Cycleops has come back to the direct drive turbo market with the Hammer, but in a one, two blow, they have also released a wheel on trainer in the form of the Cycleops Magnus, coming in at under half the price of the bigger Hammer. I’ve been using the Cycleops Hammer and the Magnus now for about six weeks, so how do they compare, and how do the hills on Zwift feel through the wheel with the Cycleops Magnus? It sounds like we need another Zwift Gear Test!
Cycleops Magnus Trainer Review – Zwift Gear Test – TitaniumGeek
Cycleops has taken a direct aim at the current crop of wheel on trainers, specifically targeting the Wahoo KICKR SNAP, and new elite Elite Rampa.
The benefit of wheel on trainers is price and compatibility. Compared to their larger direct mount offerings, such as the Cycleops Hammer, wheel on trainers come in at around 50% cheaper, for 80-90% of the features. Also, there is no need to faff around changing cassettes, or in fact anything other than a skewer on the rear wheel – just mount onto any of them and off you go! But there are minor, but important differences, as I have tried to cover in my various reviews
As Cycleops has chopped the price in half compared to the Hammer, does that mean we have a trainer that is half the quality or has half the features? – NOPE! Let’s get that right out of the way now. So how does the Cycleops Magnus measure up to its big brother and competition?
Hey look, it’s a box! I know we are only talking about a box, but I like the Cycleops Magnus box! While the Tacx Neo box looks cool in it’s brooding black and gray, appearing for all the world like it is shipping a spaceship from Independence Day, the bright yellow and black of the Cycleops Magnus stands out and leaving you in no doubt as to what you are getting. Plus, I was very surprised at how small the box was when it arrived. My car isn’t very capacious, and it’s great for once to be able to put a turbo trainer box in the back without having to fold all the seats! (Although that is, to be fair an exceptionally minor point!)
Cycleops have clearly had their packaging department work to the brief of “slim, not imposing”. It turns out there is a reason for the slimness here, “some assembly required”…
Opening the contents of the Cycleops Magnus box out onto the table highlights the slightly self-assembly kit nature of this turbo
In the box we have; the drive unit top LEFT, a series of instruction manuals, power adapter and FIVE different power cables, the A-Frame for the trainer, a series of bolts to connect the drive unit, and the end of the skewer mount in the plastic bag.
On the one hand, this is not a trainer to pull out of the box and get riding straight away. On the other, you should still be set up and running within a max of 20mins; the instructions and assembly are very straight forward
There are a couple of steps, such as the need to build the skewer holder which are a little surprising. Things which other turbo manufacturers have done in the factory. Not that I mind, as it allowed me to get a better idea of how the unit goes together, here highlighting the cleverly contained spring inside the bolt, to reduce the chance of your putting excess pressure on your skewer, and bending things
You screw the turbo handle directly into the screw hole at one end of the above spring
The actual process of fixing the drive unit to the A-frame was a little fiddly, partially as the central tightening bolt did not line up correctly with the hole passing through the drive unit and the frame, leading to a small contact area on the drive unit
I was a little surprised at this due to the attention Cycleops have paid in other areas, such as the inclusion of small spacers beside the drive unit, to make sure everything lines up correctly, and there is no possible movement after assembly
I took the unit apart again to make sure that I had not made a mistake putting things together intially, I even used the manual and everything! But no change on the second install, as you can see here
However, over the eight weeks, I have been using the Cycleops Magnus, I haven’t seen any issues with further wear here, even moving through several bikes, nor any wobble developing over that time. When fully set up the Cycleops Magnus has a have the relatively standard A-Frame design, supporting the bike nicely, and in my case rising the rear wheel only about 1 inch, so not really requiring a riser block
Now the unit is set up, it’s time for a walk around! With the drive unit on one side and the flywheel opposite, the balance to the Cycleops Magnus is quite even, contributing in turn to the excellent stability of the unit if you stand up out of the saddle
The frame is very light weight, surprisingly so, especially when compared to the steel hulk that is the Wahoo KICKR Snap. Which comes as a real surprise given the stability above. A stability with is aided by the small rubber foot on the bottom of each of the A-frame limbs
At the base of the unit, two larger rubber feet can be found. These can be rotated to stabilize the unit if you are finding the floor is not entirely level on which the trainer is sat
Across the top of the unit are the parts of the dock which keep the QR skewer in place. On the LEFT side of the unit are the three options for different skewer lengths, as mentioned allowing you to shift among various bikes with ease quickly
