One of the greatest benefits that the best turbo trainers – whether 'smart' or 'classic' – is that they allow you to get in a quality workout, without worrying about the weather. Just make sure to use a fan so you don’t end up wetter than you would outside.
Since the advent of smart turbo trainers, there is now the option to pair up with apps that immerse you in a virtual reality cycling world, rather than just setting the resistance level yourself. Our page on indoor cycling apps compared: Zwift vs TrainerRoad vs The Sufferfest (opens in new tab) directly looks at the differences between the most popular ones.
Part of the attraction of turbo trainers is that they are easy to fold up and store once you've finished your session. But if you are looking for a more permanent indoor setup, then our guide to the best exercise and best smart bikes (opens in new tab) should help you decide what sort is right for you.
We've also looked at the alternative of rollers towards the bottom of the page and we've got a separate guide to the best bike rollers if you want more details.
Although the depths of winter is the peak time for turbo trainers, there are still plenty of deals to be scooped up any time of year – from a combination of retailers offering 'loss leading' discounts and new releases devaluing older models.
Best turbo trainer deals Cyber Monday 2022
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Winter is the time when most of us will incorporate some indoor training sessions into our cycling program, and there's no better time to pick up a deal on one of the best turbo trainers than Cyber Monday.
Here's just a couple of our top picks – if you're after more deals, why not check out our Cyber Monday Tech Deals hub page, or for a more general collection our main Cyber Monday Bike Deals hub has all the best offers we've found from around the web!
Was $1,099.99 now $601.72 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
The H3 has a very sturdy platform for hard efforts and does everything you really need from a turbo - it can simulate gradients up to 20 per cent and has a high accuracy of +/- two per cent. Read our full review here. (opens in new tab)
Elite Direto-X OTS Smart Turbo Trainer: Was £769.99, now £549.00 at Halfords (opens in new tab)
Elite’s Directo Smart trainer is an ideal companion for your winter training plans. It delivers 1400 watt power output at 40km per hour while also replicating gradients of up to 14%. Power readings are accurate to +/- 2%, while its Bluetooth and ANT+ compatibility allows you to send more data to your cycling computer and phone as well as connect to training apps, such as Zwift and TrainerRoad.
Our pick of the best smart turbo trainers
We've ridden and rated the top-selling smart trainers below, using Zwift (opens in new tab) as the virtual testing ground, taking into account their user-friendliness, functionality, features, and price for an overall score.
We recognise that the top smart turbo trainers are a big investment, so if you are on a tight budget you'll be pleased to hear it's still possible to get a cheap Zwift setup. (opens in new tab)
If you are totally new to turbo training, our beginner's guide to indoor cycling (opens in new tab) has everything you need to get you up and running.
Bikes attach to turbos in two ways: with the 'wheel-on' type your bike is fixed to an A-shaped frame and its rear wheel drives a roller; with the 'direct drive' type you remove your bike's rear wheel and attach it directly via its dropouts to the turbo, which includes a cassette. Our wheel-on vs direct drive turbo trainers (opens in new tab) page weighs up the pros and cons of both.
Entry level smart indoor trainers
Least expensive on test, great stability and easy to pack away. The erg mode can be a bit of a brute, though.
A middling price but an outsized performance. The Flux S offered the best ride-feel and stability but it's not easy to pack away.
The most expensive model on test, but for that extra spend you get better gradient simulation and power accuracy – which could
In all, the Tacx Flux S will be the best turbo for the vast majority of people. It has by far and away the best ride feel, both in terms of the ‘real world’ stability of the trainer and the simulated resistance. In these aspects, the Flux S isn’t just the best on test, it’s better than some higher end turbo trainers too.
The Tacx does have some limitations, though. It is fundamentally quite awkward to move around and it doesn’t simulate gradients high enough for vEveresting or have power accuracy good enough for eRacing. The second two points likely aren’t going to be significant considerations for most people, though, which is partly why the Flux S claims the top spot.
Those limitations are all answered by the Wahoo Kickr Core, which is much more compact and easy to move, as well as having the power accuracy and gradient stats sufficient for both those pursuits. However, it is £100 more expensive, the stability and ride feel aren’t on the same level as the Tacx Flux S, and eEveresting and eRacing are still (relatively) niche.
The Elite Zumo delivers an excellent training platform that’s really quite convenient. Its wide legs make it the second most stable, yet these can also be folded away. The light weight (lightest on test) and carry handle add to the portability.
Despite the similarly light flywheel (also the lightest on test) the ride feel is generally also really quite good. The downsides are the tendency to ‘death spiral’ in erg mode and the low resistance when free-riding. The price, however, is the lowest on test.
Finally, we have the Jet Black Volt 2. The list price is high, equal to the Wahoo Kickr Core (although it can often be found at a discount), but whilst the stats are among the highest – joint highest maximum resistance and gradient, second highest power accuracy – it is let down by the choppy ride feel when pushing moderately low power and cadence numbers while climbing.
