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Kurt Kinetic Road Machine.
By Tom Demerly
Read this first about our reviews


The ultimate hot-rod accesory: Integrated aerobars.


Using an indoor trainer this winter will provide tangible, concentrated fitness results next Spring.

There is a saying that your fitness depends on your off-season. No matter what type of cyclist you are how you train during the winter determines the quality of your riding experience in the summer. If you stay off the bike over the winter it will be difficult getting back on the bike; you’ll gain weight, loose fitness and get unaccustomed to sitting on a bike seat. No other part of your off-season equipment is as important as your indoor trainer.

More than any other type of bicycle training, riding an indoor trainer provides significant benefits quickly. Few cyclists actually look forward to riding their indoor trainer, but anyone who has done it with consistency and moderation during the off-season will enjoy the benefits of weight loss, increased fitness and acclimation to sitting in the cycling position. You can make your greatest fitness and weight loss gains during the winter.

Riding an indoor trainer is concentrated fitness. Every one minute riding the trainer is sixty seconds of good, solid work. You don’t coast, stop or draft. It is all meat. You don’t have to ride the trainer very long to realize a significant training benefit. If you can use your indoor trainer for a half hour every other day throughout the off-season you will notice a big improvement in your fitness, keep your weight stable or loose weight.

Indoor trainers are a product category rife with contraptions. Trainers range in cost from bogus $60 stands that simply elevate the rear wheel to multi-thousand dollar affairs with a full exercise physiology suite. The happy medium is a dependable, durable trainer that is quiet, long lasting, provides a wide range of resistance which is easy to install and remove a bike from.

I’ve made peace with the indoor trainer and look forward to riding it. I appreciate the concentrated fitness gains from a season of riding indoors. Most times coming off the trainer at the beginning of the year gives me better fitness than riding outdoors. Part of the reason I’ve made peace with the indoor trainer is that I found the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine. I’m not the only reviewer who gives it high marks. Bicycling magazine gave the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine its “Editor’s Choice” award for best indoor trainer. Velo-News labeled the Kurt Kinetic “Our favorite trainer”. As you’ll see in this review, the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine is not revolutionary; it is simply refined, well built and easy to use.

In the crowded product category of indoor trainers Kurt Manufacturing got their start as a second tier supplier to Cycle-Ops, another indoor trainer manufacturer. Kurt was originally contracted to build the frame for the Cycle-Ops brand indoor trainers. Kurt Manufacturing actually started in 1947 manufacturing tooling equipment and continues as a precision machining and manufacturing company in addition to their U.S. based trainer operations.

Cycle-Ops, the guys Kurt started out making trainer frames for, have had their share of ups and downs. Cycle-Ops was purchased by Graber Products out of bankruptcy in 1999 and subsequently suffered a bad reputation from a series of fluid resistance trainers that leaked the resistance fluid from the load generator housing. Graber, the new owners of Cycle-Ops, managed to engineer a passable short term fix for the problem and revived the brand but they have struggled ever since from the leaking issue. Occasional leakage problems remain with Cycle-Ops trainers due to a fundamental aspect of the Cycle-Ops design. This became their Achilles heel and an opportunity for Kurt Manufacturing.

As this drama played out Kurt Manufacturing was designing a new fluid resistance indoor trainer with a completely leak-proof, encapsulated resistance unit that used an improved frame for more stable support and less stress on bike frames. The fluid vessel that contains a rotating impeller to generate silent resistance while pedaling was molded completely shut. The resulting technology developed by Kurt was awarded a patent and has become the current Kurt Kinetic Road Machine.

Simply stated, the trainers are built and designed better than any other manufacturer we’ve seen. The design team at Kurt Manufacturing learned from other trainer company’s mistakes. Kurt incorporates subtle (and not so subtle) design refinements and innovations that make the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine the best fluid resistance indoor trainer available.

The key benefits that are entirely unique to the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine are:

