Best smart indoor trainers 2024: Top-end and entry-level models reviewed and rated

If you're after a smart turbo trainer, or just a basic one, here's our guide to every type of turbo on the market

Male cyclist riding one of the best indoor smart trainers
(Image credit: Future)

One of the greatest benefits that the best indoor trainers (whether 'smart' or 'classic') is how they allow you to get in a quality workout whatever the weather - just be sure to use a fan so you don’t end up wetter than you would outside!

We've used and reviewed a large range of turbo trainers, either as stand-alone or as part of a group test of the best entry level smart turbo trainers for Cycling Weekly magazine. Our picks below are based on real experience.

Since the advent of smart turbo trainers, there is the option to pair up with apps that immerse you in a virtual reality cycling world - rather than just setting the resistance level yourself. Our page on indoor cycling apps compared: Zwift vs TrainerRoad vs The Sufferfest directly looks at the differences between the most popular ones.

Part of the attraction of turbo trainers is that they are easy to fold up and store once you've finished your session. But if you are looking for a more permanent indoor setup, then our guide to the best exercise and best smart bikes should help you decide what sort is right for you. 

We've also looked at the alternative of rollers towards the bottom of the page and we've got a separate guide to the best bike rollers if you want more details.

Our pick of the best smart turbo trainers

You can trust Cycling Weekly. Our team of experts put in hard miles testing cycling tech and will always share honest, unbiased advice to help you choose. Find out more about how we test.

We've ridden and rated the top-selling smart trainers below, using Zwift as the virtual testing ground, taking into account their user-friendliness, functionality, features, and price for an overall score. 

We recognise that the top smart turbo trainers are a big investment, so if you are on a tight budget you'll be pleased to hear it's still possible to get a cheap Zwift setup, especially if you opt for one of the best cheap trainers out there. 

If you are totally new to indoor training, our beginner's guide to indoor cycling has everything you need to get you up and running.

Bikes attach to indoor trainers in two ways: with the 'wheel-on' type your bike is fixed to an A-shaped frame and its rear wheel drives a roller; with the 'direct drive' type you remove your bike's rear wheel and attach it directly via its dropouts to the turbo, which includes a cassette. Our wheel-on vs direct drive turbo trainers page weighs up the pros and cons of both. 

The quick list

In a hurry? Here's a brief overview of the best smart trainers on this list, along with quick links which let you jump down the page directly to the product's review.

Entry level smart indoor trainers

The best wheel-on smart trainer overall

Elite Tuo smart turbo trainer.

The Elite Tuo is a smart-looking wheel-on trainer

(Image credit: Andy Turner)
Best wheel-on smart trainer overall

Specifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth Smart open and ANT+ FE-C
Smart Max Resistance: 1300W
Max gradient simulation: 10%
Compatibility: N/A
Weight: 10.3 Kg

Reasons to buy

+
Power reads very accurately for a wheel-on smart trainer
+
ERG mode feels smooth and responsive
+
Feels stable when doing higher power efforts

Reasons to avoid

-
Sprint power is not particularly accurate

Hands down one of the smartest looking indoor trainers available, the use of wood for the legs really sets the Elite Tuo apart visually from others on the market. This is a top spec wheel-on smart trainer offering very good accuracy levels at a wide range of power outputs. No issues with wheel slippage were had during any of testing. 

Set-up was easy with the myEtraining and Upgrado apps to update the firmware and also calibrate the trainer. ERG mode was also very responsive with programmes such as Zwift and Wahoo SYSTM

There were issues with power and cadence measurements when changing intensities more rapidly or doing sprint efforts. But as an introduction to using a smart trainer with very little faff, this is a very solid option. The light weight also makes it easy to move around or fold up for storage.

Read more: Elite Tuo smart trainer review

The best entry level direct-drive trainer overall

Tacx Flux S smart turbo trainer on a white background

The Tacx Flux S performs above its middling price

(Image credit: Future)

2. Tacx Flux S

Best entry level direct-drive smart trainer overall

Specifications

Max Resistance: 1,500w
Max gradient simulation: 10%
Claimed accuracy: ±3%
Flywheel: 7kg
Weight: 22.8kg

Reasons to buy

+
Super stable
+
Very smooth on virtual climbs and in erg mode

Reasons to avoid

-
Virtual gradients and power accuracy won’t be high enough for Zwift fanatics
-
Difficult to move about

First off, this is a really great turbo trainer. But that’s what makes this one a little frustrating, as it is just so close to being the obvious go-to for pretty much everyone. But, as it is, there will be some people for whom it’s not quite the right model – let’s go though the performance.