In missing out on the ±2% cut off for eRacing, it means that despite the rest of the spec sheet chalking up quite well, the Volt 2 can’t be pitched as a ‘numbers’ turbo, as the Wahoo Kickr Core can.
Entry level smart indoor trainers: reviews
1. Elite Zumo
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Elite Zumo’s spec sheet totally belies what a well rounded trainer this is. The cheapest trainer on test, it’s also the lightest and has the lightest flywheel, the claimed accuracy is joint worst at ±3% and the maximum resistance is the lowest at 1,350w. The slope simulation stands out in being second shallowest at 12%.
Most of those points are immaterial, though. The max gradient of 12% is still more than enough for all your low cadence/high power interval needs – it’s just that you’ll be pushing a slightly larger gear than with a Tacx Neo 2T or a Wahoo Kickr. Plus, if you haven’t fiddled with the default realism settings in Zwift at all, the maximum gradient of 22% will be reduced to 11% and within the trainer’s capabilities.
The maximum resistance of 1,350w is worth a little more of a consideration than that of the other turbos on test as it’s not a number that’s unfeasible for amateur riders to top. But as an amateur rider who’s never once topped 1,300w, I still haven’t been able to test its limits.
With that out of the way, let’s get onto the more important bits. First, the ride feel. Despite having the lightest flywheel on test, the sensation riding was really very smooth - much better than the Jet Black Volt 2, which we’ll get on to later. Riding around the Sand And Sequoias map on Zwift, it responded to the gradient changes quickly and proportionally with barely any lag.
So far so good, but the flipside to this is that when riding in erg mode and doing a session such as 20/40s or 10x1min – anything where there’s a big power differential – you can quietly easily end up in something of a ‘death spiral’ of ever increasing resistance as you struggle to spin your legs up to speed.
This is something that’s true of all trainers to some extent, it’s generally a good idea to spin up your cadence just before entering those intervals to give yourself a bit of a buffer. But this was a particular issue for the Zumo – and was also a problem for the higher end Direto that we tested last year, so it seems that this is a more general problem for Elite.
And speaking of general problems for Elite, when doing turbo sessions without erg mode, I found it was quite easy to end up running out of gears and spinning out. Even with a 50x11t combination – actual road, not gravel – I had to pedal uncomfortably fast to hold 250w.
This isn’t an issue if you only free-ride in events and the like with the realism on, and it’s not an issue if you only ride in erg mode (plenty of resistance can be provided there). But this is an issue for those who like the mental challenge of consciously holding a set wattage. And this is also an issue that Elite turbos have had problems with in the past – not the aforementioned Direto, that was fine, but the lower end wheel-on Tuo.
In all, the Zumo is super portable thanks to its carry handle, foldable legs and general lightweight build. At the same time, it’s very stable thanks to its wide footprint and the resistance is very nicely controlled and feels very smooth despite the smaller flywheel.
It’s let down by the propensity to ‘death-spiral’ when doing interval sessions with large power differentials in erg mode – an issue shared by its big brother, the Direto. And it’s also let down by the low resistance when riding without the erg more or any realism, spinning out at about 250w – an issue shared by its little brother, the Tuo.
2. Tacx Flux S
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
First off, this is a really great turbo trainer. But that’s what makes this one a little frustrating, as it is just so close to being the obvious go-to for pretty much everyone. But, as it is, there will be some people for whom it’s not quite the right model – let’s go though the performance.
With the heaviest flywheel on test, the Flux S also comes in as the heaviest trainer overall. Couple that with its unique footprint and you’ve got an incredibly stable platform – I’d say even potentially a little more stable than its big brother, the Tacx Neo 2T, which I tested last year.
Likewise, the resistance and ride feel of this entry-level model is impressively close to that of Tacx’s flagship trainer. Changes in gradient were fast and smooth, whilst the resistance remained steady even when climbing at a low speed and low cadence – a challenging combination for a trainer.
The erg mode coped well with even large differences in power. The resistance would ramp up quickly whilst also not crushing my cadence in the way the Zumo did. Another point of contrast is that when riding without the erg mode on or not up any virtual gradients, I was able to push a comfortable cadence at 250w with plenty of sprockets to spare – no danger of spinning out.
In terms of the virtual ride feel and stability of the turbo, this was the best on test – and is better even than some turbos at a higher price point. The Elite Direto unequivocally and, for me, also the Wahoo Kickr – but we’ll get into that in more detail later on.
In having swept up on the fundamentals, it’s fair to ask whether it goes on to clear any of the higher bars – is there any point in buying a more expensive model? Sadly, yes there is. But only for people with quite specific use cases.
First, the accuracy. Rated at ±3% this is the same as the Zumo. But it’s worth pointing out this doesn’t meet the ±2% cut off for the upper echelons of Zwift racing. For most people, this isn’t a consideration – the majority of Zwift users aren’t racers, and it’s only a very small subsection of them who would be racing in those categories. But it’s worth being aware of.
