Having reviewed CycleOps products before, I was looking forward to reviewing the new PowerSync trainer… even if I’m not generally a fan of being stuck indoors for a long time. But still, trainers are designed to keep us in shape so we can ride better, right?
The frame of the PowerSync trainer can be best described as a CycleOps classic A-frame structure, with easy-fold legs mated to their high-end, sophisticated alloy mass electronic resistance unit. The frame has an eccentric adjustment for uneven floors and requires just a few minutes of assembly before you’re up and running. The main unit comes as an ANT+ unit or a Bluetooth unit and needs no assembly other than bolting it to the frame. The flywheel is constructed out of cast alloy and the roller is perfectly turned out of aluminum. Inside the rolling unit is a PowerTap-equipped sensor that is accurate to within 5%. The PowerTap hub I reviewed a while back measures to +/- 1.5% accuracy.
With any trainer I highly recommend using a smooth trainer tire for the sake of your family, neighbors, and sanity. Indoors I use my road bike on trainers. If you don’t have a road bike, it’s not an issue as long as your using anything between 650b, 700c, 26″, and 27″ wheel sizes. 29er folks: you can get the PowerBeam Pro trainer that does accept 29er wheels, but at a cost of about $100-300 more (the PowerBeam does come with the ANT+ receiver, and other goodies in the box). The PowerSync is designed for rear axle spacings of 120, 130, and 135mm (don’t throw away that older HT of your just yet).
An optional though axle adapter is available for some bikes at an additional cost of $59.
On the pedals, the roller provides a very smooth ride, much like a flat road. The mass of the flywheel does an excellent job of keeping momentum. Looking at the trainer, you don’t see much to it, and that is a cool deception. Inside that rolling unit the PowerSync will electronically change the resistance of the unit, allowing you to program a workout, or download a workout and go. When you do get everything going and are on the bike (with a training tire) you are treated to a very quiet ride. I measured 78db at a good pace (24mph).
There is much more to the PowerSync than just a trainer. To fully enjoy this unit, a PC and a big screen TV are a must. Using the CyleOps Virtual Training program, you can download and ride preexisting courses. You do need to subscribe to this service and you do need an ANT+ receiver if you intend to use your PC. You could drop the receiver only if your PC is Bluetooth and you order the Bluetoothed version of the PowerSync (I made that little booboo). The receiver is sold separately for $38-99 (USB) – $59.99 (Iphone / Ipad).
I did find configuring things a bit of a hassle. In my case, my Toshiba notebook did not have an ANT+ driver and I needed to get it here.
That little URL above will save you… oh I don’t know, about 20 minutes of hunting around. That being said, once the drivers and the programs are installed on your PC, life is easy. A few pedals of your bike on the trainer and the virtual training program easily picks up your bike. If you own some other CycleOps goods like a Joule or a heart sensor you can add that to your indoor training regime and use that meta data for improved training results.
With the Virtual Training program as mentioned before, you have access to hundreds of routes that you can upload and ride. The service can be had for as little as $5 a month (tablet version on a 12-month plan). The combination of the PowerSync and the Virtual Training program makes for an almost enjoyable experience compared to riding in a damp, cold, lifeless basement. A bit of drama there–my basement is not that bad, but you get the point.
Depending on the platform and your needs, you can see this chart for features:
If you’re a competitive rider, you can if you choose race against people around the world. On each course there are saved rider times. You can, if you want, select other riders based on their finish time and race against that saved file. This is perfect if you’re limited on time. I personally don’t want the pressure of racing against someone live, so this option is pretty cool.
But if you’re someone who is competitive and wants to race against others, there are online events that you can register and race. You could host events as well. During the event you can track other riders’ progress as well as your own.
The CycleOps PowerSync trainer doesn’t come cheap: with an MSRP of $899 US plus any accessories you want to add, plus the monthly subscription, this may not be a product for everyone. A racer, yes. A serious enthusiast, yes. Someone who just wants to pedal in doors… maybe. If you want a trainer of good quality but without the price tag, try one of CycleOps’s other options. But if you’re looking for a trainer that logs data, is truly useful as a training aid, and something that allows you to compete against friends, all the while looking at a video of where you’re riding, then this may just be what you’re after.
Thanks to the folks at CycleOps for sending down the PowerSync for review.