With the heaviest flywheel on test, the Flux S also comes in as the heaviest trainer overall. Couple that with its unique footprint and you’ve got an incredibly stable platform – I’d say even potentially a little more stable than its big brother, the Tacx Neo 2T, which I tested last year.

Likewise, the resistance and ride feel of this entry-level model is impressively close to that of Tacx’s flagship trainer. Changes in gradient were fast and smooth, whilst the resistance remained steady even when climbing at a low speed and low cadence – a challenging combination for a trainer.

The erg mode coped well with even large differences in power. The resistance would ramp up quickly whilst also not crushing my cadence in the way the Zumo did. Another point of contrast is that when riding without the erg mode on or not up any virtual gradients, I was able to push a comfortable cadence at 250w with plenty of sprockets to spare – no danger of spinning out.

In terms of the virtual ride feel and stability of the turbo, this was the best on test – and is better even than some turbos at a higher price point. The Elite Direto unequivocally and, for me, also the Wahoo Kickr – but we’ll get into that in more detail later on.

In having swept up on the fundamentals, it’s fair to ask whether it goes on to clear any of the higher bars – is there any point in buying a more expensive model? Sadly, yes there is. But only for people with quite specific use cases. 

First, the accuracy. Rated at ±3% this is the same as the Zumo. But it’s worth pointing out this doesn’t meet the ±2% cut off for the upper echelons of Zwift racing. For most people, this isn’t a consideration – the majority of Zwift users aren’t racers, and it’s only a very small subsection of them who would be racing in those categories. But it’s worth being aware of.

Similarly, for challenges such as a ‘virtual’ everesting, the rules stipulate that the realism must be set to 100%. If you’re planning on using the Alpe du Zwift for your attempt, then you’re going to fall foul of ‘the rules’, as the maximum gradient there is 14%.

Again both these points won’t matter to most people, and is part of the reason why this is the trainer that we would recommend overall. But just because this trainer is so good, it is worth being aware of exactly where the limitations are, so that there aren’t any surprises. 

The other consideration is that this is not a trainer for moving about or stowing away. The legs don’t fold and it is really very heavy.

The best value entry level direct-drive trainer for accuracy

Wahoo Kickr Core smart turbo trainer on a white background

The Wahoo Kickr Core has much of the functionality of Wahoo's higher spec trainers

(Image credit: Future)

3. Wahoo Kickr Core

Best value entry level direct-drive trainer for accuracy

Specifications

Max Resistance: 1,800w
Max gradient simulation: 16%
Claimed accuracy: ±2%
Flywheel: 5.4kg
Weight: 18.0kg

Reasons to buy

+
Specs on a par with more expensive trainers
+
Ride feel especially good for midweight to lighter riders

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than others here
-
Not so stable

The Wahoo Kickr Core and the Tacx Flux S line up for a particularly interesting contrast. It’s almost like a Venn diagram, but where the two circles have been pushed together so that it’s just a thin sliver on either side where there isn’t any overlap.

We’ll blast through the fundamentals pretty quickly again because, like the Tacx Flux S, the Wahoo Kickr Core executes these so well that it’s worth spending a bit more time on the hair splitting points of differentiation.

Starting with the ride feel, I’d actually argue that the Core does better (in some aspects) than the flagship Kickr V5 I tested last year (although this model has now been surpassed by the Wahoo Kickr V6 and Wahoo Kickr Move).

How can this be? Well, my assumption is that it’s down to the weight of the flywheels. With the Kickr V5, it always felt like there was a great deal of inertia to spin up when accelerating – for me it was a little less like riding out on the open road and a little more like that of a ‘spin bike’, with their huge fixed-gear flywheels.

True, the Tacx Neo 2T itself boasts an electromagnetic flywheel that can simulate a weight of up to 125kg, but it’s not simulating that all the time, and, in my opinion, it has more of a ‘road feel’ than that of a Kickr V5. 

