Whilst the very definition of a “pain cave” suggests isolation from the non-Zwifting portion of humanity, for many, that’s not the case.

Sure, lots of Zwifters set up in their garage or basement, but a good chunk need to have a little consideration for their family or neighbours. And nobody wants their workout interrupted by a family member crashing through the door demanding to know if a jet engine has recently been imported into the family home!

So I figured that running some noise tests on three of the premium smart trainers (the Tacx Neo, Kickr Gen 2 and Elite Drivo) might make an interesting and useful feature for the Video Version of the Zwiftcast.

This Is Real Work

It’s not as easy as you might think.  First and foremost, it means repeated quite hard efforts without the benefit of a fan and with all the windows and doors closed . . . too much risk of extraneous noise pollution muddying the results. This really was a sweat test.

Secondly, it’s technically quite a challenge. I had a camera on the trainers being tested and a second camera trained on a decibel meter. The third video source was a screen capture of the custom workout I created to test the trainers running at 250w; at 400w and at 650-700w. All three had to be precisely synced together to make sure that the composite shot of all three sources you see on the video was giving an accurate, real time picture.

Thirdly, you want the audio to be recorded in identical fashion for all the trainers. That was fairly easy. I recorded everything in the same room and used the same microphone and recording kit, making sure an X marked the spot denoting distance from the trainer and orientation towards it.

Lastly you really want to try to hit the prescribed wattages in the same gear and at the same cadence. That’s actually harder than it sounds, especially on the seventh or eighth run!  And, if I’m honest, it’s the one area of my testing protocol that could stand some improvement. In one section of the test, I allowed the Drivo to run at a higher cadence than the other trainers.

That said, I don’t believe it substantially affected the outcome of the testing. Whilst decibels are useful – they are a measure of loudness after all – this metric is not the full story. Each trainer has its own noise signature – the type and character of the noise it makes. Going to a higher wattage, even within a wide cadence range, mostly just intensifies the noise signature.

The Results

My results? – Well, it’s best you watch the video, but perhaps the stand out result for me was how much Wahoo have managed to reduce the “Kickr whine” from Gen 1 to Gen 2 of the trainer. It’s still a higher pitched noise than the other trainers, but it’s nowhere near as intrusive as it once was. And the Neo really is quiet.

Hopefully the test might help some Zwifters with at least one aspect of that agonising Which Trainer Should I Buy dilemma.