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These are the best smart (exercise) bikes and bike simulators. This article includes only smart bikes compatible with the leading indoor cycling apps like Zwift, ROUVY, and many more, not exercise bikes.
I’ve interviewed owners of these expensive training devices and did in-depth research to find out their main advantages and disadvantages.
I will also guide you through features you should consider and help you orient yourself in the smart bike market.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
What Are the Best Smart Bikes?
The best smart bikes have to have ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity so that you can connect them to your favorite indoor cycling app. Additionally, they should provide plenty of fit adjustment options, realistic riding feel, data accuracy, and data consistency.
They should also be quiet, so you can use them without disturbing other household members.
Read the buyer’s guide section to learn more before choosing a smart bike suitable for you.
Wahoo KICKR Bike v2 (Best Smart Bike Overall)
This smart bike makes indoor training fun thanks to its tilting feature...
- Can tilt based on gradient
- Fully adjustable fit (including bike’s height)
- Adjustable gears
- Virtual/electronic gears
- Shifting is intuitive and customizable (Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo)
- Realistic road feel
- KICKR v2 also has ERG Mode Easy Ramp and Odometer
The one single feature unique to Wahoo KICKR Bike is that it can tilt. So, once you start climbing (or descending), the entire bike tilts depending on the gradient (decline). This adds another dimension to realistic indoor training.
Unlike Tacx NEO Bike, you can adjust its entire height. This is especially useful if you or your partner are short because the lower height will make it easier to get on.
TIP: Read my comparison of the Wahoo KICKR Bike vs. Tacx NEO Bike for more differences and details between these two smart bikes.
KICKR Bike is almost fully customizable, fit-wise and features-wise. Let me explain. The possibility to adjust the fit is standard on all smart bikes. However, KICKR stands out with 5 crank lengths and the ELEMNT APP. For example, Wattbike ATOM only has one.
The app offers you 3 ways to set the fit. You can either:
- Take a picture of your bike, and the app will calculate the fit.
- Use RETÜL measurements.
- Or enter your inseam, height, and preferred riding position.
The app also allows you to adjust gearing and how the shifters behave. So, you can set them to Shimano Di2, SRAM eTAP, SRAM mechanical, or Campagnolo – whatever you prefer.
Unfortunately, Wahoo KICKR Bike has no tablet holder or place to put your phone, gels, etc. So you will need additional accessories like a laptop stand.
KICKR also can’t simulate various riding surfaces like Tacx NEO. If you don’t care about the other specifications (which are similar), then this is one of the few differences that can be a deal-breaker.
Despite all the shortcomings, I believe KICKR Bike is the best smart bike overall, thanks to the software extension of the ELEMNT app.
To learn more about the differences between its first and second generation, please, read my comparison of KICKR Bike v1 vs. v2.
Also available at competitivecyclist.com
Tacx NEO Bike & NEO Bike Plus (Best Ride-Fell Smart Bike)
Accessories-rich smart bike for Garmin (Tacx) fanboys (and fangirls, of course)…
- Realistic road feel (simulation of different road surfaces)
- It doesn’t require power (for most features)
- In-build fans
- Tablet mount
- Adjustable fit
- Adjustable, virtual gears
- Integrated display providing information about power, speed, cadence, etc.
- Towel and bottle included
- Colored LED in the flywheel indicating power output
- Highly stable during sprints
Garmin introduced NEO Bike Plus in 2022. It has improved ergonomics, shifting, and fit (see all differences).
The most significant advantage of the Tacx NEO Bike and NEO Bike Plus compared to other smart bikes (KICKR Bike, SB20, and Wattbike Atom) is that they can simulate different road surfaces like cobblestones, gravel, etc.
This makes the ride feel even more realistic – especially if you use indoor cycling apps like Zwift, where the routes have sections with these surfaces.
Another thing you notice when looking at Tacx NEO Bike is the built-in fans. They differentiate NEO from its alternatives.
They adjust their speed based on your power, speed, and HR, or they can choose one of the three intensities. You can direct them on your head, arms, or legs (whatever you prefer).
Unfortunately, they are not very powerful, and you will probably need to buy an additional fan for indoor cycling to stay cooled down.