Similarly, for challenges such as a ‘virtual’ everesting, the rules stipulate that the realism must be set to 100%. If you’re planning on using the Alpe du Zwift for your attempt, then you’re going to fall foul of ‘the rules’, as the maximum gradient there is 14%.
Again both these points won’t matter to most people, and is part of the reason why this is the trainer that we would recommend overall. But just because this trainer is so good, it is worth being aware of exactly where the limitations are, so that there aren’t any surprises.
The other consideration is that this is not a trainer for moving about or stowing away. The legs don’t fold and it is really very heavy.
3. Wahoo Kickr Core
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Wahoo Kickr Core and the Tacx Flux S line up for a particularly interesting contrast. It’s almost like a Venn diagram, but where the two circles have been pushed together so that it’s just a thin sliver on either side where there isn’t any overlap.
We’ll blast through the fundamentals pretty quickly again because, like the Tacx Flux S, the Wahoo Kickr Core executes these so well that it’s worth spending a bit more time on the hair splitting points of differentiation.
Starting with the ride feel, I’d actually argue that the Core does better (in some aspects) than the flagship Kickr V5 I tested last year (although this model has now been surpassed by the V6).
How can this be? Well, my assumption is that it’s down to the weight of the flywheels. With the Kickr V5, it always felt like there was a great deal of inertia to spin up when accelerating – for me it was a little less like riding out on the open road and a little more like that of a ‘spin bike’, with their huge fixed-gear flywheels.
True, the Tacx Neo 2T itself boasts an electromagnetic flywheel that can simulate a weight of up to 125kg, but it’s not simulating that all the time, and, in my opinion, it has more of a ‘road feel’ than that of a Kickr V5.
Coming back to the Kickr Core, with the flywheel being 5.4kg compared to the 7.3kg of the V5, the sensation of accelerations felt just that bit more natural for me. Although this should be heavily caveated with the point that if you’re a heavier rider, you might well find the opposite.
In terms of the response to sudden changes of gradient and interval sessions with large differentials of power in erg mode, the resistance changed smoothly and quickly. It also didn’t have a particular propensity to ‘death spiral’ and force you into pushing an ever lower cadence – all very good and very similar to the Kickr V5.
As mentioned, the Kickr Core does manage to hit points that the Tacx Flux S has missed. With an accuracy of ±2%, this is one of the cheaper entry points to high-end indoor racing. Plus, with a maximum gradient of 16%, you’ll be able to cut your vEversting teeth on the Alp du Zwift and feel every ramp. It’s also an easier trainer to move around than the Flux S and takes up less space.
However, there are points which do let it down in comparison to the Flux S. First is the stability: these two-bar designs are much less stable than three leg versions – and the Flux is particularly solid.
Then there’s the price. £100 more might not be too much when choosing between bikes, but it’s a sizable chunk when it comes to turbos.
4. Jet Black Volt 2
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Let’s get this out the way first: the Jet Black Volt 2 does look pretty similar to the Wahoo Kickr Core. Coming in at the same list price, simulating the same maximum gradient and delivering the same maximum resistance – you might start to wonder if anything is different at all.
On closer inspection, there are quite a few areas where the two trainers are distinct. The first clue is in the weight. At 15.4kg for the Jet Black Volt 2 compared to 18.0kg for the Wahoo Kickr Core, there’s obviously quite a chunk – to the tune of 2.6kg – that does vary between the trainers.
Part of that is down to the heft of the flywheel, coming in at 4.7kg for the Jet Black – the second lightest on test – compared to 5.4kg for the Wahoo Kickr Core. The housing of the flywheel also varies between them, with the Jet Black having a bit more of a plastic covering.
Rounding out the physical differences, the Volt 2’s legs are oval rather than circular and the front bar is fixed in place, whereas the Wahoo Kickr Core can be adjusted vertically.
The performance is quite different as well – although this doesn’t reflect so well on the Australian brand. Riding the Volt 2 on steep virtual climbs, the resistance felt distinctly choppy. It was like pushing through treacle between two and four o’clock on the pedal stroke, but past that it would ease up significantly - almost slipping past - before ramping up again at two o’clock on the other crank arm.
To be fair, this wasn’t an issue when pushing higher power and cadence numbers (around 270w and 90 RPM), but the 180w and the 70 RPM that I was having these problems at aren’t ridiculously low. Even the most powerful riders ride around that level when recovering between intervals – and for others this will be within their training zones.
I’m not entirely sure what the exact issue is here. You might think that it was the relatively light flywheel struggling with the steeper gradients, but the 7% inclines I first noticed the issue on were easily handled by the Elite Zumo – which has a lighter flywheel and a lower maximum gradient.
Although, with that said, the erg mode wasn’t as aggressive as the Elite’s and it was possible to ride without any additional resistance from climbs or the erg mode without spinning out – so the Volt 2 does have some positives over the Zumo.
But overall, the Tacx Flux S simply has a significantly better ride feel and, in those areas where the Flux S isn’t the test leader (i.e. accuracy and gradient simulation), the Volt 2 doesn’t ‘do the double’ either and so isn’t a compelling option.