Kurt Kinetic Road Machine- My Exhaustive Review!

The Kurt Kinetic Road Machine shines because of magnetic coupling, medical-grade silicone, and an unconditional guarantee. There’s a good reason the Road Machine’s the official trainer of the USA Cycling Team. Read more…

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.

Product Quality 05 Noise Level 05
Realistic Feel 05 Bells and Whistles 04
Overall Value 05
kurt kinetic road machine

'Road Machine' meet its father, 'Papa Kurt'

 

When Pam from Kurt Kinetic offered to send out a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine for review, I thought it was a great idea…for several reasons.

  • I’ve been pounding out mile after mile on my original Kurt Kinetic Fluid trainer for five winters now, and it’s never let me down.
  • In my obsession to search for the best bike trainers to recommend to my readers, the consensus has been that the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine is at the top of the heap.
  • But for some time now, I’ve been wondering how much different the Road Machine is from my ‘old’ trainer.

Well, it turns out that Kurt Kinetic hit on a winner with the original design… and except for a new ‘hair color’, the two units are nearly identical. Wisely, Kurt Kinetic decided to not fix something that isn’t broken.

There are now several new fancy Kurt Kinetic horses in the stable (namely, the Rock and Roll), but the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine is like a cowboy’s trusted quarterhorse – not too flashy, but SOLID and impervious to breakdowns.

I do have an idea or two to make it even better, but I’ll get to that later…

kurt kinetic road machine

My Scott CR1 put on his best wheels to meet the Road Machine.

1) Magnetic Coupling Makes The Kurt Kinetic Road Machine Stand Out In The Crowd

Kurt Kinetic magnetic coupling

Cut away view of Resistance Unit

If you’re new to the bike trainer world you may not have heard of Kurt Kinetic’s unique magnetic coupling design. I’ll get you up to speed.

While fluid trainers are recognized as being at the top of the trainer food chain, they do suffer from a fatal flaw. They start to develop leaks when they shouldn’t, and have to be put out to pasture.

I’m just thankful that such a fate doesn’t await us older men when we start leaking inappropriately at social events. My kids assure me that I’m safe…at least for now.

Kurt Kinetic forged its place in the bike trainer world with a patent that eliminated the need for O-Rings (which predictably fail). In the Road Machine, the chamber containing the silicone fluid is completely sealed, and the roller which your bike tire is causing to spin is ‘virtually’ connected to the impeller by a magnetic coupler.

This is best understood by watching the video below.

Don’t get this confused with a mag trainer, which uses magnetic resistance to provide the workload.

The Kurt Kinetic system uses powerful magnets to couple the external roller assembly with the sealed impellers. That means that there’s no shaft penetrating the inner sanctum of the fluid.

Check out the video later in this post for an excellent cut-away of the two chambers.

2) How Strong Are The Magnets In The Kurt Kinetic Road Machine?

There were times in the past when I’d accelerate on my Kurt Kinetic fluid trainer and feel some slippage. I wondered if the slippage was occurring inside the trainer; in the inner sanctum of the magnetic coupling.

It turns out it wasn’t the ‘innards’ that were failing. Here’s how I found out- I practically wore out my rear tire within the span of a couple of indoor rides. Like a meat head, I hadn’t put enough tension between the roller and my tire. All of that slippage was tearing the tire up.

Since those early ill-fated rides, I’ve discovered that the idea of me having enough power in my legs to disrupt the bond between the coupling magnets was foolish wishful thinking. Kurt Kinetic’s testing demonstrated that the magnetic bond withstood an electric motor’s ability to suddenly accelerate the trainer from 0 to 50 mph without any slippage.

My abilities are somewhat less than that.

On a similar note, this trainer provides up to 3000 watts of resistance. As a point of reference, elite road cyclists may produce up to 1700 watts as an instantaneous maximum at the end of a road race. Instantaneous means for the first few seconds of their ‘jump’ as they accelerate.

It’s not likely you’ll be too powerful for this trainer.

————————————————————————————————————————————————-

My two cents: I’d like to see an upgrade in the way in which the roller is tightened up against the tire. The CycleOps Fluid 2 has a lever, which once ‘set’, easily replicates the appropriate pressure against the tire.

But because there ‘s no colored indicator or ‘bump’ on the tightening star of the Road Machine, it’s sometimes difficult to know if you’ve tightened it up appropriately…particularly when the trainer’s backed up against a wall so that you can’t see behind the trainer while you’re tightening the roller against the tire.

The prescribed number of turns is 2 to 4, after the roller initially contacts the tire, but it’d be easier to keep track how many turns you’ve done if there was a point of reference on the tightener.

