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Saris Fluid 2 Review

A simple, affordable, and highly functional tire drive trainer with the option to use it with training apps
Saris Fluid 2
Credit: Saris
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $380 List | $280.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Quick setup, easy operation, durable, stable, communicates with training apps, low noise
Cons:  Limited max resistance, roller can heat up and accelerate tire wear, no power data, no control
Manufacturer:   Saris
By Ryan Baham ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 13, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 10
  • Connectivity and Power Accuracy - 25% 5.0
  • Road Feel - 25% 6.0
  • Design - 20% 7.0
  • Setup - 20% 7.0
  • Portability - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

When it comes to tire drive trainers, you should be looking for a few things: road-like resistance, quick and easy set-up, reliability, and compatibility with training apps (with the purchase of a speed or cadence sensor). The Saris Fluid 2 bike trainer outperforms most of the tire-drive competition across all of these considerations and others, which is why it earns our Best Buy for Tire Drive Trainer. It's a really simple machine to put together. And it's super easy to come home after work, throw the bike on, fire up the laptop, and go, and that's the clincher — it's easy to use, and it does all of the basic things you need it to do to train from home. That, plus a very fair price.

We tested the Fluid 2 with the speed and cadence sensor, sold as the Fluid 2 Trainer Smart Equipped. It costs more than the base model of the Fluid 2, but for the benefit of the stats the sensor provides, we wholeheartedly recommend getting it.

We originally tested the CycleOps Fluid 2, but Saris has absorbed CycleOps, who now produces this product. From what we can tell, there have been no changes to the product's design.

Editor's Note: This gear review was updated on January 15, 2022, to include more details on testing and the products we would recommend.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Quick setup, easy operation, durable, stable, communicates with training apps, low noiseLower price range for a premium trainer, good responsiveness, smooth, high power accuracyLightweight, affordable, durable designQuick setup, easy to move around, light, simple designVery affordable, light, easy to carry, store, and move around
Cons Limited max resistance, roller can heat up and accelerate tire wear, no power data, no controlStill relatively expensive, requires calibration, heavy, slightly aggressive in ERG modeLoud, mag resistance has limitations, assembly takes some effort, requires speed sensor purchased separately to connect to third-party appsLouder, unrealistic road feel, low max power, no controllable features, not supported by many popular training appsLimited resistance, cable shifter, durability and quality issues
Bottom Line A simple, affordable, and highly functional tire drive trainer with the option to use it with training appsA more affordable premium direct drive trainer to get you through winter, rain, and turbo-charged training sessionsThis is a utilitarian mag trainer that provides more reliability than others in the low-end price rangeThis is the trainer you get when you’re just trying to get your legs spinning without paying a tonIf you can't possibly spend more, this trainer works to get the legs spinning
Rating Categories Saris Fluid 2 Saris H3 Direct Drive Saris Mag+ BalanceFrom Bike Tr... FDW Bike Trainer
Connectivity and Power Accuracy (25%)
5.0
8.0
3.0
1
1
Road Feel (25%)
6.0
8.0
5.0
2.0
2.0
Design (20%)
7.0
9.0
5.0
5.0
4.0
Setup (20%)
7.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
8.0
Portability (10%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
Specs Saris Fluid 2 Saris H3 Direct Drive Saris Mag+ BalanceFrom Bike Tr... FDW Bike Trainer
Type Tire drive Direct drive Tire drive Tire drive Tire drive
Weight (lbs) 21 lbs 47 lbs 20 lbs 19 lbs 19 lbs
Compatible Platforms TrainerRoad, Zwift, Rouvy, Wahoo SYSTM TrainerRoad, Zwift, Rouvy, BKOOL, Kinomap, RGT, and more Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, and more (with speed sensor) None. None.
Communication Protocol ANT+ BlueGiga USB ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth FTMS ANT+ FE-C or Bluetooth FTMS None None
Dimensions L-H-W (inches) 28" x 21.5" x 15.7" 31” x 18.5” x 19.5” 28" x 21.5" x 15.7" 23.9 x 20.1 x 7.6 23.9 x 20.1 x 7.6
Storage Dimensions LxHxW (inches) 20.5" x 9" x 20.75" 8.5” x 18.5” x 19.5” 20.5" x 9" x 20.75" 23.9 x 20.1 x 7.6 23.9 x 20.1 x 7.6
Power Comparison 10 watts, 5% 1-3 watts, 1% N/A N/A N/A
Decibel @ 230 Watts 64.7 dB 55.3 dB 66.5 dB 65.2 dB 65.2 dB
Roll Out Time @ 200 watts 15 seconds 58 seconds 4 seconds 5 seconds 5 seconds
Flywheel 3 lbs 20 lbs Magnetic 5 lbs 5 lbs
Additonal Skewer No Cassette included Skewer Skewer Skewer
Axle compatibility 120mm, 130mm, 135mm compatible || Thru-axle available for 142mm and 148mm through CycleOps. 130mm, 135mm compatible || Thru-axle available for 142mm and 148mm through CycleOps. 142x12mm and 148x12mm bikes 130mm and 135mm || May need 3rd party adaptors for 142mm and 148mm 130mm and 135mm || May need 3rd party adaptors for 142mm and 148mm

