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PEZ Tests: TravelTrac Fluid Plus Trainer
The TravelTrac Fluid Plus Trainer offers affordable convenience – a compact, lightweight trainer with adjustable resistance, that takes a few seconds to set up, and stores easily in a bunch of places.


Offered as the private label trainer from Performance Bicycle, (the biggest retailer of cycling goods in the US), this fluid trainer has been developed to their spec with the input if a leading trainer manufacturer from Italy and you can likely guess who that is.




Out of The Box
The simplicity of this trainer is gonna make this part of the review pretty short. With only a small amount of setup required, it’s almost ready to go as soon as you pull the pre-assembled unit out of the box. Everything is there, and everything is attached.

Inside the box is the trainer, the instructions, a steel skewer, and a 10mm wrench to use for final setup. That’s it. For an extra $20 you get the front wheel block and a sweat net for your bike.

Mine weighted in just under 17 lbs., but actually seemed lighter because of the compact size.


Set Up
Although I did this in a couple of steps, and cost myself more time because I didn’t read the instructions… the whole setup should take just a few minutes.

The biggest ‘effort’ in the setup requires a re-positioning of the motor on the frame – but it’s easy to do. Using the 10 mm wrench, I just loosened two bolts that secure the motor, and repositioned it within a slotted interface. It’s pretty much a no brainer – but is required because the units are packed for shipping to offer better security, and while the trainer will in fact work without repositioning the motor (if placed on a mat on carpet), you’ll definitely notice the stability is compromised if placed on a flat hard surface.





Four large ‘feet’ do a good job keeping the trainer stable.


Of course I made this job harder on myself by completely removing the two bolts, then dropping the nuts on my shop floor, and well… you can guess the rest.

Done right, this step should take about 5 minutes, and as the instructions say, all you gotta do is loosen the bolts (NOT remove them), and slide the motor into the new position. Then tighten the bolts and you’re ready to insert your bike.




Now it’s time to slot the bike into place. This calls for manually adjusting the axle-grabbers to fit the width of the steel skewer supplied in the box. The big diameter (approx 2 inches) lock-nuts are easy to adjust by hand, and the only back & forth involved will be as you set the desired width for the skewer.



The big lock-arm is easy to use and holds tight.


Then you place the bike into position, and clamp it into place with by locking down the big lever on the drive side of the trainer. Again, it’s easy-peasy, and the unit clamps in with enough force that I never noticed the bike moving around within the clamps.



Finally, attach the shift lever to you bars with the quick release clamp and you’re pretty much set to get training.


Use It
The last few years I’ve run a variety of trainers, including the CompuTrainer, CycleOps PowerBeams, and Blackburn’s TrakStand Ultra, but his was my first time on a real ‘fluid’ trainer – the kind that uses a viscous fluid to create resistance while you’re pedaling.



Once the clamping arm is locked in place, it’s not moving until you say it is.





Next to you, the resistance unit is the heart of this trainer, and while I’m not going to explain the full dynamics of how the internals work, I can tell you they did what I expected – delivering constant, controlled, and adjustable resistance through every session.

I did notice that until the fluid warms up to a steady operating temperature, the resistance could be slightly uneven at times but only in the opening minutes on a session. Once warmed up – any internal slippage disappeared.





The adjustable resistance is the “Plus” in the name here – and they do offer a non-adjustable fluid trainer as well. The resistance can be controlled in two ways – one by shifting through the gears on your bike (I set mine on the big ring and in a middle cog on the back since I prefer a straight chainline), or by using the handlebar mounted shifter that is part of the TravelTrac.




You can choose one of 5 resistance settings (1 is easiest) – or change on the fly simply by twisting the shift dial. It’s easy to operate and shifts smoothly – smoother than your bike. Similar to the bike, it changes ‘gears’ via a cable which feeds into the motor.




The roller offers plenty of area that should handle most tire widths – for road and mtb. The roller surface itself is textured to provide enough grip that tire slippage should never be an issue – it certainly wasn’t for me – which was nice since I’ve often found that slippage on smooth rollers a tad annoying.

Getting up to speed was easy – another plus of the simple design. After a solid month away from any detectable riding (normal for my December), I’m starting up from square 1. My early sessions have been steady state intervals and reminding myself how to pedal in circles. The TravelTrac is performing exactly as I’d expect, and works equally well whether seated or standing.

Like any fluid trainer, simulated ‘real world’ coasting is hard to come by, but then ‘coasting’ isn’t really a part of my sweating in my basement routine. While I mentioned that the clamp holds the axle firmly in place, I did notice a small amount of side to side rocking while riding, which added a more realistic feel to my sessions.





It’s Good For…
At $300, this trainer will appeal to anyone wanting a moderately priced trainer, perfectly suitable for indoor training, or taking with you to spin sessions, or races. It’s especially convenient because the compact size (approx 20” x 23” x 6” when folded) makes it easy to stow under the bed, couch, in a closet, etc. It’s ideal for taking to races, and cranking up the psych factor as you warm up like a pro – just put ‘er in the trunk.

It doesn’t offer power measurement, but then doesn’t come with the higher price tag either. I got around this by using a bike with a PowerTap wheel and computer on the trainer to ride at specific wattage levels. This trainer will work well with a lot of training videos – anything from The Sufferfest is a good example, or Performance Bike offers a bunch to choose from too.


• Price: US $299.00 – On special at posting for $199.00
• See the website: PerformanceBike.com


 

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