A hectic family/work life has led to less and less on-bike training time for me which has been surprisingly combined with more and more racing! Keeping up on the Sunday hammer sessions with guys that do 3 times more training than me meant I had to maximise my training efficiency – enter numerous sessions on my rollers this year.
Light and compact, the CycleOps Fluid 2
So with me reluctantly accepting indoor training, the time was ripe to test out the Fluid 2, CycleOps’ latest look at fluid resistance training. Now a fluid trainer versus a magnetic or mag trainer differs mainly in the flywheel with the magnetic versions providing resistance to the rider by using magnets that rotate opposite of each other thus creating resistance. The mag trainers are generally cheaper and simpler machines but the drawback for most of them is that they are not able to increase resistance as you pedal – you have to do it through some sort of knob or cable attached to the flywheel that engages or disengages more magnets to change the resistance level.
Fluid trainers however are designed with no magnets to provide resistance instead using an impeller (basically a rotor inside a tube) that spins in a silicone fluid that provides the resistance needed. Some people love and swear by the mag style trainers for their cheap price and basic design whereas others are ‘fluid all the way’ thanks to their better ‘feel’ providing a more realistic riding situation and the not to be ignored benefit of a much quieter ride.
I’ve used and owned both styles in the past and to be honest I’ve never been a huge fan of either. I actually prefer rollers but I was open to try something new and the guys at CycleOps were convinced that their ‘Real Road Feel’, lifetime warranty and other features of the Fluid 2 would win me over . . .
The first thing that struck me about the Fluid 2 when it arrived was its size. With its folding body, the Fluid 2 is very compact and it was a simple process to put it together, unfold the unit and start training.
The unfold process was easy and from first looks the Fluid 2 seemed very similar to many other trainers on the market, but upon closer inspection and use I quickly noticed extra features that seem simple at first but are oh-so useful.
A simple turn of the feet and you can stabilize the unit on uneven ground.
Things like these feet for the unit. They’re a bevelled angle that you can turn when you’ve set up on uneven ground so that the unit is completely stable. Certainly not something I was needing when I was setting up on my terrace here (photo below) for my first try on the Fluid 2 but something that did come in very handy later in the season when I was often setting up outside for warmups before a time trial where I couldn’t always find perfectly even ground. These front bevelled feet when combined with the rear stabilizing units made things nice and easy when setting up and were evidence of a well thought through product – first signs were good.
Yep, I was setting up to do my ‘indoor’ training outside.
So why was I doing my first session on the Fluid 2 outside? Well I don’t have a basement or ‘man cave’ at my house unfortunately and my wife has been around cycling long enough to know that the noise of her husband working hard on an indoor trainer with the constant whining (the trainer not me!) is not a noise that she wants in the living room, so the terrace was my spot.
The joystick or ‘quick-load cam lever’ as CycleOps calls it is much like the rest of the unit, simple and easy to use.
So I hooked up my training bike to the unit with its easy to use joystick to lock it into place, dialed the clutch knob onto the back wheel and started. Just 10 or 20 pedal strokes later I noticed three things that instantly brought a smile to my face:
A) this trainer is smooth
B) this trainer is quiet
C) I’m coming back to the living room baby!
Very next session – in the living room. Upgraded bike, upgraded environment – happy days!
Yep, it was silent enough to merit my return to the house which was just as well cause winter was approaching and I had no intention of continuing my indoor sessions… outdoors. I was interested to find out why it was so silent in comparison to other trainers I’d previously used so I had a good read up on the specifications of the Fluid 2 for an explanation. Firstly the body is made from a very strong yet light 2-inch round, 16-gauge steel combined with quality footpads to provide a stable, supported base for the unit with no vibrations and then the big one – its redesigned fluid resistance unit.
It’s also thanks to this resitance unit that the second immediately noticeable benefit of the Fluid 2 is so good – namely its smoothness. CycleOps engineers have designed the Fluid 2 to try and capture that elusive ‘real road feel’ by the use of a 2.75 lb individually precision–balanced flywheel that provides better stability of your rear wheel and does indeed give a great feel to the ride. Let’s not kid ourselves here though, ‘real road feel’ is a big call for CycleOps to make. I couldn’t say I had that, but I did have the smoothest and quietest ride from a trainer I’ve ever experienced and it was enough to have me actually wanting to use the unit on a regular basis over this three month test.
The engineers have adjusted the fluid levels from previous units to give better resistance and they also improved the position of the sealed–cartridge bearings for better inertia. To keep with the ‘real road feel’ there is no special resistance knob or adjuster on the Fluid 2 – to work harder, simply change gears on your bike, to spin easily for a light warm up or cool down – change to an easier gear.
Numerous sessions in the living room later my racing season in France was drawing to a close, the weather was getting colder and it was time for the traditional end of season races – Le Gentleman. These so called ‘Gentleman’ races are two man time trials over short and testing circuits normally 15 – 25km long that are pure pain sessions. It was here that my one hour sessions on the Fluid 2 would hopefully come into play for me and the Fluid 2 would once again prove its practicality following me to these races. Fold it down and it’s nice and compact size easily fitted in the trunk of the car with my bike and it would prove to be a crucial ingredient in my time trial success.
A quick unfold of the legs, find some relatively even ground, adjust the footpads to make it stable, lock the joystick in place and the bike is ready . . .
Not forgetting to turn the Clutch Knob to make contact with the tyre of course and then we’re away!
Warming up for the pain ahead.
A well designed warm up is certainly one of the most important parts of any time trial performance and the Fluid 2 proved to be a perfect warm up partner. The process of unfolding the trainer, setting up the bike and jumping on took me about 2 minutes, was non stressful and I was immediately ‘in the zone’ spinning away in a smooth fashion and concentrating on my warmup.
Long Term Use
My sessions spent warming up for the time trials weren’t very long but they were intense and the thing I liked about the Fluid 2 was that the unit felt the same after 5 minutes or after 50 either spinning or sprinting. I’ve used a couple of trainers in the past where the resistance seems to change over time as the unit gets hotter but this was pleasantly not the case here and it’s most likely due to the large precision-balanced flywheel with Cycleops’ patented fan design that kept the unit smooth and steady and the viscosity even.
Cycleop’s marketing guys sprout the following about the science behind the unit,
“Stop logging junk miles and start employing our exclusive PowerTuned technology—the result of scientific and athletic collaboration. Now riding the trainer feels more like riding on the road because your wheel accelerates and decelerates on an infinite resistance curve, just like it does outside.
Professional cyclists and renowned scientist Allen Lim worked together to develop a power curve based on a hybrid of road and time trial positions, finding the point at which a speed of 25 mph overlaps with an output of 400 watts.
This point of overlap is where the optimal power curve resides and is the basis for PowerTuned technology. By training on a PowerTuned curve, you benefit from the most true-to-life speed verses power contingency, no matter what speed you ride at.”
Which could all have been summed up with just two words in my book – It’s smooth. Forget the marketing hype, the pretty pictures or the scientific theories behind it, the unit works very well, it’s light and it’s easy to use. I personally would stop short of saying that it has a ‘real road feel’ but it is the closest to it that I’ve ever felt on a trainer. The Fluid 2 retails for MSRP US$349.99 and more info on it and CycleOps’ full range of trainers can be found at CYCLEOPS.com