Your Picks: Top-Rated Wheel-On Smart Trainers for Zwifters

Your Picks: Top-Rated Wheel-On Smart Trainers for Zwifters

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.

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!

Key Specs

  • MSRP: $499.99 USD
  • Accuracy: +-3%
  • Flywheel: 10.5lb
  • Max Wattage: 1500 W
  • Max Incline: 12%

Overall Rating

(68 reviews)

Easy setup
94%
Accurate power
41%
Realistic inertia
43%
Well-built
82%
Helpful support
38%
Portable/storable
74%
Quiet
44%
Budget-friendly
84%

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!

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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Colin Peerman
Colin Peerman
10 months ago

Eric, might want to put a picture of the Snap next to the review….

Simon Whitmore
Simon Whitmore
10 months ago

Also you mention Core rather than Snap in the Flow description.. cheers

Colin Peerman
Colin Peerman
9 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Dunno, but please send some here  🍻 

David Adams
David Adams
10 months ago

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

David Cooper
David Cooper
9 months ago
Reply to  David Adams

Can definitely vouch for the Conti Hometrainer. Upwards of 5,500 miles on Zwift with mine and still going strong.

Ian M
Ian M
10 months ago

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?

David Cooper
David Cooper
9 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Or … you know … a switch.

Mr Gavin Marshall
Mr Gavin Marshall
9 months ago
Reply to  David Cooper

My tacx genius has a power switch….

David Adams
David Adams
9 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

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!

Matt
Matt
9 months ago

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.

David Adams
David Adams
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt

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.

Matt
Matt
9 months ago
Reply to  David Adams

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.

Tristen Bell
Tristen Bell
9 months ago

How can these companies market a power @ +/- 3% when its clear its no where near this?

Robert Dupuy
Robert Dupuy
9 months ago

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 »

Fred
Fred
9 months ago
Reply to  Robert Dupuy

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

JohnM
JohnM (@johnmattison)
12 days ago
Reply to  Fred

As well as that, the quarq works on your outside rides too I guess.

Fred
Fred
9 months ago

The biggest advantage that the Kinetic trainers have on other trainers is that they can take any rear spacing setup especially track bicycles..

Pat
Pat
7 months ago

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 »

AFC
AFC (@chris-kilner)
6 months ago

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.

David
David
5 months ago
Reply to  AFC

I have the M2 and agree completely..!

Enzo Bartolomei
Enzo Bartolomei
6 months ago

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 🙂

Pete Mitchell
Pete Mitchell
5 months ago

I have the Elite Novo. It is fantastic, and it only cost £260. I highly recommend it.

David
David
5 months ago

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.

David
David
5 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Duh…thank you.!

paul bennett
paul bennett
3 months ago

What about the Elite Tuo?

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