Review: Bkool Smart Pro indoor trainer

In the world of indoor trainers, Bkool is a name not many South Africans will be familiar with, yet the brand has been building momentum in Europe over the past few years.

The Bkool Smart Pro is their top end smart trainer offering controlled resistance based on a simulator or via the Bkool app. Within the smart trainer space the Bkool Smart Pro is an attractively priced option with a competent feature list. We gave it a few test rides to see how it stacks up.

 

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On the surface, the BKool is a well-rounded offering and although the maximum wattage rating is lower than some competitors, let’s be honest, how many of us will find the need to measure more than 1200W on a sustained basis in our living rooms? The unit itself is very compact and impressively light compared to others in the class, which are close on double the weight. While they don’t advertise an accuracy rating on their product page, some digging around online found a mention from Bkool of an accuracy of +-3%, which seems to be in line with other options in the category.

 

Set up


Getting started with the BKool Pro was incredibly simple. Out of the box, the resistance unit is detached from the foldable frame. Slider switches allow easy attachment of the two parts. Next it was a case of plugging in the power cable, installing the supplied quick release skewer and mounting the bike.

 

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The wheel mounts to a typical clamp interface on the foldable arm. Unlike other trainers though, the Bkool doesn’t require any adjustment for the wheel or tyre size. Thanks to the swing arm design gravity does the rest to make sure your wheel is properly seated on the resistance unit.

 

Connecting to the trainer was also easy enough via various devices. In the most basic mode, you can connect it to a power capable head unit or smartwatch (tested with a Garmin Fenix 3). The next step up would be the BKool app for smartphones which allows you to adjust the slope (resistance) while tracking power, speed, cadence and heart rate. The real attraction for a smart trainer though is virtual riding and ERG workouts, and here you really only have a few options; including BKool’s own simulator, TrainerRoad, SufferFest, or Zwift. I tested the trainer on BKool’s own software as well as Zwift. Both were intuitive and easy to set up using either ANT+ or BLE.

 

On the trainer


Once on the bike, the Bkool feels sturdy while in the saddle and is relatively quiet for a wheel-on trainer. The telescopic arms do a decent job of keeping the back end steady, while the front wheel block keeps the bike properly level. In simulation mode using both the Bkool simulator and Zwift the resistance response is good. While there is some lag between the on screen gradient change and the resistance response, it provides a natural feeling ramp up rather than any sudden changes.

 

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Bkool advertise an interesting feature of the unit around its ability to simulate real world inertia. I was skeptical of this, especially given the relatively small flywheel, but testing it out on climbs in their virtual worlds there is a distinct difference in approaching a climb at higher versus lower speed, as you’d expect in the real world. The Bkool pro also does a good job of simulating inclines too. Throwing the bike up some twelve percent plus climbs felt painfully real.

 

I did encounter some instability when getting out of the saddle on those really “steep” sections or during intense intervals. While the telescopic stabilisers do help to prevent a tip over, the unit appears to twist under the torque and with less weight on the back wheel it feels disturbingly unstable. Although I did find that putting the whole set up on a rug or carpet was a big improvement compared to a hard laminate surface, standing up was still precarious.

 

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The Bkool Smart Pro offers a cadence estimation feature which avoids the need for a dedicated sensor. This is very much an approximation though and for best accuracy, with workout modes in particular, a separate cadence sensor should be used.

 

Cycling Simulator


While the emphasis of this review is more on the trainer than the software, it’s worth touching on my experience with the Bkool Cycling Simulator. With Zwift rapidly emerging as the darling of the virtual riding world, I did wonder why anyone would bother producing their own simulator. Although the Bkool virtual world doesn’t have quite the population that Zwift enjoys, they’ve built some impressive and thoroughly enjoyable elements.

 


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The Velodrome mode is particularly fun and a refreshing change from the more common workout or virtual ride modes. In this mode you can take part in keirin, elimination and pursuit races against other riders in real time. It will be interesting to see how the simulator side of the Bkool business grows and evolves in time. It certainly shows promise with some innovative offerings.

 

For the full experience of their simulator you’ll need to subscribe to the premium version at a cost of 10 Euro per month, but in free mode you are able to test out the various modes with limited access to choose routes or workouts.

 

In the end


The Bkool Smart Pro provides a good entry point into the world smart trainers at a competitive price tag. The smart aspect of it delivers good performance with a real world feel in virtual modes. While the unit does suffer from some instability when out of the saddle or pushing serious wattage, if your main aim is to keep the legs turning through winter and get in on the virtual riding game, it is an option worth considering at the enthusiast level.

 




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