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Smart Trainers: Wheel-on vs. Direct Drive

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Smart Trainers: Wheel-on vs. Direct Drive

Old 08-02-17, 07:29 AM
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Noonievut
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Smart Trainers: Wheel-on vs. Direct Drive

I've started research as I'm planning to get a new trainer this fall. My LBS carries most of the major brands, and has most of them in stock. I've given some background below...you can skip this to help with my question if you like.


Background
For the last 10 years I've used a fluid trainer. The last several years I've found that I simply do one of two workouts while watching movies, 3-4x/week. It's been ok for maintaining fitness, but I'm getting bored, and I've noticed the new smart trainers and apps such as Zwift. I do ride outside in the winter, weather permitting (which in a month like February around Toronto, may equate to 2-3 outdoor rides).


So my early research has led me to trainers like the Tacx Vortex and Wahoo Kickr Snap (wheel-on), and the Tacx Flux (direct drive). I don't really want to spend more than the Flux. Regarding the Flux, despite some issues I've read, I talked to my LBS and feel confident that I'll be ok either way (trainer works fine, if it doesn't I'll have no hassle in returning it). I'm planning to use the trainer with Zwift, and perhaps another (cheaper) software that provides workouts/plans that control the trainer so that I can watch movies. I'm guessing that Zwift users are not watching movies, as the software seems more engaging (than TrainerRoad, for example). I like the concept that say an incline in Zwift or interval in a less-game'y' software is what adds resistance and requires more effort on my part...versus me needing to choose a harder gear on my fluid trainer, and thus follow a plan to do this myself.


Lastly, I'm not a gadget person ( don't have a power meter, or a HRM). I'm not looking to get stronger or faster. I simply love cycling and enjoy the fitness benefits it provides (can eat and drink more ;-).


Question
I'm trying to decide between a wheel-on and direct-drive trainer, and I've read that with the wheel-on you need to calibrate virtually every time (if it took less than a minute that would be fine, but from what I've read you need to pedal for 8-10 minutes, than do calibration tests). I'm worried this may annoy a lot. However, I'm also not sure I care that much about calibration, as I'm not very concerned if the power readings are not spot-on. I'm not planning to follow a program where I try and improve my power over time...rather, I'm looking for motivation that a smart trainer paired with software like Zwift offers, so that I ride more in the winter. If the increased riding leads to more power, that's a bonus. I've heard from friends who traditionally hated trainers, that they now look forward to these rides. So, given my lack of focus on power, is the direct-drive (more accurate, less calibration) still a big enough benefit over the wheel-on trainers? For me?


Thanks!
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Old 08-02-17, 07:41 AM
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Larry77
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I've used both types of trainers and I prefer the feel of the direct mount CycleOps Hammer that I have now. I have the added benefit of keeping a bike on my trainer at all times so I don't have to mount and unmount my trainer which I think would annoy me on the direct drive especially. The direct drive is nice because you aren't abusing your rear wheel or tires. I had a fluid (non-smart) wheel on trainer before my Hammer and I had issues with slipping (no matter how much adjusting I did, even tried a trainer tire which did help a little). The smart trainer combined with Zwift has made my inside rides a lot more engaging so I always advise my friends to save up for a smart trainer rather than save a few bucks getting something that will bore them to death.

DC Rainmaker Trainer Reviews
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Old 08-02-17, 08:23 AM
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Noonievut
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Originally Posted by Larry77 View Post
I've used both types of trainers and I prefer the feel of the direct mount CycleOps Hammer that I have now. I have the added benefit of keeping a bike on my trainer at all times so I don't have to mount and unmount my trainer which I think would annoy me on the direct drive especially. The direct drive is nice because you aren't abusing your rear wheel or tires. I had a fluid (non-smart) wheel on trainer before my Hammer and I had issues with slipping (no matter how much adjusting I did, even tried a trainer tire which did help a little). The smart trainer combined with Zwift has made my inside rides a lot more engaging so I always advise my friends to save up for a smart trainer rather than save a few bucks getting something that will bore them to death.

DC Rainmaker Trainer Reviews


Thanks for the quick response. Regarding time/annoyance mounting and un-mounting...my situation is probably like many: in the 'shoulder' seasons I'll ride the trainer based on weather...but I try and ride outside as much as possible. This means some trainer time in November and most of December...and the same for March-April. In Jan and Feb it's pretty much mounted the whole time. I have a spare wheel with a trainer tire, and don't mind at all the two minutes to put on the wheel and install on the trainer (I often do this the night before).


Question - compared to my situation above, would you say that mounting/un-mounting with a direct drive is that much harder, time consuming or maybe more finicky?
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Old 08-02-17, 12:45 PM
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jsk
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The real advantage of the direct-drive trainer is accuracy. You don't have to worry about checking for a specific air pressure and roller tension to make sure you get consistent power readings. Also no worry about wheel slipping during high-intensity efforts.

As far as mounting/unmounting the bike it's pretty quick, but does require handling the chain, but then again if you have a dedicated trainer tire/wheel that you would be changing out you'd still have handle the chain in that case and the direct drive would probably be faster to mount than changing the rear wheel everytime you used a traditional wheel-on trainer.
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Old 08-09-17, 11:39 AM
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stockae92
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I think direct drive is better, and they are of high price as well. I have a Tacx Flux that lasted 45min (yes, that's minutes), and now I have a Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ Trainer for about 1/2 yr with no issue.

With the direct drive, besides accuracy, there is no tire wear, it seems a little quieter, and it supposed to have a better "road feel". The flux unit is a lot heavier too.

Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ was about 1/3 of the cost, I use my old tires on it (you can see the tire dust in the back of the roller), it still has some "road feel", smaller and light unit, and I used the money left in my pocket to buy a better wheelset for the road, use the older wheel for the trainer.

Its pretty easy to get the bike on and off the trainer, and there is no tensioner to mess with. the "tension" is from your sitting on the bike, pressing the tires against the roller. If you unweight the back, its easy to spin the tire on the roller.

Its not without its drawback. Besides the tire dust, the response of the resistance change is slow. for example, in ERG mode, if I need to 10 sec of internal going from 125W to 550W. I can never reach 550W because the trainer is slow to react and by the time I get to north of 500W, the 10 sec would be over.

You get what you pay for it, sorta. I don't race, and no sponsor is paying for my trainer. So I am happy with the Elite + good wheelset for the road for the same money of the Tacx Flux direct drive. I figure it my Elite unit last for 36 months, my zwift membership would have costed more and I consider the Elite trainer already paid for itself. (if the Flux breaks in 2.5 yrs, I am pretty sure it will cost me more than $300 to fix. And their customer service slow and horrible)

my $0.02, YMMV
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