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


Saris Fluid 2 bike trainer - it's hard to compete with simplicity and convenience - both areas...
It's hard to compete with simplicity and convenience - both areas where the Fluid 2 dominates.
Credit: Tara Kharrazian

Connectivity and Power Accuracy


As with many tire drive trainers, the base model is a dumb trainer (meaning no "smart" features), but it can go quasi-turbo by spending a little more and adding a speed or cadence sensor and pairing it with Zwift, Rouvy, or a bevy of other training programs. Now, it doesn't become smart or controllable. Still, it transmits data, and the program responds to the data you're producing, which keeps your stats accurate and hopefully casts some sort of illusory spell to help you trick yourself into better performance.


Given the crutch of not having power data, this machine will not top this test metric. The sensor does a fine job of connecting over its two communication protocols, but that doesn't change the fact that you're only getting speed or cadence data. But if you want to pay enough for good power data, you might as well get a PowerTap or pedals that can pair with your training app with the primary benefit of being able to be used out on the road. That being said, if you're after power (and accuracy), you have lots of impressive options to choose from among the direct-drive models.

Saris Fluid 2 bike trainer - the fluid 2 opens up another dimension simply by adding a cadence or...
The Fluid 2 opens up another dimension simply by adding a cadence or speed sensor, opening up all of the relevant training data in the major training apps.
Credit: Tara Kharrazian

Road Feel


The Fluid 2 features a uniquely light flywheel. The high performance without a heavy flywheel is widely attributed to the PowerTuned technology. We researched this pretty exhaustively and couldn't find much beyond power curve charts. Hence, it appears to be more of an ideally-tweaked configuration than an advanced material or mechanical design, but again, we couldn't find much information on it. In any case, the outcome of whatever they did is still pretty sweet because it did as well as other tire drive trainers.


This might be a bit counter-intuitive, but tire drive trainers are at a bit of a disadvantage here. A tire rolling against glassy-smooth rollers feels too clean, too easy, and there's usually a tough balance between slippage (loose resistance unit) and over-squeezing (tight resistance unit). The way Saris overcomes that is with another super simple, super clever design: their clutch knob. It clicks once you've tightened it to the ideal tension, so you're not fooling around with a torque wrench every time you want to ride your bike.

Saris Fluid 2 bike trainer - the clutch knob clicks once you reach the optimal tension, so you...
The Clutch Knob clicks once you reach the optimal tension, so you never have to guess if you're doing it right.
Credit: Tara Kharrazian

Again, this is a bit hard to determine because of the limited information. Still, it appears that the light flywheel also reduced the unnatural slippage and molasses-feel you sometimes get with heavier, clunkier trainers. That means that when we were coasting for a second or needed to jump on it and start slamming on the pedals, there wasn't a delay because the tire had to get enough traction to push a 20-pound flywheel. It just responds naturally, and the resistance was there when you needed it. In this way, it is a little closer to the direct drives, but it's still just not on the same plane. Not to mention, some direct-drive models have features that allow them to stutter and shake when you cross over cobbles or gravel in Zwift and other training apps.

Still, the Fluid 2 has a relatively natural feel, and it's near enough to the road that it's not a distraction or frustrating, the way the slippier tire drive models can be. For its low cost and simplicity, it's an excellent choice, especially for riders just looking to get a few hours in a week for a short indoor season.

Design


This machine uses the classic design but improves upon it in subtle ways. The most important aspect is the resistance unit, which Saris seems to have mostly mastered. It uses a cooling unit to keep the fluid cool, though, like most fluid trainers, there is a fine balance between overheating and high-heat performance, which they do a fairly decent job of sticking.


Despite the self-cooling fan designed into the flywheel, there are occasional concerns about the tires getting too hot if you're doing 2.5 or 3-hour rides. But if you have a good fan blowing and don't do tons of long rides, your tires shouldn't be any worse for the wear compared to the average tire drive trainer.

