Want to get into smart training? The likes of Zwift, The Sufferfest and TrainerRoad are lining up to help you, but you'll need an indoor trainer setup that'll broadcast your power. The Elite Qubo Smart Digital B+ (hereafter: the Qubo) is one of the cheapest ways to get set up, at not much more than £300, or even less if you shop around. And do you know what? It's really good.
Pros: Good ride feel, accurate when calibrated
Cons: Elite app is still a bit clunky
The Qubo is a pretty simple bit of kit. There's not much assembly to be done, it's just a case of bolting the resistance unit to the base and plugging it in, and you're good to go. Elite supplies a quick release for a good connection between the trainer and the bike and the Qubo uses your bodyweight to make the connection between the bike and the elastogel roller. That means you get tool-free adjustment to any wheel size from 20in to 700C. You get a quick-release locking lever, too, which is good spec for a trainer at this price, and makes getting the bike on and off a lot simpler.
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The Qubo's resistance unit was originally developed years ago for the RealTour trainer, but Elite has updated it so that it communicates on ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart, allowing for wireless control. It should be easy to hook it up to pretty much any computer, tablet or phone. Getting going on Zwift on the desktop computer was easy as pie, as was TrainerRoad on the iPad.
The elastogel roller on the Qubo is pretty quiet (Elite claims 50% less noise than a metal roller), with the trainer ranking as one of the quieter roller units I've used. There was a bit of squeaking from the clamps to begin with, but a squirt of WD40 helped there. Overall it's a system that you could easily use in a spare room without the rest of family complaining, or the neighbours banging on the wall/floor/ceiling. A decent mat will help there, and you'll need to add a riser block, as the Qubo doesn't come with one. A bit of 2x4 is about the right height if you don't have one knocking around, or you can get one online for less than a tenner.
Elite says that the maximum resistance of the Qubo is 1,070W; I didn't get past 800W on my Zwift sprint up the Mall (more on power below), when on the Wahoo Kickr I can normally max out at about 1,100-1,200W. I could have gone higher with a bigger gear to push (my turbo bike has a 50x11 top gear) but I very much doubt I'd have made it up to the stated maximum using any kind of standard gearing. If you're doing a lot of high-power intervals as part of your training then that might limit the Qubo's appeal a bit.
Similarly, Elite says the maximum slope the trainer will replicate is 6%, and certainly it's more limited in its ability here than more expensive units. The Qubo responds quickly though, and gives a very good ride experience on Zwift with no real lag between the road going up and the resistance following suit.
The flywheel isn't huge but it still manages to do a good job of smoothing out your pedal stroke. It's not as good as a direct drive unit that costs three times as much, but those posh turbos certainly aren't three times as good. It's plenty good enough to make the experience feel immersive and powerful enough to give you a good workout.
So the Qubo is easy to set up, and fit a bike to, and it's quiet to ride, with a good feel. But smart trainers are all about the ability to measure power, and the ability to change resistance. So how does the Elite get on there?
Well, once you've set it up correctly (more on that in a bit) the Qubo does a pretty impressive job of measuring power, considering it's about the cheapest smart trainer out there. I was expecting it to be okay but not stellar, in terms of accuracy. In fact it can be a lot better than that. Let's look at some graphs.
Here's a section of a Zwift ride, showing the output of the Qubo and comparing it to a set of Garmin Vector 3 pedals (review imminent), which I've found to be very accurate. You can see straight away that the blue Qubo line matches the purple Garmin line pretty closely.
It's not perfect: you can see at the end of the graph that at really low power (warming down at around 50W in that instance) the Qubo is overestimating the power quite a bit, not that that's a major issue. In the second graph, below, is a zoomed-in section of a climb where I was alternating between seated and standing. Again, the two lines don't quite follow one another but the discrepancies aren't huge, about 6% at the widest point. Like the Bkool Smart Go that I recently tested, moving your body position on the bike can affect the reported power. That's unavoidable, as you're changing the nature of the connection between the bike and the trainer. The Qubo was less susceptible to movement than the Bkool though.
So there are some wobbles along the way, but overall the Elite punches well above its weight for accuracy. Look at the mean power curve below: save for a bit of a gap at the very top end you'd barely get a fag paper between the two lines. The difference is less than 2% pretty much all the way down, the Qubo tending to marginally under-report. For a trainer that costs less than pretty much any direct-measuring power meter, that's impressive.
There's a proviso though: getting to an accurate power reading like this might take some time, and possibly some equipment you don't have. The Qubo generates a power curve based on three set points in the power curve: 20km/h on a steep slope, 30km/h on a medium slope and 40km/h on the flat. Because it's a wheel-on trainer and the trainer frame relies on your bodyweight to make the connection between tyre and roller, the actual power you'll be putting through the Qubo will vary quite a bit depending on your weight, and your tyre.
