Review: CycleOps PowerSync Indoor Trainer

If you’re anything like me indoor training can be a bit of a chore, but often the sensible option to supplement training through winter. Even with a decent trainer and the distraction of TVs or iPads, I quickly get bored and uncomfortable. Enter the CycleOps PowerSync and their Virtual Training software.
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The CycleOps PowerSync is an electronically controlled resistance trainer. It’s able to simulate changes in gradient, yep, it can ‘make’ hills. And is programmable to create workouts or just increase / decrease resistance at the touch of a button or the tap of a screen. The PowerSync incorporates a power meter accurate to +-5% using the same technology found in the famed PowerTap variety.

Coupled with the CycleOps Virtual Training (CVT) software your virtual cycling world expands. CVT allows you to choose from a multitude of interval, profile (hill) and heart rate based workouts, participate in realtime (or delayed) online races and go “out” on virtual video-based rides.

Given my predisposition to avoiding indoor training I was keen to put these new tools to the test.

Initial Impressions


The CycleOps PowerSync is a sturdy looking unit. Although I was testing on a very smooth surface, it has eccentric levelling feet which allow it to be stable on uneven surfaces. The mounting and operation is much the same as other trainers I’ve encountered. The bike is fixed to the trainer via the rear axle using a specially shaped steel quick release skewer.

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Adjustments can be made to suit the specific rear axle width
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The solid bolt-action fixing lever secures the bike in place

The good news for mountain bikers is that there is a thru-axle adapter available, however it only supports 120, 130, and 135mm axle spacing and unfortunately no 29" wheels. For that you’d need to look at it’s bigger brother, the PowerBeam Pro, although you'd still be limited to a maximum axle width of 135mm.

I tested the PowerSync with a standard 700c road bike and a 26" mountain bike (with a semi-slick tire). Both were easy to mount and had ample space on the rolling surface. The roller should fit tyres up to 2.25" depending on the profile and tread, although I'd opt for a smooth tire on the back from a noise reduction perspective.

Models: ANT+ vs. Bluetooth


Our test unit is the ANT+ version and arrived with an ANT+ iPad dongle. This you’d have to purchase separately if the device you’ll be connecting to doesn’t natively support ANT+. There is also a Bluetooth model available, which although you would have an easier time connecting to, wouldn’t be as widely compatible with the majority of current sensors which are ANT+ based.

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Accessory: Climbing Riser Block


Among the various accessories available from CycleOps is a Climbing Riser Block which our unit arrived with. This provides both stability and 3-levels of incline with the option to stack multiple blocks for greater inclines.

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Mounting a bike


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Mounting your bike on the PowerSync is pretty straightforward. You’ll first need to swop out your snazzy proprietary skewers or thru-axles for the relevant trainer compatible version. In the box you’ll find a standard quick release skewer included, but the thru-axle adapter would need to be purchased separately.

The roller contact surface is smooth and visibly wider than most trainers I’ve used. It’ll comfortably support a wide mountain bike tyre, although for any bike a smooth, trainer specific tyre is recommended.

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With the bike mounted and power connected we’re just about ready to go.

On the bike


Getting on the bike I first noticed the sturdiness of the setup. Although in part this was thanks to the climbing block, even without this accessory the PowerSync felt impressively stable thanks to it’s wide stance. The climbing block added noticeable stability upfront, to the point that I was more than comfortable to get out of the saddle and put a far more pressure on the bars than I'd dare to before.

When the wheels start turning you’ll notice a blue led below the roller which lets you know you’re powered up and ready to connect to the app or another device.

CycleOps Virtual Training


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Installing and setting up the CycleOps Virtual Training app was quite simple and intuitive. The app is available for IOS, Android and PC. For testing we used the IOS version on an iPad with the ANT+ iPad dongle. Although the app is a free download there is a $6 monthly subscription fee to maintain full access to all features, but you can start off with a free trial.

Once you’ve registered with CVT and entered your profile details you’re good to go. You can then choose from various options for your indoor workout:

Free Ride
As the name implies in this mode you can decide how you want to ride. You get to adjust your target resistance as you’d like to either structure your own ad-lib workout or just ride.

Profile Training
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If you’re keen to test your legs on a specific routes or just get some simulated hill training this mode will let you follow a real-world route virtually. The app adjusts the resistance automatically to simulate the ups and downs of the actual route.

When I first jumped on the PowerSync I was sceptical about how this would feel. I chose my route, the Col d’Izoard, pressed go and hit the Pyrenees. This route is one of many that includes a video feed. When the video mode is enabled a video of the actual route will play based on your speed. You can either stream the video if you have a decently fast connection or download it beforehand.

