Power meter vs. Power estimator. Does it matter? Rather than a strain gauge, the Elite Rampa uses a power estimator, Elite have previously championed the optical power meter with the Drivo, so what effect does that bring to the Elite Rampa? We look at power accuracy as we try to answer the common question “How does it Zwift?” in this latest Zwift Gear Test!
Elite Rampa Turbo Trainer Review – Zwift Gear Test
So I’ve already reviewed the Elite Drivo, their top of the line, all singing, all dancing, direct-mount trainer. As you move down the Elite range towards the mid-tier offerings, you come to the Elite Rampa, a wheel-on smart trainer, bringing the ANT+ FE-C protocol, for all of your Zwifting needs, as a very keen price point
Just from an external perspective, I think the Rampa looks cool. The flared wings of the A-frame stand give it a visually appealing look. There is a lot that can be said about the Wahoo KICKR Snap, but I think to describe the Snap as aesthetically pleasing might be an exaggeration. Utilitarian yes, a looker…not so much
There are MANY more wheel-on turbos in indoor trainer market than there are direct-mount units, so apart from a snazzy colour scheme of white with black and red highlights, what else is Elite bringing to the table in these great trainer wars? Let’s take a look!
The Elite box, is a brightly coloured affair, continuing the company colour palette, but we are not really interested in the box, we want to see the goodies inside!
Not unlike the Elite Drivo, inside the box for Rampa, are more boxes. Of all of the turbos which I have come across, the Rampa is probably the unit which has needed the most assembly, followed very closely by the Cycleops Magnus,
Inside the smaller of the two boxes are all of the usual gubbins which goes with a trainer. Elite Rampa manual, turbo skewer, earthing wire, Zwift voucher (naturally), and a small sachet of warm up gel – (interesting, but definitely an odd feeling when you use it!)
In the larger box, we’ve got the power adapter and the actual resistance unit that takes the Elite Rampa from being a fancy A-frame to a fully fledged smart trainer
When you get the resistance unit out of the box, you see one of the innovations which Elite has made the Rampa. The actual roller unit has bene increased in diameter to by 10mm compared to their other wheel on offerings. As well as swelling to 40mm and that roller is now covered in a (colour palette correct) red Elastogel, which was developed in conjunction with Bayer. The Elastogel is advertised to reduced the noise of the roller by 50%, and reduced wear on the tyre by 20%, whilst reducing vibrations, and improving both tyre grip, and the performance of the trainer when using a mountain bike tyre.
That is quite a list of claims from a simple coating. What I can say though, is that it definitely feels a little…strange when you actually touch the elastomer. It’s hard to believe that the application of rubber to a metal tube is going to be durable in any way shape or form, but surprisingly it is! After a couple of months use the Rampa roller now looks like this – a small mark from the tyre, but nil else.
The Elite Rampa A-frame has two bolts on the bottom; these are removed to install a plastic arm, which in turn has the resistance unit mounted
Whilst, not the hardest fitness product I have had to put together, I did have to resort to reading the instructions when building the Elite Rampa. Although for some of the hieroglyphs, I still had to consider contacting the British Museum for translations – a few of the pictures appear just to show screws going into non-specific locations on black box on the first glance!
Speaking of screws holding the resistance unit. There are two large bolts on the base of the unit; it is important that you chose the right holes for your wheel, so closest the trainer for 650 wheels or mountain bikes, and further back for the larger wheels. This is important to ensure that you are applying correct pressure to the tyre when you mount your bike
With the trainer has been assembled, it is an excellent opportunity to comment on the other features. On one side we’ve a nice meaty red lever to ensure that your bike is held securely, there is a small amount of plastic flex, but it still closes with a reassuring locking sound
- Communications: ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, and Bluetooth 4.0
- Resistance type: Electromagnetic
- Accuracy: +/- 5%
- Data broadcast: Speed, Power (estimated), cadence
- Wheel size compatibility: 24″ up to , 29″
- Hub compatibility types: 130mm, 135mm
- Total weight: 16.3kg
- Flywheel inert (kkgmm2): 5720 (28300 Drivo)
- Inertia: 140 (175 KICKR)
- Max wattage (at 60kmph): 1600W
- Max incline (75kg rider at 37kmph): 10%
Elite Rampa Manual
The manual can be found here
Using the device
Once you have built the Rampa, it is then time to install the Elite app to get the system calibrated. So where is the Elite app? Jolly good question! If you type “Elite app into the Apple App Store, you will find that “elite” is a relatively common term in there. Fifteen apps scrolled through and still nothing relating to a turbo! There is even one app for “Elite Fitness Downtown” with a logo which looks suspiciously like Elite’s, but one thing there doesn’t appear to be AN ELITE app.
