So what makes smart bicycle trainers different from traditional trainers and what makes them smart?
Traditional trainers help you to bring your cycling indoors—which is not really a good thing. There is not much fun in cycling indoors but sometimes you have no choice and during those times, traditional trainers let you continue doing what you love.
Smart bicycle trainers, on the other hand, top the game by bringing the outdoors to you. Instead of being stuck on a trainer cycling with little or no motivation, smart trainers, connected to your favorite virtual app, let you get the experience of riding on a real life road.
What benefits does a smart trainer offer over a “dumb” trainer?
Benefits of a Smart Trainer Over A Traditional Trainer
1. Smart Trainers Hold You Accountable
Smart trainers, unlike dumb trainers, can act as your coach or accountability partner. Because riding indoors can be boring, it is easy to not meet your set goal. Say you plan to ride at 300 watts.
A basic trainer will have you focusing on the numbers and pushing yourself to stay at 300 watts. However, smart trainers have a mode called Ergometer (ERG). With this mode, all you need to do is set your target and start riding at your desired gear.
The trainer will be adjusting the resistance for you, ensuring that you ride at 300 watts at whatever cadence. Even if you increase or decrease the resistance, the trainer will adjust and keep you at 300 watts. This makes it hard to fall off your target numbers.
2. Smart Trainer Offer Real Road Simulation
This is one of the best things about a smart trainer. As pointed out earlier, it brings the outdoors to you. It simulates real world routes in a way that a traditional bike stand cannot.
They replicate various gradients making you feel as though you are outside. Higher-end ones can replicate up to 25% gradients.
Most bike training apps come with real videos while others let you enjoy real courses. They allow you to climb some of the most difficult terrains and cycle world-famous routes. Fancier trainers let you experience exactly what you are seeing on the screen including feeling boards and stones on the road.
When the available options become monotonous, you can incorporate your own route by creating your own video or importing one.
3. Smart Trainers Give You Online Motivation
Smart trainers let you ride alongside other cyclists. Dumb trainers do this too, except the feeling is not as realistic. Pedaling alone in your living room can barely be defined as interesting. It gets worse if you have to do it quite often for an extended period of time.
However, anytime you log in to your preferred training app, you will always find other cyclists. You can join in for a leisure ride or competitive racing. When you make dedicated “friends” on the app, it will get more difficult for you to skip a workout. You do not want to miss out on anything new. A community makes you accountable.
Moreover, human beings are naturally competitive and soon enough, you will have your top competitors; and nobody wants their competitors thinking they are lazy and inconsistent.
4. Smart Trainers Come With A Power Meter
Power measurement in indoor training entails the report of your effort in watts. This report is very important to people who are training in power.
While using a traditional bike trainer, you need to have a power meter to get these numbers. The power meter directly measures power on your bicycle and records the force you use to pedal.
A smart trainer, on the other hand, comes with a power meter. If you get an expensive one, it will output power in real numbers as opposed to simulated ones. It takes into account all the work that is being put into riding. Using an app like Zwift, it will measure your real force and convert into speed while taking note of factors such as weather and terrain.
5. Smart Trainers Stay Up-To-Date
When you bought your dumb trainer it was probably the latest piece of equipment in the cycling industry—but now, not quite. You can only update it by buying another one.
Updating a smart trainer is as simple as installing a firmware update. New indoor training software will keep on being launched. Whenever there is a new program you can use the firmware updates to incorporate the software without buying a new trainer.
6. Smart Trainers Give You Better Value For Your Money
Sure, dumb trainers are way cheaper than the smart ones. However, if you come to think of it, smart trainers are worth every dollar in the long run.
Given the options they offer they cannot be compared to the traditional trainers. For instance, smart trainers are not likely to be outdated because you can update them; whereas a basic trainer needs to be thrown out after a while.
Besides, smart trainers are smooth and quiet— something that a basic trainer can barely offer. The group ridings, entertainment, freedom to choose your terrain, real power outputs among other factors make a smart trainer worth its weight in gold. It may leave a dent in your bank account but at the end of the day, it will be worth it.
Smart trainers are awesome—to say the least. It makes you accountable and acts as your coach. Riding indoors might never compare to being outside but the smart trainer will have you feeling as though you are outside for a moment. The online motivation will keep you going even when you do not feel like it. Having real power output helps you assess and evaluate your effort and performance. No need to worry about buying a new trainer anytime soon as you will have your smart one for a very long time, as long as you update it. Finally, a smart trainer will give you value for your money.
Read my review of the 10 best wheel-on Smart Bicycle Trainers.