CycleOps PowerSync Bluetooth Smart review

Proven trainer performance with a built-in power meter, but why Bluetooth-only?

BikeRadar score3.5/5

With a deep history in trainers and power meters, CycleOps brings pedigree to the table with its PowerSync Bluetooth Smart electronic power-meter-equipped trainer. Unfortunately, a few quirks keep this in the good-not-great category for now.

On the plus side, the trainer is solidly built like all CycleOps models. It’s simple to set up out of the box, easy to transport and a cinch to clamp your bike into. Based on multiple years of reference with other CycleOps trainers, it should last quite some time.

Although the parent company has decided to split PowerTap off into its own brand, the venerable power meter operation is still under the same roof, and the work is evident in the power readings of the trainer. We tested the meter against PowerTap and Stages power meters and the average and normalised power were usually within two percent (riding very easy below 100 watts caused accuracy to nosedive). This is impressive as the reading is taken so far ‘down the chain’, and involving a tyre.

For best results, especially if you are taking your bike off and on the trainer, the PowerSync needs to be calibrated each time you ride it, which is a two-minute process using the CycleOps VirtualTraining app. Noise-wise it's comparable to other CycleOps trainers, which is to say you won't annoy the neighbours but you could bug someone in the same room. The stability is very good, with adjustable bumpers compensating for uneven flooring.

    The video is good quality (and your power determines its speed), and the power reading (tracked against stages and powertap power meters) is surprisingly accurate :
    The video is good quality (and your power determines its speed), and the power reading (tracked against stages and powertap power meters) is surprisingly accurate :

    Bluetooth means you can control the resistance – and the speed of videos – from your phone

    CycleOps has two versions of the PowerSync: ANT+ (the standard cycling wireless frequency used by Garmin computers, power meters, heart-rate straps and so on) and Bluetooth Smart (the wireless frequency used by smartphones and newer tablets). Our question is, why not sell one that does both? Its competitor, the higher-priced Wahoo Kickr comes with both ANT+ and Bluetooth, as does the similarly priced Stages power meter, for that matter. CycleOps representatives say that at the time these trainers were designed, they didn't have the two-in-one option, and now development resources are going towards other projects. 

    The cool thing about electronic trainers is that the resistance can be controlled wirelessly by software, whether that's for a specific power-based workout or to simulate hills as you pedal away watching a video. By using ANT+ or Bluetooth and partnering with digital companies already playing in the space, electronic trainers can plug riders in to a variety of options. By limiting this trainer to Bluetooth, however, CycleOps has severely restricted the options for the time being.

    Time may see Bluetooth catch on as the frequency of choice, but for now ANT+ has broader use, whether for videogames such as Zwift, virtual ride software like KinoMap or workout software like TrainerRoad. (The PowerSync Bluetooth Smart works halfway with the TrainerRoad app, meaning the app reads your power output but doesn’t control the resistance.)

    CycleOps does have its own app, CVT mobile, which combines elements of video ride simulation, workout software and even multiplayer riding/racing. The app is a mobile version of the VirtualTraining software you can use on a PC.

    While it is convenient in some ways to use a smartphone to control a workout, there is no getting around the fact that the screen is small, even on a new iphone: while it is convenient in some ways to use a smartphone to control a workout, there is no getting around the fact that the screen is small, even on a new iphone
    While it is convenient in some ways to use a smartphone to control a workout, there is no getting around the fact that the screen is small, even on a new iphone: while it is convenient in some ways to use a smartphone to control a workout, there is no getting around the fact that the screen is small, even on a new iphone

    Workout on the CVT app are tailored to your FTP. The app controls the resistance and tracks your power and heart rate as you go

    We found the app very buggy in initial setup, however. The first trainer we eventually sent back after much time on the phone with support, and the second trainer required reinstallation of the app in order to connect to the trainer. That hurdle aside, the app works fairly well in video ride and workout mode.

    CVT has five basic ride options: Routes (with options such as Col du Télégraph, Col du Galibier and so on), Workouts (structured, power-based options), Free Ride, Online Races (which are scheduled in advance), and an FTP test to calibrate your training.

    Routes has good-quality video options from famous rides around the world. You can either stream the video or download it ahead of time to prevent buffering. As you ride, you can swipe through the screens between video, power charts, maps and other options. As the gradient changes, so too does the resistance at your rear wheel. There are hundreds of routes to choose from, although only 20 show up on the app as the default. Just search to see more.

    Unlike the Wahoo Segments app, which almost violently changes resistance to the point of being comical, CVT and the PowerSync ramp smoothly from one gradient to the next. One feature we appreciated was being able to jump ahead on Routes by swiping our rider icon on the climb profile screen. It would take the video and resistance a few seconds to catch up, but otherwise worked well. The video is good quality, and it speeds up as you accelerate. For Americans, Brits or Aussies, being able to take a virtual tour through France is a novelty. But watching the small screen of a smartphone (or a slightly bigger screen of a newer tablet with Bluetooth) gets old after a few minutes.

    Pending changes in gradient are shown in the red bar sliding across the screen, and the resistance changes at the rear wheel are smooth - which isn't always the case with electronic trainers :
    Pending changes in gradient are shown in the red bar sliding across the screen, and the resistance changes at the rear wheel are smooth - which isn't always the case with electronic trainers :

    Pending gradient changes are noted in the red sliding bar at bottom, and the resistance changes themselves are smooth

    As with Routes, the Workout menu defaults to show only 20 sessions, including a few from Sufferfest where you can buy their video to use in tandem or just use alone. But you can search to find many more. Configured around your threshold power, each Workout controls the resistance at the rear wheel, making the efforts mentally easier.

    Races are done on the CVT Routes, and you can track other riders’ progress as icons. There is no 3D simulation a la Bkool or Zwift, but it could be motivating – especially if you know some of the other riders.

    Post-ride, there are analysis screens for power and heart-rate zones, power surges, peak power, work (in kilojoules, TSS and IF), average and max power, and then a one-page summary.

    The CVT app can be easily synced with popular sites such as Strava, MapMyRide, TrainingPeaks, RideWithGPS and more.

    Bottom line

    The CycleOps PowerSync Bluetooth Smart is a good, solid trainer that performs admirably well on its own, but limiting such a modern ‘smart’ trainer to just the Bluetooth frequency misses one major point of such a high-tech tool: communicating with third-party apps and software. While we expect more such third-party options to be Bluetooth friendly in the future, we’d prefer to see CycleOps double down on its wireless options right now with a dual ANT+/Bluetooth PowerSync trainer. For now, you're probably better off going with the CycleOps PowerSync ANT+ trainer, which offers the same great mechanical performance and power display and control, but on the more commonly used ANT+ frequency.

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