The Saris Fluid2 Smart Equipped is about as good as it gets for classic turbo trainers, which is why the design hasn't changed for years. A clever progressive resistance unit with internal fan means you can (in theory) push yourself infinitely hard, plus it's not too loud and this 'smart' version – it has a speed/cadence sensor – means it works with training apps like Zwift and Rouvy.
The Fluid2 is a classic rebadged by Saris, with nothing except cosmetics changed since it was last the CycleOps Fluid 2. Saris tells us the design has been 'perfected over many years,' so there was no need to fix anything that wasn't broken.
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We reviewed one way back in 2011 and even since then, only a lever has changed. It's been replaced by a resistance clutch knob that clicks when the tyre is perfectly tensioned against the roller.
This Fluid2 is the most advanced 'dumb trainer' in the Saris range, with the next steps being the smart, wheel-on M2 (£499.99) and the H3 Direct Drive at the top end.
The progressive fluid resistance unit works, unsurprisingly, by getting tougher the harder you pedal. Essentially this means all the resistance control comes from changing gears, doing away with the need for a remote adjuster on the bars. Other examples of fluid resistance trainers include the Kinetic Road Machine and the Elite Qubo Power Fluid.
There's a built-in cooling system to stop your rear tyre heating up too much and, coupled with a decent fan – plus a trainer-specific tyre (I used the Continental Hometrainer II, though of course Saris recommends its own Trainer Tire) – you should get plenty of life out of the rubber. To prevent blowouts, Saris recommends using the tyre's max pressure, and making sure you've clicked the clutch into place each time.
There's no thru-axle compatibility out of the box, so I used the Fluid2 with my faithful rim-braked TT bike. You can buy an adapter separately for about £40 – not a cheap addition by any means, but then few classic trainers are compatible with thru-axles out of the box.
Setup is a fairly simple affair and took me around 20-25 minutes, including faff time. It wasn't made any shorter by the rather brief instruction manual with tiny pictures, but it's simple nonetheless.
In my opinion, Saris hasn't helped itself by putting an 'unboxing and assembly' video on YouTube, where our presenter Brian spends most of his time talking up the product, rather than showing us how to work it. He also inserts the tube with the flat side facing the bike, which contradicts the instruction manual.
Saris has confirmed that Brian is in fact wrong and the bowl-shaped side should face the bike. With his friendly demeanour I'd trusted Brian, and to be fair it actually still seemed to work just the same. Judging by the comments from confused customers, though, Brian is not really helping.
Loading the bike up just involves lining up the quick-release and pulling down on the lollipop to secure it. The pads on the legs can be rotated if you're using on an uneven surface, and I recommend a riser block so the front wheel doesn't move around.
When you click the clutch knob into place the tyre looks kind of squashed; don't be afraid, I can vouch for it being the optimal connection between roller and tyre.
Weighing a shade over 9.5kg, the Fluid2 is good for those who don't have a dedicated trainer space, or want it for pre-race car park warm-ups. Although I do have a space to set it up permanently in my new flat, I shifted it outside and back again on a warm day and the whole process took about a minute each way.
Setting up the Smart Equipped version's speed/cadence sensor is simple too. Insert a CR2032 battery, holding the device either horizontally (if you want a speed sensor) or vertically (for cadence), and then wrap it around your rear hub. The trainer comes with a month's free trial of Rouvy, but I used Zwift, which found the sensor via Bluetooth after a few of spins of the wheel.
Saris says the Fluid2 is 'power-tuned for a road-like feel'... I don't really know what that means, but I do know that for a trainer that isn't smart, the ride is definitely the best I've tried. It doesn't feel exactly road-like, of course – and it's not as good as a high-quality direct drive – but the gear switching element and clever progressive resistance-matching is arguably even more realistic than smart training where the machine does the work.
Browsing the hundreds of customer reviews online I found a few grumbling about the resistance having a tendency to drift, even getting harder after a few minutes, but that's not something I experienced. My trusty Favero Assioma power pedals report the effort necessary was pretty consistent on long steady-state sessions.
Other moans included fluid leaks, but again, that didn't happen to me – it worked exactly as intended during two months of heavy use so far.