Using the levers, you can adjust the fit (stack, reach, setback, saddle height, frame height). NEO has markings, so you can write them down if you set the bike for somebody else. Remember that you won’t be able to adjust the bike height as on Wahoo KICKR Bike. But thanks to the lack of the top tube, it’s not an issue.
NEO also allows you to adjust the gearing. So, you can select compact gearing for steep climbs or hard gears for time trials. The range is as follows – front: up to 3 chainrings 53-22T, rear: up to 12spd 11-40T.
I like the ergonomic handlebar allows a pleasant grip. In addition, the hoods are thinner than on a road bike, so they are easier to hold.
On the other hand, I don’t like the shifting buttons. I am a roadie, so I prefer the KICKR Bike shifting levers.
Because NEO Bike is rigid, it can’t tilt like KICKR Bike. However, this means it is super stable during out-of-the-saddle sprints.
You also don’t need to have it plugged into a power source. Instead, it can provide you with resistance and basic ride info on display from the energy you generate by pedaling. How cool is that?
The last thing I want to mention is its quiet operation. It is so quiet that the fans will make more noise than the bike itself!
Overall, I believe this smart bike will be an excellent platform for your indoor training – for less money than its biggest competitor (Wahoo KICKR Bike).
Wattbike Atom 2nd Gen. (Best Budget Smart Bike)
One of the most affordable smart bikes on the market…
- Excellent price-value ratio
- TT handlebar
- Tablet mount
- Adjustable fit
- Easy to assemble
- Fast shifting
- Two bottle cages
Although Wattbike Atom is the most affordable smart bike on this list, it is not exactly cheap.
The 2nd generation comes with a few improvements compared to the 1st generation. For example, the maximum resistance increased from 2000W to 2500W, and the accuracy rate from ±2% to ±1%.
It has also improved data transmission and data accuracy thanks to new sensors. In addition, the resistance unit is newly electromagnetic, which leads to faster shifting and a more realistic ride feel.
One of the significant advantages of Wattbike Atom compared to Tacx NEO or Wahoo KICKR bikes is its easy assembly. It comes almost fully assembled. You only have to install the handlebar (and the TT bars if you want to use them).
The shifting is like Tacx NEO, but the buttons are located not on a brake lever but on the hood itself. I don’t like this on Atom because I am used to road bike shifting.
Another difference is the gearing itself. Wattbike doesn’t follow the front + rear derailleur formula known from bikes. Instead, you can set 11 or 22 ‘gears,’ and the resistance will change linearly. Of course, the jumps between 22 gears are smaller, so you can choose the resistance that suits your cadence.
It is a shame that Atom doesn’t provide any feedback in the form of vibration like KICKR or NEO when you shift. It would improve the user experience. So, maybe they will add it in the 3rd generation. We will see.
The biggest issue many users encounter with Atom is its unreliable ERG mode. It often spikes, so look elsewhere if you plan to do structured workouts using TrainerRoad.
However, as said in the beginning, Wattbike Atom is the best budget smart bike. It offers almost the same as Wahoo KICKR or Tacx NEO bikes, except for a few shortcomings.
Stages SB20 Smart Bike
Easily adjustable smart bike suitable for multiple family members…
- Easily adjustable fit
- Three power sources (one on each crank + flywheel)
- Tablet + phone mount
- Two bottle cages
- Possibility to buy additional accessories (handlebar, holders, etc.)
- Quiet operation
- High durability
Stages SB20 nails how easily you can adjust its fit. Although it won’t suggest the measurements based on your bike like the ELEMNT app, you can adjust it quickly thanks to the knobs and levers that just work.
You can adjust almost everything except its height (the height setting is only available on KICKR). But because SB20 has no top tube, it’s not necessary. So even shorter riders can get on easily.
SB20 is a smart bike with three power sources – two on each crank, as you know from Stages power meters, and one estimates power based on the flywheel.
Interestingly, its accuracy rate is ‘just’ ±1.5% and not ±1% as on other smart bikes. However, this shouldn’t be a deciding factor if you are not a marginal gains hunter.
Stages sells additional accessories like an aero handlebar, media holder, etc. Other smart bike manufacturers don’t offer this option.
You can use the tablet holder, but it’s removable if you prefer to use a TV for running indoor cycling apps.
