Review: Lemond Revolution Trainer

Supposing you’re in the market for a trainer and looking around, you’ve no doubt heard the chatter (from us and others) about the Lemond Revolution Trainer having great road-like feel but being noisy.

While “road-like feel” is a little subjective, if you’ve ridden on the road, you can pretty well guess what that means. The spool down of the fan, and thus the resistance, is gradual, so if you coast for a second or two, you’ll pick up pedaling at almost the same resistance you left off with. That’s great for maintaining a more consistent effort level if you just have to reposition yourself on your saddle or reach over to grab a water bottle or something. With trainers, particularly fluid trainers, that spool down too quickly (ie. most of them), even a 2 second lag in pedaling forces you to increase the effort a good bit to get back to where you were. We’ll pick up on why this is important after the break.

The sound, however, is more subjective and impossible to explain simply by saying loud. One person’s loud is another’s bleeping alarm like when Chewbacca was confined on cloud city. Thus, the not-so-subjective Sound Check video above to illustrate. The camera shaking towards the end is actually Tyler laughing at how loud it got and being unable to hold it steady…it’s not the wind from the trainer as you might guess. But check the wheel moving around on the ground and the towel flap. Awesome.

Full review after the break…

WHAT’S IN THE BOX, BUILD AND FEATURES

The box it comes in is deceptively large. Or, perhaps the unit inside is smaller than expected:

lemond revolution trainer bicycle fitness training

The Lemond Revolution Trainer is available with ($549) or without ($499) a Shimano 105 10-speed cassette preinstalled. Our test model came with it installed. It also includes the skewer, so all you need to do is remove your rear wheel and set your bike on it (assuming it’s 10-speed). A Campagnolo adapter is available, and you can easily put your own SRAM or older 9-speed cassette on it just like you would put one on a regular wheel. That means you’ll need a chain whip when you want to remove it.

The benefits of this design is that you can train on your race bike, even if it’s a mountain bike or tri bike, without wearing out your tires. That, and there’s no slippage when you’re going all out since you’re not relying on your tire to maintain good friction with a shiny metal roller. If you’re the kinda folk that takes their trainer to a mountain bike race to warm up, this saves you that embarrassing ssshhhjjouuussshhhjjouuussshhhjjouuu noise from your knobbies rolling on a trainer. Unless you like any kind of attention, consider this your stealth alternative.

lemond revolution trainer bicycle fitness training

Considering it’s the new directional 10-speed 105 cassette, which has a street price of at least $59 (JensonUSA), getting it pre-installed for $50 is a pretty good deal. We tested it with an older non-directional Shimano chain, an actual new 105 directional chain and a Red-level SRAM chain, and all three worked just fine with it.

One of the big concerns is whether you’ll need to adjust your derailleur everytime you put your bike on it, then adjust it back to work with your rear wheel. I’m happy to report that, at most, it took a couple of turns of the barrel adjuster on the derailleur to get it lined up…and that’s if it needed any adjustment at all. Usually, it shifted just fine right away. So, at worst, you might have to turn the barrel adjuster a couple turns back when you put your rear wheel back in. No biggie.

lemond revolution trainer bicycle fitness training

The Revolution creates resistance by having your effort turn a personal-pan-pizza sized wheel that’s grooved to hold a non-slip belt. That belt connects to a quarter (as in the coin) sized gear inside the body of the trainer. That massive gear reduction turning a huge, heavy, thick metal fan blade creates the resistance. During the first couple sessions, it shed some “ancillary” rubber off the edges of the belt, but it hasn’t seemed to cause any wear on the belt since then.

lemond revolution trainer bicycle fitness training

Besides offering up some pretty impressive resistance, the flywheel, which I’m convinced is made of cast iron, maintains its momentum thanks to its heft. This is what provides the “road-like feel” since it takes a while to slow down.

The fan blades move a good bit of air, too, which also adds progressive resistance. If I could ever remember before getting on the bike each time, I’d fashion something out of cardboard to redirect that air onto me to help cool me off, but I haven’t yet…just something to think about.

PERFORMANCE – THE GOOD

Compared to magnetic trainers, well, there is no comparison. If you’re serious about getting a good workout on a trainer, you’re probably using a fluid trainer. So, in short, if you’re on a magnetic one, it’s time to upgrade if you’re serious.

Compared to a fluid trainer, the Lemond Revolution feels better, maintains more even resistance and it really does feel more like riding on the road. A lot more, actually. Whereas fluid trainers want to slow down immediately, which can create a kind of stomping-in-mud feel when you’re mashing it out at a low cadence or really trying to crush it in a hard gear, the Lemond remains smooth and doesn’t seem to suck out the power between each pedal stroke. You know that instant between one leg ending it’s downward push and the other one starting it? Yep, that’s what I’m talking about, and as slight as it might be, once you ride the Lemond, you’ll start picking up on the subtle differences.

PERFORMANCE – THE BAD

It’s loud.

The first time I rode it, I was on different floor than my wife and she thought I was vacuuming.

If you typically hop on the trainer in the living room while catching up on DVR’d eps of House Hunters International with your sweetie, forget it. You won’t be able to hear the TV over the trainer. The video above shows our weekly Sufferfest training night, and with just one Lemond Revolution plus two non-Revolution trainers, we have to run the sound through the office stereo system and crank it.

WORTH MENTIONING

If you’re used to a high end fluid trainer, the Lemond Revolution won’t have quite as much resistance. If you really need the leg (and soul) crushing, trudging through quicksand resistance that a good fluid trainer can provide in the highest gears, then stick with a fluid. For all practical purposes, though, the Revolution provides plenty of resistance, more than enough for those of us who tested it to get a solid workout.

