Having been using the Cycleops Hammer for a couple of months now after ZwiftCon, I’m in a much better place to give an idea as to how the latest Cycleops unit feels, and more importantly, how it responds to race conditions, in order to be able to class this review as a proper Zwift Gear Test! So if you are interested in the new trainer on the block, read on in the Cycleops Hammer review and Zwift Gear Test!
Cycleops Hammer Turbo Trainer Review – Zwift Gear Test
So Cycleops, – definitely one of THE big names in the turbo trainer market has been biding their time when it comes releasing to a smart direct mount trainer. We’ve had Wahoo’s KICKR where their focus is to solid engineering, TacX with their Neo, technically brilliant if troubled by early birthing pains, and the Elite Drivo, a unit which looks like a white good, but with a tenacious approach to accuracy. Where will the Cycleops Hammer come in this little pantheon of turbo trainers? My initial impression is that Cycleops have played a dangerous game, it feels as though they have watched all the other manufacturers show their cards, before specifically designing a turbo designed specifically to take on the other units. So do we have a camel, a horse designed by committee, or a new champion in the turbo trainer ring??
The first part of the Cycleops Hammer global design approach which hits you is the case. This turbo aims to be looked at as much as it is ridden. That is not to say that Cycleops Hammer puts form over function, but it appears the case in not just a box to hide the engineers wires and circuit boards, but actual a covering designed to complete a whole package – I mean, look at that scalloped front, and logo! It serves ABSOLUTELY no function, but looks achingly cool! This is the sort of design which I could see other manufacturers actually snorting at. Personally, though, I’d like to see more turbos intended as a whole package. The Tacx Flux, for example, looks cool, but doesn’t have a single feature designed to allow you to move it with ease!
This feeling of a whole design package goes even further when you find that Cycleops have included a front wheel stabiliser in the box.
But this stabiliser is not merely an additional component in the Cycleops Hammer box; it is an intrinsic part of the whole unit. You see those cut-outs at the rear of the stabiliser?
They are there to allow the stabiliser to be stored perfectly under the Hammer and are where the feet of the unit slot in, to keep everything nicely locked in place during transport
Pull the chunky yellow tab on the leg of the unit, fold the legs in, and everything slots in nicely. This is probably best highlighted when you turn the unit over, to see the stabiliser nestled between the legs. Of note, there is also a disc brake lock held in place under the stabiliser too. Again lots of features pointing to a very deeply thought out design in all aspects of the Hammer
The legs of the unit are nice a wide, easily unlocking from the unit by pressing in the yellow clips to the side. Similarly, you press these same buttons in to fold the legs back.
The legs themselves are comprised of a resin, with the grain clearly visible
Speaking of resin, the drive side of the unit is comprised of a series of plastic/resin plates which cover all of the internals of the unit
On the non-drive side of the Cycleops Hammer, the unit is comprised by what feels like a single piece of metal, working both as a case and the chassis, which is one of the reasons, like the KICKR, that the Hammer feels so solid.
On the same side of the unit is the power socket. Nicely recessed and with appears to be a little plastic seal around the actual port. I do wonder if any manufacturers have given much thought to the IPX rating of their turbos? In that, whilst the unit is hopefully not going to be covered in water, they are going to get relatively bombarded with sweat
On the top of the Cycleops Hammer are the status lights under a smoked plastic cover. Plug things in, and a blue light comes on. This is one of the few areas where the design team fell asleep at the wheel – does the blue light mean Bluetooth is working? Power on? What about ANT+? Are there other lights under there which are not working?? There are no symbols or any other prompts, and nothing in the manual, so I just don’t know! To clarify, in the couple of months I have been using the Hammer, I have not seen any other lights, so presume the LED is on for power, and blinking for connecting
Out of the box
Very little actually comes with the Cycleops Hammer. You have the adapters for different bike frame sizes, the power transformer, and a fist full of different nationality power cables.
I didn’t receive a skewer with this unit, however, due to the ability to use Thru axle and QR, so there will be a number of people who will not need a QR skewer. As a result, I don’t imagine one will be placed in the retail box either.
On the side of the unit is a Shimano freehub. (The inside of the case is a little rough, as this is demo unit, with a pre-release case)
No cassette is included in the box, as is the case with most turbo trainers. I actually used to think that Wahoo was scoring a point here by including a cassette already fitted, but certainly, for Zwift races, I like to use my own cassette, so swap out anything which comes pre-installed. Perhaps a company will look to differentiate themselves by allowing you to choose the gear sizes to put in the box, if not install?
