Wheel-on trainers are what everyone rode 10 years ago. Cheaper than their direct-drive cousins, they’re also dead simple – just snug up your axle, tighten the roller to your tire, and go!
That said, direct-drive trainers are what the market is most interested in today because they’re more accurate, consistent, and deliver a more realistic feel than wheel-on trainers. So manufacturers are investing their R&D in the direct-drive side of things, which means we aren’t seeing a lot of new models or innovation in the wheel-on space.
Still, many Zwifters begin their journey with a wheel-on trainer due to affordability, so it’s worth taking a look at which wheel-on turbos are the best. Here are the top picks for wheel-on trainers, including a note explaining why certain trainers weren’t included. This list will be continually updated as new trainers are released and Zwifters continue to share their reviews.
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.
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Premium Option: Wahoo KICKR Snap Gen 2 (2017)
Far and away the most popular wheel-on smart trainer on the market, Wahoo’s KICKR Snap is the premium choice for anyone seeking the budget-friendly, keep-your-bike-intact benefits of a wheel-on trainer setup. The Snap used to be priced at $599, making it one of the most expensive wheel-on trainers available. But Wahoo lowered the price in July 2019, making it very difficult to recommend any other wheel-on trainer unless a rider is looking for the very lowest price option (see the Tacx Flow below).
The Snap has a large flywheel, giving it one of the best road feels in its class. Accuracy and max wattage also match or exceed the competition, and Wahoo’s customer support is second to none. Of course, it’s compatible with the Climb. All of these factors combine to make it difficult to recommend a wheel-on trainer besides the KICKR Snap – the only challenge is that Wahoo has a difficult time keeping them in stock!
Budget Option: Tacx Flow Smart
The cheapest smart trainer from a major maker, the Flow Smart from Tacx is a significant downgrade from the Wahoo KICKR Snap, with reduced accuracy, max wattage, and flywheel weight. But it’s also more affordable, so if budget is your #1 factor, the Flow may be the perfect way to get going on Zwift!
Two Trainers We Left Out
Kinetic was such a huge name in the indoor trainer space, but they were slow to hop aboard the smart trainer train. It appears they’re finally chugging along now, though, with their Road Machine Control and Rock and Roll Control trainers getting some good reviews, and the R1 direct-drive trainer finally making some inroads as well. Still, we’re wary of recommending the Road Machine Control above the same-priced KICKR Snap when it’s less proven and offers no significantly improved features.
The Saris M2 is a decent wheel-on offering, but with a tiny flywheel and slightly worse power accuracy than the same-priced KICKR Snap. Saris needs to drop the price on this trainer to make it competitive.
Questions or Comments?
Got trainer questions? Want to let us know what you think of our choices? Comment below!