Indoor training is great, but technology can be difficult – Cords, Bluetooth, direct drive, ANT+, BLE… It can quickly become overwhelming. And then there’s the question of direct drive trainer vs. wheel-on trainers. What’s the difference, and is a direct drive trainer worth the investment?
Here we’ve compiled a list of Zwift compatible trainers – both direct drive and wheel-on options, plus rollers and indoor smart bikes – to help you decide which might be best for you.
Wheel-off trainers that automatically match their resistance to match the terrain, gradient, and target power of your ride. As a bonus, the resistance is adjustable, so you can just as easily turn the 'smart' factor off and ride at your own pace.
Our guides to the best turbo trainers include a host of great Zwift compatible trainers and explains the differences between the various types of turbo trainer.
Of course, you don't necessarily need a Zwift compatible trainer to supercharge your indoor cycling setup and ride on Zwift, you can make do with a speed sensor. Our guide to the cheapest Zwift setup explains exactly what you need, and as the name suggests, the cheapest ways to achieve it. We've also explained how to get Zwift with a power meter and a dumb trainer, which comes with the added bonus of taking your training outdoors with the same power data as you get in Watopia.
Direct drive Zwift compatible trainers
The most popular trainer on Zwift
RRP: £999.99 / $1,199.99 | Accuracy: : +/- 1 per cent | Max simulated grade: 20 per cent | Max power: 2200W
The most popular trainer on Zwift since 2018, the Wahoo Kickr looks good and feels good. The latest versions are accurate to +/- one per cent power, and can handle up to 2200 watts. The Kickr’s carefully crafted design gives it an industry-leading ride feel, saving your legs and making the transition from indoor riding to outdoor almost seamless. The Kickr also offers a variety of compatible accessories to truly transform your indoor riding experience – the Climb, Headwind, and Axis (coming soon) which offers five degrees of lateral side-to-side movement to help simulate the conditions of outdoor riding.
Best for those wanting quiet operation
RRP: £849.99 / $999.99 | Accuracy: +/- 2 per cent | Max simulated grade: 20 per cent | Max power: 2000W
While the Saris H3 is the cheapest of the high-end smart trainers, you could hardly tell based on its metrics and field test performances. The H3 is quiet – rated at 59 decibels at 20mph – and can handle up to 2000 watts and an ultra-steep 20 per cent climbing grade. The sleek design is easy to set up, and compatible with a wide array of bikes. The H3 measures speed, cadence and power, which means no external sensors are required to get you set up and riding on Zwift.
Tacx Neo 2T
The one with the most tricks up its sleeve
RRP: £1,199 / $1,399 | Accuracy: +/- 1 per cent | Max simulated grade: 25 per cent | Max power: 2200W
An ultra-smart setup used by some of the top professional teams in the world. The Tacx NEO 2T is the most expensive of the lot, but with high cost comes high quality. There is no calibration required for the NEO 2T which accurately measures power, speed, and cadence to within one per cent. The trainer can also handle up to 2200 watts of power and a 25 per cent gradient, while also remaining one of the quietest trainers on the market.
Another unique feature is the NEO 2T’s Road Feel, which interacts with virtual cycling apps to simulate the conditions of riding on varying road surfaces, meaning it rumbles over surfaces such as gravel or cobblestones. It can also be run without a power cord, although some of that great road feel are lost like this.
Simply put: The Tacx NEO 2T is a top-of-the-line smart trainer that comes with the extra cost.
The budget direct drive option
RRP: £649.99 / $799.99 | Accuracy: +/- 2.5 per cent | Max simulated grade: 15 per cent | Max power: 1900W
The best budget option for your indoor smart trainer setup, the Elite Suito even comes with a cassette and is ride-ready straight out of the box. The Suito only sacrifices a bit of quality in its power accuracy (+/- 2.5 per cent) and its ability to simulate up to a 15 per cent grade is bettered by most. But the rest of the unit is right on par with its competitors, measuring cadence, speed, and power, connecting to all the necessary ride accessories and apps, and remaining as quiet as can be in a deceivingly-boxy setup that is portable and easy to store.
There are cheaper direct drive options out there, but we've chosen to include the Elite Suito as this one packs a real punch in terms of the features you get for your spend.
Wheel-on Zwift compatible trainers
Affordable indoor trainers that turn your outdoor bike into a stationary one, with a fixed resistance during the ride that is often set by the tightness of a drum after you affix your bike to the trainer.
Kinetic Road Machine Control
The best for those on a tight budget
RRP: £379.00 / $499.00 | Accuracy: +/- 3 per cent | Max simulated grade: 10 per cent | Max power: 1800W
Wheel-on trainers may sacrifice some road feel and power accuracy (i.e. tyre slippage at higher wattages), but the lower price points make them appealing to a wider audience. The Kinetic Road Machine comes with a 12lb flywheel which gives it the most inertia of any wheel-on trainer – this is great for training and overall ride feel, but it also makes the Road Machine a bit heavy and difficult to transport. Like most wheel-on trainers, the Road Machine sacrifices some power-reading accuracy (+/- three per cent) compared to direct-drive trainers, but they do come at twice the cost.
