The Kurt Kinetic Roll and Roll Smart Control is quite unique in the world of smart trainers, as the elastomer feet allow you to, well Rock and Roll. But is that extra movement a good thing in a Zwift race, or an hindrance in our favourite e-sport? Sounds like we need a Zwift Gear Test!
Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control Trainer Review | Zwift Gear Test
Kinetic has been one of the last of the big trainer brands to come through the TitaniumGeek cave but this a company which largely needs no introduction. The Green Machine is a well-known silhouette, marking it out as one of the most interesting trainers on the market. The Kinetic Rock and Roll is unique in its ability to provide considerable lateral, along with some fore and aft movement when riding on the trainer – how does that effect things out on a race? Plus are the benefits for the more leisurely zwifting?
Tacx, Wahoo and Elite all have their histories deep within cycling. Tacx was setting up shop, literally in 1957, Elite coming from the angle of cycling accessories in 1974 and Wahoo from Chip Hawkin”s desire to build his own trainer after repeated refusals of cooperation from other manufacturers. Kinetic by comparison… isn’t even the name of the company! Kinetic is actually a product line from the much larger Kurt Manufacturing – machining products and producing diecast components for fields from hydraulics through to aerospace. In fact, you might be rather familiar with two of the companies who rely on Kurt – namely Boeing and SpaceX!
But Kurt as a company is best known for is the Kurt Vice, seen in workshops across the United States
So how did the Kinetic brand come to life? Much in the way Kurt does sourced commisions from Boeing they also began life building the original A-frames for Cycleops machines. However, Cycleops ran into a problem with turbo trainer unit design, to due to a leaking O-Ring, resulting in damage to customers homes, and causing the company to eventually being bought by Saris.
Having had a team working on the Cycleops trainers, now left with production machinery with no orders, the Kurt team had the inkling that they could make a trainer themselves. Focusing building a leak-proof O-Ring, the Kinetic Road Machine was born as a fluid trainer.
Seven years later, the grandfather of today’s trainer, the Kinetic Rock and Roll was released, with its unique rocker frame. But it wasn’t until 2010 that Kinetic began the change from an analogue company, with the fluid based trainers to the current digital electric resistance trainers who would become the Rock and Roll Smart Control eventually.
So with the history out of the way, let’s put the Green Machine to the test!
Kinetic Road Rock and Roll Smart – Device Design
So the first part of any product review, RIP IT OUT OF THE BOX!
So what is actually in the box? Well like the majority of wheel-on turbo trainers the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control comes with some assembly required. We have the Kinetic Rock and Roll frame – with a lifetime warranty, the Kinetic Smart control with two-year warranty, power adapter, manuals and the handful of bolts that you need to assemble the collection into a working trainer.
The manuals actually stand out from other legal documents normally thrown in with kit, as it is very clear, and in colour…But also just a little scary!Putting the trainer together isn’t particularly difficult, merely threading bolts through holes and attached the resistance unit spring
Although you will need a spanner/molegrips to ensure that the resistant unit bolt is properly tightened
The yolk onto which the Smart Control unit attaches has not been changed since the second version of Rock and Roll frame.
Meaning that existing Kinetic trainers can be upgraded easily by swapping over the resistance unit which Kurt also sells
The roller unit on the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control is smooth metal, as seen on the Cycleops Magnus, but contrasting to slightly roughed rollers seem on the Wahoo KICKR SNAP or the elastomere coating on the Elite Rampa
The pressure of the roller against the trainer tyre is set by a small green knob on the rear of the trainer
The tip with the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control is to increase the pressure until you can not cause the tyre to slip if you give the wheel a sharp tug upwards – if it squeaks, give the knob an extra 1/4 turn and repeat
The bike is held in place by a sliding screw on one side of the trainer
To move the screw larger distances to easily contact your bike turboskewer, flip up the quick release latch, which allows the screw to move freely towards the bikeOne thing that you realise after the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control has been built, is just exactly how much space it takes up. Visually it isnt dominanting due to the tubular frame, but that actual floor space occupied is huge. Similarly, there is no easy way to reduce the size of the trainer or fold it up for storage
That said, for storage perhaps one option is to keep an allen key handy, to remove the lengths on the legs. However, that is only going to gain you a small amount of extra space
From the front, you can see the elastomer cushions which give the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control its unique movement. Below those is a large rubber foot which keeps the unit planted during hard efforts
The last thing for the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control is power. The power socket is exposed and sticking out of the back of the unit. Which may be easier for ergonomics, but does mean slightly more wires were trailing that on other units. Interestingly the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control also has a USB interface; although this is not something currently supported on Zwift, it would massively reduce the latency, and hopefully eliminating dropouts during races.
Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control Specification
- Communications: Bluetooth Smart (4.0) – Bluetooth FTMS (FiTness Machine Service) has now been released as of Feb 2018
- Resistance type: Electromagnetic
- Metrics: Speed / Cadence / Power
- Accuracy: +/- 5%
- Wheel size compatibility: 24″, 650c, 700c, 26″, 27.5″, 29″
- Total weight: 25kg – yes not a lightweight trainer!
- Footprint (legs open): 74cm x 66cm
- Flywheel weight: 6.53 kg – due to position has effect of 8.16kg
- Inertia: 140 (175 KICKR)
- Max wattage (at 30mph): 1800W
- Max incline: 10%
- Patented frame mimics real-road movement
The Kinetic Rock and Rock Smart Control manual can be found here – and to be fair, other companies, might do well to have a look at it, is a VERY clear and easy to follow manual!
Using Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control
The first step in using the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control, is very simple, attaching your bike to the unit!
However, this is the first trainer I have experienced real issues with tyre slippage, using both Schwalbe One and a Fortezza Senso rubber. Swapping over to the turbo trainer tire Kinetic included seemed to resolve the issue though. Now there might have simply been an issue of pressure against my regular tyres, but given how tightly I have to wind the resistance unit up to, I’d prefer to wear a trainer tire than my outside rubber.
Once all plugged in, tire sorted, you need to download the Kinetic Fitapp in order to check the firmware status and perform the spin down calibration. Available for iOS or Google Play
Kinetic as of Feb 2018 has now released firmware bringing the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart a new communication protocol Bluetooth FTMS – making checking the firmware on Kinetic units slightly more crucial than normal – I’ll be updating about the FTMS shortly
You will also use the app to initiate the kinetic spin down – given the Kinetic is a wheel on the trainer, ten mins of warm-up before initiating the spin down is a crucial point – especially as this is not requested by the app. As with most wheel on trainers, calibration which requires you to quickly spin up to 35km/hr, before coasting down
Firmware updated, trainer calibrated, sounds like it is time for the Zwift Gear Test!
Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect – Zwift Gear Test
When it comes to logging onto Zwift, you can use the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect as a straightforward, smart trainer – but unlike most trainers, the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect does have the FEC protocol as this is a Bluetooth only trainer. For many people that won’t be an issue, but if you have a large pain cave with USB ANT+ extensions it might pose a signal issue
For my usual Zwift Gear Tests, the power meter in the train is compared to three other units whilst running through the Zwift Workout: Jon’s Mix, as I think that the recurrent phases of high power, fast changes, and plenty of warm-up time is a good and fair test for any trainer…
Unfortunately, this means that I cannot connect to the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect to Zwift as the smart trainer, run Zwift with a separate power meter, and have another device recording the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect power data.
This is important as if a smart trainer is using its own power meter during ergo mood, the trainer will adjust the resistance to keep you in the correct power zone, which affects the graph as you can see below
Here I’m comparing against the outputs from the Garmin Vector 3 pedals and the PowerTap C1 chainring. However as alluded to above, the black trace from the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect looks quite artificial compared to the two separate units. It also looks a little higher than the other to units during the steady state
So if I ramp up the power, the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect will actually reduce resistance to get me back into the power band Zwift wants me in. This might be good for training, but it isn’t for testing.
Now I could just randomly spin around Zwift doing the testing, but that still feels a little unstructured.
I decided to retest using the Zwift short FTP test (yes I’m lazy, deal with it!) the benefit here is it has a short ergo piece, allowing us to compare to the above graph, but for the 20min section the ergo is removed, allowing us to see if that propensity to over read continues.
So again, the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect was recalibrated, then I did my bit, and felt rather pleased with myself…
Well, pleased until I generated the graph from the other two power meters. As you can see the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect has unfortunately been giving me free speed. Sitting considerably higher than other units on testIf we actually dive into a minute’s readings towards the end of the FTP, where you’d expect me to be showing more variability in power as I tire out, you can see the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect power meter seems to sample more slowly and has less significant variation than the other two units. Kinetic volunteer the sampling for speed in 12Hz at the roller, so I’m not entirely sure what is going on.
Now having a wheel on trainers reading higher from the power meter is something we’ve come across before – the Wahoo KICKR Snap exhibited similar behaviour, again after covering several variables, such as trainer tightness, tire pressure, duration of warm up, and repeated calibrations.
