As the weather turns colder, you’ll find conversations on the cycling forums about how to maintain fitness when the weather doesn’t cooperate. The gym is fine, as are spin classes, but most cyclists want to ride their own bike. An indoor trainer is a good choice for the majority of those riders, and the folks at Kinetic were kind enough to provide their top of the line Rock and Roll for evaluation.
The Rock and Roll is different than most trainers due to a unique design that allows side to side motion. Unlike most trainers that are triangular in shape and fold down for storage, the Rock and Roll has two legs that make up a very wide base, with the resistance and clamping mechanisms bolted to the base, isolated by some polymer bushings. Tightening or loosening the two large bolts is what varies the rocking motion. As a side bonus, I’m sure this design minimizes the vibrations transferred to the floor, which is a big plus in some homes. Kinetic also offers an optional Turntable Riser Ring, which they describe as “an absolute necessity”, yet one was not included. This didn’t hamper my evaluation, but if it’s that critical to getting the most out of the trainer, they should ship one with every trainer, in my opinion.
For resistance, my evaluation model was equipped with a fluid unit. Generally quieter and more consistent than wind or magnetic units, they offer the most realistic feel. They’re not without fault though. Besides being pricier than other types, they may need some warm-up time, and are also prone to leakage over time. Kinetic solves the leak problem by using two sets of magnets, one in the flywheel, and one encased in a finned aluminum housing filled with silicone. An interesting bit of engineering, this allows the impeller inside the fluid to be driven without using a shaft drive, the main source of leaks. The cooling fins dissipate heat very well, and the fluid doesn’t change viscosity even as it gets heated, so the resistance remains consistent. Speaking of heat, the roller that contacts your tire is an oversize 2.5″ unit, which should allow your tire to run cooler and wear longer.
Assembly and setup was pretty simple. Kinetic provides an allen wrench, but you’ll need a crescent wrench or box wrench for the large bolts. Bolt the legs to the base, then bolt the upper section to the base as well. It’s important to follow directions when tightening the bolts, as their tightness affects the amount of motion. Next, attach the resistance unit. The clamp for the rear wheel has an adjustment wheel on one side, and a lever with a fairly long throw on the other. Once it’s set, flip the lever in or out to attach or remove your bike, rather than having to twist a giant nut. Set the wheel to roller contact, and then adjust the motion tension as necessary. I probably spent about thirty minutes getting it dialed in to my liking. If you have someone helping so you don’t need to keep jumping on and off, it would go quicker.
Once it was all set, I was ready for my first real indoor “ride”. After 20+ years of only having fixed trainers, the leaning motion of the Rock and Roll caught me off guard, but only for a few moments. As I pedaled, I could feel my bike moving beneath me, behaving more like I was actually out for a ride than on some rigid spin bike. The motion ads another element to the workout, as you do need to balance your bike. It feels a bit like rollers, but without the catastrophic results should you have a lapse in concentration. And out of the saddle is where the Rock and Roll really shines. Sprints and simulated climbs definitely feel more realistic. Just add a fan for wind, and have a friend yell at you from the couch like some rude motorist to complete the effect. At the wheel, resistance was smooth and natural, and overall, the unit was fairly quiet too. It seemed like I could actually ride longer than I would be inclined to on a fixed trainer. I popped the included Sufferfest DVD into my DVD player, and realized that anything with “Suffer” in the title is not for me. But the video is useful for helping you determine a baseline for your fitness, so you can measure improvement over time. I’d prefer to watch TV if I’m just putting in some saddle time, or listen to music when doing intervals.
Although Kinetic generously extended my evaluation period, I didn’t get to use it as much as I would have liked. And that’s where the pro/con discussion starts. Arguments for the Rock and Roll are numerous: It works as advertised, so workouts are truly more realistic. The resistance unit is smooth, consistent and maintenance-free. Having owned at least six mag units in the past, that was the feature I appreciated most. Plus, the whole trainer carries an unconditional lifetime warranty, making the price (MSRP $569) a little easier to accept. There are some hurdles to overcome though, which may or may not be an issue for you. Yes, the price tag is high, but certainly reasonable for a quality piece of equipment. The sheer size of the trainer ended up being the biggest issue for me. My wife didn’t mind it in the living room for a while, but eventually I had to move it to my office, where it took up about twice the space as my other trainers. And it doesn’t fold up for storage. Also, If you weigh more than 200 pounds, or like to ride sitting upright, hands-free, be prepared to spend some extra time tuning the motion so your wheel doesn’t hit the ground. Max RPM sprints may also be problematic (you can see a bit of bobbing in the video below), but my intervals aren’t that intense. Verdict? If I was a dedicated cyclist that wanted to maintain my fitness year-round, and had the room, the Rock and Roll would be a sure bet. For the casual cyclist, or someone for whom space is at a premium, the Kinetic Road Machine might be a better choice, as it uses the same resistance unit, but folds up and is priced about $200 less. Read more at kurtkinetic.com