The Fluid2 is a bit wobbly during big efforts, and if you're doing serious virtual racing or lots of huge bursts, a smart trainer might be the way to go. Having said that, this nasty Zwift workout, which involves 12 x 30 second efforts at 650W, was doable. On the later reps I was probably wasting a fair bit of effort as the trainer rocked considerably while dealing with the strain, but it can just about cope.
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While I do have a power meter I used for most of my training on the Fluid2, I did put a few sessions in using Zwift's zPower estimate from the Saris speed/cadence sensor. Against the power meter readings my zPower was overreading quite considerably, but then again neither Zwift nor Saris claim the estimated power is accurate.
Also, it overreads quite consistently, so if you just want a number and aren't particularly bothered if it's real-world, it's cheaper than going for direct drive.
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Finally, there's the noise. This can be subjective as it depends on where you live and the tolerance of family members/flatmates/neighbours, so once again customer reviews range wildly – everything from 'very quiet' to 'definitely not for a city apartment, far too loud.'
Personally I was pleasantly surprised with the pretty gentle whirring from the roller. It doesn't bother my other half – who can be watching telly less than 10 metres and one door away – and I had no complaints from next door. Saris claims the Fluid2 is 69 decibels loud at 20mph; for me on a flat road that's about 200 watts, and using the dB Meter app on my phone, I found that claim pretty much spot on.
I think the Fluid2 offers reasonable value considering it's built to last years, is simple to run and offers as close to realistic pedalling as you're going to get from a wheel-on trainer – at least for today. On the downside, the price isn't far off an entry-level smart trainer such as the Wahoo Kickr Snap (£429.99) or the Zycle ZPro SMART Turbo Trainer (£399.99).
It's more expensive than most dumb trainers, too, such as the Tacx Booster at £209.99 though with the speed/cadence sensor it's arguably better value than the Elite Qubo Power Fluid at £299.99. If a deluxe wheel-on is what you're after, this fits the bill.
All things considered, the Fluid2 has been great for me over a couple of months. I can recommend it to those who don't have a dedicated trainer space as it's quite light and quick to set up, and if you don't care too much for Watts – and all the bells and whistles of training apps – I'd recommend this over a smart trainer, too. It's also a solid option for those who already own a power meter.
Dependable classic of a trainer that provides a more affordable way into virtual training
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Make and model: Saris Fluid2 Trainer Smart Equipped
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Saris says: "With a wide range of resistance and a smooth road-like feel, the Fluid2 helps you get the most out of each indoor training ride.
"The large, precision-balanced flywheel (with patented fan design) lets you easily customize each ride simply by shifting gears, just as you would outside."
Saris also claims the Fluid 2 is the best-selling trainer in the USA.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Fluid resistance unit
Compatible with Zwift and other indoor cycling apps (with speed/cadence sensor or power meter)
Noise level: 69 decibels at 20 mph (claimed)
Weight: 21 lbs (9.52kg)
Resistance Unit: Fluid, creates a quiet and consistent ride
Resistance Curve: Progressive, provides widest resistance range and road-like feel
Maximum Weight (rider and bike): 300 lb.
Rate the product for quality of construction:
It's about as solid as you'd expect from a light, wheel-on trainer, and the clicker to set the tyre up properly is really cleverly done.
Rate the product for performance:
I can't think of any better wheel-on trainer for road feel, although it's never going to be as good as direct drive. The resistance unit is reliable and consistent, and I've encountered no problems through the test period. It's also fairly quiet.
Rate the product for durability:
No problems so far; it seems built to last.
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
Fairly easy to move around at under 10kg.
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
A bit wobbly on huge efforts out of the saddle, but that's to be expected with a lighter, wheel-on trainer.
Rate the product for value:
One of the most expensive 'dumb' trainers, but also one of the best.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The realistic ride feel, clever resistance unit and the clicker that tells you when the tyre is engaged.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lack of clear instructions, a little unstable during big efforts, no thru-axle compatibility out the box.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
For a classic 'dumb' trainer it's right at the premium end.
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
I personally really like the Saris Fluid2, and there are numerous types of cyclist I would recommend it to. If the price was closer to the competition, and the initial setup wasn't so confusing, it would score higher.
Age: 27 Height: 179cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: Road bike (currently Specialized Tarmac) My best bike is: Ridley Chronus TT bike
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Triathlon races
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