Of all the equipment endurance athletes will purchase, one standouts – both for expense and for the shear number of hours you will spend on it. It’s a swear word for most cyclists and triathletes. It’s almost winter here in the northern hemisphere and hopefully you are beginning your base training now or in the near future. Your trainer can make the indoor training experience less or more painful, depending on which one you purchase.
This review is specifically geared towards athletes debating between the Cycleops Fluid 2 and the Kinetic By Kurt Road Machine. Both are fluid trainers, which for serious athletes is the only way to go. It’s true that they are a bit more expensive than magnetic trainers. This cost, however is worth it because they are much more durable and much more quiet. (ask Kris’ wife which trainer she likes better when he’s working out at 5:30 am)
The tricky part about trainers is that it’s a very subjective measurement – typical in the form of a more “road-like” feel. In my opinion, no trainers feel “road-like” at all. So let’s do away with that right up front. I will refer to the feel of a trainer as it relates to overall resistance.
Who can actually buy two trainers to test them out side by side? Well, we did. Ok, actually I own the Cycleops Fluid 2 and Kris purchased a Kinetic by Kurt Road machine on a great sale from REI. So we road our respective trainers for one week, and then we switched and used the other trainer for the next week.
First of all, we both agreed that the trainers are excellent quality, construction and both give you a great workout. We don’t feel like you could really go wrong with either one, but there are some definite advantages and disadvantages to either trainer.
The biggest and most important difference we both felt, was that the Cycleops Fluid 2 had a much more difficult resistance curve. We both noted that we couldn’t keep as high (harder) of a gear when using the Cycleops Fluid 2. I’m not of the belief that harder is necessarily better. I want a trainer that will produce similar heart rate results in similar gears as when I’m riding on the road. This was not the case with the Cycleops Fluid 2 and was a little bit disappointing.
The next biggest difference came in how securely the trainer holds the bike. The Kinetic by Kurt Road Machine was bomb-proof. We both noted that it solidly held our bikes with virtual no lateral movement – especially when really going all out and pushing a tough gear. The Cycleops Fluid 2, on the other hand, had a significant amount of lateral movement that we both felt and didn’t really enjoy. I think the reason for this lateral movement is the quick release feature that Cyclops has on their fluid trainers. The Kinetic by Kurt has a slower method of hooking your bike up – but it produces a very secure connection with your trainer. The Cycleops Fluid 2 has a quick release that makes getting your bike in and out quick and easy, but creates a less secure connection with your bike. The key question we felt was, how often do you really need to get your bike in and out of the trainer really quick? Perhaps if you use it to warm up right before races this would be a big decider. A quick release is nice, but certainly not as much a selling point as Cycleops makes it out to be. This quick release also pushes the Cycleops frame out, so that on later models (not tested here) they’ve added an adjustable leg to compensate so the frame won’t tip. We didn’t observe any of this in the Kinetic by Kurt and wonder if it will cause any long term weakness in the Cycleops frame. (If so, I guess I’ll be buying a new one in the future)
One place where the Cycleops squarely has Kinetic beat is in bringing the roller to your back wheel. With the Kinetic by Kurt you have a knob that you have to slowly twist until it butts up against your tire. We found that we could never really tell if we had the same amount of pressure on the tire each time we used it. Thus, were we getting a similar resistance experience each and every time? Also, it was simply annoying to have to sit there and twist and then see if you got it close enough and if you have to put more on or back it off a little. With the Cycleops you set it up once and then there is a handy flip on the switch that brings the roller into contact with your tire each and every time. This is a smart feature and one you should only have to set once and then never worry about again.
Spin Down ~
The final area we noticed a difference was in the spin down time of the trainers. We noticed that the Kinetic had a much longer spin down time, so that if you stopped pedaling for a few seconds, your wheel didn’t immediately stop. While this isn’t necessarily a major selling feature, it did represent a real-life feeling when riding on the road and the ability to keep your bike moving forward without immediately stopping.
We feel like both have a similar noise level. Now we didn’t test it with a decibal meter, but with our good 4 ears we didn’t feel as though there was a significant difference.
Kinetic by Kurt guarantees their Road Machine units will never leak. They have a simple, easy to understand lifetime guarantee to the original owner and they stand by their equipment. You can read their policy here.
Cycelops, on the other hand guarantees their trainers for life, but has a lot of exceptions and requirements you must meet. For example it doesn’t cover normal wear and tear and has many annoying stipulations. Much more of a pain. You can read their policy here.
The images of the company are quite different. Kinetic seems to have a younger, more common cyclist look and feel. Cycleops on the other hand has a very high-brow, sleeker image and the big gun professional cyclists behind them.
The Bottom Line ~
Taking everything into consideration I would recommend the Kinetic by Kurt Road Machine. It’s a little bit bigger and bulkier. The bright green design can’t be missed, but in terms of overall performance where it counts, I enjoyed (if that’s possible with a trainer) the Kinetic by Kurt experience more. I also like that you can change the flywheel to a heavier one for more intense workouts and that they offer a simple lifetime guarantee – a nice little insurance policy on this piece of equipment that you just spent the entire month’s grocery bill on.