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Four top trainers for the winter and beyond

Virtual-ready machines for indoor fitness and fun

Canadian triathletes are the masters of indoor riding – for many of us there really aren’t any other options once the temperature drops and the snow (and ice) arrives. Which means, of course, that we need to get our indoor set up dialed in. That all starts with a bike trainer – we’ve got some suggestions for the upcoming indoor season, and beyond.

As we experienced this past spring, trainers and virtual rides aren’t just for the days when the roads are covered with snow. The trainer is an indispensable tool for all seasons. The four machines reviewed here will all patch you into your favourite training platform or app. While you might find a lot of the names familiar, they feature refinements that will make your rides on the spot even better.

Elite Direto XR


With an ability to simulate a 21 per cent grade and a whopping 2,300 watt output, the quiet direct drive Direto XR is capable of providing all the workout power for any level of triathlete. The integrated power meter is accurate to 1.5 per cent, so you can be sure of your numbers during tests or hard efforts. The Direto folds away easily and has an integrated handle so its easy to move around, too. The trainer comes fully assembled and with an 11-speed cassette (it’s compatible with 12-speed cassettes, too) – all you need to do to get started on your first ride is to attach it to a power source and put you bike on the trainer and you’re off.

Read a detailed review of the Direto XR and Elite Sterzo Smart

Tacx Neo 2T Smart


Improvements to the already popular direct drive Neo 2T make it even quieter than before, while some added power provides a better ride feel for big climbing efforts or sprints. Set up is a breeze, especially since you don’t need to calibrate the unit.  Special sensors allow you to analyze your pedal stroke easily by pairing with a Garmin Edge bike computer. Accurate to 1 per cent, the responsive Neo 2T uses dynamic inertia to provide a very realistic road feel. The foldable frame makes it easy to move around and store.

Read a detailed review of the Neo 2T Smart

Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer


The latest iteration of Wahoo’s extremely popular Kickr is more accurate and responsive than ever. Kickr Axis provides five degrees of lateral side-to-side movement so that you get much more of an outdoor feel while you’re working out, and that added movement also makes it easier to hang in for those long efforts through the winter. Automatic calibration ensures you’ll be tracking your efforts to 1 per cent accuracy. With multiple Bluetooth connection options, this virtually silent trainer serves as an outstanding training tool for Zwift, Rouvy or any other training platforms you’ll want to use to keep you fit and motivated through the winter.

Read a detailed review of the Kickr

Kurt Kinetic Road Machine Control


While direct-drive trainers are the trainers to get for virtual racing, it’s important to highlight an on-wheel trainer like the Kinetic Road Machine Control. It’s a sub-$1,000 option that can get your cruising through pixel landscapes.

Kurt says the trainer has an accuracy of +/- 3 per cent, though we measured power discrepancies of around 10-20 watts. If you already have a power meter on your bike, use its data in Zwift and leave the trainer to simulate the effects of the virtual terrain, which it does quite well, thanks in part to the 5.4-kg flywheel.

Read a detailed review of the Road Machine Control

Thanks to Cycling Magazine Canada for help with this story.