The Saris H3 Smart Trainer (‘H3’) is a direct drive turbo and provides one of the best options currently available on the market. It sits in direct competition with Taxc Neo 2T, Wahoo Kickr Core and the Elite Direto-XR OTS and is an excellent option for anyone looking to invest in a new turbo trainer.
What is the Saris H3 Smart Trainer?
The H3 is a direct drive turbo trainer which means you attach your bike directly to the turbo without the need for your rear wheel to be placed against a roller like a more traditional turbo trainer. Simply hook the chain of your bike around the cassette on the H3 and you are good to go.
Direct drive turbo trainers are great as there is no tyre wear and they often provide for a more realistic road feel. They are often heavier pieces of kit adding to more stability and will improve the all round feeling of indoor training. Refer to ‘Types of Turbo Trainers’ for a breakdown of all the different turbo trainers available.
The H3 is priced at £849 and is certainly at the top end of any turbo trainer price points. But, this is a very competitive price given its impressive features.
Specifications of the H3
The H3 has a claimed accuracy of +/- 2%, although more comprehensive reviews by DC Rainmaker and Shane Miller have suggested that this is a little liberal and it is much more accurate than that.
It has Bluetooth and Ant+ connections available meaning you can connect it to almost every device and platform (Zwift, trainerroad etc).
It is quiet. Saris say that it is 59 decibels at 20mph (turbo sound is totally controlled by speed and not watts) however that number doesn’t really mean anything to me. However, I can use this turbo directly above my fathers office and he has absolutely no idea that I am training. The gear changes on your bike are louder than the turbo so this is a big plus!
The trainer will provide resistance up to 2000 watts which is going to be more than enough for 99% of people.
The H3 works for both erg and sim modes meaning you can follow a structure session or you can ride freely and let the virtual world you are riding in dictate the resistance.
Finally, the H3 will replicate a 20% gradient which at the moment is sufficient for any climb in Zwift.
How is it to use?
Quite simply it is a phenomenal piece of kit. If you are a keen cyclist/triathlete looking to have very controlled training on a turbo trainer then it is difficult to look beyond this. It is incredibly easy to set up with just the need to plug it in and open the legs. Frustratingly it does not come with a cassette and this is something you need to add, so consider the extra cost involved. An initial calibration should be done but there is no need to calibrate it on every ride making it a really time efficient and accurate tool.
I personally have had no issues with connecting it to either an ANT+ dongle on my laptop or directly to my Apple TV. Within seconds of opening Zwift, the H3 has been detected and I can start riding.
What is also really useful when using this with an Apple TV is that power, cadence and control is all sent via one channel meaning there is also the option to connect a HR monitor to it as well. Apple TV only allows for three connections and one of those is taken up by the remote. Some turbos on the market do not work like this and means you are unable to use your HR monitor which can be very frustrating if this is a training tool you wish to follow.
One issue is the lack of space around the thru axle/quick release area. This is an issue as my thru axles have a large handle to make screwing through the wheel much easier. However there is not room for this to spin and so you have to use a thru axle with an alan key fitting to secure your bike. It isn’t an issue if you are using quick releases but certainly is a consideration.
The stand out feature of the H3 is how it works when in erg mode. Erg mode is the setting where the resistance is set automatically regardless of how fast you are spinning the pedals or the terrain you are cycling on. If the session says 200w then that is what the turbo will set.
When switching between different resistance settings during a workout, the H3 smoothly switches between them and allows for an incredibly comfortable transition. If you have used a lower end turbo you may have experienced a lag between the screen showing that you have to pedal at a certain watt and the turbo actually responding. With the H3 there is absolutely no delay at all and this makes for a very effective workout. Even more useful when you are doing lots of short sprints.
The sim mode is also impressive due to the large 9kg flywheel. Having a larger flywheel allows for a more realistic road feel as it allows for a big momentum build up when going down hill and into the next incline.
The size of the freewheel also made it incredibly hard to spin out. I still do most of my erg mode sessions in the small ring at the front, but I could comfortably do them in the big ring and in the 11 tooth at the rear without any fear of getting on top of the gear and causing the H3 to be unable to create the required resistance. This really was quite impressive.
As mentioned at the start there are some alternatives which is great for the consumer as having more options is always a bonus.
At the top end is the Taxc Neo 2T which costs £1,199 and is one of the most expensive turbo trainers available. With a claimed accuracy of +/- 1% and the ability to replicate 25% gradients and 2,200w it is a really impressive piece of kit. Like the H3 it too does not come with a cassette which is a real shame given the price point.
The Wahoo Kickr Core is the second tier offering from Wahoo and is a cheaper option at £699.99. With the ability to replicate 16% gradients and 1800w of resistance the specifications are slightly less impressive, but are certainly still competitive. However, with a flywheel size of 5.44kg this will have a real noticeable effect on the quality of erg and sim modes.
Finally, the Elite Direto-XR OTS is marginally cheaper than the H3 at £825. With some very impressive specifications including a +/- 1.5% accuracy, 3600w of resistance and 24% gradient replication it is a great piece of kit. Topping it off, a Shimano 105 cassette is included. However, a smaller 5.1kg fly wheel may slightly reduce the ride feel.
If you are after a high end, direct drive turbo, the Saris H3 Smart Trainer is a fantastic option. It just works. It is quiet, it is responsive, it is one less thing to worry about when training. It is also a good price coming in at less than the Taxc and Wahoo top tier offerings, and hits a good sweet spot in terms of specifications and price. I think the Elite Direto-XR OTS is a very good competition, however having not ridden it I cannot comment.
For me, I have absolutely loved using the H3 and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone in the market.
About my use of the trainer:
Since having the turbo in April I have put nearly 200 hours into the turbo with nearly 5000km of riding. I have used it in erg mode predominantly, but also sim modes for online e-racing.
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