Coming back to the Kickr Core, with the flywheel being 5.4kg compared to the 7.3kg of the V5, the sensation of accelerations felt just that bit more natural for me. Although this should be heavily caveated with the point that if you’re a heavier rider, you might well find the opposite.

In terms of the response to sudden changes of gradient and interval sessions with large differentials of power in erg mode, the resistance changed smoothly and quickly. It also didn’t have a particular propensity to ‘death spiral’ and force you into pushing an ever lower cadence – all very good and very similar to the Kickr V5.

As mentioned, the Kickr Core does manage to hit points that the Tacx Flux S has missed. With an accuracy of ±2%, this is one of the cheaper entry points to high-end indoor racing. Plus, with a maximum gradient of 16%, you’ll be able to cut your vEveresting teeth on the Alpe du Zwift and feel every ramp. It’s also an easier trainer to move around than the Flux S and takes up less space.

However, there are points which do let it down in comparison to the Flux S. First is the stability: these two-bar designs are much less stable than three leg versions – and the Flux is particularly solid. 

Entry-level smart turbo trainers

The Jet Black trainer is easy to move around

(Image credit: Future)

4. Jet Black Volt 2

A cheaper alternative

Specifications

Max Resistance: 1,800w
Max gradient simulation: 16%
Claimed accuracy: ±2.5%
Flywheel: 4.7kg
Weight: 15.4kg

Reasons to buy

+
Reasonable specs
+
Often discounted 

Reasons to avoid

-
Choppy ride feel on virtual climbs
-
Short front bar is less stable than Kickr Core’s arrangement

Let’s get this out the way first: the Jet Black Volt 2 does look pretty similar to the Wahoo Kickr Core. Coming in at the same list price, simulating the same maximum gradient and delivering the same maximum resistance – you might start to wonder if anything is different at all.

On closer inspection, there are quite a few areas where the two trainers are distinct. The first clue is in the weight. At 15.4kg for the Jet Black Volt 2 compared to 18.0kg for the Wahoo Kickr Core, there’s obviously quite a chunk – to the tune of 2.6kg – that does vary between the trainers. 

Part of that is down to the heft of the flywheel, coming in at 4.7kg for the Jet Black – the second lightest on test – compared to 5.4kg for the Wahoo Kickr Core. The housing of the flywheel also varies between them, with the Jet Black having a bit more of a plastic covering. 

Rounding out the physical differences, the Volt 2’s legs are oval rather than circular and the front bar is fixed in place, whereas the Wahoo Kickr Core can be adjusted vertically. 

The performance is quite different as well – although this doesn’t reflect so well on the Australian brand. Riding the Volt 2 on steep virtual climbs, the resistance felt distinctly choppy. It was like pushing through treacle between two and four o’clock on the pedal stroke, but past that it would ease up significantly - almost slipping past - before ramping up again at two o’clock on the other crank arm. 

To be fair, this wasn’t an issue when pushing higher power and cadence numbers (around 270w and 90 RPM), but the 180w and the 70 RPM that I was having these problems at aren’t ridiculously low. Even the most powerful riders ride around that level when recovering between intervals – and for others this will be within their training zones.

I’m not entirely sure what the exact issue is here. You might think that it was the relatively light flywheel struggling with the steeper gradients, but the 7% inclines I first noticed the issue on were easily handled by the Elite Zumo – which has a lighter flywheel and a lower maximum gradient. 

Although, with that said, the ERG mode wasn’t as aggressive as the Elite’s and it was possible to ride without any additional resistance from climbs or the erg mode without spinning out – so the Volt 2 does have some positives over the Zumo. 

But overall, the Tacx Flux S simply has a significantly better ride feel and, in those areas where the Flux S isn’t the test leader (i.e. accuracy and gradient simulation), the Volt 2 doesn’t ‘do the double’ either and so isn’t a compelling option.

Entry-level smart turbo trainers

The Zumo was the least expensive in our four-way test

(Image credit: Future )

5. Elite Zumo

Best value entry-level direct drive trainer for stability

Specifications

Max Resistance: 1,350w
Max gradient simulation: 12%
Claimed accuracy: ±3%
Flywheel: 4.2kg
Weight: 13kg