Saris H3 – Indoor trainer

During the Night ride organized by Bicycling and Cat Eye I got in contact with Laurens and Vincent from Juncker Bike Parts, one of the largest distributor of bicycle parts and accessories for the Netherlands and Belgium for over a hundred years. After the Night ride we kept in contact and at one point Vincent asked me how familiar I am with indoor bike trainers. I told Vincent I have quite a history with indoor trainers as I am using them for more than 35 years, something probably you wouldn’t believe when you read this. But this is really the truth and let me prove it……

Classic Roller

My first indoor trainer I received in I think 1982, I started cycling in 1980. This classic trainer or “rollers” was nothing more than 3 plastic cylinders in a steel frame. Two of them were connected to each other via a rubber band. You placed your bike on top of those cylinders and start pedaling. Depending on your balance you could apply a frame to stabilize your bike but most of us you drove it without. An other option was to place it between a door post. Training on this trainer was not very difficult as you had the control of your own speed. The noise of the trainer wasn’t to bad if you kept the speed low but the neighbours did always know when I was training again 😉
I used the trainer not a lot because it was very boring but sometimes necessary, especially in winter time or after a crash or injury.

New Innovation

My next trainer, around the early 90, was a little bit more sophisticated. The trainer had a steel frame and roller with a little hamster wheel attached to it. The trainer was very portable because you could fold it and I did not needed electricity so it could be used everywhere, I literally used it on a balcony on Alp d’Huez to spin off my legs after walking up the mountain. Training on the trainer was similar to the classic roller but even more boring as you did not need to balance, so it was a very static way of training. As you increased speed the little hamster wheel was giving you a little bit more resistance but not much. So it was an improvement but not a spectaculair one.

Computerized trainer

The next one, which I bought second hand in about 2009, was really something new, at least from a training perspective. This trainer had almost an identical look to the hamster wheel one but this one needed electricity and had a computer screen on your handle bars. With that screen you could increase the resistance of the motor, this replace the hamster wheel. Also you could project your training on a computer screen while watching training videos, like mountain stages or Flanders classics. The videos moved faster or slower depending on the effort you put on your bike. Also was the training recorded in the software so that you could analyse your training efforts. Training was suddenly a bit less boring especially as you could place your front fork into a steering frame. So it was way less static than the previous trainers.

Smart Trainer

Unfortunately that steering frame broke, with me crashing over my handle bars, after 1.5 years of use. So it was time for another upgrade as I picked up cycling and wanted to participate with Alp d’HuZes in 2012. This new trainer had a bigger engine to give more resistance, also a better steering option and in the meantime the software options were improved drastically. More training options, move videos, more interactive driving. During that time also a new training platform named Zwift was introduced. But my trainer was not supported on this platform so when I broke my hip in 2017 and was going to face a heavy recovery it was time to break the bank and invest in a new trainer.

Direct Drive trainer
Smart steering

The new trainer is what is called a direct drive trainer. This means that you actually place your bike onto the trainer itself instead of using your bike rear wheel, this is reducing the noise while training a lot and this means more happy neighbors. With this trainer in combination with Zwift training is more fun and when using a smart steering device also completely less static. Zwift itself is a great platform where I have already passed the 15.000 km over the last 4 years.

So what has this history to do with this review about the Saris H3 trainer you would ask. To my personal opinion a lot because I have experienced the whole evolution of indoor trainers and this qualifies me to do an honest review of this Saris H3 trainer.


Saris H3

The Saris was delivered in a big box with a very motivating text “Bring your Ride inside” on it. The trainer is packaged very carefully and comes with enough axles to make sure that any bike you have will fit on it. One you have selected the right axle it is time to fit your cassette. Make sure you have the right one for the trainer. In my case an eleven speed Shimano 105 – 12-25. This cassette allows me to shift up and down without to many gaps in between. Although making the steeper climbs on Zwift a bit heavier.

Here a short video on how easy it is to install a cassette on the Saris:

Installing a new Shimano cassette

After installing the cassette and having the right axle selected, for my a normal Quick Release one, it is time to install your bike itself. The process is exactly similar as changing your rear wheel so very easy:

Installing my bike

Last thing before you can start using it in Zwift is calibrating. The Zwift software itself gives you the option and tells you exactly what to do:

Calibration
Saris in action

After the calibration is done you are ready to Zwift! If you don’t know what Zwift is by now:

Zwift is an app for cyclists, runners, and triathletes that makes indoor training fun. Get the equipment setup that’s right for you, then reach your fitness goals in virtual worlds riding alongside a global community for €14.99/month.

Ride On!

Product Features

Saris H3
  • Quieter Than Ever: all new drive system shaves decibels off previous generations.
  • Precise Training: +/- 2% power accuracy.
  • Controlled and Consistent: electromagnetic resistance provides a measured workout every time.
  • Direct Drive Design: widest bike compatibility and eliminates wheel slips.
  • No External Sensors Required: measures speed, cadence and power.
  • Seamless Integration: connects to indoor cycling apps with dual ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth FTMS standards.
  • Includes one month subscription to ROUVY virtual training app
  • Zwift certified.
  • BKOOL certified.

Review

Of course after ready my introduction and getting to know the product you are probably also interested in the final review (because why else did you came so far).

As you maybe have read earlier in this blog, I am using currently using a Tacx Neo – first generation. The big difference between the Tacx and the Saris is the smoothness of pedaling of the Saris. Training on the Saris feels a lot more natural and comparable to riding on the road

The absolute difference is the transportability. The Saris is more compact and when you collapse it you can carry and store it very easy. But the transportability does not impact the stability of the trainer because that is really comparable to the Tacx.

What can be improved?

The lacking of road feel on Zwift. With the Tacx you can feel different road surfaces and this is not possible with the Saris at the moment.

Rating

Although road feel is missing I give the Saris still 5 stars and I really feel sad that I need to return the trainer. But not before I am going to test also the Saris Rocker Plate. Of course I will tell you all about this after the test!

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