The power meter is only part of the picture for a smart trainer on Zwift. It is also important to look at the response the trainer gives as you pass through different terrain. As such the place to test that is on the “esses”, i.e. the series of undulating hills on the later part of Watopia, as you return to the finish line. This is a vital part of the course of Watopia, as races can be won or lost here.
Similarly, when you are slogging up the Watopia mountains to the Radio Mast you want to be able to feel that burn… and as the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect can only simulate 10% inclines, you’ll be getting a slightly easier job of it.
Kinetic Rock and Roll Sound Test
Of course no #ZwiftGearTest would be complete without the inclusion of an audio test… Now before I go any further, the noise from a wheel on trainer is always going to be dependent on many variables, not least the tyre you run it on. In this case given the slippage that I noted using my regular tyres, I’m using the Kinetic Turbo Trainer tyre – which is supposed to both improve the grip – certainly did that, but also reduced the noise slightly, but that is rubber compounds for you. But going back to the test, I recently moved over to some new software for performing sound tests on trainers.
After previous comments on trainer sound tests, the tests are now conducted with the phone microphone at a horizontal to the trainer, to give a more accurate recording of the sound emitted. Eventually, I’ll go back through the back catalogue on TitaniumGeek and refilm the sound tests – when I find the time! Here is the first “new” Zwift Gear Sound Test using the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect.
One of the benefits of the new software is it allows me to provide some feedback on the sound from the trainer, for those who cant actually play the video – e.g. at work. In which case here is an audiograph of the test
What we can see is the Kinetic Rock, and Roll Smart Control isn’t the quietest of trainers. But we didn’t expect miracles from a wheel-on trainer. What is interesting is that there appears to be a peak in noise around 400, after which things seem to plateau. At first, I thought this might have been due to running onto a slight incline on Zwift, but repeat testing on purely flat regions of the Watopia course revealed the same shape graph.
Speaking of sound tests, when I started riding the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control, initially there was a slight vibrating sound at certain speeds. It took a little while to find, but it turned out to be a loose screw on then resistance unit tension bar. So might be worthwhile making sure this is extra tight when you build the trainer for the first time!
Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control Conclusion
The cat insisted on being a thorough pain in the neck for the last bit of photography, so I thought I might as well put the blasted furball in the actual review! His opinion – neutral, but I think that is the case with everything… ANYWAY
Zwift is not just about racing, although that does fill up a lot of the Events Module, Zwift is also about training, and frankly keeping fit… and when looking at the unit from just a racing perspective I was getting ready to relegate the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect to the “also ran” column.
Let’s just look at the scorecard; it’s not exactly rosy is it? Inaccurate power meter, slightly laggy in the hills, no ANT+, only 10% incline
So why, even after my main testing was completed, have I continued to use this unit time and time again whilst writing up this review? The Rock and Roll frame. Yes, the Tacx Neo has a degree of sway as part of the resin used for the casing, but it is nothing compared to the movement you get on the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect!https://titaniumgeek.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/IMG_9538.mov
Of late I had been actually reducing the amount of running and cycling I had been doing due to recurrent pain in my RIGHT knee. I even went as far as to get an MRI of my knee – the report basically said “Knee is 33 years old, nothing of serious note” which was reassuring, but not awfully helpful
With the weather in the UK, Zwift has proved to be a major form of keep fit in winter, but I was getting to the stage that 45mins max was all I could spin before I’d get considerable pain in my knee. Bike fits had not resolved the issue, and cruelly I had no issue riding outside. The worst part of it was that if I put my head in the sand, the pain would improve with a week or so off the bike, the evening after going on the bike, soreness returned. Evening running was comparatively ok.
Things have improved considerably recently, both with running and cycling distances again improving. Now I’m not going to proclaim ready to take another 100km jersey on Zwift yet, nor am I claiming that the Kinetic is magic – I’ve been doing a lot of physio and stretching, but for months, there had been NO change. What I AM finding, is that that on the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Connect, I am able to ride for as long as *I* want to, and I don’t seem to be noticing the tell take niggle in the knee as the clock and the miles tick round. This, in turn, has meant little to no discomfort coming off the bike, and in turn more riding.
Oh and yes, about a week ago, 40mins on the KICKR had things feeling sore. Not as bad as previously, but definitely something to consider a warning sign perhaps.
So based on that finding alone, the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control is getting 3* from me at £575. This isn’t a race machine, but if you find the normal “locked down” position on a trainer uncomfortable, this might be a unit to look at from a Zwift Simulation and keep fit aspect. But if you want to go racing with the Green Machine, I’d advise you to bring a secondary power meter!