Tuesday, January 03, 2006

REVIEW: CycleOps Fluid2 Trainer

Since this week's storms have officially kicked off the "I can't ride outside even though I live in Northern California" part of the year, I decided that I would spend some time reviewing some of the most important off-season equipment you can have: your indoor trainer. Today, I take apart my CycleOps Fluid2 Trainer.

The Fluid2 trainer is the top of the line of the CycleOps non-electronic trainers. It shares the same stand as the lower end CycleOps units (The Wind, Mag and Magneto) but has a different resistance head. This resistance head is filled with an expanding fluid to better mimic road/trail conditions under higher power load or pedal cadence. If you look at the resistence curve, it get progressively higher as your cadence increases. With more conventional magnetic resistence, you tend to get a straight resistence curve.

The assembly of this unit should have been a breeze. Basically, there are only three parts to the unit: the base, the resistance head and the piece that holds the two together. And therein lies the problem. The piece that holds them together didn't fit into the base nor screw into the resistence unit. With a lot of elbow grease, I finally got the piece to squeeze into the base unit but it took some serious engineering to get the piece into the resistence head. In the end, I disassembed the resistence unit, wrenched the screw into a piece of the unit, and then reattaching it to the unit. What a pain in the ass. And a waste. This all could have been avoided with a two minute quality review.

Luckily the rest of my installation went very smoothly. I bought and mounted a Specialized FatBoy slick on my back rim, slipped in the new spindle (supplied with the Fluid2 trainer) and locked the back wheel into the trainer. No shim or adjustment is needed for 26" MTB tires. The wheel is held firm within the jaws of the Fluid2 and I felt very solid (and I am on the large side at 190+ lbs).

Now that I am done bitching, I must say the ride quality of this unit is great. I struggle with some lower end trainers not providing enough resistence, but this one can get very difficult at high cadence / high gearing. In fact, in the big ring/small ring back it is damn difficult to hold 85 RPM cadence. Noise is very low (especially in the lower gearing) so I can even usually hear my TV without headphones. The resistance unit does get very hot after a hour of use, but I haven't seen any ill effects from it yet. The only strange thing that I get today is a strange gurgling noise, which I attribute to the hot fluid sloshing around in the unit. While I haven't had any problems with durability yet, I am on the lookout for any leakage -- it has been mentioned as a problem in many of the MTBR.com discussions.

CycleOps includes the Chris Charmichael "Time Trail" DVD with this unit. While the DVD is roadie specific, it is basically a hard-ass hour of intervals training that should fit right in with your mountain bike training.

I got my Fluid2 trainer at Performance Bikes for USD$249.00 a few months ago (You might be able to find it cheaper). It has a lifetime limited warranty.
Quality: 3/5
Reliability: 4/5
Ride: 5/5
Overall Value: 4/5
URL: CycleOps Fluid2

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