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Best Smart Trainers For Triathletes in 2021

 

One of the best devices for triathletes is the smart bike trainer. These allow you to train whenever you want, regardless of weather or time of day in the safety and convenience of your home.

Our top picks is the Elite Suito. It’s a robust trainer that comes pre-assembled, can simulate hills of up to 15% incline, and its plug-and-play design means you can start riding almost immediately.

Here’s the full list of smart trainers that get our thumbs up.

Top 3 Best and Favorite

 

Elite Suito

 

  • Pre-assembled out of the box
  • Simulates slopes up to 15%
  • Speeds up to 25 mph
Check Price

 

Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 Bike Trainer

 

  • Rider-controlled fluid resistance
  • 6.25 pound flywheel
  • inRide 3 power sensor
Check Price

 

Saris M2 Smart Trainer

 

  • Built-in sensors
  • 2.64-pound flywheel
  • Simulates 15% climbing grade
Check Price

Best Overall

1. Elite Suito

This robust smart trainer wins top spot.

It’s a direct-drive trainer featuring a Shimano 105 11-speed cassette, top-of-the-line equipment out the box! It comes pre-assembled, so all you need to do is connect your bike.

Once your bike is connected to the trainer, the easy plug-and-play configuration allows you to start riding almost immediately. It takes just a few minutes to set this up completely.

No matter what your level of skill on the bike, this machine offers a powerful training experience. More than 1900 watts of power allow you to push yourself to speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. For a realistic experience, it can also simulate hills of up to 15% gradient.

The Elite Suito’s structure is built from stainless steel. It’s heavy enough to stay stable on the ground even if you get into an intense sprint. The base is wide and the legs lock automatically, giving you a very safe platform to ride on.

Despite its power and sturdiness, it’s a slim device with a built-in handle, which makes it super easy to fit into small spaces and also to move around if you wish to.

When you buy, you’ll get a free month’s access to Zwift and a free year’s subscription to My E-Training. If you prefer a different app, this smart trainer is compatible with almost any app you can think of, on Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows.

As soon as you begin pedaling, the trainer picks up your cadence, power, and speed data. The machine then adjusts the resistance automatically as you go.

It’s a powerful tool for cyclists of all levels. If you want a stable, safe device that offers a premium experience, this is it.

PROS:

  • Pre-assembled out of the box
  • Compatibility with a variety of bicycle models
  • Simulates slopes up to 15%
  • Speeds up to 25 mph

CONS:

  • First-gen models may make a knocking sound and need to be replaced
 

Best Value

2. Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 Bike Trainer

The Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 trainer is stable, easy to use, and extremely affordable. It’s one of the very few app-based smart trainers to come in at less than $400.

Bicycles with wheels between 22 and 29 inches can fit comfortably on this machine. A 6.25lb flywheel provides an exceptional amount of power, and a thick roller reduces wear on tires.

The trainer uses progressive precise fluid resistance that mimics real-road sensations and is controlled by wheel speed and not the app you’re using. Kinetic’s inRide Power Sensor technology does integrate with third-party apps to store your data and is compatible with a wide range of apps.

The Rock and Roll frame is triangular in shape, which offers extreme stability against rocking and wobbling. It also includes rubber feet to prevent damage from being done to your floors.

The frame comes with an unconditional lifetime warranty. There’s also a one-year warranty on the inRide sensor.

Note that the flywheel is not compatible with the Pro Flywheel accessory. Double-check your bike beforehand as some may need a special axle to fit on this trainer.

PROS:

  • Rider-controlled fluid resistance
  • 6.25 pound flywheel
  • inRide 3 power sensor
  • Less than $400

CONS:

  • Some bikes may need a special axle to fit on this trainer
 

Best For Beginners

3. Saris M2 Smart Trainer

If you’re new to training on a smart bike trainer, we recommend choosing this one. It’s affordable, sturdy, and easy for a newbie to use. All you need is your bike, the smart trainer, and whichever cycling app you like!

A 2.64lb flywheel allows for up to 1500 watts of power, which is a significant amount for beginners. Power readings are accurate to within 5%. It also has a climbing gradient of up to 15%, perfect for simulating hills.

The wheel roller is wide and smooth, preventing unnecessary and excessive wear and tear on your back wheel. A clutch knob on the mechanism ensures that your wheel rests perfectly on the roller every time.

Precisely controlled electromagnetic resistance offers you an excellent workout every time you get on your bike.

Connect via Bluetooth or ANT+ FE-C and the electromagnetic system will take it from there. Your speed, power, and cadence will all be tracked without the need for any external sensors.

The device is Zwift-certified and you’ll also get a free month’s subscription to the Rouvy virtual training app.

Be aware that some users mention the clutch knob being faulty on this unit. It’s meant to click when tight, but the absence of a click could lead to overtightening. This damages the frame, so take extra care not to overtighten it.

PROS:

  • Built-in sensors
  • ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth connectivity
  • 2.64-pound flywheel
  • Simulates 15% climbing grade

CONS:

  • Overtightening the clutch knob could cause damage
 

Best Power Accuracy

4. Saris H3 Direct-Drive Smart Trainer

If your power meter is your best friend, you need a smart trainer that has excellent power measurement capabilities.

