The CycleOps H2 Smart is the next iteration of the successful Hammer Direct model. With a few new features and expanded functionality, the machine improves on what was already one of the market's top bike trainers. Without going over the top, it can take up to 2000 watts and simulate a practical 20% grade, which should cover the full range of training expectations for most of us. This update is even more accurate and more responsive than the earlier version. It also integrates a cadence sensor, filling a small gap from the previous version.
CycleOps H2 Smart Review
Cons: Cadence data can drop, Campy and 10-speed hubs are a pain to match
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Hammer was the first direct drive smart trainer from CycleOps. They were a bit late to the party with competitors like Wahoo releasing direct drive units first, but the Hammer and its new updated version, theH2, were worth the wait. CycleOps is no stranger to the market and has long been producing high-quality indoor bike trainers of almost every resistance type. They also have a long history of producing power meter hubs under the PowerTap name, so a highly accurate direct drive trainer is no stretch for the brand. The H2 has an ideal set of qualities that landed it at or near the top of every category we rated in this review. It checks all the boxes, with dual communication protocols, an accurate direct drive design, and solid compatibility across all the major 3rd party training apps. And its excellent road feel and smooth resistance transitions really pay off on the more advanced applications like Zwift and TrainerRoad to set it apart from the competition.
Connectivity and Power Accuracy
CycleOps, like most manufacturers, has chosen to use both ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth communication protocols on the H2. Dual protocols give users the greatest number of connection options making it easy to connect with almost any device. CycleOps bike trainers are compatible with all the top 3rd party training apps, and we experienced zero drops and had no problem getting connected to any programs.
The H2 exceeded our expectations for power accuracy, consistently tracking within 1 percent of our power meter. Its predecessor, the Hammer Direct, was already in the 1-3% accurate range, but this update is down in the 1-2% range. Perhaps the reason for this is that they utilize magnets that detect cadence and power output. That's also part of the reason it weighs a ton.
The H2 was particularly impressive in with instantaneous power increases and appropriate speed increases to match the increased power output. CycleOps recommends calibration every 30 days, and our experience would show that to be an accurate recommendation. We went past 30 days with no noticeable accuracy decline, but once every 30 days is no big deal compared to the daily calibration requirements of most tire drive trainers.
There is a lot to love about the H2 and road feel is at the top of that list. It simply has the best road feel of any traditional-flywheel trainer we tested. Several factors affect the road feel of a smart trainer. The weight of the flywheel is one factor. During testing, we found that, generally, a heavier flywheel created superior road feel than did a lightweight flywheel.
When comparing basic fluid trainers side by side, the effect of a heavier flywheel is very noticeable, with few exceptions. With smart trainers, there are other factors at play, primarily how the magnetic resistance unit applies braking force to create resistance, and most importantly how the trainer software interprets resistance changes in slope experienced when using applications. We broke our analysis of road feel down into two components — application-controlled changes in resistance, and how the trainer responds to increases in rider power output.
When using the H2 in ERG mode, the transitions from one wattage setting to another during interval workouts are exceptionally smooth. The H2 quickly increases resistance but does so in a manner that allows the rider time to increase power output by increasing cadence. During SIM mode testing, we also found the H2 to be superior to most of the competition. It simply feels more like riding outside.
The sensation when you transition from a flat road to an incline is familiar, with a gear changes corresponding to what we would expect to feel on a road bike riding outdoors. The H2 had the longest wind-down time of any trainer we tested at 2 minutes and 30 seconds. This long wind-down time makes descents and coasting on the flats in SIM mode feel much more realistic. It is basically what you would expect to feel on the road in similar conditions.Rider Power Output Changes
The CycleOps H2 responds well to rider power output change when riding in SIM mode. The H2 handles sudden hard efforts well, such as an acceleration on a climb, coming up just short of being the best in our tests. The H2 matches wattage readings well as compared to a power meter. This may have more to do with software than the physical components of the unit, but it is worth noting the discrepancy.
The H2 scores high here with stellar overall design, attention to detail, and some smart accessories that set it apart from the competition. The first thing you notice when pulling it out of the box is that it doesn't look like any other trainer. The resistance unit, flywheel, and drive belts are completely enclosed in a tough plastic case. We like this feature and feel that it serves two key purposes. First, it protects the internal components from water and sweat when the trainer is in use. The other benefit of the enclosed case is noise reduction. While we have no idea how much louder the trainer would be without the case, it stands to reason that it absorbs some of the noise output.
