), a 4.5kg flywheel offering up 1500 watts of resistance and a maximum simulated slope of 12%, the KICKR Snap is loaded with features sure to benefit the majority of riders.
- Price: AUD$749
For more on the various types of indoor trainers available, what sets them apart from each other, and what to expect for your money, check out our ultimate indoor trainer buyers guide for all you need to know.