Shortly after googling for the Elite’s app, it becomes apparent why I had failed to find anything – Elite’s app doesn’t feature the brand’s name! Instead, is called “myEtraining“… I’ll leave you to ponder why
The difficulty in finding that app is all the more surprising when you realise that the app is not merely a firmware update/calibration app, but is a full stand-alone training app if you want it to be!
Once downloaded and installed, the connection to your Elite Rampa is very straight forward – Just use the camera on your phone scan the QR code on the back of the Rampa, and we’re away
I wish more companies used QR codes for connecting their devices initially; it would make life so much easier!
With the Elite Rampa found and powered up, you continue to link any other Bluetooth sensors you have to app, as mentioned above to allow you to use the app as stand alone cycling software without a separate cycling head. The app will also list the firmware version, but I have not seen an update come out while using the trainer, so can’t comment on the process
Now for my usual Zwift Gear Tests, I compare one power meter against two others, if all three line up, we say the new power meter looks alright. In the course of this review, I have paired three different power meters to the Elite app about calibrating the Rampa, and I’ll explain why.
Now, do you remember from the settings section that the Elite Rampa doesn’t have a power meter, but a power ESTIMATOR? Well here is where that fact becomes important: If you want to replace the factory calibration with your own, you need to have another power meter, which can connect in the app. This may prevent a lot of potential buyers from self-calibrating, given the price point for the Rampa and the price point of most power meters.
To set your calibration, go into the Elite app, settings> advance configuration, to get access to the calibration wizards
Now Elite counter that by saying as an estimator, that is calibrated in the factory, recalibration is not something which is likely to be needed, unless you are getting odd results, as the Rampa shouldn’t be affected by the drift which can be seen with strain gauges.
For the sake of completeness let’s do a calibration before putting the Rampa on Zwift. As the calibration starts with a 10 minute warm up, I get the impression calibration is not going to be short procedure
When you have completed the warm up, you start on three different steps for the calibration. P1, P2, and P3, each requiring you to cycle and maintain different constant speeds. The wattage needed to do so is then recorded for each step, and used for the calibration curve. Unfortunately, as you can see, the tiny marker at the bottom of an iPhone screen is not the easiest to keep an eye on, when you are maintaining ~ 250watts, which is what the P1 stage required.
After keeping the little red bike in the narrow band, right at the bottom of the screen, nothing had changed for 20 mins, I started to get suspicious something wasn’t working well
Keeping going for another five mins, I ended looking like this. Really not a happy chap. You shouldn’t end up with sweat dripping off your nose merely trying to calibrate a turbo!
Heck, I thought, again the Elite Rampa has a power estimator, not a strain gauge, let’s just try it as is, and trust the calibration from the factory. So PowerTap C1 and 4iiii Precision power meter were connected to different head units for comparison. Now even thought the Rampa failed its calibration, both other external power meters were calibrated, before going for a quick spin on Zwift
My first blast on Zwift was just a small ride with Team X, no formal testing regarding my regular Jon’s mix workout. When I’m riding a new power meter, but not wanting to affect my ride on Zwift, I don’t select that unit as my Zwift power meter, so had the Rampa power being recorded my Garmin.
When I downloaded the data, to compare how the three units had reported, the Rampa didn’t look to be pin sharp while on the flats with the guys bumbling along at about 150watts. The issue appears to be that the power estimator determines your wattage from your speed, so you get a little blunting to the results. Then a short sprint and oh… what happened there!
