Trainer Review: Kurt Kinetic Road Machine!

When Life Comes In The Way of Cycling:
As they say, life sometimes looks to come in the way of cycling. Mine did too. With time, like everybody, my kids grew up as well. When I’ve put my elder son in school 2013 and I opted not to use prohibitively costly school transport for the 2km home to school commute, I had to take up the duty to drop him to school every morning. Dropping him at school at 8 am meant that I needed to be back from my morning rides by 7:30am. To get a 2hr ride in, I’d have to start at 5:30am. The early start and finish would not be a problem during summer but in Bangalore winters, it would be dark and cold. Even if I didn’t care for the darkness and cold and made provisions to take care of them by adding lights and dressing in layers, there is always a chance of delay due to flats etc. So, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and buy an indoor trainer to ride at home during weekdays.
I did some research on the net and took feedback from friends who were already using trainers for a long time. The conclusion was to go for a fluid trainer. Two fluid trainers topped the list in terms of affordability and functionality. Kurt Kinetic Road Machine and Cyclops. When I was in the market, Happy Earth Enterprises just began distributing the Kurt Kinetic trainers and they were available for about 24k through retailers like Crankmeister (Now about 29k, thanks to increased customs etc). Cyclops wasn’t being distributed locally at that time and also online research rated Kurt’s fluid resistance unit a little higher than the Cyclops fluid resistance unit when it came to leakage incidents etc.
So, I began saving up for a new trainer and kept an eye out for any second hand units too. One fine day I happened to see a Kurt Kinetic Road machine for sale on Bikeszone and contacted the seller. It was in Chennai and I was sure I could get some friend to bring it along for me if I finalize the deal. Before I talked to the seller I called Arvind Ganesh(AG) of Happy Earth Enterprises to take his opinion on what could go wrong in an used trainer and if it is worth it at the price quoted etc. Although I was not going to buy from him, he was so confident of the trainer that he assured me that nothing could go wrong with that trainer which is built like a tank, to last for a very long time. Although he could not give any assurances towards the life time warranty that all the Kurt units have, he promised to help with any small parts if I ever needed any. The price was also pretty good for a trainer that was hardly used. From AG’s feedback I got a feeling that nothing could go wrong even if it is used extensively. That gave me a lot of confidence and I went ahead and bought the trainer.
A kind friend, Udaya Napa, lugged it for me from Chennai to Bangalore. 
My first trainer workout setup on 19th June 2013! Nearly 3 years later it is still rock solid!
The Set Up:
The trainer comes with a frame that is built like a tank. It is heavy and rock solid. The front arms fold to enable easy storage when not in use. The fluid resistance unit is attached to the frame of the trainer with a small nut and bolt. The hardened plastic(composite?) attachment sits snugly in the iron slot in the frame and the bolt goes through to attach them together. I have put that together some 30 months ago and haven’t taken it apart. 

There is an L-bend bolt with a spring that goes through a slot in the resistance unit and attaches to a knob on the other side. This knob and spring mechanism is what determines the resistance of the unit once you put the bike on the trainer. It is pretty intuitive and easy to set up.
The knob that determines the resistance! A couple of turns after the tire touches the roller drum, you’re good to go!
Once you place the bike on the trainer, the non-drive side knob and lock ring allows you to set and center the bike on the trainer roller drum. The drive side knob and screw lock allow you to lock the bike in place. Once in place the knob at the back of the resistance unit needs to be tightened to move the resistance unit forward so that it touches the bike tire. Once the tire touches the roller drum, turn the knob two complete rotations and that should be good enough.
The assembled trainer!
The resistance there after depends on the speed. No adjustment is needed. The faster you go the harder it becomes. 
No wires to control the resistance etc. It is a really simple and a very robust setup. If you want to warm up by spinning easy, just spin in an easier gear. When you are ready for harder effort, just shift a few gears up to ride hard. Much like what you would do on road. No buttons to toggle to increase or decrease the resistance. The heavy flywheel(~3kgs) offers a realistic coast down and a road like feel.
Noise Levels:
The noise levels are quite low. Low enough so that my kids sleeping in the next room don’t get woken up. That is a good enough for me. If I have to watch something on the laptop to pass time while riding, I use a bluetooth headset. That ensures that no dialogues are drowned although the laptop is quite a bit away from the trainer. 
High Intensity Workouts:
As mentioned earlier, you don’t need to adjust any tension etc to increase resistance. The faster you try to go, the more difficult it becomes to ride, just like on the road. I prefer to do all my intervals indoors not just because I can’t go out and ride during weekdays but also for safety reasons. The noise levels during very high intensity intervals can get a little bit high(compared to the relative calmness of the trainer otherwise) but not so much as to trouble the household if you’re setup behind closed doors.

