CycleOps IMG_7771

Trainers are the things we love to hate. If you’re one of those that cringe every time the temp drops because you can hear that dust covered trainer calling from behind eight months worth of basement clutter… well, there’s hope. In recent years we’ve seen the next generation of trainers emerge with a direct drive system that eliminates the tire (shredding) to roller interface with a more refined system that is intended to create a better, more realistic experience.

While placed in the highest price bracket, direct drive trainers have taken off better than many would have suspected for such a torturous device. Though partially because technology at that level allowed for ANT+ and Bluetooth integration so a number of devices and “reactive” simulators could be used to make things more entertaining, they really have put a lot of emphasis on making them feel more realistic. Ironically CycleOps, the largest trainer manufacturer, (who is under the Saris umbrella along with PowerTap), was surprisingly missing in this new category of trainers. From the looks of it, the folks at CycleOps were studying the competition and listening to feedback VERY closely and knocked this one out of the park.

Check out what they came up with and their pretty ingenious axle interface that will fit about every current & future bike. Also a video showing how freaking quiet it is (good luck hearing it over people talking). This might just be the trainer you hate to love…

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Full disclaimer: I hate really hate trainers. Over the years, I’ve bought a few and even sold two without ever taking them out of the box (good intentions and all). I’d just assume buy some foul weather gear and suffer the cold & wet before enduring even 30 irritating minutes on one. Well, times have changed, what with obligations like kids and yard work narrowing down my ride times. Fortunately, so have trainers. And not just the trainers, but interactive simulators like those from Zwift to make suffering kinda fun.

CycleOps’ new Hammer direct drive trainer attaches to your bike similar to other trainers on the market, but with a few very well thought out tricks up its sleeve. One biggie is that it will fit virtually every worthy bike regardless of axle system so you can choose something other than your prized carbon road whip to sweat all over.

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They stuffed a 20lb precision balanced flywheel (which is the heaviest to be used in a trainer… ever!) in the unit to best replicate real world inertia. They had Skratch Labs founder and all-around man of science, Dr. Allan Lim, on hand to explain why inertia is important, and how the 20lb provides a best in class real-world feel because of the natural inertia it provides.

“Most trainers with a small (or no) flywheel make you feel like you’re riding through sand because without enough inertia, it slows the bike down too much (especially at the weak point of the pedal stroke) causing that sinking feeling. The 20lb flywheel’s inertia keeps things moving for a longer period of time preventing your speed from bogging down too quickly.”

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The Hammer direct drive trainer, despite having a 20lb flywheel weighs in at only 46lbs which is lighter than some of the competition using about half that amount of flywheel, and even those with none at all.

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The hammer is super portable and folds into an easy-to-store shape. With a flick of a switch, the legs quickly swing to create a very compact 31 x 18.5 inch footprint.

Cycleops hammer Wheel block

One really smart piece was the front wheel stabilizer. This was a 3D printed prototype, but it’s designed to simply slide under the unit and when the legs are folded in, the legs “grab” the notches on the side attaching it to the unit during transportation. Even better, for bikes with disc brakes, a pad spacer snaps into the bottom of the wheel stabilizer so you’ll always have it with you, (and not mess up the spacing when you grab the brakes during a simulated group ride).

Cycleops hammer Axle inserts

CycleOps really did a great job designing how the Hammer interfaced with the various axle standards currently adorning the rear of bikes, and left room for future standards. The trainer comes with threaded caps that screw onto the trainer’s “hub” so you simply take your wheel off and attach it to the trainer using the existing thru-axle or QR your bike came with. They currently work with 130 – 148mm QR/thru-axles.

No, their system won’t fit a fat bike… but that wouldn’t make sense as “trainer season” is the time of year fat bikes are supposed to roll! (and how many Fatbikers have enough money left over for a trainer after buying beer)?

