Winter is here, ready or not. Winter can be seen as a great opportunity to prepare our fitness for the upcoming season. Those of us who take advantage of the off-season will always reap the rewards come Spring time. Unfortunately, many times our best intentions die a quiet death after a few boring rides on the trainer. Come Spring, we regret our lack of motivation and feel the pain of our laziness when the group rides roll out.
In this article I will give a review of the Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll trainer, and then offer a simple setup that can transform this trainer into a winter training laboratory in your own home.
In the world of stationary trainers, there are standard trainers and fully electronic trainers. Standard trainers simply offer resistance so you can spin on your bike and simulate the resistance of the road. These trainers range greatly in price, quality, road feel, and noise level. They will use wind, magnetic or fluid resistance, with fluid typically being the quietest and most realistic feel. They can be an effective training tool when combined with an online training program, but can be really boring otherwise. Without some form of biofeedback, we are just hamsters on an exercise wheel with no way to measure progress.
Fully electronic trainers are more expensive, but offer the very best in road feel simulation and biofeedback. These trainers are designed to be paired with an online or downloadable training software package and are a great way to monitor your training progress. The best of the bunch is the Wahoo Kickr. They come at a premium price, however, and don’t offer one fantastic feature of the Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll. That is, they don’t Rock and Roll!
When I decided to get more serious about my off season training, I knew I wanted to keep the price affordable. Since I already owned a Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll, I was ecstatic to learn that I could pair it with an online program to create a fantastic training tool in my basement. More on this later. First, let’s review the trainer itself.
I purchased my Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll seven years ago. After looking at the latest model, it is impressive that this model has changed very little. The frame is a bit more narrow, making it lighter and easier to store, but the ride characteristics and resistance units are identical, telling us that Kurt Kinetic has had it right for a long time. The resistance unit on this trainer is absolutely the best in the industry among non-electric resistance units. The resistance is provided by a leak proof, oil filled unit that has an unconditional lifetime warranty. If it leaks or wears out, they will replace it. It is ultra quiet and smooth, but the most impressive characteristic is the realistic road feel. This resistance unit is engineered for progressive resistance based on speed. In other words, it increases resistance as the speed of the wheel spins faster. Just as a bike gets harder to pedal on the road as we go faster due to wind drag, this unit simulates this resistance curve very accurately. As an example, if you used a rear wheel speedometer on this trainer and were riding at 20 mph, it would feel like 20 mph on the road. Same with 25 mph, 30 mph and so on. This is great news for those of us that have been on wind or magnetic trainers that just felt “weird”. This great feel on the Kurt Kinetic trainers is a reflection of the great engineering put into their resistance unit.
The primary reason I chose the Rock and Roll years ago was for the Rock and Roll feature. All other trainers on the market today are truly “stationary” and are locked into a straight-ahead position. I find this position unnatural and unrealistic, and quite uncomfortable after a period of time. Even when we ride straight ahead on the road, there is a slight side to side wobble that is normal. This side to side motion is more pronounced during hard efforts and is especially noticeable when standing, climbing and sprinting. On a “stationary” trainer we are forced into an unnatural, fixed position at high effort levels. With the Rock and Roll, we are free to use our arms and legs to Rock the bike powerfully and naturally, just like on the road. I find this motion creates less fatigue while riding, allowing more comfort and enjoyment during longer training rides. Additionally, the “instability” of the Rock and Roll will exaggerate any bounce or lack of fluidity in your pedal stroke. This is a good thing, allowing you to use your trainer time to smooth out your pedal stroke, making you a more efficient rider come Spring time.
If I had any complaints about this trainer, there is only one. It is heavy and awkward to move, making it less than ideal to take to races and use for warmup. The folding versions are much better for this purpose, and the short time spent on a trainer while warming up for a race makes the fixed position tolerable. If you are looking for a trainer to leave in one place and use all winter, however, the Rock and Roll is far superior.
Now, how to transform this excellent trainer into a training laboratory…
It is possible to take an excellent yet basic trainer like the Kurt Kinetic and transform it into a personal “computrainer”. I have always been attracted to the computrainers because of the instantaneous feedback and data tracking. It provides motivation and data and transforms the indoor trainer experience, making you much more likely to stick with your training and reach your goals. Keep in mind that there are numerous programs and methods to turn your basic trainer into a computrainer. This is what I did and I love it…
By simply adding a Wahoo Bluetooth Speed and Cadence Sensor to my frame, I am able to send the wheel speed and cadence information to my computer.
I then purchased “TrainerRoad”, an online training program for cycling. This program has hundreds of workouts to choose from, free training plans, ways to create your own workouts, and automatic charts and graphs that show you your progress over time. The first time you use TrainerRoad, you will perform a FTP (Functional Threshold Power) test. This test establishes your current level of fitness, and then TrainerRoad will calibrate every workout to reflect your current fitness level. As you improve, you may re-test your FTP so that the workouts will challenge you appropriately. A truly personalized training program, TrainerRoad rivals other programs costing many times more.
TrainerRoad requires an annual membership fee of $99, or $10 per month. After using a real CompuTrainer, I find TrainerRoad to be essentially identical, but mine is at home, convenient, and on my Rock and Roll instead of a fixed trainer.
Everyone knows that cyclists today train using “power meters” instead of heart rate and other biofeedback. Power has become the gold standard for training and performance measurement. Unfortunately, power meters can be pretty expensive. One nice feature of a Computrainer is that you get a power reading that is accurate and fantastic for monitoring progress in the off-season. With TrainerRoad, this feature is now available in your home.
The TrainerRoad program has the “power curve” data for every quality stationary trainer on the market. Once enrolled, you enter your trainer model, your weight, and your exact wheel circumference. Once it has this info, it translates the speed data from your Wahoo Speed and Cadence sensor and the power curve of your trainer into a Watts measurement that is accurate to +\- 3 watts! This gives you all of the benefits of a power meter every time you get on your trainer.
I began using my Rock and Roll with TrainerRoad last winter. I have also spent time on a CompuTrainer at a local bike shop. Hands down I prefer my setup because it is at home and I can ride any time I want. All of my data is on my computer and can be analyzed whenever I wish. Above and beyond these reasons, I prefer my personal setup because it is on a Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll, allowing me to flow freely and comfortably for hours on my trainer, free to hammer, sprint and climb without feeling like I’m riding in a vice!