Fluid Bike Trainer- Guaranteed To Fail?

My enthusiasm for the Road Machine has nothing to do with it being the same color as my racing kit. Scout’s Honor!

While a fluid bike trainer is generally acknowledged to be at the top of the food chain in bicycle trainers, leakage is definitely a problem… or at least it was a problem not too long ago.

But here’s the good news-

Several of the top-tiered fluid bike trainer manufacturers have successfully solved what was a pretty universal problem in the fluid bike trainer world…failure due to leakage.

Having said that, let me go on record as having issued a warning: Don’t try to ‘cheap it’ in the purchase of a fluid bike trainer.

If you’re needing to count your pennies, you’d do better to buy a high quality mag trainer like the CycleOps Magneto (link to my review of the Magneto) than to risk a bout with a cheap, leaking fluid bike trainer.

Kurt Kinetic was the first company to go ‘leak-less’ with their innovative design. Further down the page I’ve written a bit about Kinetic’s solution to the leakage problem. I’ve also included a great video so that you can actually see what I try to describe.

Be sure to watch it!

Check out my review of the…

Kurt Kinetic Road Machine here. 05(opens in new window).

Here’s a review of the Road Machine on steroids (the Kurt Kinetic Pro)…

Kurt Kinetic Pro4.5 (opens in new window).

If you’re interested in the ’emporer’ of trainers, read about the…

Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll trainer here4.5 (opens in new window).

Why A Fluid Bike Trainer To Begin With?


CycleOps Fluid 2 bike trainer

Trying Out The CycleOps Fluid 2

Out of the three types of trainers, the fluid bike trainer provides the most realistic ride and is the quietest.

Unlike a wind trainer or a magnetic trainer, the resistance in a fluid bike trainer is exponential; just like what you’d experience pushing against air resistance when you’re riding your bike outside. I’m sure you’re aware that when it comes to wind resistance, your effort doesn’t increase linearly, but rather exponentially.

Increasing your speed from 18 mph to 20 mph requires a whole lot more energy than increasing your speed from 10 mph to 12 mph.

And that’s what you’ll experience with the top notch fluid bike trainers. In fact, both CycleOps and Kurt Kinetic have calibrated their trainers using power meters to very closely reflect what you’d feel on the road. On their trainers it’s a lot harder to bump up your wheel speed a few extra miles per hour at the top end than it is to increase your speed when you’re spinning easily.

And then there’s the ‘quietness’ factor. While a wind trainer has some riders howling about the noise a wind trainer generates, a fluid bike trainer is relatively quiet. In the ‘noise abatement’ category you get what you pay for.

Why Do Cheap Fluid Bike Trainers Fail?

To understand why early fluid bike trainer models (and today’s cheap models) so commonly failed, let’s review how a fluid bike trainer works. The fluid bike trainer generates its resistance by driving an impeller through silicone fluid. When the rider is feeling extremely beastly, the amount of heat generated by all of this moving fluid can be substantial (up to 400 degrees).

Here’s where the leakage problem can occur. In a less expensive fluid bike trainer the shaft driving the impeller penetrates into the fluid chamber and a rubber seal keeps the fluid from leaking out. With normal wear and tear… and all of that heat, it’s only a matter of time before the seal fails and the rider becomes familiar with the service department of the store from which the unit was purchased.

How Do The Kurt Kinetic Fluid Bike Trainers Work?

So what does the Kurt Kinetic fluid trainer have to offer that’s different? Well, the fluid chamber on the Kurt Kinetic fluid bike trainer is not penetrated by an impeller!

Here’s an excellent demonstration of the unique design in the Kurt Kinetic fluid bike trainers.

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How’s That Again?

Here’s how it works- your tire drives a shaft which rotates a flywheel-type disc. This disc is placed up next to the fluid filled compartment within which resides another disc. It’s the impellers on the second disc which displace the fluid, creating the resistance. But how does the first disc cause the second disc to rotate?

With the magic of magnets!

Six magnets on each disc ‘magnetically lock’ to each other, so that when the outside disc rotates, the inside disc rotates in like fashion.

And it’s all done without any penetration into the fluid-filled resistance chamber! Just what the doctor ordered…no seals to develop a leak, just a sealed fluid-filled chamber.

The Fluid Bike Trainer World’s Been Turned Upside Down

There’s been a shift in the fluid bike trainer world, with Kurt Kinetic leading the way. A couple of years ago, when I first got into indoor cycling, Kurt Kinetic only produced the precursor to the Road Machine. They now dominate the fluid bike trainer world, and they currently produce the Pro, the Road Machine, and the innovative Rock and Roll trainers.

CycleOps Scrambles To Stay Up In Fluid Bike Trainer World

Not to be outdone…although I think that in the fluid bike trainer world the Kinetic patent can hardly be triumphed over, CycleOps has upgraded their CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer. I’m not entirely sure what’s been done to reduce the leakage problem, but I do know that over the last year or two the complaint of ‘leakage’ isn’t often heard from customers in the CycleOps Fluid 2 camp.

Here’s my review of the very popular…

CycleOps Fluid 2 bicycle trainer 4.5(opens in new window).

Check out my review of the…

Kurt Kinetic Road Machine here. 05(opens in new window).

Here’s a review of the Road Machine on steroids (the Kurt Kinetic Pro)…

Kurt Kinetic Pro4.5 (opens in new window).

If you’re interested in the ’emperor’ of trainers, read about the…

Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll trainer here4.5 (opens in new window).

The People’s Top 5 Choices In Bike Trainers- Find Out Why!

Kinetic Road Machine Fluid Trainer
Versatile indoor bicycle trainer with leak-proof magnetic drive system and automatic resistance changes.
Cycleops Fluid 2 Bike Trainer
The infinite resistance curve ensures increased wattage as you increase speed for realistic statistical analysis. The Fluid 2 is surprisingly quiet, and the self-cooling mechanisms--including a patented fan design--keep the unit performing better, longer.
Cycleops Magneto Trainer
Easy-to-set-up, easy-to-use CycleOps Magneto Trainer power band technology provides a progressive, natural workout with varying resistance.
Blackburn Mag Tech 6 Trainer
High-performance bike trainer is the result of research conducted at Blackburn's proprietary bike trainer R&D center.
CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro
The Flexible Power Curve Technology offers four distinctly different power curves by changing the location of the four resistance magnets
About the reviewer: Ron Fritzke is a cycling product reviewer with a passion for ‘all things cycling’. A former 2:17 marathoner, he now directs his competitive efforts toward racing his bike…and looking for good cycling products.
Fluid bike trainer Wiki article
Fluid bike trainer About.com article

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