Ok, let’s not bury the lede. The LeMond Revolution trainer simulates road feel better than any trainer, roller, or ergometer I’ve tried. It replicates the sensation of flying down the road with a slight tailwind so well that it lowers the misery index of riding indoors a notch or two. And less misery = more time training = more fitness. The thing spins so well one might even say it makes indoor training (gasp) fun. (Full disclosure: we’ve done some artwork for free for LeMond Fitness' Interbike display, so you can accuse us of being cozy. But that's why I back up the review with data.)
How it works
The outstanding feature of the Revolution is its drivetrain, or how it delivers your pedal force to its resistance unit: it does away with the rear wheel entirely. You simply install the trainer as you would a wheel, and your chain drives a cassette attached to a big belt drive sprocket. That in turns drives a smaller sprocket which is attached to a wind resistance fan unit.
The fan blades are connected with a heavy ring at its perimeter, so the fan doubles as a flywheel. The fan/flywheel carries a lot of rotational inertia due to its large 12” diameter, its heavy weight, and the concentration of its weight at the outer extreme.
Wind resistance units, like fluid units, are progressive – resistance is proportional to the square of speed, so there’s four times as much resistance at twice the speed. Since you’re overcoming wind resistance while riding outside as well, the resistance curve of the Revolution matches real life resistance well. Just when you think you can spin out the entire cassette the resistance ramps up and shoots through the roof. I’d love to tell you the max wattage you can ride at a steady speed on it, but I couldn’t get anywhere near the 12 on the cassette. (The mathematically predicted steady state wattage for 90 rpm in the 53x12 is about 670 watts.)
There are several benefits to the wheel-less direct drive system. Most obviously, you don’t tear up your tires. You won’t have to install cheap tires to get through a winter’s worth of training, and if you use it to warm up at a crit or a TT, you won’t wear down your nice racing tires or gouge up your fancy skewers. Mounting/removing the bike is a snap too, as quick and easy as a rear wheel change (Cervelo-style horizontal dropouts are a bear, however. You'll have to remove the skewer completely).
But the real benefit of the wheel-less system is a huge reduction in drag. The tire/drum interface employed by most trainers adds a ton of drag, so that they give the feeling of riding through sand. That drag hurts the back of my knees as I have to fight harder through the dead spots. The Revolution’s combination of high inertia and low drivetrain drag, on the other hand, feels like you’re flying down the road at 28 mph on a set of fine tubulars. The pedaling action is much more realistic and easy on my knees. For the data and science behind trainer resistance, go here for the full geek.
See that silver spacer next to the quick release? Move that to the inside of the dropout for mountain bikes.
The biggest negative to the Revolution is the noise level. It’s almost as loud as a vacuum cleaner when you’re really cranking. My test unit is a prototype, and LeMond is working with engineers on a shroud that will better mute the fan. In any case, noise is an unavoidable side effect of a wind unit, a tradeoff for its simplicity (and hopefully, durability) compared to a fluid unit.
Also, the Revolution doesn’t fold up. If you’re really hard pressed for space you can undo three bolts and remove the base.
Finally, it’s a trainer. Nothing beats a freely moving bike on the road or a set of rollers. Having the frame locked down feels less natural, and puts stress on the frame. The flip side is you can really zone out while you train and not worry about falling off.
Despite the fact that cyclists love to wax poetic about 'suffering', riding a bike is, first and foremost, FUN. The Revolution comes very close to matching the adrenaline rush of flying down the road, where the thrill of speed helps you ignore the screaming pain in your legs. Its pedaling action mimics that ‘flying on the flats’ feeling, allowing you to train more with less stress on your joints. I for one am anticipating the winter with a tad less dread knowing the Revolution will be on hand.