The 10 Best Smart Bike Trainers on the Market in 2021

Best Smart Bike Trainers

These are the best smart bike trainers you can buy for this cycling season. I selected them based on my in-depth market research in which I compared and evaluated the riders’ experiences of more than 50 smart bike trainers.

The best smart bike trainer overall is the Wahoo KICKR (also available from wiggle.co.uk). It is quiet, sturdy, accurate (±1%), compatible with major training apps, can simulate up to 20% gradients, and provides a road-like ride feel.

This roundup includes the best budget, mid-range, and high-end wheel-on and direct-drive smart bike trainers. So, whether you are looking for an affordable, mid-range, or high-end, choose from the selection below.

In this article, you also find out what to be aware of when choosing a smart bike trainer, what features to look for, and much more.


What Are the Best Smart Bike Trainers?

When choosing a bike trainer, it is important to know what to look for. Feel free to read the buyer’s guide section first.

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Tacx Flow

Also available at jensonusa.com, competitivecyclist.com, and wiggle.co.uk

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kickr smart trainer v5 1 1
Wahoo KICKR

Also available at competitivecyclist.com and wiggle.co.uk

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Tacx Neo 2T

Also available at rei.com, competitivecyclist.com, jensonusa.com, and wiggle.co.uk

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Skip to the comparison table…


Wahoo KICKR (Best Overall)

kickr smart trainer v5 1 1
Wahoo KICKR | Source: wahoofitness.com

Main Features

  • Cassette included: Yes
  • Adjusts resistance via training app: Yes
  • Up to 5 degrees side-to-side movement
  • Measures metrics like speed, distance, power, and cadence
  • Sturdy and stable construction

Technical Specs

KICKR is Wahoo’s flagship smart trainer. The 2020 version is the 5th generation of this trainer. Compared to the previous generation (2018), it features several improvements.

The legs have rubber dampeners that allow up to 5 degrees side-to-side movement. They also improve your riding experience, reduces vibrations and forces put onto your bike.

Another improved features are the calibration which is now automatic, so you don’t have to do a spindown, and the accuracy was increased from ±2% to ±1%. The last improvement is the wired connectivity with accessories.

KICKR is popular among cyclists thanks to several features. First, it is quiet. This is an important feature for people living in apartments and those who don’t want to disturb other family members and enjoy watching a movie, for example.

Second, it is well built, so not only it’s easy to set up and use (it is sturdy and stable), but it will also last you a long time.

And third is the Wahoo customer support. I have a positive experience with them because they are responsive and helpful. If you encounter any issues, you can contact them, and they will help you find the solution.

Tacx Neo 2T, Elite Direto XR, and Saris H3 are KICKR’s main alternatives. They differ mainly in terms of accuracy, gradient simulation, and resistance.

The Tacx Neo 2T offers up to 25% gradient simulation and is more sturdy. However, it is more expensive and doesn’t come with a cassette.

The Elite Direto XR is more affordable than KICKR and provides higher resistance and gradient simulation. But it is about 0.5% less precise.

And the Saris H3 provides lower resistance (2000W), is less accurate (±2%), and doesn’t come with a cassette. On the other hand, it is more affordable.

Also available at competitivecyclist.com and wiggle.co.uk


Wahoo KICKR Snap

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Wahoo KICKR Snap | Source: rei.com

Main Features

  • Adjusts resistance via training app: Yes
  • Measures speed, distance, and power
  • Front wheel block included
  • Very portable

Technical Specs

Wahoo KICKR Snap is one of the best and most affordable options on the market for training indoors using apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, ROUVY, etc.

Snap is an interactive wheel-on trainer that provides electromagnetic resistance. Thanks to the 10.5 lb (4.8 kg) flywheel and resistance mechanism, it feels almost like riding outside. Of course, the ride feeling is a little bit worse when compared with high-end direct-drive trainers.

Snap can measure speed, distance, and power (not cadence), so if you want the cadence data, keep in mind you will need a separate cadence sensor.

The interactivity is one of the biggest advantages of this trainer in comparison with its alternatives. Training apps can adjust the resistance, so you get a more road-like riding experience.

Thanks to 1500W electromagnetic resistance and up to 12% gradient simulation, Snap is sufficient for beginner and advanced riders.

Its main alternatives are Tacx Flow, Kinetic Road Machine 2, and Kinetic Rock and Roll.