Accessories and Compatibility
This is one of the only trainers we tested that comes with a full set of thru-axle adaptors that make the trainer compatible with 142mm and 148mm through axle frames right out of the box. The inclusion of the axle adaptors is a big plus, as it gives riders on cyclocross bikes and mountain bikes out of the box compatibility. The H2 does not come with a cassette. Initially, we felt this was a mistake, but after using the poor quality SRAM cassette that comes with some direct drive models we have tested, we feel that it is best to let the rider furnish the cassette. That makes even more sense with a moment's consideration for all of the compatibility issues and what on earth will you do with a cassette for a groupset you don't run? It would make more sense for trainer companies to let riders select their preferred cassette and hub and build that service into the price or discount the price if they choose not to buy the hub and cassette - especially for those of us that have a few cassettes kicking around the garage that will mate with the drivetrain just fine. Another important compatibility issue of note is that the H2 comes with a Shimano Cassette body, so if you are using a Campagnolo drivetrain you will have to run an Ultegra cassette.
It also comes with a small, thin wheel block that stows neatly under the trainer when the support legs are folded up. We used the trainer without it and found that it does offer a bit more front wheel stability. Another cool feature is the disc brake spacer that is stowed under the wheel block. While it is not a critical feature, it just goes to show how much thought was put into the trainer.
Our only real complaint is that it doesn't come with a quick-release skewer. This is rather weak when you consider the cost of the unit and the fact that just about every other trainer in the review comes with a quick-release skewer. You can use the one that is already on your bike, but we recommend you purchase one to leave on the trainer to simplify setup.
The H2 is easy to hop on and ride compared to tire drive trainers following initial setup. We break setup into two categories: initial and ongoing.Initial Setup
Initial setup on the H2 is slightly more involved. It doesn't come with a cassette installed so you will need a cassette that works with the drivetrain on your bike as well as a chain whip and a cassette lockring tool. Following cassette installation, all you need to do is thread a quick-release skewer (not included) through the hub. Placing your bike on the trainer is the same procedure as putting a rear wheel on a bike. We found that with some bikes a few turns of the barrel adjuster were necessary to get the shifting dialed. Before riding for the first time, you will need to calibrate the trainer.
Following initial setup, all that is required is getting on your bike and riding. If you remove your bike from the trainer following each session, you will have to repeat the bike mounting procedure and fold the legs of the trainer out. Folding and unfolding the legs is a simple task on a hard surface, if you are doing it on the carpet you will need to unweight the leg you are trying to open, or it will catch on the rubber footpad. Once you plug in the trainer and open your training app, you are ready to ride. CycleOps recommends a monthly calibration.
It weighs in at 47 lbs, making it nearly the heaviest trainer we tested. Despite the weight of the unit, we found it relatively easy to move around because of its cleverly-designed integrated handle that sits at the balance point of the trainer. The legs fold up easily, allowing the trainer to be carried as you would carry a suitcase. When folded up the overall width is only 8.5". We found it much easier to pack it in a vehicle for transport than the more awkwardly shaped tire drive trainers.
Can you use the H2 for a race warm-up without electrical power? Well, yes. However, you will hit a max resistance of around 150watts. We would like to see the option to use the unit without power and a progressive resistance curve based on speed. No product is perfect. The H2 is one of the best smart trainers on the market, but it is best suited to duty in the private pain cave training center unless, of course, you travel to races on a tour bus or van with generators.
The CycleOps H2 smart trainer is one of the most versatile trainers we tested. It comes with adaptors to accommodate almost any rear wheel spacing or axel standard, allowing it to be used with a wider range of bikes right out of the box than any other trainer tested. The direct drive design is a far better system if you plan to use a mountain bike or cross bike on the trainer than a comparable tire drive trainer. We feel that the H2 is one of the best training tools available and is well suited to any rider looking to enhance their indoor training experience.
The price is high, but if ease of use and power accuracy are important to you, then this is the no-compromise option. Despite the high price, it still comes in under some of the other premium smart trainers. We feel this superb piece of equipment represents a solid value.
The H2 is a list-topper for sure. It has everything you'd want in a smart trainer. It's designed for excellent compatibility with a ride range of third party training apps so you're not trapped in a garden (which other companies try to do). It folds up quite nearly for easy storage and portability. It uses a lot of simple, clever design features to make it both clean and pragmatic. Once you're riding, you'll find that it's one of the most realistic-feeling trainers out there. Its responsiveness and natural inertia are hard to beat. And it's swift and straightforward when it comes to setup and maintenance. If you're in the market for a smart trainer and not quite ready to go straight to the top shelf, the H2 is pretty darn close.
— Ryan Baham