I almost filed this under “Bad”, but for smaller riders it may not be as much of an issue. Indeed, Evan, who’s about 5’4″ never mentioned it, but I’m 6’2″ and I noticed it on many rides: The contact pads on the legs spread out to 24″ at their widest. Compared to my Cycle-Ops Fluid at 29″, that’s a big difference, and it makes the Lemond feel a lot less stable when standing. I felt like I needed to focus a bit too much on keeping my body still. The frame on it is plenty stiff, it’s just not wide enough, particularly for bigger or taller riders.

Lastly, make sure your bike is securely mounted and the skewer is tight. I almost hopped my bike out of it one time standing up to sprint. Only bad things would have come of that.

BIKERUMOR RATING

Based purely on performance, it’s a Five and then some. Among the testers, the noise was the biggest talking point, and in a smaller room, it would be laughably loud. Even at normal training paces, it makes conversation a little difficult. For me, being taller, I wish it were wider. Taking all that into consideration, we’re giving it an enthusiastic Four Thumbs Up. A wider base would make it 4.5.

SHOULD YOU BUY IT?

If your looking for what’s one the best performing trainers out there, yes. If you’re stepping up from a magnetic trainer or one with a dinky flywheel, absolutely. If you’re upgrading from a fluid trainer, then we’re getting into grayer territory. It’s not so much a question, then, of improving intensity as it is consistency and feel.

Don’t have a trainer at all? If you can afford it, get it, because it’s cheaper to buy one good trainer and stop thinking about it then buy a crappy one and still spend time researching better trainers then buying a good one later one.

OTHER STUFF

Coming this February is the Power Pilot Meter, which will mount to your handlebar and wirelessly show display power, cadence, distance, speed, heart rate and calories from compatible ANT+ sensors, and all of the data can be downloaded via USB or ANT+.

Zach also had a few comments on this trainer in this post.

Comments

B - 01/21/11 - 2:28pm

Sounds like he is riding a jet… I like it.

uglyyeti - 01/21/11 - 7:58pm

That noise is pretty obnoxious. I ride my wife’s Kurt Rock ‘n Roll with the pro flywheel – that thing is the bomb. Funny, but our basement DVR in front of the trainer is packed full of House Hunter Internationals, too (and What Not to Wear – but those aren’t mine).

Robin - 01/21/11 - 10:02pm

Wow: who would’ve ever thought that a flywheel would decrease angular deceleration. Amazing. Heck, I wonder if the person that invented the flywheel every thought about that? How enlightening. Maybe some day CNN will do a story on this new development in physics.

Magnetic Trainer - 01/21/11 - 10:10pm

Wow. If I want to ride a loud trainer, I think I’ll stick to my 20+ year old wind trainer.
Thorough review and good pictures though. Really enjoyed the review.

Mick - 01/22/11 - 11:55am

I had a fitness studio come in wanting to purchase 8 of these…
I had to explain, as good as the unit is, I didn’t think the clients would want to experience what life on the deck of an aircraft carrier was like They ended up with 8 Kurt Kinetic R & R’s…word is they love ‘em (and so do the clients)
If I could figure out a way to graft this onto my R & R base, I’d be in heaven…(so long as my Bose Noise cancelling headphones hold out).

ZachOverholt - 01/22/11 - 2:02pm

As loud as it is, I still find myself drawn to it. I can’t stand to ride for any length of time on my fluid trainer at home, yet at the shop I can’t stop myself from jumping on the Revolution and riding until I’m stopped by customers coming in (I have to stop, or they couldn’t hear me say hello). Maybe it has to do with my brain equating the sound to work, but whatever it is I really like it.

Riley - 01/22/11 - 4:47pm

I think it very loud, but it gets louder the faster you go, and if you watch Evan, by the end he is going max speed, which probably is not what the entire ride would sound like.

KGr - 01/23/11 - 2:11am

You should do a chart of speed-to-db at your eye level. It sounds like if you aren’t careful, you could slowly take your hearing down a notch.

spokejunky - 01/23/11 - 5:34pm

Geezus. Delta four niner you are cleared to taxi to runway six east for takeoff.

Tyler (Editor) - 01/24/11 - 9:42am

Riley, you hit the nail on the head. It’s not that bad except when you’re really cranking it, which is maybe 20% tops of any training session unless you’re vying for a spot on the Topeak-Ergon team or something.

I wanted to jump in and say this: As loud as it is, it’s my go-to trainer unless I really want to ride in the living room and watch TV with Sweetie…it just feels so much better.

KGr - 01/25/11 - 2:57am

@Tyler,

Just a thought – the noise is directly related to pure wattage, no? So it would stand to reason that a Clydesdale running just below VO2max would create quite a lot more noise than yourself or other lighter riders putting in the same level of aerobic effort.

That said, I’m very intrigued. It sounds like trainers are getting to the point that they might be something more interesting than miserable torture devices.

Tyler (Editor) - 01/25/11 - 11:26am

KGr, the noise escalates in relation to speed, so the faster your pedaling and/or the harder the gear, the faster the flywheel will turn and the louder it’ll get. Effort (wattage) has nothing to do with the sound.

KGr - 01/25/11 - 3:04pm

@Tyler:
My apologies, I should have said “indirectly related”. What I’m proposing is that a heavier rider whose extra weight is derived at least partly from muscle and will put out greater wattage than a lighter rider (of comparable age/fitness level) for a given heart rate.

Since the trainer’s resistance isn’t affected by the rider’s weight or size, it would stand to reason that such heavier riders would run a higher gear/higher speed on the trainer to achieve that same workout even though they might run slower speeds on the road.

I’m not asserting this as a fact, but posing grounds to question whether heavier riders who are relatively fit might not have a different experience with the trainer and find it to be more “jet-like”.

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