The LeMond Revolution Trainer

IMG_7724Breakups can be ugly. I’m on speaking terms with very few of my former romantic interests. If I’m honest, one of the nastiest breakups I ever had was with a stationary trainer. I swear.

The thing is, in the 1990s I spent my winters chasing fitness with skate skiing and crazy-long trainer sessions. Even though I was a PSIA-certified ski instructor, a good week saw me on the snow maybe four days, so I’d spend the other days doing rides on my trainer. My last winter in Northampton saw record-breaking snowfall. It was still snowing in April. I got a lot of trainer time that winter. Three-hour sessions several times a week resulted in burned-out bearings for the resistance fan and on one occasion my workout was so vigorous that I managed to scoot the trainer across the floor until my bike’s rear tire was rubbing one of the cushions on my couch. I managed to burn a hole in the cushion. Made for a delightful meal of crow when my (ex) wife got home.

Ever since that winter spending time on trainers has been as attractive a thought as seeing an ex at a holiday party. Magnetic resistance and fluid resistance trainers may have made trainers quieter, but it has made them less pleasant to ride. Most of the units I’ve tried in the last 15 years lack the smooth resistance offered by fan-based resistance. I’ve still got one fluid-resistance trainer in my garage and even on its lowest setting riding that thing is like pedaling up a 20-percent grade. Any pause in pedaling results in the feeling that you are starting from a dead stop.

You might say I’ve been celibate for some years.

IMG_7722When I encountered the LeMond Revolution at Interbike in 2012, I was pretty impressed. Because it uses a fan for its resistance, it’s noisy, though it’s not so noisy as the wind trainer I owned in the ’90s. The LeMond Revolution adds an interesting twist to the wind resistance unit—it includes a flywheel. The upshot is that you get the resistance of a traditional fan plus the inertial feel of rollers. You can skip a few pedal strokes and actually coast without having the trainer immediately come to a stop. Tiny fidgets in the saddle in which you might ease up on the pedals for a moment don’t result in the feeling that you just shifted up a gear.

LeMondRoadMachineImage: Dan Smith

The Revolution is based on a design that a physicist LeMond knew came up with in the 1980s. The only American winner of the Tour de France used that prototype from ’82 until his retirement in ’94. LeMond says that when in your biggest gear while pedaling at 110 rpm, you’ll generate more than 800 watts. That makes for a great rebuttal should anyone worry that anything so easy to pedal could actually provide a reasonable workout.

The irony of stationary trainers is that they are sold on how hard you can go on them. The greater reality about them is that this time of year most riders need them most for logging base miles. It’s in doing easy miles that the more unnatural the feel of a trainer, the more unpleasant the experience is.

IMG_7726Even if you are opposed to the idea of a wind trainer, there are plenty of other reasons why the LeMond Revolution is better-designed than other trainers. By eliminating the rear wheel and mountain the rear triangle of the bike to the trainer, wheel and tire wear are eliminated. Tire slip against the roller during hard jumps is eliminated. Funny lean angles caused by bent or misaligned trainer legs is eliminated thanks to adjustable pads the trainer sits on; you can level it just like you would your stove. By eliminating the rear wheel, the Revolution tackles another common problem with trainers—how to level the front wheel. By positioning the axle at the same distance from the ground as that of a rear wheel, the front wheel need not be propped up to make the bike level. Pretty genius.

The trainer, with cassette goes for $659. That’s not cheap, but in my mind I liken it to the expensive health club that you use more because it’s not a dive. I can’t stress this enough; I’ve avoided trainers—avoided them—for many years because I just couldn’t stand the experience anymore. The LeMond Revolution has been enough of a revelation in experience that I’ve begun to see it as a way to sneak in extra miles, like after the boys are in bed.

I live in a place where the trainer isn’t necessary and yet the Revolution seems useful, a way to help my fitness. Imagine how useful it could be to everyone in the real world, that place where winter can screw up everything from trees to plumbing to fitness.

This isn’t quite what love feels like, but I’m willing to date this one.

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14 comments

  1. Mike Hancock

    I pre-ordered mine before they were available to consumers (only Garmin-Slipstream and a lucky few), and I’ve logged countless “miles” on it. It’s still going strong a few years later, and shows no sign of wear. 6 days a week, 7 months a year (at least), and warmups before every race have failed to kill it. Having owned almost every other available trainer, this is the only one that I’ve actually liked (as much as you can like expending energy and going nowhere).

