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Kinetic R1 Smart Trainer – Preview

Over the last few years, the direct mount smart trainer has been recognised as the gold standard when it comes to indoor bike training. Kinetic has long relied on the Rock and Roll system to differentiate from rivals, but the lack fo a direct mount trainer has been a sore point. Not any more!

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Kinetic R1 Smart Trainer – Preview

Hold on, didn’t the Kinetic R1 already come out last year?? Yes, it did, but an entire product recall and broad revisions have meant that 2019 is the year of the Kinetic R1 launch. Let’s see what the extra time in the oven has done!

Before we go any further, I think it is important to highlight how unique Kinetic is in the turbo trainer world. Perhaps in two ways. First as a company, Kinetic is actually a off shoot of the MUCH larger Kurt Manufacturing – producing die-cast components for fields from hydraulics through to aerospace. Even Boeing and SpaceX are customers of Kurt!

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In fact getting some of the development photos for the Kinetic R1 was complicated, as several of the sites where the design was worked on are under the Official Secrets Act in the USA, and photography of anything there is strictly forbidden.

But thankfully not all of them, hence I’m managed to get hold of a few factory photos. One of the reasons why I was so interested in the actual development process of the Kinetic R1, was that the hardest part of bringing the new unit to market was transferring over the Rock and Roll system from the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control, to the R1. Which let’s face it, is where a large proportion of the comparisons will be made, as whilst the Kinetic Rock and Roll does have a devoted following, it has not been a competitive unit in the direct drive market. Hence with the Kinetic R1 is so important to the company

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When you look at the range of movement that the Rock and Roll chassis is able to go through, it makes sense why other manufacturers, like Tacx, have been happy to have trainers like the Neo 2 which are solidly planted, yet have a small degree of flexibility in the design of the materials

In order to create a new frame which was able to support a direct drive unit, and also have the Rock and Roll system incorporated Kinetic and a local design company White Board took a hacksaw to the existing design. I mean literally – a lot of old rock and rolls were cut up in order to be able to iterate on the fly.

An issue which became apparent during testing was the location of the front Rock and Roll pivot. Previously this had needed a cantilever system, but had the side effect of causing more of twisting movement when in direct drive, rather than a pivot movement

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The team were given the design brief that the Kinetic R1 had to “feel” as if the rider were actually on the road and that meant finding an engineering solution to the pivot side to side. Further Kinetic Rock and Rolls were sacrificed to the cause, Cutting up old models as it was easier to iterate on the form, essentially as this method allowed changing the elastomers, cutting and welding to quickly produce different footprints. This is how it was determined that in order for the rocker to be effective, and not to cause instability, additional vestigial legs, as we see in the final unit, were needed

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One of the engineering prototypes I was lucky enough to see was an all-black unit. With the Elite Drivo, people had always clamoured for a black unit. Comparing the dark Kinetic R1 and the regular production colour wehave, I’m glad that the green has continued on

So that’s the back ground to the Kinetic R1 development, let’s have a closer look at the trainer.

Kinetic R1 Smart Trainer – Design

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Kinetic comes out of the gate, or should that be box, very strongly. The green of the Kinetic R1 is echoed in the eco-credentials shown in the shipping packaging. Obviously, when moving very heavy turbo trainers around with relatively delicate electronics inside, most manufacturers opt for polystyrene or similar materials. I’ve not seen cardboard used like this before – nice work Kinetic!

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As with every turbo manufacture which is NOT Wahoo, the Kinetic R1 comes sans cassette.

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Which is a little bit of a shame as getting the cassette mounted on the Kinetic R1 was a REAL challenge. There was just something stopping the first three cogs sliding all the way on, meaning that the last 3mm couldnt slide on

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After about 30mins of trying to put the cassette in and being concerned that I’d forgotten everything I knew about bike maintenance, and took the free hub off to compare to one of the other turbos here. Yes, it was an 11-speed hub. No, I wasn’t being stupid. I actually found it easier to take the freehub off and install the cassette that way. Certainly a little odd.

In the box, along with the eco packaging (seriously impressed there) we’ve; the Kinetic R1, QR skewer,m the manual, charging brick, 30 day trial with Rouvy and Sufferfest (I wonder how long that will last now that Wahoo is the owner?) the gubbins for 10 speed cassettes, and thru axel adapters

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On the side of the Kinetic R1, half covered by the company logo is the fly wheel. Which looks the same as we’re used to on the Kinetic Smart Control, just in a different skin

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On the drive side you can see the prodigious handle. Such a small thing, but on the Kinetic R1, the handle has great ergonomics in a “D” shape, meaning you can choose to grab it by the top flat section, or by the longer back of the “D”. Whichever is easier for yourself

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Looking from the side of the Kinetic R1, you can see the elastomers which form the basis of the rocker plate.

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If you flip the unit on its side, you can see the nuts underneath for adjusting the resistance to the rocking motion. You also get a good idea of how stable you are going to be able to make the Kinetic R1 with it’s six points of contact with the floor. People often feel that large contact points are better, where as in fact you want more, and adjustable ones at that. With the Kinetic R1, four of the points can be adjusted, to ensure that any rocking if some the unit, not an unstable floor

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When deployed there is almost and insectoid appearance to the Kinetic R1 – and yes I appreciate that it is missing a set of legs, but at least I didn’t say it looked like a spider!

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Across the top of the trainer, you’ll see the PowerGrip belt, which is practically which is also seen on several other trainer brands

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Finally around the back of the trainer is the power socket, USB port – which DID give a wired sport. I head that with current firmware the USB port is inactive. Which isn’t really a surprise as only one piece of software ever supported it.

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An argument could be made that with the advent of eSport with Zwift and Rouvy there may be a need for hardwired trainers in order to improve latency. I have personally attended Zwift events where trainer hiccoughs have lost racers who had been predicted a podium the entire race. So I can see why Kinetic kept the port.

Kinetic R1 Smart Trainer – Specifications

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  • Communication: Bluetooth, ANT+™, ANT+™ FE-C, BlueTooth Smart Trainer Protocol – both ANT and BLE can be used simultaneously
    • A WIRED CONNECTION IS AVAILABLE – just not with Zwift
  • Max Slope Simulation: 20%
  • Built-in sensors: Power, Speed/Cadence,
  • Max Wattage: 2000w
  • Freehub: Shimano, 9/10/11 speed compatible – no cassette in the box
  • Power Accuracy: +/- 3% – possible improvements with firmware updates
  • Flywheel: 6.3kg
  • Weight: 21.5kg
  • Other Bits:
    • Rocker motion can be adjusted
    • Compatibility notes:
      • Bikes with 130, 135, 142, and 148mm width rear fork
      • Quick-release adapter for 12mm x 142, 12x 142 thru-axle hubs

Kinetic R1 Smart Trainer – Manual

I don’t often use the manuals on the devices which comes through TitaniumGeek. Not out of hubris, but because I feel that devices should be intuitive. If I have to use the manual there is normally a reason, which I then feed back. I do have to draw attention to the Kinetic R1 manual though for just being impressive.

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There are no assumptions, you are walked through the entire trainer setup. Seriously David Simpson the Kinetic Marketing Manager takes personal pride in the manual and frankly you can see why!

The Kinetic R1 Manual can be found here. Frankly just for interests sake, I suggest you check it out!

Kinetic R1 Smart Trainer – Using The Trainer

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OK, so before a full Zwift Gear Test, only a couple of things to mention here, and they relate to ERG mode. This is pretty much the hardest test for trainers. I’d strongly argue that Zwift’s Jon’s Short Mix is one of the best ways of looking at a trainer. The plan hits hard and fast, eases off, allows for a series of intense, and then even more intense sections, and getting in a steady-state too.

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Literally, the very first ride on the new Kinetic R1 was using Jon’s Mix through the Titan’s Grove on Zwift. I really don’t know which was tugging my attention more, the dinosaurs on the screen or the power numbers coming from the Kinetic R1

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There has been a wiiiiiiiide range of issues regarding the power reporting from the Kinetic R1 when the first iteration was launched. Everything from seeming to having widely different calibrations from one moment to the next, to reports of over reading and under reading.

Currently, I’ve had the latest version sitting in the test cave for five days and whilst that is enough to comment on some of the riding characteristics, I don’t feel that I’d currently regenerated enough data to be going into detail on the graphs of power readings. Power analysis and the sound test will come in the next couple of weeks in a full Zwift Gear Test

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What I can say its that the team have done some SERIOUS work on the ERG mode. There are very few fields left to really make large strides in it comes to smart trainers. The Tacx Neo 2 is pretty much the last word in silence. Elite with the Drivo II has managed to get accuracy to high with their OTS power meter that their engineer has said they see no benefit fighting beyond the 0.5% margin, as the very TESTS that measure the error are not more accurate than that! Wahoo has accuracy and reliability down. So where does Kinetic come?

Kinetic’s ERG mode is probably the most responsive I have ridden to date.

The Kinetic R1 is not perfect. I still ran into the “brick walling” phenomena when in the 700 watt+ sections, when I was doing the workout. BUT, how does square with the above quote?

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Erg “brick walling” is something that the Kinetic team have specifically focused on with the new release of the Kinetic R1, and it’s all to do with magnets or specifically controlling their response. If the electromagnetics comes on too aggressively, this is when the ride gets buried and you simply can’t turn the pedals. By vastly improving the speed of the electromagnet. A target resistance comes on quickly, appropriately, and sharply, but without burying the rider. If the rider starts to get buried, then the power is immediately ramped down, to allow the rider to keep going.

Tech support is spread through the company – Jason Overman is the official product manager but also has to spend a proportion of his time handling tech support. As a result signals regarding areas that might need to be tweaked in the firmware can be noticed more easily and quickly incorportated into code.

So yes, ERG mode, in the most aggressive way, is not perfect, but the riders is rescued much faster than I’ve seen on other trainers, and I think that is a huge improvement. Looks like there are still a few areas for trainer manufacturers to polish!

Kinetic R1 Smart Trainer – Initial Conclusions

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I’m going to come out and say it now, if Kinetic have managed to get a handle on the gremlins and the firmware issues that caused the halt to the initial Kinetic R1 in 2018, then the rest of the trainer manufacturers had better take notice. Otherwise someone in finance will be putting kinetic on notice

Previously I enjoyed using the Kinetic Rock and Rock. BUT it was loud, variable accuracy and in many ways the movement was excessive – I actually recently tried to get my girlfriend into Zwift, and thought that the Rock and Roll might be a good place to start. But the extremes of the movement and how little force she needed to get a lot of movement put her off. (I’ve clearly more work to do in that area, but that is very not in the scope of this post!)

With the Kinetic R1 the range of movement is similar ~ 15 degrees, BUT as you can adjust the resistance level gives more… substantial feeling when riding it. My first 20mins ride and I was genuinely thinking it was one of the smoother Zwift sessions I have had. The movement does really enhance the indoor riding, but a smooth ride is only useful if the power meter is good, and then still needs to be seen

What DOESN’T enhance the experience is the cooling fan on the back of the Kinetic R1. THIS GUY IS NOISY! To clarify the below picture is after I’ve stopped Zwifting and had a stretch. The little fan is still blowing it’s heart, and my eardrums out. Alright! maybe a little much on the hyperbole there, but I was surprised at the volume, as it makes the unfit feel less refined than it should do.

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Normally when I write a preview, I’ve a good idea in my mind at what score a trainer is going to get when I’ve completed the Zwift Gear Test.

Honestly I’m not sure yet. The Kinetic R1 has a lot of REALLY good features. But there are still a LOT of questions about the insides. It’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks in depth testing that is for sure.

Drop me a line as I’m working this trainer up with any questions, and things you’d like to find out

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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. <br /> <br /> After learning a lot about olecranon fractures, I was introduced to the world Zwift, and slowly transitioned into writing about sports gadgets and the like<br /> <br /> Trying to keep up cycling, swimming and running whilst being a busy General Practice Doctor