Elite’s new Volano makes direct-drive training a lot more affordable as long as you’re OK with a slog not an easy spin, and are prepared to be patient with the proprietary app and bolt-on smart sensor upgrading.
Direct-drive trainers are becoming increasingly popular for good reason. Because you remove the rear wheel of your bike and power the axle of the trainer directly, it removes any worries about tyre wear or slip. As there’s no issue with potential tyre slip, you can also use a more powerful braking effect for higher resistance – and that’s certainly the case with the Volano.
Compared with Elite’s ‘developed with and for pro riders’ Turbo Muin trainer (max resistance 2300W) the Volano’s 1200W max is reasonably benign. At an indicated 24kph to give 200W, compared to the 30kmh average of the other 11 turbos we were putting through their paces at the same time, it’s definitely still got a permanent uphill character not an easy cruising nature.
A relatively light flywheel and lower operating speeds (plus the fact there’s no wheel interia) means it slows down quickly too. Add the high resistance and it’s definitely more choppy in feel than most of its peers, particularly for less powerful riders who’ll struggle to get the flywheel spinning fast enough to build up momentum. The fluid-filled brake unit can’t be adjusted in resistance either; you just pedal harder to increase the workload.
To keep basic purchase price as low as possible the Volano is supplied ‘dumb’, but you can unscrew the casing and mount Elite’s Misuro ANT+ and Bluetooth transmitter (£59.99 / $120 / AU$110) to turn it smart. The dual communication protocol makes it fully compatible with most devices from phones and tablets to PC/Mac and Elite have their own data display app.
Not the most intuitive
While it’s potentially very comprehensive it’s certainly not the most intuitive platform we’ve used so prepare to be patient as you navigate its idiosyncrasies. There’s also a MyETraining coaching/testing/online racing and amateur video (no not that sort) loaded program you can subscribe too for ($9.99 annually) and enrich with additional professional ride videos.
The dual communication protocol makes it fully compatible with most devices from phones and tablets to PC third party software such as Zwift, TrainerRoad, Kinomap and so on. Because it’s a fixed resistance, it doesn’t reflect any software-imposed resistance shifts, like a fully smart trainer with a variable electric brake can, but the wattage ratings are very accurate and it also gives a cadence count too.
With a relatively light flywheel and high, fixed resistance, the volano definitely favours more powerful riders:
With a relatively light flywheel and high, fixed resistance, the Volano definitely favours more powerful riders
You’ll also have to factor in the price of a separate cassette, unless you fancy removing the one off your bike every time you ride. Then again, using two cassettes will spread wear and tear of your chain over time too and as weight isn’t an issue you can use the cheapest compatible cassette for your transmission.
While the Volano comes with reversible 130/135mm QR fixtures, axle kits are available for all popular road and MTB rear ends. The triangular ends on the base bar can be rotated to level it out on uneven floors, and noise levels are average. There’s noticeable growl and grumble from the Volano if you’re going full gas though, and the offset leg makes it noticeably less stable to dismount/mount on one side compared with the other.
The smaller flywheel does, however, make it much lighter and more portable than most direct drive units, especially as the T-leg folds for transporting/storage – and there’s a built in handle too. As it’s totally self propelled (the Misuro transmitter has its own CR2032 battery), you can use it wherever you want at home or events without needing an electric hookup.
Most importantly it’s far cheaper than any of the other direct-drive turbo trainers we’ve tested this season, making it a bargain even if it’s slightly rough at the edges and laboured in ride feel compared with premium machines.
Wattage deviation: -5W
Roll down from 200W: 7secs
Noise level at 200W: 85db
Note: The Elite Volano trainer is currently not available in Australia.