Wahoo Kickr Snap
The easiest wheel-on trainer to set up
RRP: £429.99 / $499.99 | Accuracy: +/- 3 per cent | Max simulated grade: 12 per cent | Max power: 1500W
What separates the Kickr Snap from its competitors is its ability to connect to both the Kickr Climb and Headwind. Even on its own, the Kickr Snap probably has the best ride feel of the wheel-on bunch, and the Climb and Headwind only add to the effect. On-par with its wheel-on competitors, the Kickr Snap has a power measurement accurate up to +/- 3 per cent.
Zwift compatible rollers
Freeform indoor riding that’s as close as it gets to riding on the road. Rollers require a bit of extra balance and concentration, giving them a nice real-world feel, but also making it more difficult to execute high-powered intervals.
Elite Arion Mag
Best for free riding on Zwift
RRP: £299.99 / $399.95 | Accuracy: N/A | Max simulated grade: 0% | Max power: 520W
The gold standard for indoor smart rollers, the Elite Arion Mag is quicker and easier to set up than any indoor trainer. With indoor rollers, you simply adjust the length to fit your wheelbase, jump on and start pedalling. The rollers also offer a more complete riding experience, since you need to balance in order to stay on and keep riding. Getting out of the saddle feels much better too, as you’re able to rock the bike back and forth as you would outside. No matter how high-tech and adjustable various trainer accessories are, they will never quite be able to replicate the ride feel of rollers.
Roller riding is simply a more complete workout – however, you can’t really adjust the gradient on rollers (at least not by much), and rollers typically have a lower power ceiling – the Arion Mag’s is 520 watts – making it much more difficult to practice sprints and explosive anaerobic efforts, never mind the extreme concentration required to avoid flying off the rollers. Lastly, the power reading on the Arion Mag tends to be quite inaccurate, especially at higher power outputs. All in all, smart rollers are great for indoor riding with a real feel, but not great for workouts or Zwift races.
Zwift compatible indoor smart bikes
Purpose-built indoor training machines with all the perks of high-end smart trainers, but at an extra cost.
Wahoo Kickr Bike
The luxury smart bike setup
RRP: £2,999.99 / $3,499.99 | Accuracy: : +/- 1 per cent | Max simulated grade: : 20 per cent | Max power: : 2200W
A sleek indoor training machine with such a smooth and seamless ride feel, you might forget that you’re not riding a real bike. The frame moves and flexes as smoothly as a stationary bike can, and the addition of the Climb makes every hill on Zwift feel that much more real. As with the Wattbike, the heavy price tag means that the Kickr Bike is for serious indoor riders only – anyone who spends the majority of their time riding outside will find it difficult to justify the cost; rather, the extra cash could go to a new real-life frame or set of wheels. Overall, the Kickr bike is an impressive machine that indoor bike competitors will find difficult to match.
Wattbike Atom Next Generation
The budget smart bike setup that holds its own
RRP: £1,899.99 / $2,500.00 | Accuracy: +/- 1 per cent | Max simulated grade: 25 per cent | Max power: 2500W
At two-thirds the price of a Wahoo Kickr Bike, the Next Generation Wattbike Atom is a sleek alternative for indoor cycling enthusiasts. The convenience of a dedicated indoor bike is like no other – no maintenance required, and every day you just jump on and pedal. Potential downsides of the Atom NG include its limited adjustability and lack of real-world feel – but for casual outdoor riders who more often frequent the indoor trainer, the Atom NG could be the perfect fit.
How to choose an Zwift compatible trainer
Cycling is expensive, and indoor training equipment matches that expectation. You could buy a new bike for the cost of some of these smart trainers; but if you spend enough time riding indoors, they are certainly worth the investment. When paired with Zwift or other virtual cycling apps, indoor training is no longer boring – Dare I say, it might actually be kind of fun.
Indoor training vs outdoor training
The time you spend riding indoors will play a large part in determining your investment to indoor training. For those who live in a warm weather climate where outdoor riding is available year-round, spending £2000 on your pain cave is hard to justify. But for those who live in a colder climate, who may spend 3-4 months on the trainer each winter, the investment makes much more sense.
If you frequently switch between indoor and outdoor riding on the same bike, then a wheel-on trainer or set of rollers may be more ideal. You’ll save both time with the simpler setup, and your bank account will thank you.
Easy spins or structured intervals
The type of indoor riding that you frequent will help determine what type of setup you need. If you use indoor training sparingly – perhaps for a quick spin before work – then a set of rollers will do the trick. If you’re planning on smashing out structured intervals or lining up for a few Zwift races, then a trainer almost becomes a necessity. Smart trainers can be put into ERG mode, which adjusts the trainer’s resistance to match your target power. ERG mode makes intervals easy – at least mentally. No need to worry about your gearing, course, or cadence. Just pedal hard and the smart trainer takes care of the rest.
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