Most folks in cycling know the makers of the Rock and Roll trainer as the “Kurt Kinetic” guys, a small trainer company…
That would be just a little off base as Kurt Manufacturing do one or two other things besides creating their Kinetic Division, knocking out one of the more innovative designs for indoor cycling in their Rock and Roll Trainer.
Kurt entered the trainer game as an OE manufacturer for a well-known brand, making a couple of key components here in the US. That manufacturer went bankrupt and Kurt found themselves stuck with a pretty good supply of frame parts and, more importantly, Kurt were armed with the knowledge of how to build a much better resistance unit than their failed customers. “Kinetic” was launched and followed shortly with the first of many products.
Consistent Durable Power
The primary thing that sets this unit apart from competitors is that it’s erm… apart.
The Fluid unit looks simple enough on the outside…
The main problem with most fluid trainer designs is pretty simple. They have a drive shaft (the part that your bike tire contacts in order to turn the unit) that has to go through and into a fluid chamber and spin a paddle wheel around inside the fluid to create the resistance you feel.
This design suffers in a few ways, most notably that it doesn’t remain sealed forever. And it’s less obvious to some people, but at the point where these designs’ drive shafts pass into a fluid chamber is a point of friction, and that friction very simply changes with the rise in temperature created under use.
Not only do these designs eventually leak, but because the temp changes the amount of friction at the seals, you can get changing / inconsistent resistance during a training session.
Kinetic’s fix (and they hold a patent…) for Hydro resistance is simple once you ask them for a cut away unit…
The portion of the unit with the drive shaft is completely separate from the stand alone (and fully sealed) fluid unit.
The plexiglas on the cutaway unit is clear for obvious reasons, but it’s also way-way-way thicker than the stock unit. Part of that might be for durability of the display but it’s more likely because Kinetic use DAMN strong rare earth magnets on both the drive side flywheel and the fluid side resistance wheel.
These magnets are matched to attract and it’s very hard to pull the display unit apart. So hard that I didn’t realize these pieces could come apart when I was handling the unit… Any thinner on the Plexiglas and these halves won’t come apart at all by hand (or foot or anything else short of a crowbar and vice).
When the unit is manufactured, the fluid side is enclosed with a thin composite cover roughly as thick as where the red line shows below… And it’s sealed with a rubber gasket in a precision machined slot (also red arrowed)
And rather than having to deal with changing levels of friction trying to seal a hole where the drive shaft punches through to the fluid, both the drive shaft side and the fluid side are rolling on substantial sealed bearings with low drag that doesn’t change with the fairly mild temps of the Kinetic Fluid unit.
In fact, temperature in general seems to be quite a bit lower on the Kinetic Fluid unit versus the two other trainers I have here (and any I can remember having).
For starters, the fluid side heat sink fins are both high quantity and deep…
And again because the units are in halves, this unit was designed with an airflow generating windmill on the drive shaft side that acts as an active blower, exhausting hot air right through the guts of the resistance unit through machined slots (the drive side also has fins to increase the surface area and act as a proper heat sink).
This is easily the most effective active cooling design in any fluid resistance trainer that I’ve used.
A Real Drag
As far as resistance function goes, the Kinetic Fluid unit is both very smooth and fairly linear in resistance.
Part of that smoothness is down to the design already covered, but it’s also down to something as simple as the type of fluid.
The unit houses a thermally neutral silicone sourced from the medical industry. That doesn’t mean that the liquid stays the same temp, but that it stays the same consistency / thickness so that the resistance it has to the fins moving through it doesn’t change in the range of temps that the unit operates in.
The combination of this fluid, the design of the fins moving through it and the ability of the unit to maintain relatively low temps combines for resistance that is so consistent that it not only feels very smooth in use, but Kinetic can relatively accurately tell you what your wattage output is based on the rpm’s of the flywheel through the liquid.
With that super consistent resistance, they’ve developed the InRide (we’ll cover that in a follow up review, but it’s firkin cool…)
Ready to Rock and Roll?
While the geek in me has to give priority to the details and operation of the fluid unit itself, most folks want to know about the much more flashy aspect of the aptly named “Rock and Roll”.
