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.
Now shipping with your choice of cassette plus a year of Zwift, the Core is more appealing than ever.
The Affordable Newbie: Zwift Hub One
When Zwift announced their first smart trainer, the Hub, in September 2022, it shook up the indoor training world because it was priced well below the competition. Now just $599USD with a year of Zwift, the Zwift Hub handily beats other mid-range trainers on price, while matching (or nearly matching) them on specs.
The Hub One takes it a step further, with a single-cog design and virtual shifting for smooth, effortless shifting, even under power.
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!