Cycleops Fluid 2 Trainer Review

Until recently, I’ve had relatively few options when it comes to training on the bike: stay in bed (if it’s six in the morning) or go to the pub (if it’s six in the evening).

After a prolonged hiatus, I certainly wasn’t ready to tackle the streets of Sydney straight away. It wasn’t an issue of strength – I had slowly been rehabilitating my degenerated leg muscles during that time – but more to do with confidence on the road one takes for granted. The rollers weren’t an option either – there was still a huge muscle imbalance between my left and right legs, so the only scenario left was to buy a fixed-wheel home trainer. I decided to bite the bullet and get one of the best my money could buy, the CycleOps Fluid2.

Apartment-friendly

I was attracted to the Fluid2 for three reasons. First, I live in an apartment, so noise disturbance, or more precisely lack of it, is vital. After a short test ride on a few models at the LBS (local bike shop), the Fluid 2 was, by some margin, the mousey-est of the lot.

Accounting for my current physical condition, I also figured the relationship with my home trainer was going to be a close one for the next six to twelve months, so I needed a machine that could go the distance. The Fluid2’s fully-sealed resistance unit, the quality of components and the simplicity of set-up provides every indication that this machine will go the full nine yards and more.

Last, and common to all my big-ticket purchases, the CycleOps Fluid2 simply looks mighty fine. While the sight of me half-naked in my cycling shorts, grunting on the balcony in full view of the residents living on the opposite side of the road, is enough to turn a hunger-starved individual off eating forever, at least my equipment looks good.

The trainer now comes with five videos produced by Carmichael Training Systems, starring a group of their current athletes. Titled “Mountain Biking”, “Sprinting”, “Time Trialing”, “Criterium” and “Climbing”, the video’s average about 40 minutes in length and feature CTS coaches Chris Carmichael and Dean Gore instructing athletes as they do specific intervals. Each video focuses on intervals of different intensity providing the variety one needs when they are forced to train indoors. The climbing video focuses on longer strength intervals and suggests that the rider elevate the front wheel to simulate going uphill, whereas the sprinting video focuses on shorter sprint efforts and so on. With the intervals displayed on the screen prior to the workout and the clock counting down the efforts and the recovery sessions during the workouts, the videos are particularly easy to follow and take into consideration the fact that you may want to listen to your own music whilst you train.

For extra motivation, images of Lance Armstrong riding to victory in various stages of Le Tour flash across the screen; and in the mountain biking video, you have the opportunity to do your workout alongside members of the TREK professional MTB team including three-time MTB World Champion Alison Sydor, two-time MTB World Champion Roland Green, US National short track champ, Sue Haywood and former National champion Travis Brown. Brown humorously sums up his opinion of the Cyclops trainer by saying that the intervals he does on the trainer are what make him the sex symbol that he is apparently known to be.

The video’s are of course, designed for people who already have the base fitness required to do such high intensity intervals; and are good in that they give people new to indoor trainer workouts, an overview of the variety of ways to use interval training whilst reminding the viewer to concentrate on important things like technique and hydration along the way.

I’m not sure how the athletes manage to keep a straight face during the filming of these workouts, but they do a good job of it and the videos are a handy addition to the Cyclops Fluid2 trainer.

Set-up

A cinch. Take it out of the box, extend the legs (which are independently adjustable to provide a level footing on uneven surfaces), attach the resistance unit to the frame with the carriage bolt, then insert a L-bolt into the bracket at the back of the resistance unit and turn clockwise – a few turns will bring your rear tire in contact with the roller.

The trickiest operation is actually what appears to be the most simple: installing the quick release mechanism into the frame. Unless you’re used to hammering hard-to-fit objects in with the palm of your hand, make sure you use a rubber hammer when attempting to insert the bolt action tube through the frame. As you lift your bike up and place the left side of the wheel’s skewer into the fixed cone of the trainer frame, it becomes a matter of trial and error screwing in the quick release handle into the bolt action tube. Depending on your bike and dishing of the rear wheel, there’s three holes on the tube to allow your wheel to be centered on the roller of the resistance unit; the instructions say this isn’t necessary, but my feeling is that if you can, you might as well.

The final step involves making sure your rear tire has adequate contact with the roller; if the tyre slides, simply turn the knob clockwise at the back of the resistance unit. With the initial set-up complete, it’s a very basic two-step operation for subsequent training sessions – wiggle the left side of your skewer into the cone and pull down the quick release handle into the locked position. Now you’re ready to suffer!

Spinning 101
With the plethora of online and off-line training programs, manuals and personnel out there, some telling you to train this way, others saying you should do that, it all becomes very confusing.

Seriously though, just doing a shortened version of whatever training session you’re used to doing will suffice and help you retain or, over an extended period of time, improve your strength and fitness on the bike. Altering the intensity/resistance, mixing up the duration of your intervals and sticking to a regular programme will result in more rapid or further improvements in strength, endurance, or a combination of both, which is what aerobic fitness is based upon.

My first workouts on the Fluid2 were all low-intensity. After a prolonged lay-off, my only goal was to reacquaint my legs with a fluid as possible pedalling motion that involved spinning a relatively easy gear (mostly 42×17/19) for half an hour to 45 minutes 2-3 days per week.

Unlike many other trainers with manually-adjustable resistance, the resistance level on the Fluid 2 uses what’s known as ‘Power Band’ technology, where the load varies depending on your cadence and wheel speed. As a previous user of rollers (which offer no additional resistance at all), the intensity was more than adequate for my purposes – CycleOps claim the power output can vary from less than 20 watts to over 725 watts (at 36.21 km/h or 22.5 mph). When you do change down a gear, the extra resistance does take a few seconds to kick in, but you’ll feel it, believe me.

The verdict

For those that don’t need to replicate going up Fillmore Street eight times, the CycleOps Fluid2 is great. It’s easy to set-up, quiet (even quieter if you buy a rubber mat to place underneath you and your trainer; easy to wipe off sweat, too), does an excellent job of sensing the intensity of your load, and requires no maintenance other than wiping your sweat away to stop corrosion. And I guess the greatest testament is that six months later, I only use it when it’s raining or can’t be bothered fighting Volvo drivers. As Willie Nelson would say, I’m on the road again!

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