Tacx Flow is a more affordable wheel-on trainer ideal for people with a limited budget and beginners. It provides lower resistance and gradient simulation.

Kinetic Road Machine 2 and Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart 2 are unfortunately not interactive and use fluid resistance. I also could not find their accuracy either gradient simulation rates. Their maximum resistance is 100W lower.

The main difference is that Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart 2 provides you with a side-to-side movement that is convenient and realistic for intervals out of the saddle.

Also available at competitivecyclist.com and wiggle.co.uk


Interested in zwifting? Check out the best Zwift compatible bike trainers.


Tacx Flow

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Main Features

  • Adjusts resistance via training app: Yes
  • Measures speed, power, and cadence
  • Front wheel block included

Technical Specs

Garmin’s Tacx Flow is not the cheapest smart bike trainer on the market, but its price-value ratio is excellent. Let me explain why.

Flow is an interactive trainer so it can adjust the resistance based on the virtual world of your favorite training app. This makes your riding more road-like and engaging.

The 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) flywheel is silent, but due to the nature of this trainer, the tire will make some noise. This means this trainer is louder than direct-drive trainers but relatively quiet compared to other wheel-on trainers. If you use it with a trainer tire, it will be much quieter (check out more tips).

Tacx Flow is also portable and easy to set up. So if you don’t have much space to waste, you can store it every time you won’t use it.

Its biggest downsides are the low maximum resistance compared to other trainers in this price range and worse accuracy. Some users also reported connectivity issues, but you can solve them with an ANT+ receiver.

Overall, if you look for an entry-level smart trainer, Tacx Flow is the one to consider.

Also available at jensonusa.com, competitivecyclist.com, and wiggle.co.uk


Tacx Neo 2T (Best High-End)

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Main Features

  • Cassette included: No
  • Adjusts resistance via training app: Yes
  • Measures speed, cadence, power, left/right leg power balance
  • Highly accurate, responsive, and reliable
  • Very quiet
  • Relatively portable
  • Front wheel block included

Technical Specs

Neo 2T is Tacx’s flagship direct-drive trainer. It is the latest generation that has improved internals. The result is that the latest version is quieter, more accurate (±1% vs. ±2.5%), and reliable.

Neo 2T features up to 276 lb (125 kg) virtual flywheel. It is the largest on the market, improving your overall riding experience to make it more road-like.

Tacx Neo 2T is simply a turbo trainer for the most demanding cyclists, including pros. Users also praise its accuracy and robustness. It can even measure your leg balance.

What I also like about Tacx Neo 2T is its portability. You can easily fold it and store it when you don’t plan to train on it during summer, for example.

However, Neo 2T has its flaws too. The first is that the cassette is not included, so you have to buy it separately. Second, the ERG mode could also be a little bit better (it is challenging). And third, it is pretty expensive.

So, is its price justifiable? If you have high demands, then yes, it is. This was just a quick introduction to all features it offers, and you can be sure it can offer much more.

But, if you don’t need the latest and greatest, I recommend checking out other alternatives like Wahoo KICKR, Elite Direto XR, and Saris H3 that are more affordable.

Also available at rei.com, competitivecyclist.com, jensonusa.com, and wiggle.co.uk


Tacx Flux S

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Main Features

  • Cassette included: No
  • Adjusts resistance via training app: Yes
  • Measures power, speed, and cadence
  • Sturdy and stable
  • Great price-value ratio

Technical Specs

If you look for a direct-drive smart trainer, but you don’t want to spend $1,000 on it, Tacx Flux S is a good choice.

Taking into account its price, it provides a great price-value ratio. Yes, it doesn’t feature the best specs (the accuracy is only ±3%, resistance up to 1500W, and gradient simulation of 10%) but it’s relatively silent and does its job well.

Flux S is sturdy and stable, so you can push into pedals hard while being confident you won’t lose balance or overturn it when sprinting.

The biggest downside of this trainer is the portability. The legs cannot be folded, so you have to disassemble the trainer to store it. It also lacks a carry handle. Keep in mind you won’t find a cassette in the packing, and you have to buy it separately.

Tacx Flux S main alternative is Elite Suite, which comes in a similar price range, has better specs, and cassette included.

Also available at rei.com, and competitivecyclist.com


Elite Suito

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Main Features

  • Cassette included: Yes
  • Adjusts resistance via training app: Yes
  • Measures speed, cadence, power
  • Front wheel block included
  • Very portable (foldable legs and a carry handle)

Technical Specs

Elite Suito is a relatively affordable direct-drive trainer with good cadence and power accuracy. It comes with a cassette and front wheel block, which is a plus.