The Saris H3 Direct-Drive Smart Trainer’s built-in power meter has exceptional accuracy, to within 2%.

Apart from the impressive power tracking, this trainer is also extremely quiet. It puts out just 59 decibels when pedaling at 20 miles per hour, which is perfect for those who end up training when they can’t sleep!

The 20lb flywheel can handle up to 2000 watts and provides the rider with a climbing grade of up to 20%. That’s a versatile trainer, and you should be able to simulate most real-world conditions easily.

The electromagnetic resistance system benefits from the internal cooling system. This keeps the machine going effortlessly and protects it against wear and tear due to heat caused by friction.

It fits a wide range of bike sizes, too. It’s thru-axle compatible for bikes with a rear hub width of 142 to 148mm and quick-release compatible for rear hubs of 130 to 135mm wide.

It’s important to note that this machine doesn’t come with a cassette. It’s compatible with Shimano 8 to 11-speed cassettes, but you’ll need to buy one separately.

For convenience, this trainer comes with an easy-carry handle and an integrated front wheel block. The legs are also foldable, which means it can fit easily into storage and folds out into a sturdy shape for use.

You can use almost any app along with this trainer. But it also has a Headless Mode, which you can use when not connected to any app. It provides you with a steady progressive resistance curve that allows you to get an excellent workout without using your phone or tablet.

PROS:

  • Electromagnetic resistance
  • 20% climbing grade
  • Exceptionally quiet
  • Power accuracy within 2%

CONS:

  • Cassette sold separately
 

Best For Advanced Athletes

5. Garmin Tacx Neo 2T Smart Trainer

Advanced athletes will appreciate the features of the Garmin Tacx 2T smart trainer. It runs on magnetic resistance, which reduces noise and vibration.

32 neodymium magnets built into the device not only offer excellent resistance but also allow for extreme stopping power at high speeds.

This advanced trainer offers some excellent features to simulate real-world conditions. It uses Dynamic Inertia which compensates instantly for your weight, angle, and speed to provide the most realistic cycling experience.

It also works with Zwift or Tacx software to simulate different surface types, like gravel, road, or cobblestone.

As for hills, you can ride on a gradient of up to 25%, which is one of the highest out there. Even better, if you connect this trainer to an external power source, you can make use of descent simulation to practice your downhill rides.

Track your pedal stroke stats, power, cadence, and speed with an accuracy within 1%. You can use whatever third-party app you like, including Edge bike computers.

With a power max of 2200 watts, you can go all-out on this trainer without worrying about overdoing it. It’s built to be sturdy and stable, keeping you safe and comfortable while tracking all the data you need.

PROS:

  • Up to 25% gradient and descent simulation
  • 32 neodymium magnets
  • Pedal stroke statistics
  • 1% accuracy on cadence and power

CONS:

  • May be complicated to assemble
 

Best Portable/Size

6. Elite Tuo

Want to take your smart trainer with you on vacation, to your training buddy’s house, or along to an event for some last-minute training?

This smart trainer is super portable and ideal for carrying around with you.

It’s super simple to fold and can be slipped into a bag or trunk easily. It’s also elegantly designed (in Italy, of course), so it doesn’t look clunky when folded up and left in a corner somewhere.

Made from aluminum, steel, and beechwood, it’s a tough device for its size. The unique beechwood design of the legs not only looks amazing but also absorbs shock better than metallic materials do.

Non-slip rubber feet prevent slipping and sliding, no matter what surface you’re training on. It also features a Fast Fixing lock system, which makes it easy to attach and detach your bike, using a small lever.

Despite being compact, this trainer can work with wheels of 26 to 29 inches in size. It comes with all the necessary adaptors to use 130mm rear hub quick-release bikes and 148mm thru-axle bikes.

Elite’s unique Elastogel material on the roller reduces noise significantly, as well as preventing excessive wear and tear on your tires.

Connect to your chosen app and you’ll be able to store data, manage resistance levels or set your resistance to adjust automatically. If you don’t yet have a favorite app, you’ll be able to try out My E-Training for a full year at no cost when buying this trainer!

PROS:

  • Automatic resistance adjustment
  • Fast Fixing locking system
  • Sensorless technology
  • Compact and foldable

CONS:

  • Might feel too small and not sturdy enough for some
 

Best For Steep Climbing

7. Elite Drivo

Training for those hills? The Elite Drivo allows you to train up to a gradient of 22%, offering a versatile and comprehensive training experience.

It’s a well-built and strong device that provides extreme stability when riding. You’ll need to remove your rear wheel entirely to connect the bike to the trainer, but once it’s on there you’ll be solid as a rock.

Featuring an integrated power meter, computer-controlled resistance, and instant calibration, this trainer is ready to roll as soon as it’s set up.

You can use it in two different modes. ERG mode allows you to set a particular power level and the trainer will remain at that level no matter what you do with your gears. Simulation mode allows for changes in resistance and incline to simulate real-world conditions.

It works with bikes featuring 130 to 135mm quick-release hubs and 142mm thru-axles. If your bike is different, this trainer may not work for you.