The good news is that the Qubo, unlike some other cheaper smart trainers, can be fully calibrated: you can input the three numbers for your setup using Elite's calibration tool and you'll get a good, accurate curve, like I did above. The bad news is that you'll need another power meter, one that's accurate, in order to set the numbers. There's a reasonable chance that if you're looking at smart trainers around the £300 mark, you won't have one. So you might need to beg or borrow some pedals or a rear wheel from a friend in order to set up your Qubo to read power accurately.
> Buyer's Guide: How to choose a cycling power meter
Now, if you're not worried about your watts beyond whether they're going up or down, then this is moot: you can use the numbers the Qubo outputs in its factory setup and keep track of your fitness that way. I found that the output differed a bit in relation to actual power depending on what software I used, especially in ERG mode where the software is controlling the resistance to try to stay at a set power. That's worth bearing in mind if you use more than one online training system.
Elite app: okay, but a bit clunky
Buying the Qubo gets you a year's subscription to the Elite My E Training app which is available on desktop as well as for iOs and Android devices. There's a lot in it: you can ride video routes, perform benchmark tests, set up a workout schedule, ride routes based on a Google map trace, and more.
The last time I used the software was in 2014 when I was testing the RealAxiom trainer and it's fair to say that it's come a long way since then, but then so has the indoor training market generally: Zwift and The Sufferfest both offer a great interactive experience, and TrainerRoad is probably your choice if you're looking to hit a specific goal.
By comparison the My E Training app still feels a bit clunky, even though it's much slicker than it was. But there's a lot in it, and if you're new to indoor training it should keep you interested. Plus, it's really cheap compared with the competition at just €20 a year. You don't get much more than a month of Zwift for that sort of money.
The training session tool allows you to create sessions based on different combinations of metrics: power/time, slope/distance, slope/time, and so on. It's probably the thing that needs most work: the interface is poor and it takes a long time to knock a session into shape. You can't create sessions based on a percentage of your FTP, only on numerical power values. So if your fitness changes, you'll need to create new sessions to get the same workout.
The Real Video section is split into two parts, with high-quality videos from Elite a cost option. They're pretty expensive too, at €15-25 each. There's a big library of user-generated videos too: Elite has an app which allows you to use your smartphone to create training videos and upload them to the portal. The quality is pretty variable, and it's difficult to know what's good and what's not: it needs some sort of curation where the cream rises to the top. At the moment it's a bit of a mess, with the filters not particularly useful. There is good stuff in there, it just takes a while and a bit of trial and error to find it.
Overall: well worth the money
The Qubo isn't the best indoor trainer I've ever tried, but it is the best one I've tried for this kind of money. It's a direct competitor the the Bkool Smart Go, and in the end it edges it over that trainer: the ride feel is a bit better, you can calibrate it accurately, and you get a year's subscription to a training portal that isn't the best out there but is still useful.
> Buyer's Guide: 17 of the best indoor trainers
If you're looking to get started with indoor training and your budget isn't huge, then you could buy the Qubo and spend nothing else for a year. As a trainer it's impressive, and as a package it's really good value.
A good smart training experience from a good value trainer
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Make and model: Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ trainer
Tell us what the product is for
Qubo Digital Smart B+
Total interaction between App/Software/Devices with ANT+ trainers (FE-C) protocol
Wireless magnetic hometrainer with electronic resistance adjustment and Elastogel roller. Develops a wide range of electronically managed resistance.
ANT+ Wireless and Bluetooth Smart transmission.
12 months of free My E-Training Mobile&Desktop software.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Supplied with qubo frame. Includes the compass Crono system that faithfully reproduces road-like conditions (weight/power).
Extremely stable frame.
Fast fixing locking system.
Elastogel roller: 50% less noise, reduces tire wear by 20% and improves tire grip.
Ideal for: Road bikes with 20''-29'' wheels, Mountain bikes with 20''-29'' wheels
The cod.1020008 adapter must be used with thru-axle bikes
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Nicely made, easy to put together.
Rate the product for performance:
Works really well: a good immersive experience overall.
Rate the product for durability:
Build is a bit plasticky in places but no issues in testing.
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
Not the most stable trainer out there but pretty good.
Rate the product for value:
Very good value considering the performance.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good ride feel, possible to calibrate for accurate power.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
App still a bit clunky.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Overall a very good trainer for the money, and a great introduction to smart training indoors.
Age: 43 Height: 189cm Weight: 92kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
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