However, the end of the tube with which you use to adjust the skewer length options is bare metal, which is slightly at odds with the rest of the unit design. I appreciate that this is not something you are likely going to change often, but still an odd decision, which may have benefitted from a factory installed grip of sorts, perhaps protruding from the end
On the other side is the simple bolt to lock things together when the wheel is on the trainer, but not forgetting the internal spring to reduce stress on the skewer, without affecting the security of the bike mount
Finally, we have the actual drive unit on the Cycleops Magnus,
On the outside edge of the unit is the power socket, next to the Cycleops Magnus ID stickers, so you can identify the unit when just looking at ANT+ broadcast numbers
At the back is the large yellow handle is used to bring the roller up to contact the tire. The handle is a slightly Goldilocks affair, not quite a comfortable as on the Wahoo KICKR, but much better than the tiny hard plastic knob on the Elite Rampa
One thing you don’t want in Zwift is wheel slippage, and to potentially have your power capped briefly, so it is important to make sure that the bike is nice and snug against the roller, so the above knob allows you a good grip to ensure there is adequate pressure against the tire. A last note, but only a subtle detail, there only appears to be one indicator light, both indicating power and when blinking searching for a connection, which is just be seen shining through the casing
- Communications: ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0
- Data: Power, Speed
- Resistance type: Electromagnetic
- Accuracy: +/- 5% (3% Hammer)
- Wheel size compatibility: 650b, 700c, 26″, 27″, and 29″ – up to a 2.0 tire
- Hub compatibility types: 120mm, 130mm, and 135mm (Thru-axle adaptor available separately)
- Total weight: 9kg (21.3kg Hammer)
- Flywheel weight: 1.2kg
- Max wattage (at 20mph): 1500W (2000W Hammer)
- Max incline (75kg rider at 10mph): 15% (20% Hammer)
- Noise level: 69db at 20mph
So just quickly looking at the specs, the forces and wattage produced by the Magnus are all down compared to the Hammer. The question is will that matter? I would dearly love to be able to reliably break 800watts, which I more often consider to be a glitch in the software, rather than the prowess of my legs, so I don’t need that power put down. HOWEVER, if you can deploy > 1500 watts of power, then I’d say you need to go to bigger turbos, but with increased price ranges.
The maximum incline on Zwift is 16%, so you will very occasionally lose out, but I’m not sure anyone is going to complain too much about a less steep hill on the way iup to the Mast!!
Cycelops PDF manual for the Magnus is HERE
Using the Device
It’s worthwhile pointing out before I delve further into user the Magnus, that only the Wahoo KICKR SNAP and the Cycleops Magnus had enough clearance to be able to mount the Buffalo bikes at the recent ZwiftCon-UK. So if you are thinking of sticking your old mountain bike, or commuter on a turbo, or perhaps trying a child’s bike for a bit (assuming the wheel reaches) the Magnus or SNAP need to be on your short list.
During Zwiftcon with the Buffalo bikes, both units proved to be equally stable, in spite of their different approaches, and different weights for A-Frame footprints
The Cycleops Magnus accepts the bike being mounted easily – while a steel skewer is included in the box, you can use various skewer types and lengths with relative ease. With both the Wahoo KICKR and the Elite Rampa, you have to spin nuts to adjust for different skewers. On the Cycleops Magnus, you merely rotate the mounting rod to go between three distinct steps associated with different skewers.
In terms of wheel on trainers, there is always a concern about the possibility of overtightening the clamp. Cycleops overcomes this with a clutch mechanism inside the handle. When the wheel is clamped to the maximum pressure, rather than allowing you to continue squeezing the handle rotates due to the clutch, rather than tightening further – a great idea!
From a communications perspective, as thus Magnus has both ANT+ and Bluetooth and can broadcast on the ANT+ FEC protocol, you’ll be able to able to run the Magnus with Zwift to full effect. You can connect to your computer via the old ANT+ dongle, or directly via Bluetooth, so we’re also up and running on Zwift iOS for speed and power. However, it’s worthwhile noting at this point, unlike some smart turbos, the Cycleops Magnus can’t detect your cadence, so you will need an additional cadence sensor to get the most out of your zwift experience.
Within the app, you set up your virtual bike, which allows you to select the Magnus as your trainer.
After adding the Cycleops Magnus as the trainer to the virtual bike, you can go deeper into the turbo settings, updating firmware if needed, and crucially performing a calibration
The calibration process uses a spin-down not unlike the Wahoo KICKR and Tacx Flux units. On the Cycleops you are required to complete a very brief warm up, where you maintain your speed within a 29-36km range, and then a coast down.