What Would You Need Apart From The Trainer?
A high power fan is a must. I use a stand fan from Bajaj but often wish that I invested in an industrial strength heavy duty fan. In the absence of the flowing wind that cools all your body on a continuous basis as you ride outdoors, you tend to sweat bucket loads while riding indoors. So, a sweat catcher of sorts comes in pretty handy if your bike has to stay rust free over a period of time. I use a turkey towel set up like a sweat catcher with the help of a few cloth clips but investing in a sweat catcher or getting one made at a local tailor is not a bad idea.

Once you made arrangements for cooling yourself down and dealing with your sweat, the main thing you need to think about is how to deal with the boredom. Yes, it is incredibly boring to ride indoors. No question. You don’t have the varying scenery that keeps your mind occupied as you ride outdoors. You don’t have friends to chat with as you make each other suffer or while just riding to the coffee place on that scenic route. All you have is you and your bike on the trainer and the wall to stare at. The boredom is very real.

A very simple way to deal with boredom of indoor workouts is having a specific workout plan. Intervals help you focus on your power, HR or speed for a specific amount of time, usually a small period, and won’t give you enough time to get bored. You hit your numbers for the work interval, spin for the rest interval and before you know, it is time to start your next set. You can get through an hour or two worth of trainer time without any issues if you have a specific set of intervals to focus on.

If even intervals can’t keep you focused, there are now options like Zwift, Trainer Road and Golden Cheetah that you could use to enjoy your time on the trainer. Zwift is a video game like interface married to your trainer with the help of an ANT+ dongle that makes your trainer session a virtual reality game of sorts. You spin on your trainer and the speed/power etc is picked up by the Zwift software on your laptop and your ride is simulated on screen depending on how much power/speed you are putting out. I have tried it during it’s Beta stage and its pretty cool. It has now become a paid subscription based service costing around $10 per month. Not too costly if it could help you get stronger on the trainer. It also added features like providing workouts etc similar to Trainer Road.

Trainer Road is more of a workout platform that has come into existence long before Zwift etc. It is also a subscription service and can be a potent tool for trainer rats. Golden Cheetah is a free open source software that has some of the features of Trainer road in that it has a similar training interface but you have to set up your own workouts etc and do them instead of somebody setting you your workouts for you and it gives features like Virtual power that Trainer Road provides. I will do a separate post on GC at a later point of time.
  

Virtual Power:
The Road Machine has a well proven and stable power curve. Before I bought a power meter, in the initial days of getting this trainer I have used the virtual power feature in Golden Cheetah to train. All you need to do is Golden Cheetah installed on your computer and use an Ant+ dongle to read speed you are doing on the trainer. Golden Cheetah then shows you the power you are putting out based on the speed and Kinetic’s power curve that is already plugged into the software. Kinetic also sells a small device called InRide, that you can place on the frame with a magnet inserted in the roller drum to do a roll down calibration. InRide helps calibrate the power readings by doing a roll down calibration and takes the variance from the knob tension and tire pressure out of the equation. I could not get hold of an InRide and just tried to ensure same number of turns of knob to control the tension and tried to maintain same tire pressure as much as I can. I once borrowed a friend’s powertap wheel and compared the power readings from the virtual power to those from the powertap and they tracked pretty consistently with each other. I thought it is a great way to get started training with power. Once I saved up enough to buy a crank based power meter, I stopped using virtual power but that feature got me going for quite a few months and helped me stay motivated during indoor training. I will try and do a separate review of InRide when I manage to get my hands on one. I think it is a pretty economical way of starting out with power training indoors.

Summary:
I just love this trainer. Over the last 3 years, I have put in hundreds of sweaty training hours on it. Rain or shine, if I wanted to ride, it was there for me and never failed me. I think, I give it a rating of 4.75 out of 5. That .25, I would give it if putting the bike on the trainer and taking off is made even more simpler. It is already very simple but you know how lazy I am. Although I haven’t tried many other trainers, this trainer takes care of all my indoor training needs and is built to last a life time. What else could I ask for! I highly recommend it for anyone who is in the market for a solid, reliable, no-nonsense trainer.

PS: If I could give back something in return, I should spend some time cleaning it, I think. Over the last three years, I hardly did any maintenance(as you can notice from the photos above which I took this week). Not that it needed any, but I think an occasional wipe down of sweat and dirt could keep it looking like new. 

5 thoughts on “Trainer Review: Kurt Kinetic Road Machine!

  1. Hi Venky, I am glad the trainer is serving you well. I have done a lot of research myself before I bought it. I had to sell it as we were migrating to a different country. Where we live now, a lot of importance is given to cyclists and there are literally 100s of km of bike lanes. Good to see you write such a review.
    — Satish

  2. I use a Quarq power meter to guide my workout intensity etc. Garmin speed sensor enables me to track distances while riding indoors.
    @Satish: Good to hear from you!

Leave a Reply to Unknown Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *