Direct drive turbo trainers are becoming increasingly popular and are especially attractive for those wanting to take part in virtual reality training games, such as Zwift. Direct drive units differ from traditional trainers in that you remove your rear wheel and attach your bike directly to the unit. They tend to offer a much more realistic ride feel and can be much quieter too. Top of the range models include the Tacx Neo and Wahoo Kickr, but now there is a new turbo in town.
CycleOps has been making indoor trainers for decades and the intriguingly named ‘Hammer’ is the company’s latest and most sophisticated unit to date.
The CycleOps Hammer is a direct drive bike trainer with what the makers say is unparalleled bike compatibility and device connectivity. The unit has been future proofed by inclusion of compatibility with thru-axle widths of 142 or 148, as well as quick release fork widths of 130 and 135mm
Regarding connectivity, there is integrated dual ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth 4.0 technologies, meaning that the Hammer can connect to most devices and riding applications, including, but not limited to training software such as CycleOps’ own VirtualTraining, Zwift, and Trainer Road.
The table below compares the Hammer with what CycleOps regards to be the main competition – the Wahoo Kickr and Tacx Neo. Priced the same as the Kickr (£1100 in the UK) the Hammer is quieter and can deal with higher simulated gradients and has a much higher max power.
One of the key selling points is the Hammer’s precision balanced 20lb flywheel, which CycleOps claims has an “impressive ability to replicate real world inertia.” This is designed to work in conjunction with electromagnetic resistance that CycleOps intends will give rapid response resistance changes, a high maximum power and the sensation of rolling on smooth tarmac.
The Hammer has designed to be robust, with a max power of 2000W at 20mph and an ability to simulate 20% gradients. According to the President of CycleOps, Jeff Frehner, “we’ve been producing some of the best virtual trainers since the dawn of this technology,” adding “we care deeply about providing the best, most entertaining bike training experience possible. We are excited to get the Hammer into the pain caves, basements and training spaces of all types of cyclists.”
Watch: CycleOps promotional video for the new Hammer
The CycleOps can be stored easily by means of two foldable legs with easy to use catches. The unit does not come with a cassette, with CycleOps asserting that this is better for the consumer, than supplying a cassette the customer doesn’t want . Many potential customers still use 8, 9 and 10 speed, with preferences for different ratios. The Hammer is compatible with 8, 9, 10 and 11 speed cassettes.
Watch: Buyer’s guide to turbo trainers
First ride and impressions
I travelled to the UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland to take a first look at the new Hammer. First impressions was that the unit was very stable and easy to fold and store. The Tacx Neo might look cooler with it’s Star Wars Imperial Shuttle aesthetic, but it is a lot more of a fiddle to fold.
Riding the Hammer delivered a realistic feel that had me breathing heavily in minutes as I tackled Majorca’s Col d’Honor on the virtual reality screen. The combination of electromagnectic resistance and 20lb flywheel worked especially well and was quick to respond to changes in gradient.
I was particularly impressed with how the Hammer felt when doing out of the saddle efforts and really going for it. In this regard, it was more stable than the Wahoo Kickr which I have also tested.
The Hammer also has a compartment that contains the front riser block (when not in use) and some disc brake wedges. It is a nice touch, it keeps the whole unit nicely self contained, but also means you don’t have to worry about accidentally depressing your rear brake when the rotor is absent.
Regarding power accuracy, I can’t comment at this stage as the test unit I was able to try had yet to be calibrated. However CycleOps is owned by the Saris Group which also owns Power Tap. This considered, I fully expect the final product to be on a par with a Power Tap hub.
Is this the best all round direct drive turbo on the market? On paper, it would appear so, but the N64 was higher spec than the original Playstation and we all know who won that battle. Ultimately the success of the Hammer will come down to quality of the software, apps and games available to those that use it and until we do more testing, it is not possible to say which is the best product at this stage.
For those itching to kit out their pain caves with the latest direct drive turbo, the Hammer will be distributed through Paligap in the UK with a retail price of £1100.