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3 Smart Trainers for Less Than $1000

Photo: Oliver Baker

Get more out of your indoor riding with these brainy trainers.

Smart trainers are becoming more reliable, more connected, and less-expensive than ever before. Power readings combined with popular programs like Zwift, TrainerRoad, Bkool, Strava, and Kinomap can add fun to your challenging indoor sessions. Here’s the lowdown on three different options so you can find the best fit for your pain cave.

Bkool Smart Pro 2

$590; Bkool.com

The draw: Simple setup with tons of value

Bkool’s Smart Pro 2 has the same features as trainers twice its price: decent power max (1,200 W, and slopes up to 20% grade), quiet design, and excellent feedback from virtual platforms. The Smart Pro 2 also simulates inertia in virtual environments, which gives a very unique road feel. The set up was one of the easiest of the group with an incredibly strong ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart signal. We also loved the design and the included virtual software—which included a year of premium Bkool subscription that
gives Zwift’s popular platform a run for its money. Sometimes we felt the wheel slip with sudden efforts, but it seemed to improve over time.

RELATED – Mind Blown: Tacx’s New Smart Trainer is Also a Treadmill

Stac Zero

$480; Staczero.com

The draw: Silent, no-wear design

The Stac Zero uses a magnetic field to create resistance (but does not respond to virtual environments— adding resistance when you virtually turn uphill, for example) and measure power on your aluminum rim (sorry, no carbon rims allowed). Ideal for apartment dwellers and people who don’t like cranking their TV volume to 11, Stac’s design delivers an almost entirely silent experience without any wear on your rim or tire. Powered via a rechargeable battery, the Zero is also a good choice for race-morning warm-ups. Even after installation of the included wheel weight, the road feel was still slightly unrealistic compared other trainers in the category. Also, Stac’s reliance on the position of the rim magnets
to provide resistance and the lack of bundled software made consistency a bit of a question mark.

RELATED: Smart Vs. Regular Trainers

Elite Direto

$900; Elite-it.com

The draw: Rock-solid, direct drive

Regarding road feel and strong, sturdy design, the Direto is king. After installing a cassette and strapping your frame onto it, this trainer feels more like a high-end spin bike than a bike/trainer setup. The wide base, coupled with the direct-drive design, makes the Direto the ideal bike for hard, sudden efforts on virtual platforms with road feedback or pedaling analysis via the bundled software. While the Direto doesn’t wear on your wheels or tires, bear in mind you’ll want to get an inexpensive dedicated cassette to avoid the hassle of constant swaps. Note: Elite’s training software feels beta compared to other offerings, with few unpaid features and others not yet available.

RELATED: How to Smash Indoor Training Sessions Like a pro Cyclist