Pez Review: SportsCrafters Omnium Trainer
In today’s indoor cycling market there are more equipment options available than ever before. Prospective buyers can choose from rollers or trainers, fluid or magnetic resistance and a huge variety of online training applications via Ant+ or Bluetooth connectivity. Still, there is always room for a fresh idea and the professionals at SportsCrafters have managed to create something unique with their new Omnium Trainer.
by Jordan Cheyne
The concept for the Omnium is simple, it is essentially a small set of rollers for the rear wheels with a foldout fork stand up front. With this simple design, SportsCrafters aims to provide a light and compact alternative to commonly hefty and cumbersome trainers and rollers, while still retaining a realistic riding experience. In theory, all of this would make the Omnium a particularly appealing option for race-day warm-ups, indoor cycling classes or any other situation that demands easy portability. Pez had the opportunity to test one of a limited early-release batch of Omnium Trainers before they become widely available for purchase in April.
When the Omnium arrived in its pint-sized shipping box, the small dimensions came as bit of a shock. In its neatly folded form, the unit measures about 22 inches long, 7 inches wide and 6 inches tall. When packed up in the provided carrying bag the 13.5 lb Omnium has a footprint roughly half the size of a folded trainer or roller set.
On closer inspection, the high quality construction of the Omnium is evident. Some of the Omnium’s frame is very thin but all of the metalwork seems solid and clean. SportsCrafters prides itself on producing all of its products from the drawing board to final assembly in Granger, Indiana, allowing for consistently high quality. SportsCrafters also backs up its pride with an unconditional lifetime warranty on everything they sell. For hesitant buyers, this could go a long way to justify the Omnium’s $449 price tag.
So, the Omnium looks good out of the box but how does it perform? To give the product a fair and accurate review I thought it was important to test it in its natural habitat. To do that, I decided to pretend it was race-morning and packed the Omnium, my race-bike and my best team kit and headed to an imaginary competition venue. If the Omnium is the perfect mobile warm-up trainer this was the way to find out.
The first challenge to any racing trip is carefully situation bike(s), bags, pumps, wheels and a trainer into the car. The Omnium passed this test with flying colours. Unlike folded up rollers and trainers, the Omnium can slide in almost anywhere after everything else has been jammed in.
Upon arriving at the “race-venue” it was time to test the real-life portability of the Omnium while finding a good spot to perform an intensive warm-up. Walking with the Omnium in hand is comparable to toting an over-stuffed bag of groceries: doable, but not exactly comfortable for the pipe cleaner-armed racing cyclist. For a direct comparison, the Omnium weighed about 8 lbs less than my own Tacx Satori trainer and 4 lbs less than a basic set of fold-up rollers. These weight differences aren’t huge but the Omnium in its custom bag is not as awkward to carry as a trainer and is less likely to smash into your knees if you misstep.
Setting the Omnium up is easy once you get the hang of it. It folds out, you screw in the support legs on each side and then you secure your fork onto the forks stand. The process takes a bit more effort than clamping your bike onto a trainer or simply hopping on rollers, but not much.
The Omnium’s 4-inch aluminum rollers do pose a bit of a challenge to the uninitiated user. I had to employ a fair bit of groin flexibility and balance to get up on the trainer without tipping it over. Shorter of less flexible users might want to lean against something to safely mount up and avoid the always-embarrassing prerace trainer crash.
Once I got pedaling on the Omnium I immediately noticed that it was nearly silent even at a 40-kmh spin. Compared to the jet-engine scream of other trainers and rollers at high speed, this quietness was a pleasant surprise. Another plus for me is that the Omnium allows for some of the engaging, natural bike movement provided by rollers while providing most of the stability of a trainer.
After spinning for a few minutes, I started to explore the Omnium’s resistance curve with a wide variety of intensities. When warming up for a race, most riders like to do a mix of easy spinning, short threshold efforts and sprints and I tried to cover this range. The Omnium is advertised to accommodate a wide range of power outputs thanks to Sportcrafters’ ARC magnetic resistance technology. Theoretically, as the rollers spin faster, small magnets inside the roller drum move closer to the drum wall via centrifugal force and cause an exponential increase in resistance.
The ARC system did allow a good range of power outputs: about 150 watts to cruise at 25kmh up to 400 watts for a sustained interval at around 50kmh. This range is impressive from such a light unit, but it all comes with a cost to overall ride quality. The super-light aluminum rollers have very little rolling inertia and with the added magnetic resistance, they decelerate very quickly. This problem makes for an unrealistic and slightly unpleasant ride quality below a cadence of 85-90rpm, as you can feel the rollers slowing dramatically between pedal strokes. Any standing or sprinting efforts are also compromised as the rollers slip under high torque. After many attempts, the most power I could churn out on the Omnium was about 500 watts before slipping and spinning out of gears. This is far cry from a sprint even for weakling like me and might compromise a good warm-up routine for a punchy criterium or cyclocross race.
When it was time to dismount and head off to my imaginary start line, the process was a breeze. You only need to clip on your front wheel and ride away. The Omnium’s rollers allow you to warm-up on your rear-race wheel without deforming the tire as you might on a trainer. This saves fiddling with brake and derailleur adjustments in swapping out wheels in the nervous moments before a race. As a race-day trainer, the Omnium scores big points.
Pros: The compact and lightweight Omnium Trainer is easier to pack and carry than anything else on the market. It offers a relatively good resistance curve and is easy to setup. It is also well built and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Cons: Ride quality isn’t the same as traditional rollers and the ability to perform high wattage efforts is limited. The Omnium’s $449 price tag may be expensive if intended as a travel-only trainer.
• Get more at SportCrafters.com/