Suito is super easy to set up, and it is also pretty portable thanks to a carry handle and foldable legs. This is perfect if you have limited space or if you need to take Suito with you on a race, vacation, etc.

The ride experience is great too. Almost comparable with higher-end models.

The biggest issue is that Suito is probably the most defective trainer in this selection. If you are lucky, it works well. But, users report it can develop a knocking noise and failing cadence sensor.

Unfortunately, Elite customer support doesn’t work as well as Wahoo support, for example, so if you don’t mind spending a little bit more, go for Direto XR instead (it is more reliable). The cheaper alternative is the Tacx Flux S.

Also available at rei.com and performancebike.com


Elite Direto XR

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Main Features

  • Cassette included: Yes
  • Adjusts resistance via training app: Yes
  • Measures speed, cadence, power
  • Front wheel block included
  • Great specs in this price range

Technical Specs

Elite Direto XR sits somewhere between the lower-end direct-drive trainers (like Tacx Flux S) and high-end (Saris H3, Wahoo KICKR, etc.).

It is an improved and better specs version of the Direto line. It comes with a larger flywheel (from 4.2 kg to 5.1 kg) and improved ERG mode accuracy.

One of the highlights of this trainer is the resistance which is up to 2300W. This is comparable to the highest-end trainers. The gradient simulation of 24% is also something you won’t find on trainers at this price range.

The question is, do these specs really matter? Well, if you enjoy pain, then maybe, but don’t forget to edit the settings in a training app because it usually automatically halves how the gradients feel.

Direto XR sits somewhere between Flux S and Wahoo KICKR in terms of the noisiness and road-like feel.

The biggest downside of Direto XR is that it has a plastic chassis that feels cheap, and also, the accuracy in the ERG mode isn’t the best.

Who is its main “competitor”? Elite Suito. It is a little bit cheaper and doesn’t have as good specs, so if Direto XR is too expensive for you, Suito could be a better option.

Also available at rei.com, competitivecyclist.com, and wiggle.co.uk


Saris H3

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Main Features

  • Cassette included: No
  • Adjusts resistance via training app: Yes
  • Measures speed, cadence, power
  • Precise and responsive ERG mode (ideal for TrainerRoad)
  • Well built

Technical Specs

If you have seen CycleOps bike trainers, Saris trainers will seem familiar to you. These are rebranded CycleOps trainers with minor improvements (check out the CycleOps Hammer, it’s almost identical).

The Saris H3 is a pretty quiet, direct-drive smart trainer (Saris claims it is their quietest trainer). Thanks to 59dB, it isn’t louder than a normal conversation so that you won’t disturb your neighbors or loved ones during your efforts. However, Wahoo KICKR and Tacx Neo 2T are even quieter.

It offers up to 2000W of resistance. This is enough for every amateur cyclist even for sprint intervals.

Of course, you can connect it with your favorite training apps that can control the resistance. It can simulate up to a 20% gradient, so when you start climbing a steep climb, the resistance changes quickly.

One of the best features of Saris H3 is a so-called ERG mode. First, you set the power you want to ride. Then, when you change gears, the trainer adjusts the resistance to keep the set power level. Thanks to Saris H3 ERG mode responsiveness and precision, this turbo trainer is ideal for the TrainerRoad training app, for example.

Saris H3 has a few downsides too. It does not come with a cassette, and according to some users, its cadence sensor is not as precise as sensors of other similar-priced trainers (Elite Direto XR, Elite Suito).

Also available at jensonusa.com, competitivecyclist.com, and wiggle.co.uk


Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2

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Main Features

  • Adjusts resistance via training app: No
  • Measures speed, cadence, power
  • Well built and stable

Technical Specs

If you don’t like Tacx Flow for some reason, Kinetic Road Machine 2 is another very affordable smart trainer. So, how does it stands out for its price?

Users praise its built quality, easy setup, and stability. It is a perfect wheel-on trainer for beginners who don’t mind the lack of interactivity (this means the training apps can’t adjust the resistance). This is due to the fact it has a fluid, progressive resistance.

However, the trainer can communicate with the vast majority of training apps via ANT+ and Bluetooth protocols thanks to the inRide 3 Power Sensor.

