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!
Regardless of the wheel-on trainer you select, you will have better results if you use a trainer-specific tire on the bike such as the Continental Hometrainer. The rubber compound sticks better to the trainer so there is less slipping at higher resistance
Can definitely vouch for the Conti Hometrainer. Upwards of 5,500 miles on Zwift with mine and still going strong.
As the owner of a second hand Snap (g2), I have been unsettled by one thing. No power button or auto off as far as I can tell. Ive been unplugging it after every ride. The short lead on the trainer doesnt invite a 2 hand operation and Im worried that yanking the cord repeatedly is going to lead to a failure later on. Am I alone here?
No trainer has a power button or auto off. Even the most expensive ones!
Best bet is a wifi smart power strip so you can turn it (and your fans!) off easily from your phone: https://amzn.to/3mRznga
Or … you know … a switch.
Sure, David Cooper… except I like to be able to turn fan(s) on and off while riding. Smart strip makes it easy to do that.
My tacx genius has a power switch….
Dang, Eric, that power strip makes my beanie spin! I mean, I already have “Alexa, turn on the fan”, but that takes it to a new level! Thanks for the link!
Yipes! Wrong number in the code. Fixed.
Jimmeny Christmas, what was I drinking when I published this? Fixed!
Dunno, but please send some here 🍻
QUESTION: does Snap take cadence into account in measuring power?
I have a Snap and external cadence but power measurement doesn’t seem to respond to cadence changes in the way my Asiamo pedals on my outdoor bike do.
I doubt it’s factored in, but even if inaccurate there, I still love it. Great trainer for somebody who’s not a bike racer in need of super precise performance.
I might be wrong on this, but… The devices measure torque in different ways. Your pedals measure the input torque from you by measuring the force you put on a pedal. In that way, changing gears changes the amount of force you put on the pedals which instantly translates to torque. When measuring at the wheel, or even with a direct-drive trainer, the momentum of the rotating flywheel maintains a more consistent torque output. The difference between the pedals and trainer measurement is greatest when comparing behavior between pedaling and coasting.
Thanks. I guess I’m also talking about the fact that higher cadence can also produce higher power. So when I downshift on a climb, I’m definitely not putting same torque on pedals, but the increased cadence shows up in a higher wattage. It seems like that’s missing on my Snap.
How can these companies market a power @ +/- 3% when its clear its no where near this?
The question is spend $370 on a toy that you’ll hate, or $750 for a direct drive trainer. Why am I so sure some folks will hate the choice of a wheel-on trainer, well your power will be overestimated. All your speed and accomplishments in Zwift can be attributed to the inaccruate power readings, and not your athletic accomplishment. You are only marginally in a different situation than using zpower and a dumb trainer. Oh don’t get me wrong, I was happy with my wheel-on trainer for six months or so and the main reason I junked it, is it… Read more »
Allow me to retort, I’ve been using a smart wheel on trainer for more then 4 years with no problems. I bought a quarq power meter and a wahoo snap for cheaper then I could have a wahoo kicker. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a wheel on trainer if you can set it up correctly. https://youtu.be/waV9l2wMANM
As well as that, the quarq works on your outside rides too I guess.
The biggest advantage that the Kinetic trainers have on other trainers is that they can take any rear spacing setup especially track bicycles..
Hello Eric and thanks for all the awesome content. I currently ride a kickr snap which I’ve had since January, 2018. It still works fine and I’ve been happy with it the entire time I have owned it. I have done plenty of harder routes (such as the Alpe) on it and plan on tackling your couch to route program this winter. Is it worth it for me to upgrade to a direct drive trainer since I’ll be riding harder/longer routes or should I just ride my snap til it dies? Its hard for me to resist wahoo’s 0 down… Read more »
In my experience, people who upgrade from wheel on to direct drive are very happy they did. For me it was a night and day difference and such a better ride feel. If you’ve got the funds, I would upgrade and sell the Snap.
For those using an Apple TV with limited Bluetooth channels, the Saris M2 has the advantage of sending power, control, and cadence on a single channel, whereas the Snap still needs a separate cadence sensor and channel. The M2 lets you get cadence and use a HR monitor without needing a Companion bridge… a big plus for the Saris M2 in my book.
I have the M2 and agree completely..!
My first one was a Snap and I must say, I will never regret buying that. It probably isn’t the most realistic, but I’m v happy to ride with it 🙂
I have the Elite Novo. It is fantastic, and it only cost £260. I highly recommend it.
Not sure why it wasn’t reviewed here but I ended up buying the Saris M2; Initially I had a real hard time getting it to sync with Zwift but after a firmware update, it works fine.
See “Two Trainers We Left Out” section near the bottom….
What about the Elite Tuo?
Hasn’t been available/used/reviewed enough to make our cut yet!
Dying for a “what to use when traveling” trainer…like if not by car not my own bike. So took my saris fluid 2 and this was unlike me didn’t check nah my hosts folding bikes (I’m being SUPER flexible here) 6 inch gap to roller (have the speed/cadence wahoo sensors and iPad). If driving whole way no problem whatever take bike kickr heck climb. Snap is enormously heavy too so not much help here. I think need to get “dumb” “Omnium over drive” progressive renaissance roller clamps FRONT axle and tons of axle options for front, 14 lbs has own… Read more »
And you don’t rank the Computrainer because?…
Because they haven’t made a trainer in over 5 years!
What about a review on Elite models please?
Premium one now sells cheaper than the budget option… May be time to review and update?
Good shout. Updated!