Right now, I have a Specialized Epic Expert '07 and a set of Bike Nashbar Rollers. It is pretty fun to roll and watch a movie, but it gets boring fast and never feels safe.

I was looking into different trainers to do something different and actually work towards a goal which is getting better at hills.

I have been looking at Tracx Vortex Smart T2180, Kinetic Fluid Trainer Rock 'N Roll Smart, and CycleOps FLUID² but it seems that there are so many nuances from each.

I have a Garmin 520 and do not have a power meter on my bike. I understand that the Tracx is the most smart, but does not provide the road feel of a fluid trainer. The Kinetic is great for getting out of the saddle and getting those extra muscles working out, but it uses a non standard connection to broadcast stats.

Is there something out there that would be quiet to use, provide the most road like feel, have the ability for smart functions that my Garmin 520 can use, and get me better for going uphill?

  • 1
    Sur la plaque ...
    – andy256
    Oct 26, 2016 at 21:49
  • 4
    I disagree @Criggie. I'm trying to gage the cycling community their experience, not a community where ~10% cycle.
    – Zlatty
    Oct 26, 2016 at 23:32
  • 2
    The professionals use someone on a motor scooter with a megaphone. All they really need is a loud voice and a complete lack of mercy, so maybe find ask an ex-partner if they'd enjoy a chance to yell at you?
    – Móż
    Oct 27, 2016 at 1:45
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    @Móż youtube.com/watch?v=S_32aKfqL0Q
    – alex
    Oct 27, 2016 at 5:33
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    @Criggie Newer trainers that support ant+ fe-c will have their electronic brake applied by zwift to simulate a gradient. With a normal trainer, you are indeed correct
    – Andy P
    Oct 28, 2016 at 7:14

4 Answers 4


Whilst it is true that there are some differences in muscle recruitment between pedalling uphill and on the flat, the main difficulty hills present is an increased power output for a sustained period of time (unless you have a tiny gear of course). However the main factor it comes down to is fitness - pure power/weight ratio - 200W is still 200W whether its uphill/flat/downhill.

Riders that struggle with hills tend to fall into one (or both) of two categories

  1. Heavy riders that are held back by their weight and lack the muscular endurance to sustain a high power output over a long period
  2. Weaker riders who lack the raw leg power to push the pedals round.

Any of the trainers you mentioned should be fine for your needs - find workouts that work on either improving your lactate threshold, or improving the force you can apply to the pedals at low cadence.
If you want to more closely mimic hill climbing, then put your front wheel on a tall riser block, ride with your hands on the tops of the bars, and concentrate on pedalling smoothly from the hips.

For reference, I use the Fluid² you mentioned, and have seen good gains over the last 12 months doing 2-4 minute big gear intervals (60rpm) to build leg strength and get used to applying force smoothly.

  • Category 3. Riders without the aerobic capacity to produce 250+W for an hour.
    – andy256
    Oct 28, 2016 at 6:53
  • @andy256 - Climbing is all about W/kg; you can be a good climber with a FTP of 200W, just the same as you can be an awful climber with a FTP of 350W. It also depends on the duration of the climb - someone who can destroy a 5 minute climb might struggle mightily on a 60 minute climb. So, really, you could distill both of those categories into "Riders that struggle with hills tend to have low W/kg for the duration of the climb in question."
    – Ealhmund
    Oct 28, 2016 at 12:29
  • @altomnr Correct, it is about W/kg, but who weighs less than 50kg? Over an hour I produce 260W from 68kg, and nobody would call me a good climber. 4+W/kg is a start.
    – andy256
    Oct 29, 2016 at 0:23
  • @andy256 Pantani was close, but that's not the point. It's all relative to the people you ride/race with; a 68kg rider with a FTP of 200W is near the top of Cat 5 on the Coggan chart. They'd certainly get dropped on long climbs when riding with most Cat 4+ riders, but compared to most 5s, it's a decent W/kg. You can also have a rider with a FTP of 350W, but who weighs 115kg+; that 68kg rider will probably be a better climber. The key is to look at your W/kg, then determine which side(s) you can change - increase wattage or decrease weight. W/kg is more important than straight FTP for climbing.
    – Ealhmund
    Oct 31, 2016 at 14:11

There's no home trainer or roller that substitutes well for hills.

Riding up real grades is the best solution.

There are sloping treadmills which may duplicate the angle and effort, but they won't be cheap, and running treadmills will probably not be long enough for a bike, nor wide enough.

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    The crank inertial load is quite different between the trainer and riding a hill. Each one can emphasize a different muscle recruitment patterns making crossover difficult.
    – Rider_X
    Oct 27, 2016 at 1:22
  • @Rider_X True - good point. Here's a couple of videos I found of a bike on a bike treadmill. youtube.com/watch?v=ATlGNh4dZSg and youtube.com/watch?v=-jh-5TYAtJI Notice you're not lifting yourself, but your riding stops you from being pushed backwards. Probably as good as its going to get without a real hill somewhere.
    – Criggie
    Oct 27, 2016 at 6:24
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    Additionally, the average running treadmills typically don't go fast enough for bikes, even uphill, unless you're talking about really expensive treadmills.
    – Ealhmund
    Oct 27, 2016 at 21:44

The best way to simulate hills on an indoor trainer is to set a target speed (power) for a specific interval. The interval needs to reflect the duration of climbing you wish to improve in the real world.

During this interval - you need to match your cadence down to a climbing speed cadence. This would help to simulate the same muscle recruitment you would do in a real climb. Attempt the interval in both seated and out of the saddle - as you would a real climb and use the gears to adjust for this accordingly.

Better done with a powermeter - but speed on your turbo will equate directly to a power wattage. Some smart turbos now have a power reading in-built and some software offers calibration for various turbos to convert speed into power.

The point of increasing resistance to cause a slowing down of cadence is to try and simulate what happens in climbing. Where the legs muscles become engaged in more of the stroke going round as opposed to flat land riding where a high cadence is often employed and the leg muscles are engaged in relatively less of the stroke.


Rollers without resistance units will not emulate road like conditions. If you have the money and time, you can find a pair of Kreitler rollers on eBay and buy a killer headwind unit as well as a pair of flywheels this will provide excellent resistance. Kreitler site shows the power requirements for all roller combinations. http://www.kreitler.com/wattage-information

The flywheels provide the necessary inertia to simulate acceleration and deceleration and some resistance. The fan provides speed dependent resistance. The config mentioned above will require a power output of 428W at 20mph and 1Kw at 30Mph which is quite difficult to achieve if you are not a Cat 2 or better racer.

Weight training will help as well.

The other alternative is a smart trainer like a wahoo Kickr or elite drivo or the Tacx.

All three of the smart trainers are relatively equivalent. (see the DC Rainmaker's website for specifics). The advantages will be a more realistic simulation of road conditions via applications like Zwift, Trainerroad, and possibly sufferfest.

For power Trainerroad software can provide simulated power measurements based on sampled data.

  • 1
    I think this is the only answer that realistically answers the question. Some more explanation of the first sentence, what the link is about (especially since it may break one day), and what the advantages of each of the systems you suggest, would make the goto answer.
    – andy256
    Oct 28, 2016 at 6:44

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