Review: Jet Black Z1 Fluid Trainer
article & images by Nick Salazar
Dec 19, 2013
The category of bike trainers is one that hasn't gotten an overwhelming amount of attention at TriRig. And it's for the simple reason that they just aren't that exciting, for the most part. There are a lot of very similar products on the market, and they rarely have any highly-distinguishing features. My go-to trainer for a long time has been the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine. And I had a great time with their upgraded version, the elastomer-suspended Rock-n-Roll unit. But I haven't had a lot to say about the world of trainers. Until now, that is.
There are at least two trainers I'm going to talk about in the near future. One is the bells-and-whistles Wahoo Kickr, set to be reviewed in the next few months (if Wahoo's fly-off-the-shelves stock of those trainers permits me to get a review unit). And the other is a much more humble, unassuming model called the Z1, from Jet Black. It's the Z1 that I'm reviewing today.
So what is the Z1? Honestly, it's a pretty simple trainer. It uses a fluid resistance unit much like some of the others on the market, and provides a good feel (and a more than satisfactory workout) without too much noise. But for Jet Black, simply using a fluid resistance wasn't enough. They wanted to lay claim to owning the quietest trainer on the market. So they went a step further, and revamped the roller itself. Instead of using the traditional large aluminum barrel to contact your tire, they swapped out for a small piece of bright orange plastic. That change of material, and the change to a smaller-diameter roller, both contribute to a quieter machine. And boy is it ever quiet! The Jet Black trainer is generally quieter in operation than the sound of your chain running through the gears.
Of course, there's no such thing as a free lunch. In exchange for this pheomenally-quiet performance, the Z1 gives up on the more typical race to achieve the most "road-like feel" that all high-end bike trainers purport to have. To be honest, I think every trainer is somewhat lacking in this area, so I'm happy to give up on that quest in exchange for a machine that won't wake up the baby sleeping in the next room. Of course, your priorities may be different, so just be aware that this won't have the smooth, long-spindown feel of a trainer with a huge roller and massive flywheel. Instead, it'll give you a good workout, without much noise at all.
The rest of the trainer is built up with excellent attention to detail. The quick-release lever has a great feel, and makes for very fast installation and removal of your bike. The unit's footprint is big enough to stay nice and stable, but not so big that it'll take up your whole living room. Overall, it's a solid, high-quality offering, and one I have no problem recommending.
Excellent trainer, great for the coming winter months