The trainer is quiet, and the larger roller diameter reduces the tire wear. My advice is to use a dedicated trainer tire that eliminates this issue.

Road Machine 2 measures power accurately. Where it lacks is the cadence. That may be a little bit off sometimes.

If you prefer more movement on a bike trainer, make sure to also check out the Rock and Roll Smart 2 trainer that has one extra feature – a side-to-side movement.


Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart 2

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Main Features

  • Adjusts resistance via training app: No
  • Side-to-side movement
  • Measures speed, cadence, power
  • Sturdy construction

Technical Specs

Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart 2 shares most of the features with Road Machine 2. The main difference is that R&R has a unique construction that provides a side-to-side movement. This differentiates R&R from other wheel-on trainers on the market.

This trainer will be a perfect choice for you if you want to enjoy more fun during your training sessions when riding out of the saddle.

Keep in mind that it has a fluid resistance and is not interactive, so training apps cannot adjust the resistance based on the road profile.

The only main disadvantages of this trainer are sometimes inaccurate cadence and its bulkiness that makes portability more difficult.



My Verdict

Bike trainers are not cheap so if you want to spend your money wisely, make sure to consider the following features.

After comparing more than 30 smart bike trainers on the market and evaluating their features based on the list above, I chose the best smart bike trainers available on the market:

The best budget smart bike trainer is the Tacx Flow (also available at wiggle.co.uk). It is one of the most affordable interactive wheel-on bike trainers on the market. Flow is ideal for beginners or riders who want to upgrade their dumb smart trainer.

The best smart bike trainer overall is the Wahoo KICKR (also available at wiggle.co.uk). KICKR is precise, quiet, reliable, and will provide you with a road-like feel thanks to the quality flywheel and up to 5 degrees side-to-side movement.

The best premium smart bike trainer is the Tacx Neo 2T (also available at wiggle.co.uk). This sophisticated, high-end trainer will satisfy the needs of the most demanding riders. It takes most of the features to a whole new level.


How to Choose the Best Smart Bike Trainer?

When choosing a smart bike trainer, you should consider a few features to spend your money wisely.

The following guide is a consolidated version of the how-to choose a bike trainer guide that explains all bike trainer types in-depth.

Type of a Bike Trainer

When buying a smart trainer, you have 2 basic choices. You can either buy a wheel-on or a direct-drive trainer.

Wahoo KICKR SNAP wheel on bike trainer
Wheel-on bike trainer (Wahoo KICKR SNAP) | Product picture source: wahoofitness.com
Wahoo KICKR Smart direct drive bike trainer
Direct-drive bike trainer (Wahoo KICKR) | Product picture source: wahoofitness.com

Wheel-on Smart Trainers

Wheel-on smart trainers require the rear wheel to be mounted on your bike. It is then set up against a roller that provides resistance.

The resistance is usually (electro)magnetic or fluid, and depending on the trainer, it is adjusted either manually (via remote) or automatically (via an indoor cycling app, in this case, look for an interactive trainer).

Smart wheel-on trainers are more affordable than direct-drive trainers. They are also more portable and don’t take too much space. You can hide store them in a closet, for example, during summer.

This type of smart trainer is ideal for riders who are new to indoor training or have a limited budget. However, advanced riders can use them too.

Direct-drive Trainers

Direct-drive or wheel-off trainers require you to take off the rear wheel and mount your bike directly in the trainer.

These trainers use (electro)magnetic resistance that can be controlled by a training app. They also offer better riding characteristics and are more accurate than wheel-on trainers.

Direct-drive trainers are ideal for avid cyclists, advanced and pro riders because they provide great riding characteristics.

The following table shows the pros and cons of wheel-on and direct-drive smart trainers.

Trainer TypeProsConsRecommended for
Wheel-on• More affordable than direct-drive trainers
• Compatible with many types of bikes
• Take up less space than direct-drive trainers and are more portable
• Worse riding characteristics than direct-drive trainers
• Less stable than direct-drive trainers
• Low-end models may be smart but can't adjust the resistance
• Usually noisier than direct-drive trainers
Beginners, people with a limited budget
Direct-drive• Better riding characteristics than wheel-on trainers
• More stable than wheel-on trainers
• Can adjust the resistance based on training apps
• Very quiet
• More expensive than wheel-on trainers
• Take up more space than wheel-on trainers
• They require accessories like a cassette
• They may not be compatible with every bike
Advanced riders, pros

Resistance & Resistance Type

Most smart bike trainers use one of the two types of resistance.