  • Completely sealed, seamless fluid resistance unit that cannot leak (patented).
  • Neodyium magnetic virtual drive shaft for seamless, non-mechanical coupling to submerged resistance unit. No seals or gaskets to fail.
  • Can withstand sudden accelerations of 0 mph to 50 mph repeatedly without failure, far more load than a cyclist could ever generate.
  • Unconditional 5 year, 50,000 mile guarantee on resistant units, Lifetime guarantee on frame.
  • 80 cooling vanes molded onto the resistance housing maintain a safe, moderate temperature of the resistance housing even at highest speeds. It’s impossible to burn yourself on the trainer on the trainer housing.
  • Heat resistant, thermodynamically neutral silicone resistance bath does not change density since fluid temperature does not increase.
  • Resistance level remains stable throughout workout; it does not become easier as the trainer is ridden longer since it doesn’t overheat.
  • Variable resistance unit increases resistance at the same rate as resistance accumulates outdoors: The unit is calibrated using a power meter to verify authentic accumulation of resistance. The road feel is nearly identical to riding outdoors. You ride harder, it gets harder.
  • Trainer frame is constructed using automated techniques to insure perfectly level stance. Vinyl compensator pads automatically accommodate uneven floors for a level ride.
  • The Kurt Kinetic frame has a wider and deeper tripod surface area than any other trainer currently available, making it the most stable.
  • Kurt Kinetic Road Machine trainers accommodate all popular wheel sizes.
  • The Kurt Kinetic Road Machine bike mounting system has outlasted every other indoor trainer mounting system in our store by years.

That is a long shopping list of features and benefits. On paper, the Kinetic Road Machine looks like a winner. When you ride the trainer that status is confirmed.

Perhaps the most sweeping endorsement we can give the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine is that we use it for fitting customers to their bikes here in the store. If you were positioned on your bike in our store during the last two years, you’ve ridden a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine trainer. We’ve used Computrainers, Cycle-Ops Trainers, Blackburn indoor Trainers, Tac-X trainers, Elite Indoor Trainers and other models for fitting customers with less success than our Kurt Kinetic Road Machines. We chose the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine for a number of reasons. When we are fitting a customer we need to have a quiet trainer. We’re listening to customer comments about the fit and position, giving them advice on bike posture and how to shift, brake and generally interacting in a conversational tone. If the trainer were any louder than a whisper, it wouldn’t be possible. On a Kurt Kinetic you could be going full tilt and not wake a baby in the next room. Other trainers we’ve tried had noise levels roughly equivalent to a hand-held hair dryer on its highest setting, easy to hear from adjacent rooms while in use.

The Kurt bike mounting system is also highly refined and durable. A normal user probably puts their bike into and removes it from the indoor trainer less than a dozen times a year. On a normal day we mount five or more bikes in the trainer, 360 days a year. That is somewhere on the order of 1,800 bike installations and removals in the trainer per year or 150 times more than a normal user may subject the trainer to. The Kurt Kinetic trainer we’re using now is 2 years old. That means it has been used to over 300 times the normal amount of bike installations and removals as an average consumer may subject their trainer to. The mounting system on ours has never failed and is going strong. Kurt Includes a heavy duty steel quick release skewer to precisely engage the mounting receptacles on the trainer. This prevents damage to your nice, black anodized light weight skewer.

Kurt’s legacy is the manufacture of indoor trainer frames. It’s no wonder theirs is the best in the industry since they’ve had the most experience making them for themselves and others. The footprint and stance of the trainer is wider than any other trainer currently available. This means the trainer is extremely stable. You can do difficult efforts in a big gear or high cadence workouts in complete stability. If you like to do long hours on the indoor trainer for base training during the winter while watching a moving the Kurt provides a stable base for pedaling, going no-handed to grab energy food or drinks and press the buttons on your remote or MP3 player. The trainer is robotically welded from precision cut tubes and sits perfectly level. If your basement floor is less than level the trainer feet are molded to compress at different levels to compensate for minor irregularities on the floor surface. The frame folds so you can easily take the trainer to the local club time trial for a warm up and store it during the summer.

Kurt’s calling card on the road machine, and the source of all the attention, is the resistance unit. Kurt Kinetic Road Machine trainers are variable resistance trainers that automatically vary the work load the exact same way you vary your work load on the road: By effort. The harder you go the harder it gets, and the harder you are going the harder it is to go harder. Kurt went to great lengths to mimic exact road “feel” on their resistance units. The unit is calibrated using a watt-measuring power meter to replicate the same sensation of resistance on the trainer as you would experience on the road at a given frequency of wheel revolutions. Even more important, as the frequency of wheel revolutions changes (accelerating or decelerating) the sensation is amazingly similar to what you experience on the road, especially when accelerating.

Since Kurt did use considerable care in calibrating their fluid resistance units with a power meter that opened up an interesting opportunity: The poor man’s power meter. For about $50 Kurt offers a little computer unit that rather accurately estimates power output from the trainer itself. The nature of any bicycle power measurement device is that you can’t accurately compare power measurement from dissimilar devices. If you try to compare your SRM, Power Tap or Computrainer power output numbers you’ll notice some big differences. That makes it difficult to evaluate exactly how true the power output numbers are that the Kurt power estimating computer provides. One thing we’ve learned is that they are consistent though. That means you can make reasonable comparisons from one workout to the next to evaluate your fitness progress and the level of exertion. The little computer uses a very readable three line display and tells you current, average and maximum power output, your current speed, average speed and remembers your maximum speed, tells you ride time, ride distance and has an odometer. The entire system turns on automatically and has very long battery life using conventional cyclocomputers batteries. Considering the unit is about $50 that is a lot of function for a little money.