Now the smoothing is one issue, but where has my power gone!?! From various reviews in the past, of the Wahoo KICKR Snap (which is also a flywheel, rather than a strain gauge) and Elite’s Drivo, we know that the 4iiii and the PowerTap compare favourably against these turbos power readings and so can be considered to be reliable. So why am I losing such large amounts of power on the sprints with the Rampa???!! Heck even looking at the raw data, it’s simply just an odd picture
Attributing the issue to a calibration issue, I tried again on the Rampa. But this time was not able to get beyond the P1 stage, after doing another 20mins on the calibration settings. I did genuinely wonder if there was something wrong with my legs, in that I wasn’t able to maintain exactly the right power, or steady enough for the 30-60 secs Elite stated it would take to calibrate
There is a slight issue with wheel on trainers generally that there are several possible variables such as the tyre pressure, temperature humidity and how tightly the trainer is pressed against the wheel, which may affect your readings. So while waiting to hear back from Elite about the issue, I faffed around making sure the tyre was optimally inflated and that the turbo was pressed snuggly against the wheel, following instructions as in the manual and went for another quick 5km spin with a couple of sprints…
Things hadn’t improved, and if anything, maybe a little under recording now on the steady sections, but the sprints are still significantly out
Next graph I’ve loosened the clamp slightly. The smoothing is causing less of an issue, but the sprint is still not happy
If we look at the raw data, on the sprint now I’m “only” losing the region of 80-100 Watts
After having several conversations with Elite in Italy, they advised various solutions. Long story short, after five different attempts to calibrate the unit, Elite sent a replacement resistance unit.
With the new resistance unit, installed it was time to stop faffing around and formally take on Zwift’s Jon’s Mix
So how did the new resistance unit compare? Well, we are still missing out the sharpness compared to a dedicated strain gauge. But I think it is important to realise we are comparing apples to oranges with that comparison though
There is still some variation during the sprints. The peaks are undoubtedly are blunted, but the overall shape of the graph matches much more effectively than with before. Not forgetting that there are also going to be some drive train losses comparing a chain mounted power meter and a turbo measuring power from the tyre.
During hard accelerations, some wheel on trainers can slip slightly, especially if not tightened fully. The elastogel cover helps to stop that happening, making the Elite Rampa more responsive, but that is not sufficient to overcome the characteristics of a power estimator rather than a power meter.
But what about calibration? You have said you were not able to calibrate the previous unit, what about now? I’m sorry to say, no joy. Using both the PowerTap C1, and the 4iiii Precision during different calibration attempts I was unable to get the calibration to pass the P2 stage – it took my 35mins to get to that point during one calibration attempt!
So leaving the power estimator component of the Rampa alone for a moment, how does the Elite Rampa fair when you are riding on the hills of Watopia? Said with the caveat of the knowledge that the Elite Rampa has a maximum slope of 10%, riding around Watopia the resistance changes felt muted. There were certainly no odd characteristics such as seen with early Wahoo KICKR firmware, where you would find an oddly increased resistance going down hills over fast undulated terrain on Watopia, but again, I come to back to my previous word use, terrain changes felt a little muted
What about during Zwift workouts? Broadly I found the changes in resistance had a very small, but noticeable lag with them. This responsivity would make it seem more of an effort to hit the correct target wattage, especially on short 10-30 sec segments. On the Elite Drivo, changes would be pin sharp; it would almost feel like you’d cycled into a wall. With the Rampa, you’d feel the resistance increase, less fiercely, much like my general feeling on using the Elite Rampa on Watopia, muted is a reasonable word to use
Of course no #ZwiftGearTest would be complete without the inclusion of an audio test… Now before I go any further, the noise on a wheel on trainer is going to be dependent on many variables, not least the tyre you run it on. The elastogel coating to the roller is supposed to reduce noise on the Elite Rampa, I’m inclined to but that down purely to marketing speak with regard to actual decibel readings, as the Elite Rampa is not a quiet turbo when you drop the hammer. Whilst the KICKR might have a scream, the Elite Rampa has a roar! I’d be cautious of coming to any wheel on turbo if noise is a significant issue for you.
So there we have the Elite Rampa, a mid-range turbo trainer, in a stylish Italian suit!
Regarding the build quality, the Rampa is a great bit of kit and will add flare to your pain cave. It is also exceptionally easy to set up, store and pack away – this is an important aspect for many Zwifters who have to setups and take down their system after every ride. The relative ease of taking the resistance unit off the A-frame does also lend itself to the possibility of the Rampa being one of the more portable turbo trainers regarding travelling.
The power estimator, the in the Rampa, does put some limitations on the turbo. But as previously mentioned, many power meters will cost as much as the Elite Rampa on its own, so it is important to remember the price point we are talking about here. At £335 from Athleteshop, the cheapest I have been able to find the Elite Rampa for, that is a £164 less than the cheapest Wahoo KICKR Snap I have been able to find.
That is going to be a significant price difference for many people. I’m going to give the Elite Rampa 3/5 – the calibration system employed with the Elite Rampa is an issue, but there are many things to love and admire on this Italian turbo, not least the price. For many people, this is going to be a good starter smart trainer, or perhaps a travelling trainer for the committed Zwifter