As you've no doubt figured out (assuming you've been reading my blog), I've been on the trainer A LOT. At some point, I must have adjusted the roller too tightly too, because it seems I've worn a groove into the roller.
Anyway, the thing was was a hassle to actually mount the bike on, and the resistance felt unnatural...generally the problems you encounter with a mag trainer with a cheap clamp. Well, seeing as the flywheel is in pretty bad condition, I figured it was time for a new trainer (and an early Christmas present).
Enter the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine.
The Road Machine is a fluid trainer from Kinetic by Kurt (hence the name). It's their mid-level trainer and cheapest fluid model, with the high-end Rock and Roll and discontinued PRO above it, and the Kinetic Magnetic and Cyclone below it. Its resistance unit is claimed to be 100% leak-proof, and it includes an unconditional lifetime warranty. It can mount anything from a 20" to a 700c wheel with an appropriate adapter.
When I opened the box, the Road Machine came in two main parts, the frame and resistance unit. It also included a Spinervals 27.0 Threshold Test & Suffer Fest DVD that I have yet to try. The first thing that I noticed (besides the color) was that it was big. The Road Machine dwarfed my old magnetic trainer, and it was also much heavier (the flywheel alone is 6.25 lbs). Assembly was simple, as it just involved attaching the resistance unit to the frame using the included hardware. The instruction manual claimed that you need a 4mm hex key and a 14mm wrench, but I used neither to attach the resistance unit. I did, however, use the hex key to swap the cone cup with the included skewer adapter for more secure mounting. The entire assembly took around 10 minutes. Mounting the bike and adjusting the roller to the appropriate position was also straightforward and much easier than mounting the bike on my old trainer, though it was slightly less convenient than the super easy mounting process used on Cycleops trainers.
So the important question is how does it perform? I started with an easy spin, and noticed that getting up to speed felt much smoother and more natural than the mag trainer, which did not offer progressive resistance. Surprisingly, it wasn't any quieter than the magnetic trainer (not that the magnetic trainer was loud though...I was just expecting it to be quieter based on my friend's CycleOps Fluid2). As I shifted to a higher gear, the resistance increase felt very natural, the way I would expect it to feel on the road, a nice improvement from the sudden change in difficulty that I had become accustomed to on the mag. Next, I ran through Spinervals 9.0 Have Mercy to really test the trainer. Again, the Road Machine proved to be more road-like than the mag trainer, as spinning a high cadence tended to make maintaining a certain speed easier, and quickly getting up to speed during acceleration sets was harder than with the mag trainer. The skewer kept the bike in place during stand and mash intervals, though I did notice that I was able to rock the entire trainer from side to side if I mashed hard enough (not that that's something normal people do when they're actually spinning circles and riding efficiently though). As with most fluid trainers, my cyclocomputer's speed and distance seems accurate for the effort I was putting forth (sometimes mag trainers think you're going extremely slow and not riding very far for the effort level).
So far, the Road Machine seems to be a solid trainer and a vast improvement over what I was using, though I'd like to put some more mileage on it before giving a wholehearted recommendation. The Road Machine retails for between $299 and $339, though it's fairly easy to find coupon codes if you buy it online.
Within the next week, I'll try to test out the Threshold Test DVD and put up a review of the training DVDs that I've used thus far, so keep an eye out!