Bkool Smart Go Trainer

8
£349.99

VERDICT:

8
10
Great value proper smart trainer that's a good option for online riding
Weight: 
9,850g

The Bkool Smart Go is one of the cheapest proper smart trainers you can buy. And it puts in a very decent performance, provided that you're more interested in the online riding experience than super-accurate measurement of your power. As a way into the full experience of Zwift, it's pretty easy to recommend.

  • Pros: Simple to set up, decent ride feel, works well with Zwift as well as Bkool's own app
  • Cons: Power measurement is a bit variable, not the most stable

Setup

Setup of the Smart Go is pretty straightforward. The rear quick release (a steel one is supplied) fits into the main frame and then the rear wheel simply rests on the roller, with your bodyweight making the connection rather than any kind of screw mechanism. It's simple enough, and it's the same sort of system that Bkool uses on its more expensive Pro 2 trainer.

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If you're worried that the rear wheel might lose contact with the roller if you're out of the saddle, then don't be: I haven't had any issues during testing. The trainer automatically adjusts to different wheel sizes; you don't have to do anything more than sit on the bike.

There's no quick release mechanism to release the rear wheel, just two screw threads, so it's a bit more of a chore to remove a bike, but it's not that difficult and the frame holds the bike nice and steady.

Two extendable feet give the Smart Go a bigger footprint for more stability in sprint efforts, and there's a front wheel riser supplied to keep your bike at the right angle. It's not a heavy trainer at under 10kg, but it feels reasonably solid; you have to pay a bit more attention in the sprint than you would with something a bit heavier.

The Smart Go is fairly quiet in use, and the noise it emits is pretty inoffensive too, as trainer noises go. You're unlikely to get too many complaints from the neighbours, although it does start to whine a bit if you really crank it up.

Power measurement

One of the main draws of a smart trainer is that it'll transmit power data, which online apps such as Zwift, TrainerRoad and Bkool's own training app use to move you through the virtual world. Given that the Bkool Smart Go, at £350, is less expensive than pretty much any third party power meter you can fit to your bike (any power meter that works, anyway), it'd be a fairly big ask for it to repeatedly and accurately measure your power. And I've generally found that while the trends are certainly right, the numbers aren't necessarily bang on.

Comparison 1: Amalfi Coast

This is a ride along the picturesque Amalfi coast, using a video course on Bkool's own app, which allows you to input your weight and other metrics for a more accurate power reading. The weight data is transmitted to the trainer which feeds it into its algorithm to spit out your estimated power. The pink line is my Garmin Vector 2 pedals (freshly calibrated) and the blue line is the trainer. I deliberately used the trainer from cold: as you can see, it's reading very high until it warms up. Things even out after about 10 minutes, which perhaps not coincidentally is the amount of warm-up time Bkool recommends before a ride.

After that the pink line and the blue line swap places along the way, with either one reading up to about 10% higher than the other. The net result of this is that the average power is about the same over the course of the ride (after the warming-up bit). But why do the lines swap like they do?

The most telling part of the plot is this bit, on the flat run in to the end. Here I'm deliberately exaggerating my movement on the bike, standing up out of the saddle right over the front of the bike and then sitting up with my hands off the bar so that all the weight's on the back wheel. And it shows that it's possible to affect the power reading of the Smart Go based on where your bodyweight is.

When you're sitting back on the bike you're putting more of your bodyweight on the rear wheel, creating more resistance, and it's harder to turn the wheel. When you stand up and move your weight to the front of the bike there's less resistance, and it's easier to spin. The Bkool doesn't know that, though, and so the power reading fluctuates. Weight back the trainer reports low, weight forward it reads high. When your weight is in the middle it's about right, and overall it's about right too. If you mostly stay seated on the bike when training indoors – and most of us do – it'll be fairly close. If you're looking to map tiny changes in your power, though, those will probably be lost in the noise.

Comparison 2: That London

Here's a plot of 10 minutes of riding round London on Zwift, with the Smart Go already warmed up. The pink line is my Garmin Vector 2 pedals (freshly calibrated) and the blue line is the trainer.

You can see that in terms of the shape of the graph they track each other pretty well, but for the most part the pink line is above the blue one: for me, the Bkool was under-reporting power most of the time. Depending on what you're doing on the trainer, the gap between the lines is a different size, and on occasion – when power is above about 450W – the Bkool overtakes the pedals and over-reports.

In my general workout power band, between 200W and 300W, the Bkool was generally about 10% down on power in Zwift. That doesn't sound like a lot, but the difference between me keeping up 280W or thereabouts to stay in a 3.0W/kg ride on Zwift, and putting out 310W so the Bkool thinks I'm doing 280W? Well, one's attainable for me. The other, not so much. Why is the power further out in this instance? It's difficult to know for sure, it might be the way Zwift is communicating rider weight to the trainer, or something else.

Now, if you're only using one online app and you're not benchmarking your power against another more accurate device then maybe it's a moot point: if you can get repeatable numbers then you can track your fitness by seeing if the numbers go up and down, and I've found the Smart Go does give pretty repeatable numbers. But it's worth knowing when you're racing your similarly-fit mate online on his fancy Wahoo Kickr or whatever, and he's riding away from you on the climbs. That could be why. Or he might just be better than you. But look! I gave you an excuse.