Riding inside is boring enough in any case, but it’s made worse by the typical indoor trainers locking you in place. It makes some folks want for rollers, but with Rollers come a whole other set of issues for some people that make the relative security that comes with being locked in place seem like a better choice.
Enter the Rock and Roll that allows a more road like side to side movement.
At the core of this movement is a double layer of elastomers.
And the entire upper structure and resistance unit “float” on, or more accurately are being squeezed between these rubbers to allow the entire bike rock side to side.
Now while this movement seems like a no brainer pleasure to the rider, its first attraction to me was in that I’ve never liked the kind of stress that standard trainers placed on my very expensive bike frames.
I always wondered how much frame flex was happening to my bikes when I did intervals on a trainer so I popped over to Cyclologic.com to try and freeload on the host of lasers and measuring equipment on hand at their training facility.
While there are lots of places to look at the rather nasty amount of flex that happens when all of a rider’s effort is being driven through the rear drop outs, the easiest to visualize was simply hitting the head tube with a laser and doing a mid-high level acceleration (this would have been a lot worse with more resistance on the stock trainer…)
The first few seconds are mild effort with the stand-up effort happening at about 8 seconds in…
By contrast, the frame isn’t flexing much at all when the trainer allows movement (as well as the Turn Table Riser stand allowing for front wheel freedom.
Quick thanks to Michael Dziedzic and the Landis/Trek Domestic Elite team for Rocking and Rolling. You can find them at WMRC.ORG
Both videos are slowed a bit so you can better see what’s happening but it doesn’t take much effect to see which divide you would rather clamp your several thousand dollar investment into.
And while you’re relieving a little stress from your frame, you’re taxing your body just that little bit more as the frame rocks and the front wheel needs a bit of attention to stay straight.
The first time you clamp in your bike you’ll need to adjust one side of the trainer by way of a very simple hand turn knob and once you have it set properly, you’ll spin the silver lock nut in to place to hold that adjustment.
When you install your bike after initial set up, it’s throwing a switch. You simply flip a lever that extends the other retainer over the end of your QR and it locks in place…
The resistance unit will snug to the tire with a pretty standard hand knob…
The unit ships with a Kinetic Friendly QR, but it also ships with clamping heads that will work with some other more standard QR’s.
The Rock and Roll is very simply a more natural feeling indoor ride.
One assumption that lots of people might make is that the Rock and Roll will be hard to control or unstable. That’s not the case. The unit sits upright as standard and doesn’t feel like you’re going to tip over.
It simply allows you to tip your bike side to side more naturally than fixed trainers and the ease of movement is actually adjustable to allow for easier or more firm movement by tightening or loosening the bolts holding the upper unit in place.
You need to be careful to be in a proper range of adjustment as you don’t want the unit coming apart, but it’s not a difficult thing to do and you can make this unit firm enough that rocking side to side takes quite a bit of effort (at least for my 150ish pounds).
You’ll also have quite a bit of additional movement available if you choose Kinetic’s Turn Table Riser.
On the surface this looks like any other wheel stand, with slots to raise and lower the front…
But this is built with a solid upper and connected to a lower plat, with bearings between that allow very free front wheel movement.
The Turn Table Riser is really a must-have to get the total effect of the Rock and Roll and honestly I’ve been using one for a while with a standard fixed trainer as it completely frees up the front end movement a little for even a basic / fixed trainer.
The rocking motion might take a little getting used to for some people, but I was sold pretty quickly and comfortable a few minutes into the first ride.
I’m actually more relaxed on this trainer than I’ve been on anything else to date and I think it’s down to the ability to move a bit. Some might think that being more active and having more movement would be more stressful but, again, this unit holds me upright very well and isn’t unstable. It just allows freedom of movement, quite a bit more like the road. It feels more relaxed and natural.
I think it feels unnaturally restrictive to ride on fixed trainers now.
Imagine sitting in a comfortable chair… Then imagine being tied up and placed in that same chair. For me, my fixed trainers feel like that second thing now.