  1. (Electro)magnetic
  2. Fluid

Smart direct-drive trainers and high-end wheel-on trainers mostly use the (electro)magnetic resistance.

The fluid resistance is more common on wheel-on trainers (like those ones from Kinetic).

The interactive electromagnetic resistance trainers can adjust the resistance based on the training app. Fluid resistance trainers can’t do this, and you have to change gears (or pedal faster) to increase the resistance.

Another difference between these two resistance types is that fluid trainers feature a progressive resistance. This means that the more you pedal, the higher the resistance. It better simulates real-world riding conditions.

The overall bike trainer resistance is given in watts. High-end smart bike trainers offer a resistance above 2000W while mid-range and lower-end up to 1500W and 1000W, respectively.

You don’t have to be afraid of having just a 1000W or 1500W trainer. You will only last a few seconds at this power. However, if you are a powerful rider that needs to train sprints and peaks them at 1500W+, you may consider getting a trainer with higher resistance.

Gradient Simulation

Gradient simulation means that the trainer can slow your pedal stroke when you start climbing a steep climb in a training app. High-end trainers have higher gradient simulation (25%), slowing you down faster than lower-end trainers (up to 7%).

The trainer must consider your weight and the bike’s weight when simulating the gradient to simulate road-like conditions realistically. Heavier riders must exert more power than lighter riders to ride uphill.

Shane Miller (GPLama) did a great video where he demonstrates this feature.

Accuracy

The accuracy of a trainer means what the power deviation at a certain power is. If you ride at 250W and the deviation of the trainer is 2%, the real power will be in the range of 245-255W.

More expensive smart bike trainers are usually more accurate than the more affordable ones. The highest and models have an accuracy of ±1%, mid-range ±2.5%, and the lower end smart trainers ±5%.

The following table shows the power variance for different levels of trainer accuracy and power output.

Accuracy250W500W1000W2000W
1%247.5-252.5495-505990-10101980-2020
2%245-255490-510980-10201960-2040
3%242.5-257.5485-515970-10301940-2060
4%240-260480-520960-10401920-2080
5%237.5-262.5475-525950-10501900-2100

Noisiness

If you don’t have a dedicated training cave, I recommend paying a little bit more for a quiet bike trainer.

When I trained on a wheel-on bike trainer, the noise was so loud that I disturbed other household members and neighbors. Furthermore, you have to train with headphones or have powerful speakers to watch a movie during your training session.

The quietest trainers have a noisiness level of around 55dB. This noise is often made of your bike’s drivetrain and not the trainer itself. For comparison, 60dB is a level of a normal conversation.

Make sure to follow these tips to make your trainer quieter.

App Compatibility

There are two types of smart bike trainers:

  1. Interactive smart bike trainers – as the name suggests, they can adjust the resistance based on the training app (Zwift, ROUVY, Trainer Road, etc.).
  2. Noninteractive smart bike trainers – they can’t adjust the resistance. They can only transmit your ride data to the training app.

If you don’t need interactivity, you can go for a noninteractive trainer. However, I recommend saving a little more and paying for an interactive trainer because you get a more road-like ride feeling, and your training or races will be more engaging.

You might be interested in the best indoor cycling apps.

Smart trainers are connected to training apps via ANT+ or Bluetooth protocols. DC Rainmaker goes in-depth in his article, so feel free to read it if you are a techie.

One of the article’s main points is that if you use your smart bike trainer via a desktop app, you need an ANT+ USB adapter that ensures connectivity with your computer and trainer.

Other Features to Consider

  • Bike compatibility – direct-drive trainers may not be compatible with every bike. Make sure to double-check the compatibility to avoid an unpleasant surprise when setting up your bike.
  • Weight – heavier trainers, tend to be more stable but less portable. If you are limited by space and need to hide the trainer often, I recommend choosing a more compact and lighter trainer.
  • Flywheel weight – flywheel is one of the most important parts of a bike trainer. Together with the resistance unit, it creates resistance. Keep in mind, though, the heavier flywheel doesn’t necessarily mean a better, more road-like ride feel. If you can’t try the trainer in person, check out reviews of other customers.
  • Side-to-side movement – is suitable when riding from the saddle and during sprints. The overall feeling of riding a trainer that has this feature is closer to riding a bike outside.

Smart Bike Trainers FAQ

More bike trainers FAQs answered.

Preview picture source: Garmin

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