Review: JetBlack Z1 fluid trainer

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This is the time of the year where I fully embrace the duality of my interests. These are the months that I, somewhat less passively now, spend profuse amounts of time in sloth-like 1080p absorption. If I didn’t have a canine friend who forces me outside during the cold, dirty, wet season Pittsburgh calls a winter, my gaming would go on until I shame myself into physical activity.

But by the time you read this I will have remembered what is fun about riding a bike. Those thoughts get me off the couch and on a trainer. It’s a love hate thing. I hate every second of riding a stationary trainer. Unfortunately, a lot of us can’t (or simply choose not to) ride outside all year. But I love being fit enough to enjoy every ride. Especially early season outings.

So here I am during another off-season; waking up early a couple days a week to ride a bike in-doors. Fluid stationary trainers and I have a history. JetBlack’s Z1 is the latest succubus.

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JetBlack is an Australian company with a staff of riders competing in all disciplines of the sport. The flagship Z1 has won the International IF Design and Innovation award for product design at the 2012 Taipei Cycle Show.

Fluid trainers have some distinct advantages when it comes to stationary trainers. Most important to me being that they are quieter than magnetic trainers. Second, they provide a progressive resistance curve that increases exponentially with pedaling speed, giving you a more natural feel to the resistance. Pedaling a fluid trainer spins an impeller, or rotor, through a liquid bath providing the resistance. Meaning you’re able to use your gears to increase resistance rather than adjusting a magnet.

In addition, the Z1 has more features like a Hydrogel roller, Smart Release System and training resources online. The Hydrogel roller claims to reduce the noise of the trainer by 55 percent and reduce tire wear. I didn’t notice a significant decrease to the noise after switching to the JetBlack trainer. It still sounds like a trainer, but paired with a soft smooth tire will lend the best results. If you really want a quiet trainer, make sure your TV or music is loud.

All the trainers I’ve used have something similar to JetBlack’s Smart Release System where you adjust one side of the mounting system and use a quick-release mechanism to attach/detach your bike. The mounts on the Z1 work great and have been plenty secure, but I have a major complaint. It seems trainers aren’t keeping up with axel standards for mountain bikes. I want to train on the bike I’m going to race. With a rear tire swap and I’m ready to go but the 142×12 through-axle on my mountain bike won’t fit into the mounting system of JetBlacks Z1. Apparently you’re stuck with the old 135mm quick-release standard.

If you’re like me and lack motivation or discipline, JetBlack does offer some training resources. Included with their trainers is a coaching session CD. A DVD would have been better, but there are a few more free downloads on their site for technique, power output, and other training sessions.

Bottom line, this trainer does everything well that I think a trainer should. I feel safe and secure hammering away while the resistance feels natural and smooth. Maybe this coming season will be different.

 

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