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The Elite Volano Fluid is a simple to use direct drive trainer that offers enough resistance for most types of riding, is quiet in use, and, for a turbo of this sort, isn't too expensive.
With a direct drive trainer you whip off your rear wheel and mount your bike onboard via its dropouts. The chain runs on a cassette that's attached to the trainer. You have to buy the cassette to fit to the Volano but, on the plus side, you won't wear out your rear tyre like you can on a standard turbo.
Most of the time the Volano feels fairly realistic in use thanks to a fluid resistance unit, although the relatively light flywheel (3kg) means it can be quite jerky when you're riding at lower cadences.
The Volano rolls to a stop a lot more quickly than many other trainers. I found that if I rode in the 52-tooth chainring and the 12-tooth sprocket at 80rpm, then stopped pedalling, it took just 7secs to come to a halt. It took 14secs when I did the same thing with the JetBlack WhisperDrive trainer. This means that the ride can sometimes feel a bit staccato compared to trainers that carry more momentum.
The non-adjustable resistance is progressive (it gets harder the faster you ride) but it's lower than that of some key rivals, and about half that of Elite's own Turbo Muin. With the JetBlack WhisperDrive trainer I mentioned before, I struggled to turn the pedals at 22rpm for a minute when using a 52-tooth chainring and the 12-tooth sprocket. With the Volano I could get 70rpm for a minute in the same gear combo without too much trouble, so it probably won't provide the resistance you need to do very low cadence/high power intervals. For everything else, though, I found the resistance perfectly ample.
The Volano is quiet in use. I measured the sound level at 70db 1m away from the unit while riding at 250w. For comparison, that's about the level of a vacuum cleaner. If you ride in the house, other people are going to hear you, but close the door to the room you're in and they probably won't find the noise too invasive. You'll be able to watch the TV while you ride – if that's your thing for taking your mind of the suffering – without the volume needing to be ridiculously high.
Although the Volano doesn't come with one fitted, it's compatible with Elite's Misuro B+ speed/power/cadence sensor (£59.99). I tried one out. It's easy enough to fit: you just unscrew a couple of bolts on the back of the Volano to reveal a small compartment, sling the device in, and put the lid back on.
The Misuro B+ sends data via ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart to a head unit. I used it mostly with a smartphone equipped with Elite's myETraining app. You get basic use free and the option of upgrading to more involved features for a subscription fee.
During normal use I found the wattage calculated by the Elite system to be about 15 watts higher than the power given by the Verve InfoCrank fitted to the bike I've been using. The data follows a similar track, though – the margin is quite consistent. In most situations, the actual figures given aren't all that important, it's the progression and consistency that counts and you can gauge that here. Plus, I guess that measuring your wattage a little high might come in handy if you're racing on Zwift!
The Volano measures 62 x 54 x 50cm in use and it feels stable enough. If you're on an irregular surface, you can rotate the feet to even things up. It can be folded down a little smaller (62 x 54 x 38cm) for storage and transport, and it's relatively easy to carry via a handle at the back.
The Volano can take bikes with 130/135mm quick release hubs and 142x12 thru axles, so that covers the vast majority of road and mountain bikes. It comes with a freehub for Shimano/SRAM 9, 10 and 11-speed systems, and you can swap it if you want to run Campagnolo.
In terms of price, the Volano is the cheapest direct drive trainer that we know of. Although it's not the most complete direct drive trainer out there, it's still a bargain if you don't need ultra-high resistance and even more so if you shop around because you can find it for considerably less than its suggested retail price.
Quiet direct drive trainer that feels realistic in most circumstances and comes at a very good price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Elite Volano Fluid direct drive trainer
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's a direct drive trainer for riding indoors or for warming up and cooling down at races.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Elite lists these features:
* Direct drive transmission
* Superquiet, smooth and progressive fluid technology
* Flywheel: 3 kg
* Wheel off design eliminates slippage and tyre wear
* Compatible with Road and MTB bikes with standard diameter quick release, 130mm/135mm hubs and 142x12 thru axles
* Compatible with app My E-training = unlimited level mode and 1 month free subscription
It's relatively light and easy to move about.
It's the cheapest direct drive trainer we know of. It doesn't offer as much resistance as many but it's still very good value.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's quiet and feels good for all but very high resistance/low cadence intervals.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Easy to use and reasonably quiet.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lightweight flywheel can result in a jerky feel at times.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, if I was after a direct drive trainer and didn't want to spend a vast sum
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, as above
Use this box to explain your score
The Volano doesn't offer quite the level of smoothness of some rivals but you don't notice that at higher cadences and the lower price compensates. Taking the level of performance and the price together, it's a good option.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.