However, that coast down may then be followed by a few seconds of further pedaling, as the software feels fit, to correctly calibrate the Cycleops Magnus, before giving the all important calibration passed alert
Cycleops Magnus power meter tests
Calibration of the Cycleops Magnus is vital for effective use of the Magnus generally, but also on Zwift – To highlight this, for the first test, I ran the Cycleops Magnus straight out of the box. The below graph showing quite a difference in recorded power between the three units. The trainer coming in lower than my usual test devices of the PowerTap C1 (Also a Saris power meter) and the 4iiii Precision recorded, averaging about 50 watts BELOW the PowerTap C1 – quite a significant drop!
After the calibration spin down, the graph looks quite different thankfully, both with power readings aligning more closely, here looking at a 2kmn “Stomp test” using the Cycleops Magnus. The graph here has a 4-second smoothing applied to it, which can make differences appear more significant, but crucially from a Zwift perspective, we’re coming within approximately 5% of the other power meters, in keeping with Cycleops specs. Although it is worthwhile noting that the Cycleops Magnus takes a moment to adapt after coming off a sprint, causing a slightly larger power difference in the graph troughs
Looking at the raw data, I think the differences seen between the power units are reasonable, especially given the drivetrain losses you’d expect between crank based power meters and wheel on Magnus
When we do a longer 10km test, we can see that the Cycleops Magnus is responding in a timely fashion, but is just off the power, again, slightly more so during the steady pace than the sprint. However, responsiveness remains on point throughout
Cycleops Magnus Sound Test
The final general part of any turbo test has to be volume/sound testing – I’m finding it interesting as my sprints for these sound tests are improving in power output,- although not enough to hit my 800 watts targte yet!
How did the Magnus fair? 58dB @ 227 watts, 59db @ 316, 62dB @ 529 watts and finally 64dB @ 724watts. Now sound tests such of these are FRAUGHT with issues and validity points, but between all the units, I’m recording in the same location, same iPhone and in the same way, so they should only be considered a guide.
Personally, I didn’t find any real benefit between the Wahoo KICKR SNAP and the Cycleops Magnus; both produce frankly unpleasant sound profiles to be in the same room for long periods with. Comparing the two, though, perhaps there is just less of a high pitched note with the Magnus.
How does it Zwift? – Zwift Gear Test
I initially picked up the Cycleops Magnus for use during the ZwiftCon-UK weekend, with the unit following me home for a more in-depth series of tests. For me, the real test of using Zwift comes through the responsiveness of a trainer on two sections on Zwift – Firstly going up the Watopia wall
Then as you approach the esses on route to the finish.
Both of these sections test the responsiveness of the trainer, and its inertia going up the hills. So how does the Cycleops Magnus do on Watopia? I think it is important to clarify a major point here, the Cycleops Magnus as a relatively small flywheel at 1.2kg, which is going to affect the world simulation and inertia
I think this is where the Cycleops Magnus shows it’s pricing compared to the Cycleops Hammer. Going up Watopia wall, the resistance comes in effectively slowing you down, and simulating the hill, and this is certainly reasonable. However, moving into the esses the Magnus can’t respond fast enough on the series of rapid slopes; you can actually get a fraction of a second when the resistance is low, yet you are going up an incline. It’s a small thing to bring up, but it does jar you out of the simulation, and further impacts on how you can race with the Magnus – for good or ill – in that if you are prepared for the changes in resistance, you can actually get a wattage advantage from carefully timed deployment of your power.
Wheel on/off. There is no absolute answer especially with a large number of trainers in the £500 price bracket
I prefer direct drive turbos like the Hammer, KICKR, Neo, or Drivo, but that price range of those units can be frankly prohibitive. The cheapest I can find the Cycleops Magnus is £540 from Tredz which places the unit at £40 more than the Wahoo KICKR SNAP…
The Cycleops is a very light bit of kit, which makes moving the unit from place to place very easy. Something to bare in mind if you have to pack up after your Zwift sessions, or if you are moving from place to place with it.
Mobility yet a very planted stance has to be acknowledged as one of the Cycleops Magnus’ core strengths. This is further supporting by the mechanism to swap between different sizes of bikes is probably the best on the market currently. The rotation through three steps to adjust for various skewer lengths is pure simplicity and is going to be a great boon if you have a large stable of different bikes, a family who might be jostling to use Zwift.
In terms of power accuracy, the power charts for the Cycleops Magnus are as you would expect for a 5% accuracy, wheel on trainer, with steady power responsiveness to boot
If you are looking for a decent general trainer, and find a deal, you are not going to go wrong with a Cycleops Magnus.
If Zwift is your main reason for buying a turbo, there are a few other points to consider, specifically that the responsiveness of the Cycleops Magnus is fractionally slow compared to the Wahoo KICKR SNAP for example. Now you might be able to turn that to your advantage in a race, but from a simulation standpoint, the minor large in resistance change does impact on the immersion when in Zwift.