 


The cornerstone of the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine is the patented fluid resistance unit.

The resistance unit (disassembled here) uses a rotating fan impeller submerged inside a sealed bath of thermodynamically neutral silicone fluid.

The sealed fluid resistance and impeller housing uses powerful rare earth magnets to establish a non-mechanical connection with the rotating wheel roller. It is completely impervious to leaks

A precision machined, lathe-turned roller unit interfaces with your rear tire for absolutely smooth road feel and silent operation.


The balanced flywheel accumulates inertia and makes the pedal stroke smooth and realistic at all resistance levels.


Kurt's robotically welded trainer frame folds flat for ease of storage and portability.

Because it is made using precision robotic automation the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine frame is perfectly level and features the widest stance of any trainer.

The rear wheel is held at the quick release skewer exerting less stress on your frame than riding it outdoors.

We've used the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine for simulating real-world riding conditions during fit and positioning analysis on video.

With hundreds of bike fits per year our Kurt Kinetic Road Machine has bikes installed serveral times a day with no problems.

The quick release unit makes mounting quick and easy for one person.

Kurt supplies a steel quick release skewer for perfect mounting with the Road Machine to save your bike's skewer.

The conical machined surfaces interface seamlessly for a very sure-footed installation.

Before the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine the bane of fluid resistance trainers was their tendency to get hot during riding, have their resistance fluid expand due to the heat, and then leak past gaskets where the trainer’s drive shaft connected the wheel roller to the rotating resistance impeller inside the fluid bath. Each time a little fluid was expelled the trainer lost a little resistance. All fluid trainers leaked to a degree before the introduction of the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine since all used a mechanical driveshaft to connect the wheel roller to the resistance impeller. The only truly dependable ways to keep the trainer from leaking was to make the resistance fluid more temperature stable and somehow seal the vessel completely that the resistance impeller and fluid rotated in, eliminating the drive shaft connection between the wheel roller and the resistance impeller spinning through the fluid. The wheel roller had to somehow “connect” with the resistance impeller but without ever touching it so the vessel could remain entirely sealed. The answer was magnetism. Kurt developed a system of extremely powerful rare earth magnets that attracted each other through the sealed wall of the resistance vessel. The resistance unit itself uses patented construction that makes it impossible to leak unless explosives are involved. There simply is no place for any resistance fluid to come out. The resistance vessel is sealed shut at manufacture. The magnets are the “virtual” drive connection between resistance impeller and wheel roller. They never actually touch, only the magnetic field holds them together in a seamless, virtual connection so strong it withstands instantaneous accelerations up to 50 M.P.H. without severing the magnetic union.

Riding the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine is the nicest experience you’ll have on an indoor trainer. The stable base inspires confidence. You know you can concentrate on pedaling. The variable resistance does feel like the road. It is easy to do a light, spinning workout or you can shift to your harder gears for much more difficult resistance including hill simulation with out of the saddle efforts. Riding the trainer is the best place to learn skills like leaving your shoes attached to your pedals for faster transitions if you are a triathlete. You can practice these techniques without fear of tipping over. The trainer is quiet enough that you can watch TV or movies with the volume at a moderate level. If you wear headphones with a MP3 player you will never hear the trainer even with your music at low volume. Because the trainer grabs only the quick release spindle of the rear wheel there is less stress on your frame riding the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine than there is riding your bike outside. Continental Tires even makes a new indoor trainer specific tire that provides even smoother, quieter performance on the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine. The Continental UltraSport Hometrainer uses an extremely thick casing and completely slick tread to provide optimal contact between wheel roller and your tire. This saves your good road tires for the cycling season.

The Kurt Kinetic Road Machine is about the same price as other high end fluid resistance trainers at around $300. The power computer is about $50. Kurt also makes a front wheel support that levels your bike in the trainer and accommodates all wheel sizes for about $15.

We’ve used and tested more than 20 brands and models of indoor trainers during the previous 17 years and the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine is the nicest we’ve seen. It has also outlasted all the others. If you use a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine and ride it consistently throughout the off season you will notice a big difference this spring. You have to make your own scenery on an indoor trainer, but every sixty seconds of work gives you more than a minute of benefit this coming spring.

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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