Product Review: Kurt Kinetic Road Machine
When I decided to convert a section of my home gym into an indoor cycling training area (also known as a Bike Torture Chamber, or “BTC”), I knew that one of the most important pieces of equipment I’d be selecting for that section of my gym would be the stationary trainer.
Before deciding on a trainer, I did a tremendous amount of research on the various types of indoor trainers that are currently available: roller units, wind resistance units, magnetic resistance units and fluid-resistance units. Each of these types of trainers have pros and cons, but ultimately I decided that a fluid trainer was the way to go.
Fluid trainers are the most complex (and, as such, the most expensive) of the bunch, but they also provide the most realistic riding experience on an indoor trainer. That realism was what I was after, so I began to focus my research on fluid trainers.
The two major players in the fluid trainer category are Kinetic by Kurt and Cycleops. I researched both brands extensively, and based on the features and reviews I finally decided on the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine.
Here is a brief list of some of the Road Machine’s major features:
- Versatile indoor bicycle trainer with leak-proof magnetic drive system and automatic resistance changes
- 6.25-pound flywheel offers a realistic, 15-second coastdown from 20 mph
- Measurable, repeatable workload with an authentic road feel
- Extra stable platform–even for stand-up riding
- Fits 22 to 29-inch wheels
- Unconditional lifetime warranty
Before writing my review I wanted to put the Road Machine through the wringer. I’ve been using the Road Machine for a couple of months now, and have logged more than 32 hours and almost 600 miles on it. These were not easy miles, either: I’ve been following structured training plans on TrainerRoad (my TrainerRoad review is here) that involve (among other things) extremely difficult interval work. I’ve also done various “free rides” and a few brutal Sufferfest videos on my Road Machine.
Set up and first impressions
The Road Machine arrived from Amazon well-packed and in perfect condition. Assembly of the Road Machine was extremely easy, and took just a few minutes. I was impressed with the heft and the build quality.
The Road Machine comes with a rear skewer that replaces the stock skewer on your bike’s rear wheel. The replacement skewer is a little heavier than my Madone’s stock skewer, but ultimately that didn’t matter because I wound up purchasing a dedicated trainer wheel and tire (more on that a little further down).
I also purchased the matching Riser Ring, and I’m glad that I did. While a phone book or similar could be used to level the front of the bike (I even tried doing that for the sake of comparison), the ring feels much more solid.
Mounting the bike on the Road Machine is quick and easy, but once the bike is mounted you have to turn a large knob to seat the resistance roller against the tire. In order to maintain a consistent experience from one ride to the next, it’s very important to make sure the resistance knob is adjusted the same way each time you ride (and the same goes for tire pressure). It took a little experimentation to dial in the correct number of turns: you don’t want the tire slipping on the roller when you’re out of the saddle and really mashing, but you also don’t want to over-tighten the roller. Eventually I found that 3 complete turns of the adjustment knob was just right for my setup. While turning the knob before and after each ride doesn’t take long, it would be nice to have some sort of quick release feature to simply lock the already adjusted roller against the tire. Again, this is not a big deal, but worth mentioning.
The realism of the Road Machine’s ride is very impressive. Shifting your bike’s gears increases and decreases the resistance just as if you’re on the road. When you stop pedaling the coastdown time is extremely realistic. The unit runs very quiet and is ultra-smooth.
No matter how hard or how long you ride, the Road Machine’s resistance at a given speed/gear is always 100% consistent. This consistency is one of the main reasons I went with the Kurt Kinetic fluid trainer: the thermodynamically neutral liquid silicon does not lose any resistance as it heats up (this is a big problem with lesser fluid trainers).
Finally, the Road Machine is very, very stable. I’ve done many out-of-the-saddle “climbs” using my full body weight and muscle, and the Kinetic always feels solid as a rock.
About the best way I can describe the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine is that it simply gets out of your way and lets you train.
Build quality and Warranty
As mentioned earlier in this review, the Road Machine is very well-built. The design of the unit is such that the driveshaft never enters the fluid chamber; the Road Machine is 100% guaranteed to never leak.
Kurt also includes a unconditional lifetime warranty on the entire unit. In other words, you may spend a little more that you might on a lesser trainer, but this is quite literally the last trainer you’ll ever buy.
From what I’ve read online, failures are very rare. If there is a problem, Kurt stands 100% behind their products. JSF Member “Craigstr” said his Kinetic’s resistance unit burned out after 7 years of hard use. He called Kurt, and they immediately shipped him a brand new resistance unit–no hassle, no return of the bad unit, no questions asked. One call, done.
While I expect my Road Machine to last a lifetime, it’s nice to know that if there is ever a problem it will be resolved quickly and painlessly.
While you can use your bike as-is on the trainer, I highly recommend a dedicated trainer tire and wheel. I found that even after just a couple hundred miles my rear road tire was sort of flattening out where it contacted the roller. I purchased the Tacx Trainer Tire and mounted it to an inexpensive wheel, the Aeromax Road Bike Comp 700c Wheels. This setup allows me to quickly switch my usual rear wheel and tire to the dedicated trainer wheel and tire.
Unless you don’t mind burning through expensive road tires, having a dedicated trainer tire and wheel is pretty much required.
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line indoor trainer that will literally last a lifetime, the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine will not let you down: it’s well-built, smooth, quiet, consistent, easy to set up, easy to use and the manufacture really delivers on their unconditional lifetime warranty.