Cycleops and Zwift

Also on hand were Zwift co-founder Scott Barger and their VP of partnerships (and 1992 World Champion in Individual Pursuit Mike McCarthy) to really put in perspective how “fun” riding the new Hammer is along with their interactive & social training programs (Zwift in on the left). I’ve tinkered with a couple of interactive trainers and some times the setup is as frustrating as the “ride”. CycleOps’ Virtual Training (CVT) App (right) and software is simple and easy to get started, and although effective and entertaining on it’s own, the unit has ANT+ FE-C & Bluetooth SMART so it will work with all existing sensors & power meters along with most popular virtual training software apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, Sufferfest’s app, etc.

The Hammer is capable of simulating up to a 20% incline and 2000 watts at 20mph which should challenge even the most hardcore indoor cyclists.

One stand out feature is its silence. It’s really quiet! It only produces 64 decibels at 20mph so you could watch TV without headphones or hear your spouse yelling downstairs that it’s their turn. I attempted to give you an example of how quiet it is, but even at close proximity, it was hard to hear it over people talking 6 feet away.

Cycleops hammer Specs 1

Like their other trainers, CycleOps’ Hammer ($1,199), will be manufactured at their Madison, Wisconsin, headquarters and should be available around late Summer or early fall just in time for indoor trainer season.

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Since the Tour of California kicks off this weekend in San Diego, the CycleOps sponsored Trek Segafredo team, (formerly Trek Factory), were on hand to meet fans and most were eager to put the hammer down on… well, the Hammer!

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Saris founder Chris Fortune gets feedback from Trek Segafredo team member Markel Irizar who, like most (myself included), grinned when trying out the unit.

So how does if feel? Well, taking off, is not that different from starting out on the actual road. If you’re in a smaller cog, it is just as hard winding things up to get going (and you can’t lift the rear up to cycle up a few cogs to get it where you need it). Once moving, I had Scott from Zwift take me through a short course that was initially going down a hill. I literally took a few pedal strokes and it coasted like it should going down a hill. Scott hit a button on the app turning me around and then things kicked in. A slight incline was no big deal, but at a bridge crossing, there was a dip that seamlessly reduced the effort for a second before hitting a steeper grade to which the unit increased the resistance. The unit’s electro-magnetic resistance in combination with the 20lb flywheel was impressively smooth. Even when going up the slight incline at a decent rate of speed, if I coasted for a bit and picked it right back up, it did’t give me that heavy bogged down feeling. When you’re doing a long climb and getting close to full fatigue, that “pause” on a typical trainer can be the death of your session. Here, it provided just enough respite, just as it would on a real ride.

Though maybe a little late to the gate, the CycleOps Hammer’s feel, easy setup, compact design, and broad compatibility took most of people’s complaints (except price) and provided a solution. We’re looking forward to getting our hands on one early on to give you a better impression of how it performs during continued use, so stay tuned. Retail availability comes this fall.

CycleOps.com

35 COMMENTS

  1. $1200 gets you a nice year long membership to many gyms/fitness studios. That is my biggest complaint. While interactive, quiet, and all that is cool, it just seems a bit cost prohibitive except for the most diehard cycling nerds.

    • Core strength and general fitness is important, but nothing prepares you for miles on the bike like… miles on the bike. And cycling apps like Zwift and Trainer Road with a smart trainer make indoor miles more palatable during bad weather, when the kids are asleep, before sunrise, etc.

    • But that’s who this his marketed at, the diehard cyclists. I have a Wahoo Kickr and love it. A gym membership for a year isn’t going to do what the Kickr does.

    • I’ve had my CompuTrainer (another type of smart trainer) for about six years and it has gotten a beating every winter. For people who know they will use them it is much better value than renting gym time, especially when your schedule is erratic and you fit in rides whenever you can.

      • Agreed Duane. Not to mention that with programs like Zwift you can get great workouts while also connecting with other riders from around the world. The community is not easily matched in gyms. I know spin classes are similar, but many veer off the true riding experience for a different style of workout

        Add to that the convenience of doing a workout at home, anytime that is convenient without the need to travel to a gym. It is an easy choice (trainer vs gym) for me. That’s why I have motion rollers, fluid trainer and electronic trainer to do all the various workouts that I like.

        Depending on the reviews, I may grab a hammer to replace my PowerBeam Pro.