The fluid unit is fantastic. Very smooth and very consistent with virtually no warm up period (for the reasons discussed above). The resistance ramps up in a VERY linear fashion based on wheel speed. The gear changes all feel like they are adding or subtracting a very even amount of force. There are none of the quirks in resistance at the bottom, middle or top of the range here that are a part of darn near all other fluid units. It is very easy to understand how your work load will change and you find this trainer working for you rather than you working around how your trainer functions…
After using the trainer for a bit, I called and talked to the folks at Kinetic and asked about their “Pro” Fly Wheel. My thought was that the stock unit flywheel was fairly heavy and took quite a bit of time to spin down relative to other trainers (it’s easily several seconds longer then the Tacx, Elite and Computrainer units I have). I didn’t see a need for a pro wheel.
I was told that the Pro wheel is a significant improvement in road feel, has twice the spin down time and I should try one… After a few calls to folks I know that have a Kinetic unit I tracked one down (though on a standard Fixed Kinetic Trainer).
Long story short, they’re right… The biggest difference isn’t in spin down of course (that’s just generally a good gauge at flywheel weight and unit smoothness). Where you’ll feel the bigger pro Flywheel is when you’re changing your pace and quickly ramping up your effort. The extra heft of that wheel increases the effort at pace change notably… It’s a plus that I wish I had now at home and I’m thinking about buying one.
One gripe I’ve heard while hunting feedback in forums is that a couple of folks’ bikes sat with a bit of tilt to one side (and being chat rooms, they had all the time in the world to bitch but couldn’t take 5 minutes to call the manufacturer’s support line).
On initial set up, I also had my bike sitting a very slight lean to one side. I simply loosened the rubbers, pushed em in logical directions (though there was very little play in them) and re-snugged the bolts to initial spec and poof. The bike has remained straight since… (And I’ll admit that I didn’t bother calling the manufacturer either.)
The most common potential down side mentioned online is the unit’s size and weight.
This thing is 4 feet wide and roughly 30 inches deep. The other trainers I have are all close to half this width and depth.
Note the white line on the platform that sits several inches to the right of center. That would be the dead center line for the trainer that normally sits on this platform during its day job.
Yes that’s a Blue Axino SL, and no, that aint stock paint.
The Rock and Roll is actually slightly over the edge of both sides where the normal trainer leaves a few inches on the near side and a full foot plus of room on the other…
Add to its 10 square foot-print that it weighs roughly 43 pounds.
I know that I feel like I’m getting a better total body work out with the movement, but I’m not sure what percentage of that should be the result of moving the trainer around versus using it.
That said, when you put an adult on a bike and then allow that fully working system to move in the fashion that the Rock and Roll allows (especially standing and sprinting), there is very simply no getting around the need for a solid foundation. I don’t think this unit can be this stable without the width and weight of the total package and I’ll admit it’s not easy to move, but that’s not ever kept me from setting it up and using it.
The Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer features the best performing fluid unit I have used to date, housed in the most bike friendly and rider involving frame currently on the market.
I’ve not felt a more consistently smooth operation through the full range of resistance in any fluid unit and that combined with the system movement (the “Rock and Roll”part) make Kinetic’s trainer the most road like experience in function currently on the market.
The only thing missing from this unit getting called the best unit period would be the addition of some of the video features combined with GPS route tracking and programming available from a few other manufacturers. While the Rock and Roll isn’t inexpensive relative to other fluid trainers ($569.00), it is relatively inexpensive compared to those programmable-route, video added, GPS compatible wonder trainers. It’s really two different product classes.
The techno trainers aside, some of you might wonder what justifies a fluid trainer costing $569 when there are others available at half the price. Frankly, after using the Rock and Roll, I think the burden of justifying price lies with fixed frame trainers with lesser functioning resistance units. The solid craftsmanship and great design from Kinetic and Kurt are stand alone as it relates to fluid units and trainer frames.
In the case you can’t spring for a rock and Roll, do yourself a favor and buy the Turn Table Riser… You can buy them directly from Kinetic at KurtKinetic.com
A quick THANK YOU to the guys at SOAR Communications for their professional support of Kinetic by Kurt Manufacturing in getting us together to put this info in front of our readers.