    Without a doubt, it’s been the best money I’ve ever spent on off-season training, and I’ve wasted more than my share.

  2. Shawn

    I recently saw the CycleOps “Silencer” direct drive mag trainer which is similarly priced but quieter. I would love to hear people’s experience with it in comparison to the LeMond.

  3. Andymac

    Never tried the LeMond but have always been intrigued by it due to the no wheel setup. However the fact that it is fan based resistance puts it in the “not worth considering owing to too excessive noise” category. Shame. My cycleops fluid based trainer is super quiet and I love it. Not like a lover you understand! Like a good friend.

  4. Peter Lin

    I have a cycleops super magneto pro and I like much better than the super noisey fan trainer I had before. I could never go back to fan trainers, it sounds a jet is taking off. I like the idea of wheel off design, but LeMond is only one of several options on the market. The Wahoo kickr looks interesting, but way toooooo expensive.

  5. TominAlbany

    The whole trainer concept still kills me. For the winter, I will do fitness classes at the Y, some running, x-country skiing, downhill skiing, playing with the kids on the trampoline, and a 45-60 spin class one or two days a week. I hate the spin bikes and the closet we’re locked in but, that’s what’s going to happen.

  6. Tod

    I’m presuming that “and mountain the rear triangle” was meant to be “and mounting the rear triangle”. Even the typos on RKP are more entertaining than most other sites :) .

  7. Mark

    Didn’t Concept II have something similar in the late 80′s? I am not sure why this same concept couldn’t be done with a fluid system. The resistance could be mag or fluid and the flywheel cold maintain momentum. Actually, it could tilt too, like a Kurt kinetic, and all still attach to the frame, not the wheel.

    If folks are doling out nearly a grand for some rollers and high-end trainers, why can’t they push all the buttons for us home types who want the benefits of the LeMond trainer, but need quiet.

    Padrig, can you bring this up at the net industry thing?

  8. Peter Lin

    The hardest thing I find with trainers isn’t the mechanical, it’s the mental. I’ve started using Sufferfest videos, which for me makes a big difference. Before I was watching TV, Netflix, Hulu and movies, but I just couldn’t do more than 30 min. I felt like stabbing myself with a dull spoon would be more fun. I tried robbie ventura’s race day, which was horrible. Luckily Strava lets you stream sufferfest videos on the phone and web now, and that makes all the difference for me. I don’t have the discipline that other do, so I need that extra motivation. I also tried spin classes, but it feels so unnatural and unlike riding a bike that I didn’t bother going back.

  9. Hautacam

    Wait, I can level my stove?!

    But seriously folks, I think every person is allotted a fixed number of trainer-riding hours, which varies from person to person. I pretty much exhausted my lifetime allotment about the time that DVDs started to replace VCRs, which (I think) is about two technology generations ago. And though I wouldn’t mind trying something like the LeMond setup, which strikes me as a very good one, I can’t stomach the asking price. But that says more about my level of desire (tepid or cooler) than the price. The mere thought of sitting on the bike in the garage looking at a screen and pedaling to nowhere makes me want to gag.

  10. Max

    I really like the idea of direct-drive trainers. Why do most trainers use the rear wheel at all? Why can’t we have a direct drive version of the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine? It would have all of the upsides of the revolution without the big downside of noise. And why can’t we have that for, say, $400 MSRP? And why can’t we buy a wired power meter to go with it for $30, a fair price since it’s just a rev counter that can apply a cubic function of RPM to get watts?

  11. Eric

    I’ve had one for a couple of years, and it really is a great trainer if you can tolerate the noise. I use it in the garage, and even there, I have to avoid the time when my son is going to sleep in an adjacent bedroom. I can’t imagine using it inside the house with anybody else around – it is really loud when the speed goes up.

    The payoff though is that it is far and away the most “real” feeling trainer I’ve ever ridden due to some combination of no tire/roller friction, the fan and the flywheel. The resistance you feel at the pedals feels much more like really riding a bike than any fluid or magnetic trainer I’ve ridden. Pairing it with Trainer Road and a good video makes indoor training almost tolerable.

    I’ve used mine with both a 9 and 10 speed cassette successfully.

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