    • I agree. A gym membership is much more valuable. Even with these virtual training tools, two hours is two hours on a boring indoor trainer. I’d rather save my $1000 and keep my magnetic trainer for shorter interval type bursts that are better at building endurance anyway (see latest research that more slow miles = slow times in racing season). I’d rather swim and lift weights and mix it up. That’s what off season is for. I would burn out if all I did was ride. If this is your thing, however, than knock yourself out

  2. hey rhodes, aren’t we all cycling nerds? thats what keeps the industry going all of us including yourself buying sh*t that at least one other person says is nerd bait. personally i would never spend that money on a trainer, it would be better to move to a better part of the country to ride all year than sit looking at a video in the basement. On the other hand looking at a group ride video on big screen would be a superior way to ride all winter than looking at a bunch of non cycling weirdos at the local spin class.

    • This looks very promising and $1,200 is not that much considering I have $30-40K worth of bicycles laying around, a beautiful home gym and two young kids keeping me busy and I still race, be it less then a decade ago. I train 5:30-7:00 am regularly all year round, indoor or out. This is not a toy nor is a silly spin class replacement. This is a serious device that plays with a revolution of new 3rd party SW services like Zwift that let you indoor cycle and train at any level imaginable from fun loving to full on pro.

      I used Zwift for the second half of my winter and quickly adjusted my training plan. I have been using their workouts and open rides and have met people from all over the world. its cool. I use a Cyclops Fluid trainer and various bikes with power meters (each power meter alone is $600-$1800 never mind the price of the bike).

      This looks like the winner over the Wahoo Kicker, the Tacx Neo and the others. As long as the reviews come in positive, I simply want one and I’ll be on it 8-12 hours a week all winter long and yes now I even train indoor once a week in summer just to hit my power workouts just right.

      Sweet!

  3. as long as a trainer weighs about one fifth of my _entire_ possessions (including windsurfing and kitesurfing equipment and TWO bikes, one folding, one cyclocross), this is a no-go. 2kg would be borderline acceptable. Why does the flywheel have to be a massive piece of metal? Couldn’t a disc-shaped container filled to the brim (so no sloshing occurs) with water do the same? And then, if you move to another location, you just let out the water, and it weighs next to nothing…

    • Water in a disk shape container won’t work because the water would stay stationary while the disk moved. So then you have to add internal fins, which is how fluid resistance trainers work. Fluid resistance trainers still don’t feel like riding on the road. It’s just difficult to replicate the feel of inertia without using a large piece of metal.

      • In theory that can be done.

        You just need chambers within the fluid container so as to prevent sloshing/movement of fluid as the “disc” spins. It will work just as solid flywheel would.

        Problem really is the density of water/conventional fluids. Steel/Iron is 8 times the density. So to get a 20lb flywheel, the fluids container would need to be 8 times the volume. Not really viable.

        You could alternatively use fine sand as a filler but it wouldn’t provide the flexibility/convenience of water which can be drained and refilled easily nearly anywhere. (Unless you live right at the beach or amongst the desert sand dunes though. 🙂 )

  4. Very cool but I am waiting for the new trainers from Elite. I know they will have something that will blow this out of the water.

  5. Who else but cycling nerds would be cruising the pages of Bike Rumor? While I can’t comment on the Cycling Op’s unit I can tell you my Kickr is a pretty awesome tool for structured workouts. And with the various apps that you can use with it (Zwift, Trainer Road, The Sufferfest, Peloton, etc, etc), its incredibly entertaining as well. About a 1000 times more enjoyable and engaging than droning away on a dumb trainer….and all from the comfort of your home.

    • That doesn’t even make sense. Have you tried a structured workout on a trainer like this? As someone that lives in a northern climate, I can hop on my Wahoo Kickr after work and get a great, efficient workout in.

      • @Alan, agreed. That was such silly comparison that makes no sense whatsoever.

        I love rollers, but an etrainer is a much different beast when combined with Zwift, TrainerRoad or similar software. It transforms indoor riding to a much better experience.

