Review: CycleOps Hammer Direct Drive Trainer
(2017) Call me old fashioned. Despite mounds and mounds of electronic goodies on the market for cyclists, I’ve resisted the urge to make my rides all about numbers. Don’t get me wrong, as my hockey background suggests, I do love a good number purge session. It’s just that several years ago, numbers infiltrated my rides and I did nothing but stare at the computer. I hammered any time my average speed would drop to an unacceptable level. Recovery rides were also unacceptable. Months after attaching the telemetry to my stem, I removed it and swore off in-ride electronics.
Recently I cracked open the door to allow for slight ride data. Soon I will reluctantly celebrate the one-year anniversary of procuring a smart phone. I would no longer have to manually log my rides with a digital map and a digital watch. Two taps of the finger start and stop my rides on Strava. I don’t sport a head unit. I don’t wear a wire under the shirt to record heart rate. I still swear by riding by feel. I won’t break into the peloton anytime soon, so why should I change? Hell I still swear rollers are the best indoor workout- the rollers are the least crappy indoor workout. Or so I thought.
I thought rollers were the way to go for any workout. It keeps the rider focused on the effort. It does lack in three areas, though: Standing efforts, out of the saddle sprints, and static starts, though the last is rarely accessed. I also thought about years of experience on trainers. Rides would go well until the smart trainer would decide to give the rider a nearly insurmountable resistance to overcome. Basic trainers squeaked and squealed and left much to be desired. I couldn’t decide whether my tire was dying or if it was screaming for me to put it out of its misery as trainer rubber. Really, how much could trainers progress beyond lifting the bike up and wearing out the back tire? Give me a moment to be corrected.
All things considered, imagine my overstimulation when I got my hands on the Hammer Direct Drive Trainer. This beast packs a punch. At 47 pounds, the indoor enthusiast can be confident this device is ready for a beating. Set up is a cinch. Fold out the support legs, slide the riser block under the front tire, plug the trainer into the wall, open up your favorite indoor training app, and the Ant+ takes over from there. I opened up The Sufferfest App and found the information already on the telemetry. Things were going well. Beginners luck, I’m sure.
The first night I found myself getting lost. I wasn’t confused by the information coming in. I wasn’t losing sight of my goal. No, I was getting lost in the trainer’s job of keeping me honest. The Sufferfest App’s wattage is in the top right corner. I kept seeing colors flashing, giving me feedback when my power was (usually) lacking. At what felt like three or four updates per second, the wattage information was remarkable. Furthermore, the extremely quiet operation of the Hammer made it even easier to get lost in the workout. Gone are the fears of keeping the household up past bedtime with the sound of a spinning drum. Fortunately that night I was exploring a recovery ride; little was required except maintaining 170 watts.
I figured to take advantage of the lightning quick feedback for a second ride by utilizing The Sufferfest App’s FTP video, Rubber Glove. This is where some electronics went berserk, but it was within the app, not the trainer. Despite having lost the streaming footage, the trainer continued to feed information to the app. For forty minutes I continued the FTP test by guessing what the next expectation was. It didn’t help that the directions frozen on the screen were, “Take it easy.” Luckily the CycleOps Hammer carried the weight and let me get a baseline for future efforts. I got off the bike thinking I got in one hell of an effort. Suddenly this whole trainer perception business was feeling, dare I say, hopeful.
Regrettably I did not access Zwift or Trainer Road while participating in its demonstration. Talking to a CycleOps representative it was mentioned that the resistance is as close to lifelike as possible when riding theoretical hills in Watopia. Should I decide to become a Zwiftie, I now have preliminary data to make sure I’m working as hard as I should while using the application. One other regret was my inability to use the trainer for The Sufferfest’s hardest video, Omnium. It is only a partial regret considering the video takes so much out of the rider, it wasn’t the worst thing to not use it. Though it would have been fascinating to see what numbers were being put up in the track events.
Last weekend the weather was cold, windy, and frankly not welcoming to cyclists half determined to get out. So I didn’t. It made it easy to dismiss the weather because of the trainer that was available with a noteworthy amount of useful information. In case you think I’m tiptoeing around something, I am. I am trying not to say that this indoor trainer actually makes riding inside enjoyable. With so much information coming in, the CycleOps Hammer Direct Drive Trainer is a great way to obtain and maintain the numbers needed for the next season of racing. Instead of plodding through mind-numbing winter videos, consider springing for the Hammer. Having the Hammer on your side can help win the game of sprinting in the summer cycling series. There’s nothing more old fashioned than ripping through to victory in the summer based on how hard you worked in the winter.
The CycleOps Hammer Direct Drive trainer retails for $1,199 (USD). It does not come with a cadence stick or casette but is compatible with standard as well as thru-axels. It accommodates between eight and eleven speed cassettes.