SportCrafters Omnium trainer

Indoor trainers and rollers are notoriously bulky, heavy, and difficult to travel with. There never seems to be an appropriate way to carry them or store them. If youíre like me, that means that you normally reserve cycling for when youíre at home, and your pre-race bike Ďwarm-upí is the five minute ride from your car to the transition area.

Indiana-based SportCrafters is out to change that. They were established in 1996, making traditional full-size rollers. Since that time, they have expanded into new territory, such as rollers for handcycles and trikes. New-for-2014, however, theyíre rolling out a unique product thatís half trainer and half rollers, called the Omnium.

As you can see, the Omnium requires that you remove your bikeís front wheel and clamp it in to a fork mount. The rear wheel rides on a pair of mini rollers, and you can pedal away to your heartís content. Before going any further, letís take a look at the basic specifications.

SportCrafters Omnium specs:

MSRP: $449
Folded dimensions: 22" x 7" x 6" (55.9cm x 17.8cm x 15.2cm)
Weight: 13.5 lbs (6.12kg)
Drum dimensions: 4Ē diameter x 5.5Ē width
Resistance unit: Progressive magnetic
Rider weight limit: 300lbs
Warranty: Lifetime

Winter time means trainer time, and these showed up at my door in December. The shipment box was certainly smaller than your garden variety trainer:

Opening things up, we can see that the Omnium comes pre-assembled:

Here is the Omnium out of the box, but still completely folded:

Overall length when folded is just under twenty-two inches.

Each roller measures 5.5Ē (14cm) wide.

To assemble the Omnium, unfold the body of the trainer. Next, unthread and remove the two silver legs from within the trainer:

The two legs thread in to the front of the trainer. One slightly unexpected consequence was that the sheet metal is quite thin, so you can see everything through the other side:

If I had to take a guess, Iíd say that this material was kept as thin as possible for weight savings and to ensure that the trainer can fold up as small as possible. Iím not sure if this has any long-term durability implications. If it does, the Omnium is backed by a lifetime warranty:

Here is a look at the Omnium when it is completely set up:

When I first got on the trainer, I was curious to see how stable it really was. If youíve ridden rollers before, youíre probably accustomed to A) riding in a door frame or B) setting up chairs on either side of you. Having something at your side greatly eases the process of getting started, and offers an Ďoutí in case of a mishap or crash.

With the Omnium, I was hoping that I wouldnít need such a setup. Unfortunately, I had no such luck. When getting on the trainer, pushing down on one side of the handlebar made the opposite side leg come up:

I may have been able to get aboard on my own, but didnít want to fall over or break something on the trainer or bike. The fix was simple Ė I used a chair to brace myself while getting on the bike. This worked fine, but does reduce some of the would-be simplicity of the system. Wider legs or wider rollers could be a more permanent design solution, but both would increase weight and size.

Initial Riding

As you have already seen, the Omnium is far from a traditional set of rollers. You donít have to balance, steer, or do anything aside from pedal. In that sense, I consider it to be a trainer that so happens to use two drum rollers for resistance. Itís probably possible to ride the bike off of the rollers, but youíd really have to try. My bike swayed back and forth a couple inches during riding, but there was no drama outside of that.

The resistance curve felt very realistic. When I met with the SportCrafters crew at Interbike last year, this was high on my list of questions. With progressive resistance trainers, itís no easy task to realistically match the power curve of road riding. Ideally we want the resistance to raise with wheel speed exactly as it would on the road, taking Ďaverageí wind into account.

This graph was provided to me by SportCrafters, and shows the resistance curve of the Omnium:

The resistance is provided via a magnetic system inside of the drum rollers, called ARC Power Modulation Technology. As wheel speed increases, the magnet winds around inside of the roller.

My only complaint with the ride quality was a result of basic physics. The rollers are very light and (as expected) do not maintain momentum very well. A heavy trainer flywheel or heavy rollers both do a better job of recreating realistic road feel, but are obviously more cumbersome to transport. For example, if I coast to a stop on my CycleOps SuperMagneto, the wheel keeps turning at least ten times longer than the Omnium (which stops almost immediately). As such, I recommend the Omnium as a nice travel trainer, but I would not rely on it as my everyday home trainer. You can feel the rear wheel accelerate and decelerate slightly with each pedal stroke.

For those that must ride early in the morning or late at night, noise is always a concern. I put the Omnium up there with all of the super-quiet trainers. Noise is affected by tire choice on any wheel-driven trainer, and my Specialized Roubaix Pro tires were nearly silent on these rollers.

For a size comparison, here are the two trainers side-by-side while folded up for travel:

SportCrafters also sent a pre-production version of their canvas travel bag, which is set to begin selling later this year:

At $449, the Omnium is definitely at the pricey end of the spectrum for non-electronic trainers. Thatís more expensive than their standard OverDrive rollers ($399), or popular trainers such as the CycleOps Jetfluid Pro ($399), Fluid 2 ($349), or Kurt Kinetic Road Machine ($379).

The other thing of note for triathlon is that SportCrafters advertises the rollers as being compatible with 650c wheels. They are, but using a 650c bike will result in an upward-slope of 25mm, or 2.5% grade. Iím told that if demand for 650c is enough, they will consider offering a 650-specific fork mount. SportCrafters plans to bring out a second fork option that accommodates 15mm thru axles, which are used on some mountain and cyclocross bikes.

The Omnium is available in retail shops only; they do not sell online. As of today, SportCrafters lists 66 US retailers.