    • I have done tons of structured workouts on rollers for years and year that I designed using my Garmin 510 and my bikes power meters. Once I tried Zwift, I thew all that shit out and started using their library and back to my fluid trainer just so I don’t Crash out while watching zwift. Still user rollers with Zwift too. Now am parked on front of my TV in the gym not my mirror (best for rollers) And I ride in 25 deg winters at night on my MTB with lights

      I also love the new generation of indoor training and am getting a direct drive indoor trainer, probably this one for this fall and never looking back.

      Do it ALL!

      En of my rant.

  6. Interesting that they introduced this now. Most trainers seem to be introduced in the fall.

    Regardless, this looks like good competition for Tacx and Wahoo, and $1200 U.S. made puts it in the ballpark. I’ll strongly consider one of these or a Neo later in the year.

    • It’ll be interesting to see how accurate their power numbers are. Looking forward to the full DCRainmaker treatment when these are publicly available.

  7. Big flywheel and an electro brake, nothing particularly innovative about that. Neo streets ahead (virtual flywheel etc.)

    • A certain number of Neo units come with a “box of loose rocks” sound and burned ozone smell (fried electronics). Seem to be some serious QC issues. Hopefully you wouldn’t wind up having to pay for overseas shipping if you had to return one.

      And I really don’t know how the “virtual flywheel ” is any better. It doesn’t have the same road feel, and it weighs more than flywheel smart trainers (the Neo basically consists of giant motor windings/magnets to generate resistance). I was hugely disappointed in the Neo, especially at a 50% higher price. “Technology for technology’s sake.”

  8. It sounds like a room full of people talking when you ride it? I’m not sure how I feel about that. Is there an outdoor sounds setting too? 😉
    In all seriousness, a sound test video in a quiet room, would be better serving.

    The info pic says “PowerTuned using PowerTap technology for accurate power readings” Is there an actual power measurement device in the unit (which it should coming from CycleOps), or is it just simulated power?

  9. I have the Tacx Neo. Two features that this has that the Neo doesn’t is a handle and simple axle conversions. The Neo axle adaptors looks like an after thought. Direct drive changed my training!

  10. I will buy a cycleops trainer forever as long as they make one with the feature set I need. Their customer service is amazing. They replaced my trainer I had for 7 years without question. They earned a customer for life.

  11. Can’t wait to see these units used in a few years for a much more reasonable price. Hell you can get a nice bike for $1200. Just can’t wrap my head around cycling prices these days.

  12. Good to see more competition in this market!
    Despite what the detractors say, I think the price is reasonable. As a Cat2 racer who needs to put in a lot of training kms in the winter to keep pace in the spring/summer/fall, I justified a Kickr last fall and its more than paid for itself.

    These expensive trainers made long trainer rides bearable (I previously could only force myself through 40-60 mins) and much more efficient and effective through programs like Zwift and TrainerRoad. I probably spent 3-4x as long on my trainer this year than ever before, and the cost for one year is less than what most of my competitors spent on coaching, group spin sessions, or gym memberships for the year…..and I’ll still have my trainer for subsequent years!

    • Amen! I’m a Cat 3 and racing less these days but once I discovered Zwift, my frequent 60 min indoor sessions turned into 90 or more min with a max for me of 3 hours this winter. What and eye opener. I’m fine with $$ on a quality trainer and can’t wait to score one of these.

  13. This looks very well designed. I always wondered why nobody put a proper sized flywheel on a trainer. Especially like how quite it is. I think this will be my next trainer.

    • Indeed. There are plenty of $150-$400 options when looking for a “Standard” trainer.

      I don’t get why people think a complex training tool with expensive tooling and electronics should be “cheaper”. They have no idea what it takes to design, make and sell something like this.

      They must be spoiled by cheap electronics in other areas that are made in the millions, which really drops the pricing when you hit a scale like that. Trainers like this sell in far fewer numbers and that makes the pricing what it is.

      If they are so sure it could be done cheaper, they are welcome to enter the market and dominate sales if it is so easy.

  14. A true direct drive trainer, compatible with most axles, quieter, ant+ with BLE, and one of the best companies out there for customer support. There are no downsides here. The price is pretty decent for the feature set.

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