As you know, I love Zwift and indoor training during the bad weather months. I have used many iterations and models of trainers during my indoor riding tenure, but I have finally found something truly spectacular.
The CycleOps Hammer, a $1200 direct drive, computer controlled smart trainer, is in my opinion the end-all-be-all for indoor training capability. If you are unfamiliar, direct drive trainers don’t use the rear wheel of a bike. The trainer itself has a cassette (sold separately) mounted to a freehub body on a flywheel, which in the Hammer’s case is 20lbs. Having a flywheel, as opposed to a tire on a roller, is worlds quieter than a classic rear wheel trainer. If you have ever used a nice spin bike with a big flywheel, you know exactly the silence I mean. Cycleops claims that the Hammer only produces 64db at 20mph, but from my use it sounds much quieter at high speed. Honestly, the fan I use was louder on the middle setting than this trainer!
The larger flywheel also provides much more realistic resistance, similar to rollers, but without having to balance. With a tire on a single roller, even on a classic style smart trainer like the CycleOps Magnus, you still run the risk of slipping at high power, and can skew your power numbers. Riding with some Sagan-esque false power can be a nice feeling, but if it’s higher than your actual output, you may be in for a rude awakening come spring. With the Hammer, the computerized resistance goes straight into your drivetrain, allowing for no discrepancies in power data. You can’t hide from your true power output with a direct drive trainer!
However, that legitimate power data allows for more solid improvements in maximum functional threshold power (the metric most cyclists care about) if you train right. Zwift, along with other computer driven cycling games/applications, offers an interval training mode. In that mode, the gradients of the roads in the game and the help from drafting are taken away, and the trainer adjusts resistance in order to keep you at the designated power for the prescribed interval. Say I’m doing a 2x20min at 250w: the Hammer will adjust to keep me within +/- 10w of 250. If I drop to 240, resistance increases. If I’m hitting 260, the Hammer will ease up a bit. Holding that consistent power provides greater improvements in power output, which in turn makes the rider faster. And you want to go faster, don’t you?
As for just riding around Zwift, the Hammer feels just like the real roads. Flat roads feel flat, hills feel hard, and you can still fly on the descents! The Hammer also gives a bit of resistance tuning as well, so if it feels a bit hard, you can indeed decrease the resistance, or vice versa. The unit itself is extremely stable, too. At 48lbs, the Hammer isn’t a lightweight. So even while putting out big watts out of the saddle, the retractable stabilizing arms and heft of the Hammer stay in place and don’t rock n’ roll (like some other trainer I hate…).
In conclusion, if you enjoy realistic indoor training, and want the very best tech, buy the Hammer. Zwift loves the Hammer, considering it’s no coincidence that CycleOps is the only brand sold directly on Zwift’s website. Are you daunted by the $1200 price tag? Let me break it down for you: yes you could buy a fatbike to keep riding outdoors, however we currently don’t have a fatbike for less than $1500. On top of that, good winter cycling shoes are $300, Pearl Izumi AmFib tights (my favorite) are $150+. Plus jerseys, baselayers, jackets, gloves, bike maintenance, et cetera, and you’re looking at well over $2000! Now for someone like me that hates being cold and already has a bike or two, $1200 for the CycleOps Hammer, $25 for an ANT+ computer dongle, and $10 a month for Zwift is a very cost effective option.
ATTENTION SPECIAL DEAL INCOMING: When you purchase a Hammer Smart Trainer and mention this blog post, we’ll hook you up (for free) with an ANT+ dongle and compatible cassette of our choosing (aka not the most expensive one).
Plus, I guarantee you’ll be faster after a winter of Zwift instead of a winter of just fatbiking…
But hey, if you can swing it or you’re living the C.R.E.A.M. (CYCLING RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME) lifestyle and you prioritize biking over everything, we can get you set up with both! I do both and it’s pretty legit.
If you would like to see for yourself how awesome the CycleOps Hammer is, or even the Magnus, at the time I’m writing this we have both as in-store demos. I’ll set it up, put the fan on your face, let you use my Zwift account if you don’t have one, and I guarantee you will have fun!