Review: CycleOps Hammer smart trainer

CycleOps have a history producing quality indoor trainers and power meters under the PowerTap brand. More recently, CycleOps have been combining their know-how to produce a range of compact smart trainers. The Hammer is CycleOps’s first direct drive smart trainer and with its broad communication standards and ability to receive commands from third-party apps, it looks like it has all the bases covered.

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Feature overview:

  • Claimed noise level at 20 mph is 64 decibels
  • Quick release (130mm & 135mm) and Thru-axle compatible (142mm & 148mm)
  • Dual ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth 4.0 technologies
  • 9 kg flywheel with electromagnetic resistance
  • Rated to handle 2000 watts at 20 mph and up to 20% climbing grade simulation
  • Weighs in at 21.3 kg
  • +/- 3% accurate power readings
  • Virtual training software compatible
  • Retail price: R21,995.00
At just over 21 kilograms, the Hammer is a heavy piece of equipment. The built-in handle does it’s best to make the machine maneuverable. I was able to haul the Hammer around the house as well as to the office and back in relative comfort. Being a cyclist, my upper body and core strength really are not what they should be, but I managed without much fuss.

 


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Aesthetically, I found the Hammer to be somewhat industrial but pleasing to the eye. It did not look out of place in my spare room / workout studio / bike storage facility. With the legs folded away, the Hammer can be stored out of harm's way or out of sight, should you invite normal human beings around, and don’t want to have to explain your eccentric habits.

 

Setting up


Getting started with the Hammer is simple. Before jumping on, you will need to deploy the support legs which slide out from the sides of the trainer. Doing so reveals the front wheel block which sits tucked away neatly within the belly of the machine. The legs can be further adjusted with dials to ensure perfect stability.

 

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The Hammer is a direct drive trainer. This means that you replace the rear wheel with a cassette that is mounted to the trainer. This makes the trainer quieter, removes tyre wear, and improves the feel of the trainer experience. A cassette is not included.

 

Once the bike is on the trainer, it is time to plug in the power and connect to the CycleOps Virtual Training app for calibration. Connecting to the CycleOps Hammer on my Android phone via Bluetooth was effortless but finding the calibration setting took some fiddling around the app. Hint: It appears when you select to start a ride. Calibration should take around a minute as you pedal up to around 30 kmph for 20 seconds, then allow the device to spool down.

 

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The Hammer measures your speed and power output. As the Hammer can communicate via ANT+ and Bluetooth, it will happily pair to your computer, smartphone, or bicycle computer. Any other training metrics will have to come from other sensors. So if you want your cadence and heart rate (or any other measurable), it will need to be supplied via a third party sensor to your training device.

 

In my case, I used my MacBook Pro to run Zwift. The Hammer connected via the built-in Bluetooth, but to connect my Garmin cadence and heart rate sensors to the MacBook, I had to use an ANT+ dongle.

 

Training on the Hammer


Other than briefly trying out the CycleOps Virtual Training app, I spent most of the review period riding around in Richmond, London, and Watopia on Zwift. In Zwift, I used the standard workouts in ERG mode as well as taking on other Zwifters in races.

 

So what’s all the fuss about smart trainers? Smart trainers not only measure your power but they are able to receive instructions from software to control the trainer's resistance. This can be useful in two ways: ERG mode and simulation mode.

 

Firstly, for precise training. When in ERG mode the trainer is set to a target power number for the rider to obtain. In this mode, you can simply stay in one gear while the trainer adapts to the required resistance. For structured training, this mode can help you precisely hit power numbers in a way that you simply cannot out on your bike.

 

In workouts, where your trainer software is aiming to hit a power target, the Hammer prefers to place you in a power band (around 15 watts within that target) rather than at the exact power number. This requires the rider to fine tune their effort to hit the target number. Some other trainers are more precise and assist the rider to hit the exact power reading. The Hammer’s approach is more similar to intervalling on a real bike. There are advantages to hitting the right numbers but I liked the Hammer’s more variable feel as it requires a bit of concentration to maintain the power number.

 

The transition between hard intervals and recovery phase was relatively smooth, with only a few seconds of spinning out before the trainer readjusted to the much lower power output levels.

 

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While ERG mode creates the perfect artificial training experience, the second use does the opposite in that it attempts to simulate the feeling of riding outdoors. Simply put, the smart trainer can adjust to the gradients and conditions of a virtual course as if you were riding it outdoors. Zwift is the stand out example. When you hit a climb or rough terrain in Zwift, you immediately feel a ramp up in resistance as you would in the real world.

 

With the rise of games like Zwift that, to some extent, try to replicate the experience of riding a bicycle outdoors, the riding feel of the trainer has become an important consideration. There are certain constraints to the realism factor, such as being in your living room and motionlessly staring at a screen, but as riding feel goes, the Hammer was impressively realistic. The Hammer packs a large 9 kg flywheel which is controlled with electromagnetic resistance. This combination is central to the smooth feel of the trainer and a good sensation of inertia.

 

When free riding and racing in the Zwift, the Hammer was sensitive to climbs and descents, doing a good job at delivering a realistic representation of what I was viewing on the screen.

 

It is worth noting that CycleOps’s own Virtual Training app is feature filled, and as manufacturer apps go, it is highly useful as a standalone training solution.

 

Indoor trainers can be noisy, causing annoyance to the rider, co-habitants, and even neighbours. The latest batch of direct driver trainers has made great strides to reduce this irritation. The Hammer is not silent but the noise it produces is far less invasive than on wheel trainers and direct driver trainers before it. During high power intervals, the deep hum is loudest but it is no louder than the sound of the bike's drive train. Those in the next room will hear your workout but only the most sensitive will be disrupted by it.

 

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In the end


The CycleOps Hammer is an excellent trainer holding its own amongst the top trainers in this category. While smart trainers are certainly not cheap, devices like the Hammer certainly add a whole new level to your training and when plugged into an application like Zwift, they simply cannot be beaten.

 




7 Comments

mecheng89, Jun 26 2017 03:24

Good review. Pity the display bike needs a wash! 

Nick, Jun 26 2017 03:30

Good review. Pity the display bike needs a wash! 

 

Thanks. Yes, my bike really could do with a clean but with water restrictions in the Cape, it's not really a priority.

GAP, Jun 26 2017 04:04

A dirty bike is a used bike!!

Dgas, Jun 26 2017 06:53

How does it compare to the Wahoo Kickr and the Tacx Neo? I currently have the Powersync but I am considering getting a direct drive trainer. The Powersync gives good resistance up to about a 6 deg simulated climb after that it all feels the same, the video slows down but the resistance is the same. The power readings are also way different from what I get on a SRM power meter. So the question is, does the Hammer resistance increase on steep climbs and did you test against a real life power meter?

BicyclePower, Jun 26 2017 08:32

Hi Dgas, Hammer will go up to 20% grades (PowerSync was limited to 10%) and i will be more than happy to share ride data (tomorrow) against the PowerTap P1 pedals, how does that sound ??? 

Dgas, Jun 26 2017 08:56

Great, look forward to it.

BicyclePower, Jun 30 2017 12:26

Now on special at Cyclelab for R17 995.00.......