So, you’re finally going to make the move and buy a smart trainer. Your biggest decision is whether you want a Direct Drive or a Rear Wheel trainer. Now with that in mind, there’s a couple benefits with each one that you should know before you make your decision.
The Direct Drive trainer is where you will remove the wheel and mount it on a cassette and axle that will be on the trainer. The key benefits for direct drive are that they are much quieter, the wheel will not slip, power is more accurate (2-3%) and it will give you more of a true Road feel. Additionally, there is a much higher resistance level somewhere around close to 2000 watts (I’m dreaming). This true road feel is unmatched with hill climbs, deceleration during down hill and hammering down on the pedals.
Next line is Rear Wheel trainers. This is where the wheel is attached via a rear wheel axil clamp and then roller Is tightened against the wheel. The features of a rear wheel mount are that the power ability is slightly less at around 1500 watts. There is a very good amount of accuracy (5%) and a road type feeling. The biggest downfall is that with your winter training, there will be wear on your tire lot more than just with you were just riding on the road.
There are many different companies to choose from Wahoo Fitness, Cycleops, Tacx, Kurt Kinetic, BKool and Elite to name a few. Each company has variations in both depending on your preference. I myself have a combination of direct drive, wheel mount and some rollers for overall variety and boredom prevention.
The biggest differences in Direct Drive and Rear Wheel mount is the cost. Direct drive is the most expensive and can range between $900 and $1200. Rear Wheel trainers are moderately expensive and range between $500 to upwards of $650 which depends on your budget and preferences.
I do have my favorites which is the Kurt Kinetic Rock ‘n’ Roll, Wahoo KICKR Snap and CycleOps Hammer but my best advice to you, is that do some research and visit an on-site demo at your local bike shop and to give it a try before you buy.