Controllable resistance

The Smart Go has both Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity built in. The trainer comes bundled with an ANT+ USB dongle for connecting the trainer to your laptop: the ANT+ FE-C connection was the one that worked the best for me, using a laptop to run various training apps. It's worth knowing that if you want to use this trainer in ANT+ configuration in third party apps such as Zwift and TrainerRoad, you'll first need to change it over to ANT+ in Bkool's own training app.

Resistance changes are smooth and pretty quick: not as rapid as some more expensive trainers but pretty good nonetheless. The Smart Go is rated up to 800W of resistance. I've had it reporting over 1,000W but it overestimates your power up at the top end, so 800W is probably about right as a maximum. It's not quite enough resistance to stay on top of your biggest gear if you're really going for it in a sprint effort, but it's fine for pretty much anything else, and there's plenty enough resistance for chugging up climbs in Bkool's app, or Zwift, or running through intervals on TrainerRoad.

Bkool app: good for video stuff and more

Bkool's app is a subscription model in the same manner as most of the other options. You get three months free, and there's a lot in it. If you're subscribed and you don't use the trainer in a month then that month will roll over, up to a maximum of three. That's a nice touch, and useful for summer.

Video routes are one of the big draws: you can ride up Alpe d'Huez or the Col du Galibier without leaving your shed. The videos are generally pretty good; they vary a bit in quality, and also in the way they're filmed, but it is an immersive experience and there's definitely something about doing a climb in video that adds to the realism. If the videos are filmed from a bike they work better than the ones filmed from a motorbike: those sometimes look a bit like they're happening in slow motion and you lean into the corners going uphill, which is weird. You can make your own video sessions using an action camera, or make a virtual route by uploading a GPX file.

That's not the extent of the app, though, there's a lot in it. Other routes are available as virtual rides or displayed as maps. The weather conditions can change, too, making it easier or harder to complete a route.

There are lots of workouts, too. You can do structured training in the manner of TrainerRoad, and there are also video workouts that are more akin to doing a spin class. On top of that there's a velodrome section, which I don't think is available on any other app. You can participate in multiplayer track disciplines like Keirin and elimination races, or test yourself against the kilo or the hour record.

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If you're going to spend your £8/month on one or other of the online platforms then there's plenty in the Bkool app to keep you occupied. The user base is a lot smaller than Zwift, so if you're after multiplayer fun then Zwift is still your best bet. And if you're just going to hurt yourself doing intervals then TrainerRoad is very focused on that, and does it very well. But the Bkool app has plenty enough to keep most people occupied for the three months they'll get for free, whereupon you can have a think about where you want to spend your money.

The app interface is best described as 'clunky', probably. There's a lot to get around, and it's not always obvious where to go for what you want. You get to learn where stuff is after a while, but it could do with a bit of a revamp.

Overall: a solid performance from a budget trainer

Three hundred and fifty quid didn't used to be budget money for an indoor trainer, until everyone started connecting them to the internet. But that's the world we live in now, and I for one embrace it: indoor training is a lot more fun these days. The Bkool Smart Go brings 'proper' smart training – with native power measurement and controllable resistance – down to a new price point, and for the money it's very good.

Okay, the power measurement isn't spot on, and the maximum resistance is a fair bit below what you'll get if you spend more, but the overall experience of using the trainer is very good. It's easy to set up, with good, progressive resistance that changes quickly and syncs up well with both Bkool's own and third party apps. If you're keen to get into the smart trainer environment and you don't have the best part of a grand to throw at it, this is a good place to start.

Verdict

The cheapest proper smart trainer is a very good value option for online riding

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Bkool Smart Go Trainer

Size tested: Fits wheels 20-29in; up to 1200W

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?

Bkool says:

"The most realistic workout on a trainer

Bkool Smart Go is controlled by the simulator

Unbeatable price"

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

And lists the following:

Powerful

Can reach up to 800 W.

Simulates slopes of up to 8%.

Super stable

Telescoping legs offer greater stability when riding.

Silent

Noise level: 75 dB at 30 kph.

A conversation ranges from 40 to 80 dB

Inertia

The only trainer that simulates inertia.

Smart adjustments on gradients.

Wireless

Wireless, can connect to external Bluetooth and ANT+ devices

Compact & Light

Folding stand. 9.85 kg.

Disassembly into two pieces.

Plug & Play

Easy to set up, doesn't need calibration.

The wheel adjusts to the roller.

Universal

Compatible with all wheel sizes (from 20" to 29").

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
7/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
6/10
Rate the product for value:
 
8/10

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Given the price, it does very well.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Decent ride feel, good resistance changes, easy to use.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Power measurement a bit variable, app feels a bit clunky at times.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

An RRP of £349.99 for a proper smart trainer is impressive, and given the price the Smart Go does a decent enough job of estimating power too.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 189cm  Weight: 92kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.

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