PROS:

  • Computer-controlled resistance
  • Built-in power meter
  • Simulates slopes up to 22%
  • Wireless data transmission

CONS:

  • May not be compatible with all bikes
 

Best For Mountain Bikes

8. Garmin Tacx FLUX S Smart Trainer

If mountain biking is your thing, we recommend the Garmin Tacx FLUX S smart trainer. It’s a direct-drive trainer that’s built for hardcore training and has a large footprint, which creates a stable platform that’s safe and comfortable.

The 15.4lb flywheel adds to the weight of this trainer, and gives it a bit of oomph, with a max power of 1500 watts and a max incline of 10%. The flywheel weight can be simulated at 55lbs, which is quite a lot bigger than any other.

Resistance is provided by 8 permanent ferrite magnets and 8 electromagnets. You’ll be able to capture your speed, power, and cadence on your chosen app.

Like other Tacx devices, you can choose between ERG mode (constant, single resistance) and Simulation mode, which creates the feeling of being out in the real world.

Connect to your app and set off for a ride. You’ll gain access to Tacx training plans when you join the Tacx family.

PROS:

  • Large footprint
  • 15.4 pound flywheel
  • Quick-release skewer
  • Access to Tacx training plans

CONS:

  • No cassette included
 

Best Manual/Powered Convertible Trainer

9. Minoura Smart Turbo Kagura LST9200

Sometimes, a device that needs no external power connection is just an excellent tool to have. No electricity? No problem. This smart trainer runs entirely off of your own power, but it can be plugged into a power source if necessary.

It comes fully assembled, making it easy to get started right away. Just attach your bike, get on, and go! The magnetic resistance provides up to 2000 watts, and if you choose to use the electricity you can up it to 3000.

You can also get a gradient of up to 20%, for excellent realistic conditions. A motorized brake helps you stop quickly and effectively when necessary.

It’s small, easy to use, can be folded, and is compatible with both Bluetooth and ANT+ FE-C.

PROS:

  • No assembly required
  • Two different power modes (electric and manual)
  • Bluetooth and ANT+ FE-C compatibility
  • Simulated gradient of up to 20%

CONS:

  • Might feel too small for hardcore training
 

FAQs

Wondering how to choose the right smart trainer? Here are some of the most common questions about the best smart trainers for triathletes.

What is a Smart Trainer and How Does It Work?

A smart trainer is a small, interactive bike trainer that mimics real-life hills, surfaces, and headwinds so the rider gets a realistic and well-rounded workout.

They come in a variety of different forms, so there’s something to suit everybody, every budget, and every space. Smart trainers use third-party apps to control their movements.

Apps like Zwift, RGT Cycling, TrainerRoad, and others are set to change and control the resistance on the trainer as you ride.

This gives the user a realistic riding experience, which is made even more real by the addition of video content that makes it feel like you’re riding through a forest or town.

What Types of Smart Trainers Are There?

There are two main types of smart trainers. The one you choose is up to you! They both do the same thing, but with slightly different mechanics.

Wheel-On

Wheel-on trainers are just like they sound. You don’t need to remove your wheels at all. You simply attach your rear axle to a support and your back wheel rests on a roller to allow for movement.

The rollers are connected to a resistance unit. This unit can be controlled via your chosen app to provide an exciting riding experience.

Direct-Drive

If you choose a direct-drive trainer, you’ll need to remove your rear tire and connect your bike directly to the trainer.

These are generally more chunky than wheel-on trainers. They’re also often higher in price, but they’re sturdy and easy to use. You can do exactly the same thing whether you have a direct-drive or a wheel-on trainer.

Why Should I Train Indoors Rather Than Ride Outside?

Training outdoors is an excellent way to get some fresh air and a change of scenery. But it’s not always possible to be out and about, especially in today’s times!

Having an at-home trainer offers many advantages. For one, if the weather is bad you don’t need to skip a training session or spend an hour in the rain or cold outside.

It also offers an element of safety, especially if you only have time to train in the early hours or when it’s dark. No need to worry about reflective gear and self-defense products when you’re training in your own living room!

You can also train harder without the fear of traffic or exhaustion out in the open. This makes high-intensity sessions or training to exhaustion much easier to control and safer.

Using a smart trainer saves time too. It doesn’t take long to get your gear on and step into the bike when it’s ready and waiting for you. Make sure you buy a bike trainer mat to protect your floors.

Have you ever had one of those nights when you just can’t fall asleep? No need to lie around and be unproductive. You can get on your trainer and get in a great workout!

There’s also the added bonus of connecting with others online and being able to choose your scenery. You can even take part in national e-sports championships!

What Do You Need to Use a Smart Trainer?

If you want to use a smart trainer, you’ll need to invest in a couple of specific items. Obviously, you need a bike and a trainer!

Apart from those two, you’ll need a computer, a tablet, on a smartphone with your desired app on it. The device needs to have a Bluetooth or ANT+ connection and often a USB dongle is required too.

Good wifi is also important! If your signal is sketchy, you may find that using the trainer is more frustrating than anything as the picture lags or the movement of the bike doesn’t correspond to what you’re seeing on your app.

The Wired Runner