Saris Fluid 2 bike trainer - you can see the clever way the fluid 2's flywheel is also designed...
You can see the clever way the Fluid 2's flywheel is also designed to cool itself with fan blades. It's the little things...
Credit: Tara Kharrazian

It's understandable that it comes in behind the premium smart trainers, but it gets kudos for being both simple and light. It takes the traditional tire-drive design and figures out how to reduce weight without sacrificing performance. Whereas most trainers use extra heavy flywheels to improve the inertia and road feel, the Fluid 2 has a unique design that allows it to sport a flywheel that's only a few pounds, but it still rolls like the models with much heavier flywheels.

No matter how clever the design is, it's hard for tire drive trainers not to eat tires. As we mentioned above, rollers always get hot, no matter what awesome patented design you have, and that heat can lead to accelerated deterioration of tires. That seems to be especially a concern with the Fluid 2, but only for frequent, long rides. That can be addressed relatively easily by using a trainer-specific tire and learning how to change them.

Saris Fluid 2 bike trainer - even the very best tire drive trainers will eventually eat your...
Even the very best tire drive trainers will eventually eat your tires, so it's best to use trainer-specific tires, especially if you plan to spend a whole season inside.
Credit: Tara Kharrazian

All in all, it's a cleverly simple design that gets the job done, and that's one of the major reasons it earned our Best Buy for Tire Drive Trainer Award. What it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in convenience and practicality.

Setup


This was one of the most pleasing aspects of the trainer. It is really easy to figure out, assemble, mount, and get going from unboxing to rolling. Again, this was a major contributing factor to its Best Buy status. There's nothing like anticipating a ride all day, and when you get home from work, all you have to do is swap skewers (if you want), tighten a few bolts, and fire up your preferred training app.


You'll see that this one lands alongside other top trainers in this metric. The easier initial set-up time definitely goes to the Fluid 2 because it takes about 10 minutes and comes with just about all the tools you'll need.

Saris Fluid 2 bike trainer - throw in a small wrench, and you have everything you need to set up...
Throw in a small wrench, and you have everything you need to set up the Fluid 2 in under 10 minutes - even for the mechanically disinclined.
Credit: Tara Kharrazian

Not only is the physical set-up easy, but so is the training app piece. That's because Saris doesn't try to trap you in its garden by forcing you to use its native training app - it relies on the robust 3rd party apps. Granted, you have to pay for all or most of those services. Either way, we appreciate that Saris focuses on developing good machines.

Saris Fluid 2 bike trainer - just swap out your skewer for cycleops' skewer with rounded nuts...
Just swap out your skewer for CycleOps' skewer with rounded nuts, drop it in, tighten the bolt-action lever, fasten the resistance unit, and you're off to the races.
Credit: Tara Kharrazian

Portability


Most tire drive trainers tend to be a bit awkward to carry around. The bulk of their weight is concentrated in the resistance unit and roller, which flops around a bit, but you still have the wide legs and feet to lug around. The Fluid 2 is still designed the same way, but it has the singular advantage of being more than 15 lbs lighter than other top tire drive trainers. For riders after a convenient trainer to warm up at the start line or out on road trips, the clear preference is the lighter, easier to carry Fluid 2.


Weight is the biggest driver for this measure. No matter how ergonomically designed a trainer is, if it weighs almost 50 lbs, we're not going to be terribly fond of taking it out to the start line to warm up for 30 minutes for a 90-minute race. The Fluid 2 really does well here.

Saris Fluid 2 bike trainer - if you need to break the trainer down for easier transport or...
If you need to break the trainer down for easier transport or long-term storage, you can do so by simply unscrewing the two bolts (at the side and rear) and removing the resistance unit.
Credit: Tara Kharrazian

Should You Buy the Fluid 2?


Yes. If your goal is a great tire drive trainer with a reasonable price tag that doesn't sacrifice much in the way of performance, then this is the option you want in your at-home training cave. This unit is portable and works well for what it is. The price is reasonable compared to the competition, and we think it sits nicely at the crossroads of useful and affordable.

What Other Bike Trainer Should You Consider?


If you were hoping for a smart drive trainer but aren't sure if you can afford it, then the Kinetic Road Machine Control is one for your "potentials" list. This unit has a price slightly higher than the Fluid 2, but it offers better connectivity and controllable features that make the price bump worth it if you can stretch your budget.

Ryan Baham
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