Unlike the KICKR, and the Neo, the majority of the spinning internals are hidden in the case, making this quite a safe unit for little fingers or animals, which might get inquisitive. If it hasn’t come through yet, I’m a big fan of the case. But that is not to miss the fact this is a turbo trainer, not an ornament – if it doesn’t play well on Zwift, it’s pretty, but useless!
Cycleops Hammer Specifications
- Dual compatibility for both quick release and Thru-axle compatible for bike frames –
- As a result, skewers are not included in the box
- Communications: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth 4.0 technologies.
- Max Wattage: (at 20mph): 2000W
- Max Incline: 20%
- Includes a Shimano splined freehub for compatibility with Shimano 8-11 speed cassettes –
- Although it should be noted that a Shimano cassette is not included in the box
- Dimensions when Open: 787.4×469.9×495.3 mm
- Dimensions when Closed: 76.2×469.9×495.3 mm
- Weight: 21.3 kg
- Flywheel Weight: 9kg
- Noise: 64 decibels at 20mph
- Accuracy: +/- 3% accurate power readings.
- No cadence measurement function – you’ll need to pick up a separate sensor for that!
Zwift Gear Test
All of the current direct mount trainers (save for the Tacx Flux) have a handle on them in some shape or form, – heck the Kickr Gen 2 “upgrade” externally appears to be merely the changing of a handle! To-date the Elite Drivo has been one of the easier turbos to move, due to it’s approach to balance and a sturdy handle. But you do still end up carrying it lengthways for ease at times, a little like a caught pig!!
Regarding moving the Cycleops Hammer, the unit has also been designed to be well balanced. In additional though, the handle is comfortable, well ish, to hold, which is something when you realise you are holding a 21.3kg weight from a single handle. With design and folding legs, it is clear that Cycleops decided that it wanted to treat those who need to move their turbo regularly as importantly, as those lucky people who get to leave their Zwift pain cave set up in a permanent location
So once you’ve moved the turbo into it’s new location, it is time to get the Hammer setup. At this point, it would be worthwhile pointing out that, with the legs fully deployed, the Hammer has one the widest footprints I have seen. This is quite important as Zwift races can get a little… competitive 😉 which is upset some turbos especially when you get out of the saddle. So the Cycleops Hammer has a wide footprint, but how stable is the new kid on the block?
The Cycleops Hammer is one of the most stable units I have ridden! The Tacx Neo has an element of sway to it, which may people love,
The Tacx Neo has an element of sway built in to it’s design, many people love the Neo for this, personally, I find it a little unsettling, but I do think it means I can’t talk about the Neo in terms of stability fairly. The Elite Drivo, if I stand up, and grab the bars, I can get the unit to rock a bit. The Wahoo KICKR has always been my favourite turbo due to how planted the unit is, but I can now say that the Cycleops Hammer is MORE planted, and MORE stable than the KICKR!
I think this is due to very low centre of gravity and the massively wide arms, with the centre of the rubber feet on the Hammer 71cm apart. For comparison the feet on the KICKR, at the widest setting at 64cm apart.
Speaking of stability, the feet on the Cycleops Hammer are easily adjustable to allow you to get a stable base, if you floor is not perfectly level, so nothing should get in the way of your ride
The little plate which detaches from the underside of the Hammer, previously discussed, is not a wheel riser. Which is hopefully a little obvious given how low profile it is, Cycleops include this to stabilise the wheel, and surprisingly effective in it’s job if you are giving the handlebars as good yank during the sprints. Now let’s not be silly about this, the plate probably has a 1cm depression in it, so nothing huge, BUT it does seem to add to the stability of the bike setup
As a quick analysis, the Cycleops Hammer is smooth, very responsive, and lacks any clear problems with inertia. Frankly, I’d put the sound generated by the Cycleops Hammer as the second best – yes nothing is going to be the TacX Neo when it comes to sound. There is a hint of KICKR scream about the sound profile, but the dB meter stays under 60dB using my iPhone meter. Perhaps not the most accurate, but as a sound meter, it is what I have used for all of the turbos I have tested here, so it a fair test.
When you zoom in on the sprints, there is a fractional delay on the Cycleops Hammer compared to either of the two strain gauges passed power meters, the 4iiii and the PowerTap, however not to the degree seen when using other strain gauge based turbo trainers.
Just to clarify the brief flat area around 7.5km where all three power meters zero – that is my bad, I dropped my phone!
If we look a little closer at some of the sprint section graphs, there is a momentary lag, the with Cycleops Hammer, but not such that it is going to affect your performance during a Zwift race.
