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The Saris M2 is one of the most capable wheel-on smart trainers on the market and one of the most popular trainers in the world.
If you’re willing to sacrifice a few percentage points of power accuracy, and risk waking up the neighbors, the Saris M2 is both an affordable and capable choice.
For less than $600, you will get 95% of the capabilities of a direct drive smart trainer which costs twice as much as the M2.
When Saris first launched the first-generation M2 back in 2016, it was called the CycleOps Magnus Smart trainer.
When Saris was still CycleOps, they launched the Magnus/M2 to rival the $600 price point in the smart trainer market.
Of course, some changes have been made over the years, but the CycleOps Magnus is very much the same as the Saris M2.
Both are highly capable wheel-on smart trainers that are in the same price range. And they both are manufactured by one of the leaders of the indoor cycling industry, the Wisconsin-based company now called Saris.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the latest high-end wheel-on trainer from Saris, the Saris M2 Smart Trainer.
Known for its impressive gradient capabilities and 1500w power ceiling, it would be easy to mistake the Saris M2 for a direct drive smart trainer.
The wheel-on unit comes with integrated cadence, speed, and power data, and uses ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth technology to connect to your favorite training apps.
The convenience of a wheel-on trainer certainly separates it from the direct drive trainer pack, but there are a few significant sacrifices along the way.
Let’s take a closer look at the Saris M2 Smart Trainer.
You can set up the Saris M2 in just a few minutes, using its folding legs to stabilize the trainer, and simply tightening the rear wheel onto the resistance.
The entire unit weighs less than 25lbs making it easy to carry and transport.
The large yellow knob on the rear of the trainer adjusts the resistance drum on the tire. This is just to establish the baseline of resistance, as the M2 will self-adjust throughout your ride using its smart technology.
Made from alloy, the resistance drum is strong and sturdy – a theme of Saris – and heavier, harder compound tires are recommended due to the high wear of a wheel-on resistance trainer.
As mentioned above, the Saris M2 comes with ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth technology to connect to your favorite apps. The options go from Zwift and TrainerRoad to Wahoo The SUF and Rouvy.
The M2 also has integrated speed, cadence, and power sensors, eliminating the need to purchase extra data-reading add-ons.
When it comes to the size of the M2, it is just 58cm long x 77cm wide x 40cm tall. That makes it much more compact than other units, especially with its legs folded for storage.
If you happen to ride on uneven ground, the M2 has small knobs on the end of each leg, which can be adjusted for a variety of terrain.
There is no shortage of bikes and wheels that fit on the Saris M2. The unit works with a wide range of rim diameters, including 650b, 700cc, 26in, 27in, and 29in. As for tires, the M2 is compatible with tires all the way up to two inches wide.
Saris includes a quick-release skewer with the M2. The unit works with dropouts ranging from 120mm to 130mm, and 135mm spacing. A thru-axle adapter is sold separately, and available for 142x12mm and 148x12mm bikes.
The Saris M2 is loud. You’ll risk waking up the family or your apartment neighbors if you jump on first thing in the morning. The M2 is as loud as 70dB. That’s significantly louder than any direct drive smart trainer, and many other wheel-on trainers.
Your tire choice is a major factor in the noise levels. But still, even the quietest tire is still well above ambient noise levels.
A wheel-on design will always result in sacrifices. In addition to the increased noise levels, there is a much higher risk for tire slippage. Even with a massive power ceiling of 1500w, things can get a bit sketchy when winding it up on the wheel-on resistance unit of the M2.
The M2’s 2,6lb flywheel is a far cry from the 26lb and 33lb units of direct drive smart trainers. You’re going to sacrificing quite a bit of ride quality in the flywheel alone. A smaller flywheel means less inertia, which takes away from the real-world feel of pedaling with momentum.
A small but noticeable absentee is the front wheel block. Saris doesn’t include one with the M2, so you’ll need another small investment to balance out your ride.
Related: Best Indoor Bike Trainers
The Saris H3 is the best smart trainer that Saris has to offer, and for good reason. It boasts a power ceiling of 2000w, can measure a +/-20% gradient, and measures power to +/-2% accuracy. Impressive, to say the least. Oh, and it costs $1,000.
Besides the obvious price difference, the Saris H3 is different than the Saris M2 in many ways.
To start, the H3 is a direct drive smart trainer. That means that it attaches directly to the rear triangle of your bike. You’ll have to remove your rear wheel and carefully mount your dropouts onto the H3 every time you change bikes or want to take your indoor ride outside.
Wheel-on trainers like the Saris M2 are also lighter and more portable than direct drive smart trainers.
When leaving home for longer periods, it’s easier to bring the M2 versus an H3 that weighs twice as much.
The Saris H3 is known for being one of the quietest direct-drive smart trainers on the market. Most drivetrains will be louder than the trainer itself. If you can’t really make that much noise, the H3 is by far the better choice.
Overall, the Saris H3 is better than the Saris M2 in almost every way. The H3 is quieter, more capable, runs smoother, and measures power more accurately.
Of course, the M2 is lighter, cheaper, and easier to transport, but it all depends on what your goals are. If you want a high-quality set-up at home, one that won’t be moved frequently, and you can afford a $1,000 direct drive smart trainer, there’s hardly an option better than the Saris H3.
For $550, the Saris M2 is a great buy. Sure, you’re sacrificing some power accuracy, you might disturb the neighbors, and the real-feel is a little lacking. However, these are sacrifices worth making for a $500 discount.
The Saris M2 is a great entry point into the virtual world of smart training.
You can connect to Zwift in a matter of minutes, and throw just about any bike you own on this trainer.
Speaking of throwing down, you can (if you can) hit 1500w in a Zwift sprint, and climb a 15% grade without your trainer bugging out.
As a mid-level smart trainer that is light, affordable, and easy to store, the Saris M2 is a great option for riders of all abilities.
So, if you’re starting on your indoor training journey, this can be the perfect choice for you.
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