————————————————————————————————————————————————

powertap calibration of road machine

Calibration Notations

The folks at Kurt Kinetic calibrated the resistance unit using a Powertap watt meter. Their ambition is to match the amount of effort (wattage) with a realistic number of miles per hour when a bike would be ridden on a flat road.

It just so happens that I’ve been riding with a Powertap for about three years now, so I’m able to give you some screen shots from my bike (my wife took the pictures while I huffed and puffed to get up to… and sustain 400 watts) of about how many watts it takes on the Road Machine to go about 20 mph… and how many it takes to go about 25 mph.

From my experience, these values are pretty close to what happens out on the road.

-See The Uniqueness Of The Kurt Kinetic Road Machine-



3) Why Silicone In The Kurt Kinetic Trainers?

Kurt Kinetic calls their medical-grade silicone fluid ‘thermodynamically neutral’. That means that the consistency of the silicone fluid remains essentially unchanged even as heat builds up (the temperature in the fluid chamber can reach up to 400 degrees, which is largely why O-Rings fail).

Other types of fluids lose their viscosity (thickness) as they increase in temperature. So if your trainer doesn’t have silicone in the fluid chamber, your workload decreases as heat builds up.

My enthusiasm for the Road Machine has nothing to do with it matching my racing kit. Scout's Honor!

4) A Word About Guarantees

Kurt Kinetic maintains that their competitors warrant their trainers for ‘manufacturer’s defects‘. Kurt guarantees their trainers with an Unconditional Lifetime Warranty.

Yes, in the Kurt Kinetic literature the competitor’s guarantee is in lower case, while the Kurt guarantee is capitalized. Further proof that these fellers mean business.

There is actually a ‘crash replacement policy’ guarantee for the lifetime of the trainer. What kind of a fool could crash on a trainer?

I guess it’d be the type of fool who’s writing this review. But in my own defense, I’d forgotten to tighten everything down. And the impact onto the tile floor wasn’t too bad.

If I’d have had the Kinetic training mat at that time, I’ll bet it wouldn’t have happened at all…since the trainer ‘sticks’ very well to the training mat.

And then there’s the issue of the training mat (instead of the floor) catching all of that sweat.

Easy Set-up And My Wasteful Thoughts

Set-up of the Kinetic Road Machine is extremely easy…but I have a confession to make.

About all you have to do to put the trainer together is use the carriage bolt and nut to attach the resistance unit to the frame and then put the tightening device on.

When I was putting the nut onto the carriage bolt, the thought crossed my mind that there should be one of those thin, cheap 14 mm wrenches included with the trainer. That way I wouldn’t have to walk all the way to my garage and get a wrench out of my toolbox. What’s wrong with these Kurt Kinetic guys?tightening nut on Road Machine

Then it hit me…through the years I’ve thrown away oodles of ‘specialty’ wrenches that were used only one time for the installation of something like a ceiling fan, a vacuum cleaner, or the tank on the back of a toilet.

What a waste. Just because I’m too lazy to go get a ‘real’ wrench from the garage, a lot of items come complete with ‘disposable’ wrenches. That’s why I have a variety of cheap, metal installation devices scattered all over my workbench.

Anyway, a 14 mm wrench from the garage performed the 10 second procedure just fine…and the environmental waste was minimized.

A Few Miscellaneous Extras

  • There’s a DVD that comes with the trainer which goes through the set-up step by step (in case reading the simple written instructions is too ‘old school’).
  • The DVD also includes a very difficult workout by the head dude from Spinervals, done at a Mercedes dealership. The Mercedes connection is interesting…no doubt Spinervals is banking on a bit of ‘parasitic branding’.
  • There are two extra skewers that are included with the Road Machine which go into the ‘cone’ shaped holders. But if you’re going to use your own skewer that isn’t round on the lever end, the trainer comes equipped with a ‘slotted’ holder. I’m not sure if my picture illustrates what I mean, but I’ll include it anyway.

Thoughts On Setting The Height Of The Trainer

There are four different sets of holes on the frame of the trainer so that the height of the trainer can be altered according to what size wheels are on your bike. But in keeping with the ‘commercial grade’ nature of the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, there are some ‘manly’ bolts holding the legs in place.

What this does is make switching the height of the trainer from bike to bike a bit more inconvenient than if the bolts were instead ‘pins’. You can see my ‘pin’ idea in the picture.

But I have to say, there aren’t too many instances in which the trainer’s used by a variety of different sized bikes on day-to-day basis…and the use of my ‘pin’ idea would probably make the trainer less sturdy.