Sure enough as the road kicked up the going got tough. There is a slight delay between the on screen gradient change and what you feel as the resistance gets applied progressively. I was impressed by the difference. The uphills really do make you work and quickly had me searching for more gears as if on a real-world climb.

Virtual Partner
If you want a bit of company or some added incentive you can enable Virtual Partner. This feature allows you to select a previous ride from other users and compare your efforts.

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I did a ride around Gordon's Bay with Dipslick using a ride he'd recorded in 2014.

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You’re also able to quickly create your own routes based on your own GPS files, however this must either be done via the Virtual Training website or the Desktop version of the software. You can also create your own video routes via the desktop, but this is a little more complex.

Workouts
Power based training is said to be the most efficient and effective and the CycleOps PowerSync makes this easy for you. The Virtual Trainer allows you to select from various existing workouts or create your own. Each workout is based on a specific metric, either: Power, Power / Weight, % FTP or Gradient %.

While you could do the same with a standard indoor trainer and power meter, the visual representation of the workout and on-screen cues thanks to the app take a lot of the thought out of it, allowing you to just ride.

For anyone serious about their training or just wanting to make the most out of typically limited training time this is a most valuable feature.

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You can choose from various pre-existing workouts from other users

CycleOps Virtual Trainer-11.jpg The onscreen graphs and cues make interval training "easy".
CycleOps Virtual Trainer-12.jpg Or you can quickly craft your own workouts.


Online Race
Real time online races are one of the cool-factor features of the PowerSync and CVT app. Perhaps it’s a bit of nostalgia back to my misspent youth playing multiplayer computer games, but for me this is a great way to not only make indoor training more interesting, but create added incentive and commitment. Much like entering a real-world race it becomes all the more difficult to back out once you’ve put your name down.

The races take place in real time on a predetermined course and use the data from your trainer to pit you against the other participants. You can compete with real people on the same course, at the same time from anywhere in the world.

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A group of Hubbers have been avidly running weekly races for some time now.

FTP Test
Thanks to the PowerSync’s built in power meter you're also able to perform a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test. This test will allow you to establish your capability and then tailor your workouts based on the results. It also lets you benchmark performances and track progress. Be warned though - an FTP test is not for the faint hearted!

CycleOps Virtual Trainer-16.jpg The on-screen display mid-test
CycleOps Virtual Trainer-17.jpg Results from my somewhat feeble first attempt.


Without the app: Connecting to a head unit


If you just want to ride or forgot to charge your iPad you can also simply connect to a compatible head unit. Most power meter compatible units will allow you to read power-data from the PowerSync, but wouldn’t allow you to set resistance as you could from the app. For this you’d need the PowerTap Joule GPS head unit which can control resistance. My Garmin Edge 510 had no issues connecting to the PowerSync and pulling in the available of power specific data.



Manufacturer's specifications

  • ANT+ (Model 9912) or Bluetooth Smart (Model 9913) compatible.
  • PowerTap power meter equipped for +/- 5% accurate power readings.
  • Some assembly required.
  • Features clutch knob for perfect roller to tire tension each ride.
  • 2" resistance unit roller allows for 650b, 700c, 26", and 27" wheel sizes.
  • Does not fit 29ers or 650c wheel sizes.
  • Precision-machined alloy roller reduces tire wear and slippage.
  • Noise level at 20 mph is a quiet 69-70 decibels.
  • Electronic resistance unit allows for programmable workouts.
  • Controlled resistance lets you set your slope, power, and other metrics.
  • Eccentric leveling feet allow for easy adjustment on uneven surfaces.
  • Comes on the CycleOps foldable Classic frame with spring loaded, bolt-action lever.
  • This trainer is designed to fit common road and mountain bike frames with included steel quick release skewer and has three settings for rear dropout spacing: 120mm, 130mm and 135mm.
  • Trainer tire recommended.
  • CycleOps VirtualTraining compatible.
  • The PowerSync is intended to be used with an iPad or Android tablet running the CycleOps VirtualTraining application and does not come with a computer.
  • Cadence sensor and ANT+ stick sold separately





56 Comments

Jaco-fiets, Jul 27 2015 10:23

Is the powersync any different to the powerbeam? I see it costs less. Very happy they changed the fastening mechanism. The current one is rather crappy

 

This is by far the best investment I have done to my cycling!

Admin, Jul 27 2015 10:25

Is the powersync any different to the powerbeam? I see it costs less. Very happy they changed the fastening mechanism. The current one is rather crappy
 
This is by far the best investment I have done to my cycling!

