Wheel-on trainers are what everyone rode before Zwift arrived. More affordable 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 much innovation in the wheel-on space.
Still, many Zwifters begin their journey with a wheel-on trainer due to affordability, so it’s worth looking at which wheel-on turbos are the best. Here are the top picks for wheel-on trainers, including a note explaining why specific trainers were omitted.
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.
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, then again in late 2022 to match the market price of other popular wheel-on trainers.
The Snap has a large flywheel, giving it the best road feel 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.
3-Way Tie for 2nd
With Wahoo lowering their price on the KICKR Snap, it’s hard to recommend other wheel-on trainers in the same price range but with inferior features.
That said, wheel-on trainer pricing has been all over the place recently, and manufacturers selling well below MSRP has become the norm. Because of this, you may be able to find a non-Snap wheel-on trainer for a great price, making it a smart buy.
Here are three trainers with similar specs which we consider to be tied for 2nd place:
Questions or Comments?
Got trainer questions? Want to let us know what you think of our choices? Comment below!