BalanceFrom Bike Trainer Review
Cons: Louder, unrealistic road feel, low max power, no controllable features, not supported by many popular training apps
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BalanceFrom Bike Trainer
|Price||$85.31 at Amazon||$1,400 List||$1,200 List||$999.99 at Competitive Cyclist|
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|$499.00 at Competitive Cyclist|
|Pros||Quick setup, easy to move around, light, simple design||Does not require calibration, realistic road-feel, broad compatibility, wider support for 3rd party apps||Good road feel, accurate power, easy to carry||Lower price range for a premium trainer, good responsiveness, smooth, high power accuracy||Affordable, simple to set up, easy to take on the road, great control for a tire drive trainer|
|Cons||Louder, unrealistic road feel, low max power, no controllable features, not supported by many popular training apps||Power output/response can lag, pricey, heavy, somewhat of a pain to move around and set up||Heavy, expensive||Requires calibration, heavy, slightly aggressive in ERG mode||Resistance unit is just a bit bulky and heavy, manual drum adjustment, lower responsiveness|
|Bottom Line||A super affordable trainer to get you through the inside days||You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bike trainer||A top of the line direct drive smart trainer that narrowly missed out on our Editors' Choice Award||Everything you want in a premium trainer for way less||One of the easiest smart control trainers to set up and get rolling without sacrificing performance|
|Rating Categories||BalanceFrom Bike Trainer||Tacx Neo 2T Smart||Wahoo Fitness Kickr||Saris H3 Direct Drive||Kinetic Road Machine Control|
|Connectivity And Power Accuracy (25%)|
|Road Feel (25%)|
|Specs||BalanceFrom Bike...||Tacx Neo 2T Smart||Wahoo Fitness Kickr||Saris H3 Direct...||Kinetic Road...|
|Type||Tire drive||Direct drive||Direct drive||Direct drive||Tire drive|
|Weight (lbs)||19 lbs||47 lbs||45 lbs||47 lbs||28 lbs|
|Compatible Platforms-TrainerRoad, Zwift||None.||Yes, both. Also Tacx Films, Rouvy, Sufferfest, Kinomap, FulGaz, BKool, and Road Grand Tours.||Yes, both. Also Wahoo Smartphone App, Rouvy, and The Sufferfest.||Yes, both. Also Rouvy.||Yes, both. Also Kinetic Fit, Rouvy, Kinomap, The Sufferfest and FulGaz.|
|Communication Protocol||None||ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth FTMS||ANT+ FEC, Bluetooth Smart||ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth FTMS||ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth FTMS|
|Dimensions L-H-W (inches)||23.9 x 20.1 x 7.6||22.6" x 29.5" x 21.7"||20.25" x 18" x 28.25"||31” x 18.5” x 19.5”||32"x22.4"x16"|
|Storage Dimensions LxHxW (inches)||23.9 x 20.1 x 7.6||24.4" × 10.2" × 17.3"||20.5" x 18.25" x 8.75"||8.5” x 18.5” x 19.5”||20.75"x8.25"x21.5"|
|Power Comparison||N/A||1-3 watts, 1%||3 watts, 1%||1-3 watts, 1%||10 watts, 5%|
|Decibel @ 230 Watts||65.2 dB||57.8 dB||64.6 dB||55.3 dB||55.9 dB|
|Roll Out Time @ 200 watts||5 seconds||26 seconds||53 seconds||58 seconds||17 seconds|
|Flywheel||5 lbs||Virtual||12.5 lbs||20 lbs||12 lbs|
|Additonal||Skewer||No Cassette included||Cassette Sram 11spd included, Campy freehub option available||No Cassette included||Skewer included|
|Axel compatibility||130mm and 135mm || May need 3rd party adaptors for 142mm and 148mm||130mm, 135mm || Adaptors for 142mm and 148mm available through Tacx.||130mm and 135mm compatible only.||130mm, 135mm compatible || Thru-axle available for 142mm and 148mm through CycleOps.||130mm, 135mm || 142mm and 148mm adaptors available through Kinetic.|
Our Analysis and Test Results
This trainer is very similar to the FDW Bike Trainer. The chief difference is that this one didn't have any failures, whereas the FDW had an issue with the axle locking mechanism that took a lot of finagling to fix. The BalanceFrom is basically plug and play out of the box after you bolt in the resistance unit. It's a really stripped down trainer, but you get some semblance of resistance with the adjustable magnetic level, which you'll affix to your handlebars. It's not pretty, but it keeps the trainer really affordable and gives you just a little more range.
