New in the family and joining the rollers, is the ThinkRider X5 Neo Smart Trainer. Didn’t take long before deciding to settle for this one, when there was absolutely no supply of any others at the LBS and a 6-month wait seemed to be the default take-it-or-leave-it response. It’s within my price bracket, the order process was seamless and shipping took 4 days to get to the door.
I’m definitely late to jump onto the smart trainer bandwagon. Late in getting one of my own. Having been involved in high performance settings as well as at a commercial indoor cycling studio, fixing blown fuses in the CompuTrainers seemed like a necessary skill to have back in the day. Just a few years back, turbo trainers definitely did not get the same reception by the local community. (Same with strength training and lab testing. Knowing your weakness can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes). Now it seems, even in pre-pandemic times, the turbo trainer has caught on. Better late than never.
A 22kg piece of machinery, assembly of the flipper-like legs were as straight-forward as bolts and hex allen key. Thru-axle compatibility is also available. Download the ThinkRider app for firmware updates and trainer calibration, plug it in and it was good to go. ThinkRider is compatible with Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, FullGaz, Bkool, PerfPro. Zwift was the choice of software.
There is always going to be chatter about the accuracy of smart trainers, just like power meters. We each have certain things that we can be particular about, which sometimes, will appear very selective. We may tend to or tend not to believe accuracy reports from manufacturers and we should put on our critical thinking hats. If you are one who has absolutely no clue at all, the advise would be to keep it simple. Lay out the outcomes that are most important to you. For me, would I have problems pairing it to Zwift? That did require me to trust the manufacturer’s word for it. I would like it to be reliable, i.e. produce similar power resistance on erg mode every time I use it. That is fairly easy to conclude whether I can tick that box. Neither am I expecting it to have a 5-watt variability. Day-to-day individual variability alone can be 5 – 6% (Gardner et al., 2007; Laursen et al., 2004; Possamai et al., 2020). So far after 24 hr of use, it has been consistent enough for me, based on the session I’m doing and what I am expecting to be putting out. Lastly, are they going to bail out on me, when after-sales service support is required? These days it’s a hit-and-miss. Imagine getting told to repair your broken treadmill yourself.
With so many options out there, accuracy claims as a form of marketing seems to be unavoidable. Bear in mind, as a consumer, unless you request for the precise protocol, equipment, testing conditions and environment, our attempt at user validation can swing both ways. I prefer to spend time learning how to interpret and apply the data appropriately.
In summary, a pretty solid direct-drive smart trainer. If you’re keen to have a go, give the guys at Bike Domestique (FB/Instagram) a shout out. What smart trainer are you using? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Gardner, A. S., Martin, J. C., Martin, D. T., Barras, M., & Jenkins, D. G. (2007). Maximal torque-and power-pedaling rate relationships for elite sprint cyclists in laboratory and field tests. European journal of applied physiology, 101(3), 287-292.
Laursen, P. B., Shing, C. M., & Jenkins, D. G. (2004). Temporal aspects of the VO2 response at the power output associated with VO2peak in well trained cyclists—Implications for interval training prescription. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 75(4), 423-428.
Possamai, L. T., Campos, F. D. S., Salvador, P. C. D. N., de Aguiar, R. A., Guglielmo, L. G. A., de Lucas, R. D., Caputo, F., & Turnes, T. (2020). Similar maximal oxygen uptake assessment from a step cycling incremental test and verification tests on the same or different day. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 45(4), 357-361.