A turbo trainer can really help you improve your riding, and keep you training whatever the weather throws at you. Chris Hovenden reviews, tests, and rates some of the best on the market
Wow, the Kura looks big. Yet the large handle and foldable front leg – a development from the fixed set-up of Elite’s 2015 models – makes it surprisingly easy to stow and manoeuvre. The direct drive unit doesn’t come with a cassette but, once you’ve installed a block, the Kura provides an impressively smooth and consistent ride. Unlike many ‘smart’ trainers on the market, the Kura doesn’t need to be plugged in as the unit’s internal battery re-charges while you pedal, meaning you can use it when no power source is available.
The Kura comes with a lifelong subscription to Elite’s My E-Training app. Connecting via Bluetooth or ANT+ the app is quick to pick up the trainer and, although not the most intuitive out there, offers noteworthy features such as the level and power modes.
Elite say the unit’s power measurement is accurate to within 1% and, after multiple sessions, we can confirm the level of accuracy is impressive and closely matched our power meter readings pedal stroke for pedal stroke.
So the Kura is a high quality turbo, but there’s an elephant in the room. Although being classed as a ‘smart’ turbo, for a penny shy of £700 you’re not getting a truly interactive trainer. You can’t change the resistance remotely; rather you vary the difficulty of your ride changing your gears, cadence and speed like you would on the road.
Verdict: Impressive power accuracy, but plenty of cash for a turbo that isn’t interactive 83%
Its weight of 21kg means moving the Kickr is a challenge, but once in place there’s no danger of movement. The direct drive design provides a consistent, smooth ride, even when hammering the pedals. Coming equipped with an 11-speed Shimano/SRAM cassette you just need to drop out the rear wheel, attach the cadence sensor, find a power source and download the Wahoo app. The app is intuitive and the Bluetooth (and ANT+) connectivity is quick and reliable. If the app’s various modes (level, erg, sim and resistance) don’t keep you stimulated, you can link-up with third-party software. Wahoo says that power is accurate to +-2%, and although the unit provided slightly higher readings than our power meter, the readings were consistent. It’s easy to see why Team Sky opt for the Kickr; it’s very impressive and matches up well against other direct drive offerings like the Tacx Neo. But, for £1,000, you might expect a quieter device.
Verdict: A top quality trainer, but comes at a top price and could be quieter 90%
For just shy of £400 you get a trainer with an electric brake that connects wirelessly with Tacx’s proprietary apps and those from third parties. The turbo interacts well with the apps, enabling you to easily adjust the trainer’s settings during a ride. Yet, a little frustratingly, on occasion it took several attempts for the Tacx app to pick up the trainer. Before each session you need to calibrate the unit to ensure you get an accurate power reading. Tacx says the Vortex’s power settings are accurate to within 10% and our power meter readings support this – but a swing of 20+ watts isn’t ideal if you’re training to set zones. Impressively for a rear wheel model, the Vortex provides a smooth and quiet ride. The frame isn’t as sturdy as some (the front wheel block ensures you feel secure) and, due to the short power cable, you might need an extension lead.
Verdict: Lots of features at a competitive price, but a few bugs 68%
If ‘smart’ turbos with their high level of connectivity were equivalent to a degree, the B60R – with its quick-release remote shifter – would be a GCSE. Getting started with the B60R is straight forward. Weighing around 6kg the unit’s easy to manoeuvre: you switch the quick release, clip the wheel in, adjust the position of the roller, place the front wheel in the riser block and attach the remote to your bars. When pedalling at a steady pace the trainer performs well and the ride’s fairly smooth, but there’s some slippage when you accelerate hard. The remote allows you to switch between seven different levels of resistance and you can get further variety by clicking through your gears. Our experience matches Minoura’s claimed resistance of 425 watts at the equivalent of 40km/h, so unless you’re sprinting or are a particularly strong rider, this should be sufficient.
Verdict: A solid and fuss-free but unspectacular entry-level turbo 76%