Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CycleOps Magneto Pro: Tested

 As a cycling-fond resident of the rainy Pacific Northwestern U.S., a Certified Bike Fitter, parent of 3 young boys, and a Manager of three different successful bike shops; I've come to know and love a thing or two about indoor trainers. (See my tips & tricks post for more general info)

I have logged many hours around trainers - riding, fitting, sizing, and putting bikes in and taking them out. Just a blind estimation: I have probably installed and removed somewhere over 10,000 bikes from trainers in my career. Not that someone out there hasn't done more...but it's certainly enough to develop an understanding of what makes a decent trainer.

Now if you have read any of my other writing on trainers, you'll know that I have a certain affinity for two things: 1) Fluid resistance trainers and 2) Kurt Kinetic brand trainers. This comes from my years of using them and I have found these to be among the best.

However, this trainer: CycleOps' Magneto Pro may be softening my heart a little...

That is not to say that I haven't liked CycleOps trainers. The Magneto is probably the trainer I've sold the most in my career followed very closely by the Fluid2. The frames are great, the resistance units work almost flawlessly and they are reasonably priced when you consider the warranty and the features.

So when the Magneto Pro was released a few years ago (and priced above the Fluid2 and new Jet Fluid Pro) I took notice. What could make this trainer worthy of becoming the top-tier model? Now that I have one I use for fittings; I've begun to understand the value and features that make it so good.

The frame is still the good, stable frame you have come to expect from CycleOps. Heavy enough to stay put but not so heavy that it is exceptionally hard to transport or to take in and out of storage when your lifestyle dictates that you have to break down your trainer space. There are a few changes to the frame itself; but they appear to be mostly cosmetic. Specifically; flatter tubing profiles for the rear portions of the frame. If nothing else; it's a good update that looks good.
 The clamp mechanism is improved and works better, although I still prefer the Kurt Pro Machine in this department. The yellow knob does allow quicker and more error-free clamping of the rear axle and that is nice. The clamp still works best with a traditional, steel quick release skewer (one comes in the box) and that is really a matter of safety as they clamp most solidly into the mechanism. However, it's also a good idea to switch to the steel skewer to protect the nice, light aluminum skewers which may have come with your wheels since the clamp is prone to denting, galling, and otherwise "uglyfying" them.

The new mechanism for adjusting the position of the resistance unit against your tire is a great improvement - although with a little steeper learning curve than the old twist-knob. The cam-style keyed arrangement allows a simple twist of the bolt to quickly release or tighten the roller against the tire. Another quick 90-degree turn and push of the cam lever locks the roller in place. It is fast, but takes some getting used to when you compare it to the rather intuitive knob of the previous model (and the Kurt for that matter) which allows you to make a few turns for tension; release; or adjustments.

 The resistance unit is the big news here and the reason I chose this trainer over the other CycleOps models when it came time to purchase my new fitting trainer. I have long lauded "progressive resistance" trainers as superior to adjustable resistance since they are more realistic and seem to provide a perceivable difference in the amount of resistance available. The select-able progressive curves of the Magneto Pro seems to be the perfect harmony of those two concepts though.

You see four icons in the photo above with an embossed arrow in the outer polished housing. The housing turns to select each icon which thereby adjusts the curve to different resistance settings. All of them are progressive - providing a greater "push" back at the tire as you increase your effort - but with varying amounts and rates of progress. Not only does this allow me to select a curve for the type of workout I might be doing but also allows me to fine-tune the resistance to a particular rider I might be fitting to provide an ideal amount of resistance based on their style or power. Love it!

This dial adjusts leg height - a feature I'm sure is nice; but I haven't found a use for it yet. I suppose I might find it helpful to "level" the trainer from left to right if I'm using it on an uneven floor.

One of the legs in an extended position after turning the yellow adjustment dial several full turns. There's about an inch of height adjustment available.

The trainer seems to command a similar footprint to previous CycleOps models and has a similarly wide base for great stability during standing efforts. I like the plastic/rubber feet in front and back to protect floors.

Previous models have had foldable legs to allow the trainer to store more easily - but this model features legs that lock in place. I find this helpful simply in ensuring that the legs are fully unfolded and the trainer is therefore level with itself and ready for use. The push button is nice and operates smoothly when it comes time to release the legs.

Final thoughts: Good overall. I think this is a good step forward for CycleOps and makes their products unique again. They needed to overhaul their lineup and this was an excellent effort. The new Pro models will provide all the reliability you've come to expect from the industry standard brand with some new advantages that should make them easier and more enjoyable to use. If you're shopping, I think these are definitely worth a look.

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