Now this might be something which can reasonably be considered to go in the “using the device” section, or in Zwift.
Cycleops Hammer power meter tests
The calibration procedure with the HAMMER is exactly the same as for the little brother the Cycleops Magnus trainer, and you’ll still need to log in via the Cycleops virtual training software
You’ll see the Cycleops Hammer in sensors located, unsurprisingly in the settings part of the app, under the virtual bike tab
However, you need to select the Hammer in the separate trainer type box, rather than the sensors, in order to perform the calibration
The calibration is the same as the Cycleops Magnus, and from that read, it is also very similar to that of the Wahoo KICKR series of trainers. Spin up to speed, and coast down, and keep pedalling if required
So with the turbo and the two other power meters calibrated, let’s give the Cycleops Hammer a bit of a warm up on Zwift
A quick one lap of Watopia flat to ensure that everything is playing nicely – clearly everything is tracking very well. NO obvious peaks, troughs or discrepancies – and was quite surprising given the 3% accuracy of the Hammer, vs the 4iiii Precision accuracy of 1%
So moving on to a slightly more formal test. Previously I have done my own 2km “stomp test” with trainers but decided to move to a more formal approach of actually use the Zwift Work Out “Jon’s Mix” instead, thinking that this is a more structured, and more importantly a more controlled test.
With my FTP, Jon’s Mix requires me to try and hold 760 watts for ten secs (HA! That didn’t happen!) But here is my attempt at the workout, and the power graph produced from the Hammer vs C1, vs. Precision.
NB I’ve applied a 4-second smoothing to the data, which can be effective in highlighting subtle issues – here the 4iiii seems to be reading a fraction high at points.
If we look more closely at some of the power, put down, or “stomp” sections we get a better idea of what is going on. Crucially for racing, and frankly riding on Zwift, the Hammer is bang on in terms of responsiveness, and tracks well with the two other power units
One thing which is worthwhile pointing out is the two troughs that the Cycleops Hammer dipped into after I come off the power. This is partially to do with the fact the Hammer does not actually contain a strain gauge, but an electromagnetic coil which is calibrated to a load cell in the factory. As I came right of the power, the unit appears to over respond to my easing off the power. Which may also account for the slightly higher second peak – however, if we zoom in over 60 seconds to look at that same peak, we can see that the Cycleops Hammer is keeping a pretty accurate pace with the 4iiii at this point
Basically, from a power perspective, I’m VERY happy with the Hammer. Although (there is always one gremlin isn’t there!) During a recent ZTR race riding up the mountain to the top of the mast, the little point of the Hammer falling into a power trough became more apparent.
Powering up the hills went well, but on the downside of the hill, I would lose power briefly and find myself spinning, against resistance, but with zero watts reading, before flying up the hill again as the power meter registered once more .
The crucial bit about this, is I have not been able to repeat this issue on the last few rides up the KOM, but it was odd, and during the race VERY frustrating
Cycleops Hammer Sound Test Video
Naturally, I filmed this test so you can see for yourself how the Hammer sounds! However, I would highlight that the nature of the sound recorded by the iPad here is much more intrusive than when riding the Cycleops Hammer, but the dB readings are quite in line with similar trainers with my power peaking at 769 watts, and delivering 59dB
Each turbo manufacturer is appealing for your to open your wallet for different reasons. Wahoo with the KICKR name, Neo with the tech and Elite with their insane accuracy (currently trying to push 0.5watts in the labs!). The Cycleops Hammer has no one stand out feature, no clever gimmick. But there is a reason for this – Cycleops appear to have delivered the most complete, most reasonably rounded turbo trainer I have used yet.
The Hammer has technically the heaviest flywheel, which gives it great simulation on Zwift, but is slightly down on the specs in terms of accuracy when we compare to the Drivo at 1% for example
The unit is extremely easy to carry around, and I’m utterly in love with the styling. A personal point, but these are my personal impressions. I know there are many people who love the Neo styling.
I do still have a slight concern about the power trough issue I experienced on the ZTR race. That had a very negative impact on my performance then. However I have not been able to replicate it, nor have I had other issues racing with the Hammer on Zwift.
With the Drivo, KICKR, and Neo, it has always been hard to call, one absolute winner. BUT, and it is a big BUT, IF Cycleops can make changes to the firmware, and eliminate or reduce that power trough seen when you come off the power, I would be prepared to give the Cycleops Hammer 5/5
But currently, it will have to make due with a RECOMMEND sticker!