Riding the LeMond Revolution trainer

In my increasingly structured cycling life, the exciting event is my new LeMond Revolution trainer. LeMond says it feels more like real road riding than other trainers.

Let’s see.

Disclaimer: This unit was sent for me to try. I did not pay for it.

The trainer

Lemond Revolution

Price with Shimano 10-speed cassette: $549

Price without cassette: $499

Power Pilot computer and power meter (not yet available): $349

Getting attached

With most trainers, you set your rear tire on a roller and clamp the ends of your QR with some squeezy holder things. Some dropouts don’t fit. You need a slick rear tire. There’s always some slip between the tire and roller.

With the Revolution, you remove your rear wheel and mount your rear dropouts directly to the unit. Putting your bike on the trainer is just like putting your rear wheel on your bike. Your chain drives a cassette, which turns the freehub and the resistance unit. No slip.

Resistance is futile

Bike trainers use several types of resistance units, each with its benefits:

Fluid: High power, highest price, quietest, can lose resistance when hot. I’ve been riding fluid forever.

Magnetic: Varying power, moderate price, quiet

Wind: High power, lowest price, noisy

None of those resistance units, by themselves, have much inertia. They are unrealistically easy to accelerate. Once you achieve ramming speed, the resistance comes from fluid, magnets or wind.

The Revolution resists you in two ways:

• Inertia. The faster you accelerate the heavy flywheel, the harder you must work.

• Wind. Air resistance increases with the square of the velocity. Twice as fast, four times as much work.

LeMond says their setup feels the most like real road riding.

Riding it

Yeah it takes mountain bikes.

I have a good number of rides on my old cross bike and 2010 Stumpjumper FSR. I’m rocking flat pedals (and loving them).

Setting up a bike: As easy as mounting a rear wheel. Easier, because the trainer doesn’t flop around.

You don’t need a front-wheel block to get the bike level (unlike with roller trainers). I use old textbooks to simulate climbing.

Stability: Pretty darn stable. Once you get the little feet adjusted properly, the trainer feels nice and steady. But: When I sprint, the whole system walks forward. I wonder about bolting this thing down. Or — wait — should I get smoother?

Noise: Lots! That fan is pushing some air, I’ll tell you what. Cool: It sounds like you’re hauling ass. Not cool for apartments or shared living spaces. Extra cool in a frozen garage.

Acceleration: This is where the Revolution rules. The flywheel must be made of depleted uranium, because the inertia is crazy. Very realistic. If you try to accelerate from a stop in a 48×12, it feels like … uh … accelerating from a stop in a 48×12. A mountain bike in a 2:1 gear will feels like a BMX start.

More about inertia: When you stop pedaling, the unit keeps spinning for a long while. When you resume pedaling, you have to catch up with the speeding freehub. That’s pretty realistic. I find myself waiting impatiently between sprint intervals, but that’s me. Coach G would say I need the rest anyway.

Sustained resistance: On the cross bike, I hit my apparent threshold power in the 48t big ring and middle cog, at about 90 rpm. Which seems perfect; it gives me plenty of easier and harder gears. I love the feel of the Stumpy, but the 34×11 doesn’t encounter enough resistance for anything but a sprint/spin workout.

9- or 10-speed: The Revolution handles either style cassette, but you have to choose. If your road/cross bike is 10 speed and your mountain bike is 9 speed, you can’t swap between those bikes. Luckily, I have an old Cross Check with 9 speed, so I installed a spare 9-speed cassette, and I switch between my Cross Check and Stumpy. I wish I could rock my Tricross, but it’s 10 speed.

Use vertical dropouts! The Cross Check has horizontal dropouts with the opening in front. When I hammer, no matter how much I tighten the QR, the chain pulls the bike right off the trainer. Things feel strange, stranger then KAPOW!

Important: If I want to pin it without crashing, rock vertical or track dropouts.

I want to roll the Stumpy, but it’s under geared so … poo … time to buy a 10-speed cassette and rock the Tricross. If you’re gonna roll 10-speed, get the unit with the cassette; $50 is an unbeatable deal.

Power: Without the optional Power Pilot, I have no idea how much power I’m making. I’ve been judging my work by time, perceived exertion and counting revs — and that’s working fine — but I’ve been training with a power meter for over a year, and it’s hard to go back.

The Power Pilot should start shipping early next year, and I’m supposed to get one to test. It tracks cadence, heart rate, wattage, calories, speed and distance. You can upload workouts and download your performance data. It sounds rad.

How does it feel? It, indeed, feels like riding the road — but with a slight downhill or tailwind. You gotta work to get it up to speed, but then it wants to keep going. It feels good. Less “sloggy” than a fluid trainer?

Parting thoughts

Power Pilot computer/power meter.

• My first couple rides felt very different than my current cheapo Performance fluid trainer. Is it different good or different bad? They more I ride the Revolution, the more I think it’s different good.

• The inertia simulates acceleration better than any other unit I’ve tried. Awesome for BMX or MTB types. Life happens from zero to max rpm. Work the whole range!

• With the right gear and cadence, the fan will give you plenty of resistance. Team Garmin-Transitions uses this trainer, and those freaks are sustaining more power than any of us.

• It feels and sounds cool.

• You can rock a mountain bike without switching tires. That is rad.

• Make sure you have vertical dropouts and adequate gearing.

• The Revolution is heavy, and it does not fold. If you need a travel-trainer for race-day warmups, look elsewhere. The Revolution wants a permanent spot in your garage (or living room).

• The trainer itself is on the high end of the trainer price spectrum. With the Power Pilot computer, it’s on the low end of the premium trainer+power meter spectrum. When you consider how many tires you ruin on the trainer, and that you no longer need a dedicated trainer bike, the Revolution might be a good investment.

• If you want to train acceleration (and who doesn’t)? I don’t know of a better trainer at this price.

• I can’t wait to try the Power Pilot.

Indoor braaap!

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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