Just trying to earn my keep as a bike gear reviewer. 🙂

How Do You ‘Level’ Your Bike On A Road Machine?

Take a look at the picture of my bike at the top of this page. With a slanting top tube, it’s impossible to put a level on the top tube and determine if the bike’s level.

And because I’m such a ‘wanna-be’ racing guy, I have the handlebars set well below the saddle height. So nothing worthwhile can be determined by running a level from the saddle to the stem.

So what needs to be done is to measure the distance from the ground to the center of the rear axle…and then match that height on the front axle. You can then put your front wheel in the appropriate slots on the riser (there are four to choose from). In my case, the height was about 15 inches.

The Good
  1. Kurt Kinetic’s proprietary design defeats the leakage problem that fluid trainers have.
  2. Calibrated with a Powertap, so your speed at a given resistance level is accurate.
  3. Silicone fluid is thermodynamically neutral so resistance doesn’t ‘taper off’ as the trainer heats up.
  4. Heat is dissipated by 80 cooling fins…hey, cooling fins worked on Volkswagen Bugs for years!
  5. Largest roller in the industry (2 1/8″) reduces tire wear.
  6. Multi-position legs allow trainer to get closer to the floor. May reduce need for a front riser block.
  7. Realistic feel, perhaps only surpassed by a ‘motor brake’ on virtual reality trainers like the Tracx Fortius (which sells for well over $1000).
  8. Kurt Kinetic’s unconditional guarantee demonstrates their dedication to quality.
  9. Beats a mag trainer or a wind trainer in the noise department.
The Bad
  1. May be too much trainer for a very casual rider.
  2. Lacks a system to consistently tighten the roller against the tire.
  3. The lime green may insult some rider’s sensitivities, although I applaud Kurt Kinetic for matching the trainer to my racing kit. 🙂

This trainer is for:

  1. Riders looking for a high quality product that they can be proud to include in their cycling equipment.
  2. Cyclists wanting a realistic feel, without spending a couple thousand dollars for a virtual reality trainer.
  3. Cyclists who are willing to spend a bit more (than a trainer from a lower quality manufacturer) in exchange for reliability.

Kurt Kinetic Road Machine Features

  • Get a realistic feel with the 6.25 pound flywheel. Now you can buy an extra 12 lb flywheel to attach for additional ‘realism’. This feature essentially substitutes for what used to be called the Kurt Kinetic Pro.
  • Get the advantage of knowing that the resistance unit has been calibrated using a Powertap wattage meter.
  • The patented fully sealed resistance chamber eliminates any chance of leakage.
  • Uses silicone fluid, which is thermodynamically stable.
  • Makes use of 80 fins to effectively dissipate heat.
  • There are other features, but I’d just be repeating myself…they’re covered in The Good section above.

Here’s What People Are Saying…

“I’ve ridden on several different trainers that my son and I have used for training on mountain bikes, road bikes, and recumbent bikes. This is the best one. You’ll notice the quality of the unit from when you first lift it out of the carton. It is strongly built…”

James {This review edited for brevity. Read full review here}

“I bought this trainer 2 months ago, and I’m thrilled with it. When considering a trainer, fluid trainers are the way to go. There are 4 types of trainers… Fluid trainers are quieter, realistic, and smoother than the other types. The only drawback with fluid trainers is leakage. Three companies have solutions to this problem…the Kurt Kinetic is the best because it uses a sealed resistance unit…and is guaranteed not to leak…”

Marc (This review edited for brevity. Read full review here}

My Conclusion

I’ve loved my early-model Kurt Kinetic Fluid trainer for a lot of years now; so being sold on the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine is a natural for me (I’m in good company since it’s also the mainstay for a lot of pro cycling teams).

I’ve done all I can do to be a good product reviewer…providing a few ideas to perhaps make the machine a bit better.

But there is one reality that can’t be overlooked…The uniqueness of the resistance unit on the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine (for which there is a patent that extends for more than ten additional years) makes this fluid trainer a slam dunk.

We can quibble about different bells and whistles, but I can tell you that you won’t go wrong with a fluid trainer that’ll never leak, provides all the resistance you’ll ever need, and operates quietly.

===>Get the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine from Amazon Here<===

I’ve looked around a lot, and they have as good a price as anywhere on the internet (currently a savings of over $180.00), are a very trusted merchant,
and your Kurt Kinetic Road Machine trainer may be eligible for free shipping.

If you think this review is thorough, please link to it, Facebook it, Google plus it, or bookmark it.  Much appreciated!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *