A note here before I start the review – as you can see I have both the Ascent Bike Trainer and Travel Trac Fluid Bike Trainer listed. This is because they are the same unit, rebranded. There is no difference except the logo and printing on them and unfortunately at the time of posting this blog review the Ascent version (which is what I have) is not available on Amazon while the Travel Trac one is. You can get the Ascent other places of course.
So on to the review.
For such a relatively low price this trainer seems to be made amazingly well and is obviously pretty heavy-duty. It’s constructed with thick beefy tubes and heavy plastic feet and a good-sized fluid-filled cylinder – the whole thing weighs in at an even twenty-four pounds according to my digital scale. You can tell right out of the box, compared to some of the other cheaper bike trainers, that it’s of a higher quality.
And here’s one of the amazing things about it this trainer – you can open up the box it was sold in or it was shipped in, unfold it, and put your bike right on it and ride.
That’s right, there’s no assembly whatsoever. The frame folds out and the roller- and fluid-filled cylinder swings outward, so all you need to do is just attach your bike and tighten down the hub mount.
There is a double-sided instruction sheet and this mostly covers use of the trainer, the sheet quickly covers the basics as there’s not really a lot that you need to know.
The trainer does come with a skewer for your rear hub, which fits the ‘cups’ of the trainer’s hub attachments exactly and probably is what you should use when securing your bike to it. It’s easy to swap out your skewer – just remove your old skewer and slide this one in – when you plan on riding outside again just swap your old one back in, or leave this one in if you wish.
While you probably should install the skewer that it comes with the trainer you might not need to. I gave a quick try with my stock skewer and the cups that fit over the hub ends fit it fine.
But for security sake and to prevent any movement and such I use the skewer that came with the trainer. There’s barely any movement when you put the bike on and you don’t even need to tighten it very much. Of course you want to snug the tightener knob a reasonable amount to be sure, and then spin the locking knob down so that everything is sure to stay in place. For carbon bikes, especially, the ability for it to lock well into place without a lot of tightening against the frame is pretty important and noteworthy.
Unlike some other trainers there is only one side that tightens down, which makes putting the bike on and taking it off the trainer quick and easy. My guess is that it makes it less likely for you to accidentally tighten it too much. Again, a concern especially for those with carbon bikes.
The tightener knob is big and easy to turn and the locking ring/knob is a quick and easy spin to lock it in place, though I doubt the big knob would move or turn very much even if you forget to cinch the locking part.
If you have come from a different trainer that has a tightener knob of some sort on both sides it may take a few times to get used to having just one side tighten down, as you need to fully back the tightener out to fit the rear of the bike in, at least with my particular bike. But you’ll find that it quickly becomes a faster way to put the bike on when you don’t have two sides to tighten down and even out.
As I said above the construction is heavy-duty, it is not real light but of a reasonable heft without being too heavy.
The base has plastic feet at the corners, which rotate through a short degree of motion to be adjustable for the surface that the trainer is on, whether the trainer is folded out for use or folded up for storage. There’s no leveling adjustment for the feet though, but I suppose if you have a very uneven surface you could turn one of two feet up and away somewhat.
The fluid cylinder and roller part hinge inward so that when the whole thing is folded up it presents a very thin profile, as you can see in the photos. You can just fold it all out again in moments quickly and easily, there are no latches or snaps of any sort, when folded out the weight of the unit and bike hold the legs out and when folded up friction in the hinge bolts holds the unit folded pretty well. Though if you were moving it often or any distance or just worried about it folding out on you while carrying it you could bungee the legs together on one side or the other.
Just like the tightener for the hub there is a big gnarled knob to tighten the tension of the roller against your wheel with a locking ring there also. Again, it’s a quick job to tighten it down as you want and then spin the locking ring down to make sure everything’s held in place. The tightener bolt itself is of a good size just like the tensioner for the hub, and should offer many years of service, with a rubber foot on the end that touches the metal of the trainer.
The cylinder containing the fluid looks to be a cast aluminum container with small heat sinks all the way around it. You definitely don’t want to touch this after you’ve ridden for a while, as it will get quite warm. The roller too and likely also your tire will get a it warm at least, though these not as much as the fluid container. The tensioner knob itself is far enough away from the warm parts and covered with plastic so there shouldn’t be any issue loosening it after even a long bike session.
You of course want to either getting a trainer tire or use an old tire for use on the trainer, so as not to wear out a regular tire. Depending on how tight you make the roller there can be some appreciable wear and tear on the tread over time.
Some people have mentioned that it takes some time, 10-15 minutes, for the fluid to warm up and the peddling action to be smooth. If there’s one downside to this trainer perhaps this is it, as there was no real warm-up time on the magnet trainer.
While I have only noticed this when it’s been fairly cool in the room the trainer was stored in, it seems to only take a very few minutes to five minutes at the most to smooth out any unevenness in the fluid.
What you do notice right away when you get on it after it has warmed up is how smooth it is, I especially noticed it compared to the magnet trainer. It’s hard to explain because I never really noticed that the magnet trainer was in any way not smooth, except for the somewhat moderately loud sound of it.
Once up to operating temp the fluid is definitely very smooth, as well as the transition when switching gears to increase or decrease resistance. You will definitely feel a more realistic “Road Feel” when changing gears, with pedaling faster and the resistance you get when you do so. There is no adjustment hardware for tension on the trainer outside of the knob for the roller – you adjust tension via your bike’s gearing.
If you use a bike trainer you know that even the most quiet ones still generate a little noise; some of the noise obviously coming from the bike itself, notably the tires and chain/gearset.
With the Travel Trac Comp Fluid Bicycle Trainer/Ascent Fluid Bike Trainer the noise level is definitely lower, like a ‘whooshing’ I suppose, likely because the resistance is created by fluid compressing inside the cylinder and not from a magnetic field generated by moving hardware.
And right away you can notice a bit more realistic resistance when increasing or decreasing gears. This is somewhat comparable to the increased resistance from air resistance and friction when riding outside.
Maybe it’s just my imagination but it just feels smoother than the magnetic trainer, as well as being more muted audio-wise.
So far I really like this trainer, and I can’t see any real downside or particular knit picks for the Ascent Fluid Bike Trainer outside of a few minutes of warm up time when it is real cool.
Don’t forget to check out my Youtube video below, which will give you a short demo of the sound level and what it looks like in motion.
This trainer, of course, is not a ‘smart’ trainer so you’ll need to use your bike’s sensors and a bike computer or phone app for logging as well as connecting to anything like Zwift (see my quick Trial Period review of Zwift here), Trainerroad, Sufferfest, etc. I recommend something like Wahoo’s Speed and RPM Cadence Sensors – which you can buy separately from each other or together; see my Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor review here. If you want something really cheap try out the Scosche RHYTHM Bluetooth Speed/Cadence Sensors (see my review of the sensor here).
I will update this entry as I put more miles on the trainer as I only have about 600+ miles so far.