 

This is what they say on their website: 

The resistance mechanisms in them are very similar and the main difference is the frame. The PowerBeam Pro has a wider footprint leading to more stability on the trainer and it is also able to fit 29er tires.

Jaco-fiets, Jul 27 2015 10:31

Thanks admin

Veebee, Jul 27 2015 01:13

while reading the review I was hoping the price would be about 50% of what it actually is... :eek: :thumbdown:

Mongoose!, Jul 27 2015 01:35

Might be expensive but worth every cent. Also have the Power beam Pro like Jaco, and Joule on its way in the posts to control the resistance without an app. This is really indoor training at its best!!

nonky, Jul 27 2015 01:46

I have been looking at buying one of these for home use but the sums don't add up for me.

 

For my money, 2 (or more) years of class training (2 x 6mo x R1k = R12k) with one of the training providers is a better option and my reasons are:

 

1. I'll actually go in winter (booked class; tangible expense);

2. no extra space required or wasted for 8months i'm riding outside;

3. group riding set-up is more fun than solo riding;

4. proper FTP test and feedback on training;

5. healthy competition (leaderboards etc).

 

Finally, there's all the hidden costs of data; tablets; subscriptions to online services; wear-and-tear on your bike and so on that are hard to figure into any total cost calc.

Speeltyd, Jul 27 2015 03:39

Best investment I've made! I do my own interval workouts (as prescribed by my Couch), and on cold/wet days I ride the vitual routes - dis Argus and 94,7 so far. It really motivates me to improve. Over the past two months my Power/Weight has improved from 2,2 to 3,0 (granted, I do leg-gym also once a week). Trainer is inside - so no cold winds down my neck after a workout - straight into the shower.

NO wear-and-tear on the bike - virtually no noice either. FTP calculation is a challenge, but on my last ride (94,7) I improved on it during the ride - system only informed me afterwards of my "achievement".

Best to me is my wife is now also interested and excited about it - and as we do a lot of tandem riding, that is great! Weekends I still play outside - unless if it rains like last Saturday.

stevebird, Jul 27 2015 04:26

What are the best options for indoor training on a standard spin bike at home?

LOOK695, Jul 27 2015 06:36

Would love one but the wallet is on the empty side

Mongoose!, Jul 27 2015 08:09

.

TALUS, Jul 27 2015 10:14

Online Race is at 19:00 on Tuesday (not Wednesday). All welcome - especially DIPSLICK.

grantgush, Jul 29 2015 10:41

Hi

New to the indoor training scene. What is the cost in Rands for CycleOps in this review? & where can I view / buy?

liquidsilver, Jul 29 2015 11:13

What would you prefer if the price was the same?

a wattbike or a Cycle ops trainer

Admin, Jul 29 2015 11:27

Hi
New to the indoor training scene. What is the cost in Rands for CycleOps in this review? & where can I view / buy?

 
The cost and some details are at the bottom of the article:

The CycleOps PowerSync is available from Bicycle Power Trading either via their dealers in your area or direct on their website.

 

Retail price: R11,595

 

 

What would you prefer if the price was the same?
a wattbike or a Cycle ops trainer

 

That's a tough one, I enjoy Wattbike training, but usually in a class environment. The Wattbike also gives more power metrics, e.g. left / right balance. The CycleOps is convenient for me for home use though: it's far easier to store and move between rooms.

If I had the space and budget I'd probably go for both, but given space and budget limitations the CycleOps is my choice for home use. 

As an aside: I enjoyed the CycleOps so much that I opted to purchase it after the review. Initially I too was a bit hesitant based on the price, but after using it I can see that it will be a hugely valuable training tool for me.

 

LOOK695, Jul 29 2015 11:29

What would you prefer if the price was the same?
a wattbike or a Cycle ops trainer

Or this?
image.jpg

Mongoose!, Jul 29 2015 08:53

I saw this destroyed roller (silver metal part on one of the top photo's) and wondered what happened. Byt see a "Semi slick" tyre was tested...eish

Admin, Jul 29 2015 09:08

I saw this destroyed roller (silver metal part on one of the top photo's) and wondered what happened. Byt see a "Semi slick" tyre was tested...eish


I think that's just a bit of dirt and reflection, the roller is in perfect shape. The semi-slick contact surface is no different from a road tyre.

X-Man, Nov 01 2015 09:28

I need some help. Recently bought Cycleops Powerbeam Pro. This is a bluetooth model not Ant +. A question, how come the Powerbeam would connect via Bluetooth to my smartphone and Ipad. However the Cyclops would not connect to my Garmin 810 which is also Bluetooth?