Connectivity and Power Accuracy
There's a real dearth of connectivity for the BalanceFrom. It's a basic trainer, so you don't get any controllable features, and most of the big virtual companies don't support it yet. You won't get a lot of fancy bells and whistles with the BalanceFrom.
The fundamental setback inherent to all magnetic trainers is power. We were a little grumpy that we couldn't find a good power curve for this trainer, but it's a magnetic trainer, so it's a linear curve. That means that for each resistance level you apply on your shifter, you are increasing the power required to turn the pedal proportionately. As an example, if level 1 requires 100 watts to go 20 mph, then level 5 requires 500 watts to go 20 mph. In contrast, a fluid trainer will always get you about 14 mph at 100 watts and about 30 mph at 500 watts. All this is to say that the BalanceFrom doesn't reproduce the feeling of riding outside nearly as well as more advanced trainers.
Consistent with our expectations for this sort of trainer, the BalanceFrom felt, well, mechanical. It's a magnetic tire drive trainer, meaning that the resistance doesn't have that nice natural feel you get with the fluid trainers and smart electronic trainers that can simulate road inertia a little better. That's also to do with the large, heavy flywheels, which you won't find on this unit, whose total weight is just 19 pounds. For comparison, high-end smart trainers can weigh as much as 50 pounds. This model provides enough to get you spinning, but don't expect to be transported to the Pyrenees.
This is a really simple magnetic resistance trainer. There's a cable that's used to adjust resistance up or down, but it's rough. You're not going to get the same ride as a fancy trainer, but it does work. The thing we liked about it is also its biggest pitfall—its simplicity. There's not much that goes into adjustment, so you don't need to waste time tinkering and adjusting and calibrating. Just tighten down the skewer clamps and tighten the resistance unit's bolt, so the tires don't slide, then you're free to adjust resistance with the cable.
It's worth noting that the BalanceFrom and FDW are nearly identical trainers. The difference we found was mainly that the BalanceFrom's locking mechanism engaged properly for the axle clamp.
The BalanceFrom is easy to unbox and assemble. It's just a little resistance unit that needs to be bolted to a basic base or stand. The bolts take a bit of patience to thread through the holes and guides, but otherwise, it's very easy to get the unit attached. Next, throw in the acorn skewer and get your bike into the stand's bolts so your tire is over the middle of the drum, then tighten the resistance unit down enough so your tire doesn't slip. Attach the shifter to your handlebars, and you're off to the races. Pretty easy.
This is among the easiest trainers to store and unpack. It's only about 20 pounds, so it's really easy to pick up and carry around, even in suitcases. The base folds up into a nice, compact, flat shape that fits into nooks and corners. The resistance unit is also simple to remove if needed. The least convenient part is the shifter cable affixed to the resistance unit, which slightly changes the spaces that it can easily fit into, but it's still not a serious setback. Bottom line: It's really easy to store and lug around.
We think most cyclists will be better served by spending more on a bike trainer than this one. The BalanceFrom will get you upright and rolling, and if that's all you need, it'll do fine. Just don't expect it to be the ride of your dreams.
The BalanceFrom Bike Trainer is a stripped-down magnetic trainer with just a bit of toggling capacity for its resistance unit. Our testing confirmed that it does work to get your legs moving indoors. Just be aware of the shortcomings mentioned.
— Ryan Baham