The shifting buttons are fine (I am sure you will find them better than Wattbike Atom), and you can preset their behavior to Shimano, Campagnolo, or custom. But KICKR still has much better hardware. SB20 uses 3 buttons on the inner side of each hood and one button on each handlebar drop side.
The Stages app allows you to adjust gearing. This setting has 3 options. The ‘Dream’ (custom) mode is very detailed. You can customize the number of teeth on the cassette and chainrings. You can also change which button does what.
Another detail I want to mention is the very quiet operation (probably the quietest of all smart bikes in this article) and high durability.
Stages SB20 is one of their possible alternatives because it is more affordable than Tacx NEO and Wahoo KICKR bikes.
Also available at trekbikes.com
|Smart Bike||Resistance||Accuracy||Gradient Simulation||Customizable |
|Wahoo KICKR Bike v2||2500 W||±1%||20%||Yes||42kg|
|Tacx NEO Bike||2200 W||±1%||25%||Yes||50kg|
Check Price (amazon.com)
|Wattbike Atom||2500 W||±1%||25%||Limited||40kg|
|Stages SB20||2200 W||±1.5%||25%||Yes||62.5kg|
Check Price (trekbikes.com)
Smart bikes are the most expensive indoor cycling products you can buy, so you should clarify your expectations. I am sure my handy guide below will help you decide which of the smart bikes is the best for YOU.
Here, I highlight my 3 favorites:
- The best smart bike overall is the Wahoo KICKR Bike. This is because of its tilt feature that will add another dimension to your indoor training and the customizable behavior of the shifters.
- The best smart bike in terms of the ride feel is the Tacx NEO Bike. It can simulate various road surfaces, making your indoor training more realistic and road-like. Additionally, it doesn’t require to be plugged into a power source.
- The best budget smart bike is the Wattbike Atom. It’s more affordable than its alternatives while offering the most features.
How to Choose the Best Smart Bike?
The following part is the shortened version of my How to choose a smart bike article.
Most smart bikes offer resistance of around 2000W. This is enough resistance, even for the most powerful riders.
To put this number into context, most untrained people can’t even reach 1000W peak power.
The following chart shows the resistance of smart bikes in this article.
Gradient simulation means that the bike can slow your pedal stroke (e.g., increase the resistance) when you start climbing in a training app. The most common gradients are 20 and 25%.
Some smart bikes, such as the Tacx NEO Bike, can even simulate downhills. It has a motor that runs the flywheel, making your indoor ride closer to riding outside.
Because NEO Bike doesn’t require power for some features (it charges from the energy you put into pedaling), you can use buttons for changing the gradient even without using a 3rd party app.
A smart bike’s accuracy means the power deviation at a certain power.
For example, if you ride at 250W and the deviation of the bike is ±1%, the real power will be in the range of 247.5-252.5W.
If you are not a marginal gains hunter, you shouldn’t care too much whether the smart bike has an accuracy of ±1% or ±2%.
The following table shows the power variance for different accuracy rates and power output levels.
Most smart bikes, or their dedicated apps respectively, allow you to customize:
- The shifting behavior (usually Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo, or custom).
- The number of teeth on the cassette and chainrings for easier or harder gears, depending on the terrain you will ride.
The noisiness level is important mainly for those who need to use a smart bike in the early mornings or late evenings without disturbing other household members.
The general rule is that most quality smart bikes are quiet enough that your breathing with a mouth and fans will be louder than the bike itself.
This is a noisiness level of around 55dB. For comparison, 60dB is a level of normal conversation.
Connectivity & App Compatibility
Smart bikes usually offer ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity. This means you can connect them to compatible indoor cycling apps.
One of the downsides of smart bikes (if you want to use them with these apps) is that you have to pay for the subscription once the trial period ends.
Other Features to Consider
- Weight – heavier smart bikes are less portable. Check if the bike has wheels for easier moving around if you need to relocate it often.
- Flywheel weight – some people tend to pay too much attention to the flywheel’s weight. The heavier flywheel doesn’t necessarily mean a better, more road-like ride feel.
- Cranks length – depending on what crank length suits you, get a smart bike that offers the desired crank length. The general rule is that the shorter the cranks, the higher the cadence, and vice versa.
Smart Bikes FAQ
This post is regularly updated to provide the most up-to-date product tips. If you find a product that is not up to date, please, contact me.