I'd appreciate feedback.

DIPSLICK, Nov 01 2015 12:57

X man why would you want to connect it ,,,forgive the blonde question

X-Man, Nov 01 2015 01:20

X man why would you want to connect it ,,,forgive the blonde question


Thanks for the reply. To track my cadence and Heart Rate etc..

I was told I need to purchase a Bluetooth Heart rate strap if u want to monitor Heart rate.

I'm currently connecting and recording with Ipad and Samsung Galaxy

DIPSLICK, Nov 01 2015 01:56

You need the blue tooth strap, if you have that you pretty much sorted, you can sync the training rides, races or routes that it automatically uploads to say strava

grego12, Nov 01 2015 02:40

I need some help. Recently bought Cycleops Powerbeam Pro. This is a bluetooth model not Ant +. A question, how come the Powerbeam would connect via Bluetooth to my smartphone and Ipad. However the Cyclops would not connect to my Garmin 810 which is also Bluetooth?

I'd appreciate feedback.

810 only has bluetooth to upload rides via the cellphone....unfortunately it can't receive fitness data via bluetooth, only via ant

sirmoun10goat, Jan 20 2016 10:12

i'm looking at getting a cycleops.

 

are people using their garmins purely for cadence/hrr with this set up, or will the results of a ride done on the cycleops reflect on the garmin. i like to keep the result of all my training in one place, so would like to have this reflected on my garmin

 

if it is purely for cadence/hrr, is getting the bluetooth cycleops with a bluetooth hrm and cadence sensor not a better option, as you wont need the ant connection?

Skinnyone, Jan 20 2016 11:11

Bluetooth (BLE) CANNOT connect TO the Garmin, the Garmin does not listen in BLE (cannot pick up the signal from trainer/HR) it only talks in BLE to your smartphone. You still need a smartphone/tablet/PC to operate the trainer, either in BLE OR ANT+. CycleOps are apparently working on a dual band trainer but right now you have to choose between the two. 

 

Some Samsung phones and tablets have ANT+ built in and thus can be used to control an ANT+ trainer, the Garmin accessories can then be used as is and the data can be captured by the Garmin as well...

 

Apple products only have BLE so to then use the ANT+ trainer and accessories you would need a Wahoo key to pick up the ANT+ signal. 

 

If you have a BLE trainer and accessories then you cannot use the Garmin for anything. 

 

There is no difference between ANT+ and BLE in terms of connectivity and functionality, they are slightly different frequencies in the same band. Also ANT+ needs a code to connect (all done automatically) whereas BLE does not.

 

Have a look at their site for compatibility charts:

 

http://www.cycleops....g/compatibility

 

 

Most apps that are used to control the trainers (CycleOps Virtual Training, Zwift etc.) will all transfer the data of your ride to Strava etc. anyway, so if you are uploading your Garmin data to Strava then don't fret... the app will do it for you.

sirmoun10goat, Jan 20 2016 11:35

Bluetooth (BLE) CANNOT connect TO the Garmin, the Garmin does not listen in BLE (cannot pick up the signal from trainer/HR) it only talks in BLE to your smartphone. You still need a smartphone/tablet/PC to operate the trainer, either in BLE OR ANT+. CycleOps are apparently working on a dual band trainer but right now you have to choose between the two. 

 

Some Samsung phones and tablets have ANT+ built in and thus can be used to control an ANT+ trainer, the Garmin accessories can then be used as is and the data can be captured by the Garmin as well...

 

Apple products only have BLE so to then use the ANT+ trainer and accessories you would need a Wahoo key to pick up the ANT+ signal. 

 

If you have a BLE trainer and accessories then you cannot use the Garmin for anything. 

 

There is no difference between ANT+ and BLE in terms of connectivity and functionality, they are slightly different frequencies in the same band. Also ANT+ needs a code to connect (all done automatically) whereas BLE does not.

 

Have a look at their site for compatibility charts:

 

http://www.cycleops....g/compatibility

 

 

Most apps that are used to control the trainers (CycleOps Virtual Training, Zwift etc.) will all transfer the data of your ride to Strava etc. anyway, so if you are uploading your Garmin data to Strava then don't fret... the app will do it for you.

 

Thanks. I understand the differences in connectivity.

 

if i get the ant device, i will need the ant + iPhone key to use my ipad to control the trainer. will my cadence and hr be picked up with the ant+ iPhone key, or will i need to have my garmin on to get this information

 

if i go with the Bluetooth, then i don't need the ant adaptor, as my ipad will connect via Bluetooth. but then for cadence and hr, i will need Bluetooth devices to get this information to my ipad.