Your Picks: the Best Direct-Drive Smart Trainers Under $900

Your Picks: the Best Direct-Drive Smart Trainers Under $900

Direct-drive smart trainers provide the most enjoyable Zwifting experience since they are quieter and more accurate than wheel-on trainers. Of course, they’re also pricier!

After several years of trainer development and iterative improvements, the direct-drive trainer market is now broken up into two groups. The budget group is priced below $900USD, with power accuracy in the +-2% range and max wattage around 2000W. The premium group comes with higher prices but increased accuracy, power, and reliability.

Here are the top picks for budget direct-drive trainers, in no particular order. In our view, none of these trainers is better than the other – they each excel for different reasons. Buy the one that does what you need it to do!

About Our Selections

Thanks to almost 1000 reviews in our Smart Trainer Index, we’re able to crunch numbers and share crowdsourced buying advice on smart trainers. The trainers below were selected based on overall ratings, total number of reviews, and several other factors. This list will be continually updated as new trainers are released and Zwifters continue to share their reviews.

The Proven Platform: Wahoo KICKR Core

Easily the most popular trainer on this list, Wahoo’s KICKR Core has been around since mid-2018, proving itself in the pain caves of Zwifters everywhere. Similar in feel to Wahoo’s generation 3 (2017) Wahoo KICKR (both have the same 12lb flywheel) but with a smaller footprint, the Core is also compatible with the Climb, which is a big selling point for some.

It doesn’t ship with a cassette, but if you’re looking for a trainer backed by industry-leading support, Wahoo is the way to go.

Key Specs

  • MSRP: $899.99 USD
  • Accuracy: +-2%
  • Flywheel: 12lb
  • Max Wattage: 1800 W
  • Max Incline: 16%

Overall Rating

(101 reviews)

Easy setup
92%
Accurate power
73%
Realistic inertia
69%
Well-built
83%
Helpful support
42%
Portable/storable
29%
Quiet
86%
Budget-friendly
45%

The Easy Choice: Elite Suito

When Elite announced the Suito in mid 2019, it was big news for a few reasons: its price was lower than other mid-budget direct drive trainers, it was super-portable, and it was dead-simple to set up since it shipped with a cassette installed.

Now after over a year on the market, the Suito has proven itself as a solid trainer for the money. While it’s known for being a bit less responsive than other trainers in this category, the low price and ease of setup make this a winner for anyone looking to get into a direct drive trainer as painlessly as possible.

Key Specs

  • MSRP: $849.99 USD
  • Accuracy: +-2.5%
  • Flywheel: 3.5kg/7.7lbs
  • Max Wattage: 1900 W
  • Max Incline: 15%

Overall Rating

(45 reviews)

Easy setup
93%
Accurate power
31%
Realistic inertia
24%
Well-built
69%
Helpful support
22%
Portable/storable
78%
Quiet
56%
Budget-friendly
67%

The Dark Horse: Tacx Flux 2 Smart

Judging by inventory availability, the Flux 2 Smart is the least popular of our three picks. But it’s a solid trainer with the beefiest specs of the bunch: the largest flywheel and the highest max wattage.

While the Flux 2 doesn’t ship with a cassette or fold up for easy storage, it beats the popular KICKR Core on specs while matching it on price. (It’s also a bit noisier, to be fair!)

Questions or Comments?

Got trainer questions? Want to let us know what you think of our choices? Comment below!

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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thisisthematt
thisisthematt (@thisisthematt)
11 months ago

Suito isn’t looking great on the accuracy score, could be interesting if a bunch of people pick them up for racing.

James
James
11 months ago
Reply to  thisisthematt

Interesting to see the accuracy score quite low. I’ve had my Suito for a year, and it was very slow to respond for the first eight months or so. Then, I realized Elite has a separate app for updating the trainer. Did some updates, and now it’s way more accurate. I wonder if a lot of those people don’t know they can update it to fix the power issue?

leprechaun
leprechaun
8 months ago
Reply to  James

Exactly, James. I got my Suito a month ago and while it’s indeed a bit slow to respond, the accuracy is pretty good – I got it already updated, probably.

KarstenT
KarstenT
8 months ago
Reply to  thisisthematt

I would agree on the comments re accuracy of the Suito, it definitely doesn’t feel like 39%. I was initially doubting the accuracy and felt that it showed around 10% lower power than my Assioma Duo power meters, but after I sent in comparison data to Elite they said it’s a match. I am now using power from the Suito directly instead of my power meter pedals. Still feel I am getting a 5-10% discount versus what I had on a Keiser M3i in the gym and what I get on my SRAM power spider when riding outdoors for a… Read more »

Neil coles
Neil coles
11 months ago

Tacx as a dark horse? It’s Garmin…the commercial giant of the bunch. It’s only lower users because they try and price everything higher than specs. Still..a decent trainer despite lousy service

Andrew Bennett
Andrew Bennett (@benneaf)
6 months ago

What about the Kurt Kinetic R1? They’ve cut the price down to $699. I know it’s not as accurate or as quiet as some, but it’s $699 and you don’t need a rocker platform. Thoughts?

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