Posted by: Ian | March 6, 2011

My new CycleOps Turbo Trainer

Shortly after breaking my wrist, once it became apparent that I can’t immediately return to road cycling, I ordered a turbo trainer from Wiggle. I chose a CycleOps because they’re a brand I trust who always get well reviewed. And I chose a JetFluid Pro rather than a magentic model because the idea of using fluid to provide resistance seems more reliable than trusting to magnets; this is confirmed, as far as I can tell, from internet user reviews. The magnetic models boast the benefit, unlike fluid models, that you can choose from a number of resistance curves to calibrate how hard you have to cycle to get to a desired speed. The CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro, which is well reviewed in Cycling Plus, has four resistance curves. Frankly, I don’t see any benefit in this when I have 10×2 gear ratios that I can freely change as I cycle.

The trainer arrived last week and I unpacked it when I got home on Friday. The manufacturers seal had already been cut open, which I took as a bad sign. Assembling it couldn’t have been easier and Paula and I did it in a few minutes. You simply replace the rear wheel skewer of the bike you’re using – in my case my Felt, for now – with a skewer that comes in the box then unfold the arms of the trainer, drop the skewer ends between a pair of cones that hold the bike in place and position the resistance unit against the bike’s back tyre. It’s easy. Less satisfactory was that the Felt was pushed up slightly on the drive side. I confirmed that the floor was dead flat – and that the bike was not – with a spirit level. It was possible to compensate for this by adjusting the far leg to be longer but this shouldn’t be necessary. Our builder, Jason, was around and he also thought that the CycleOps itself was wonky. I emailed Wiggle for their advice and also asked them why the seal was broken; I await their reply.

Another issue was that the resistance unit raises the back wheel a couple of inches or so above the front. This might be fine for the able bodied but with my broken wrist the last thing I need is to throw more weight onto my arms on the bars. CycleOps make a riser block that you can use to raise the front wheel to annul this effect; as you can see from the photo, Jason knocked me up a great custom equivalent.

Also apparent from the photo is that I tugged a rug under the bike/trainer to muffle the noise a little. Reviews claim that CycleOps trainers are quieter than other models. I’m sure that’s true (because they say it is) but it’s by no means quiet. On my first go I watched the DVD that comes with the trainer as I cycled. By “watched” I mean watched: I could barely hear it over the drone of the resistance unit. Even so, it was potentially interesting, giving a continuous reading of the bike computers from pro cyclists in a race below video coverage of the riders. I’m sure I couldn’t hope to match their cadence or whatever but it’s a nice idea for adding some structure to a session on the trainer.

On my second session I tried playing a podcast on my macbook pro. Again, even at full volume it was fully drowned out by the noise of the trainer. I switched to shuffling through music instead and that was just about okay on the louder tracks. On my session this morning I tried to listen to the same podcast (WNYC’s Radiolab) but this time using my Marshall Minor earbuds. This was fine and I could hear it perfectly, which made the session much more interesting. Next time I’ll put a mat under the bike/trainer to see if this kills some more of the noise. The mat is another accessory available from CycleOps – at £50 – but Paula has some spare gym mat sections I can use instead.

It’s difficult for me to assess the ride quality yet as I can’t rest my left arm properly on the drops, hoods or bars, let alone hold them. In particular, I can’t judge how significant the tilt to the left is until I’m symmetrical myself. Even so, I can tell already that the ride is very passably road-like and the progression of speed as I pedal harder and change gears is smooth.

I’m very much looking forward to swapping in the Astraeus in place of the Felt, if only because my CycleOps powertap wheel is on the back of my Astraeus. Currently, the Astraeus is down at Bicycle Chain who are checking the frame alignment after the crash and ordering in replacements for the broken parts. Power, which my Garmin Edge 800 will be able to show me, is the metric I’m most keen to track. The User Guide that comes with the trainer has an illustrative curve from which you’re supposed to be able to infer power from speed. I’m sceptical about how accurate this can be: for a start, I’d imagine it must depend upon what gear you’re in; moreover, if I pushed the resistance unit harder into the tyre I would surely need more power to attain/hold a given speed.

For now, I make do with cadence, heart rate, speed and calories burned. On my first session my Garmin was showing speeds of around 70 mph throughout. Before the second session I reconfigured my Garmin to take my specification of the wheel circumference rather than have the Edge work it out and since then it’s been fine.

The most notable difference in the metrics compared to road riding is how easy it is to hold a high heart rate. As the snippet here from the Garmin Training Center display shows, I held a heart rate above 170 bpm for over 40 minutes between my warm up and warm down, which I never do on the road. My nearest road equivalent is Park Loops – Loops feel a lot harder but the stats aren’t as impressive after the event. I guess it’s down to the inevitable need to slow down occasionally on the road because of turns and traffic lights, and the fact that you inevitably lose intensity on any downhill sections – and get more depleted by the uphills. The other sign that I’m working hard on the trainer is how much it makes me sweat. It’s possible that on the road the wind sweeps the sweat from you as you ride – but I never experience the drenching that I’m getting on the trainer.

Fortunately, the clinic made my cast removable so when I finish I can get myself in the bath then wash and dry off my arm inside the cast and hairdry the cast itself.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for this review, have been thinking about getting one of these too, this info helps a bunch

  2. […] break it up by riding out of the saddle, which I’m not sure is even possible on the turbo. As I wrote previously, my CycleOps JetFluid Pro is wonky, which doesn’t inspire confidence. Wiggle suggested I post […]

  3. […] breakthrough this weekend was getting my Astraeus back: putting it into the Turbo Trainer in place of the Felt brings my Powertap into play, which adds a missing dimension to my training. […]


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