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Elite Rizer Review: Climb Like the Wind and Tuck Into Drafts, Indoors

Elite Rizer(Photo/Seiji Ishii)
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Indoor cycling training can be a mind-numbingly boring sufferfest. Pedaling away indoors, alone, without outdoor distractions, can be cruel.

Online training platforms, like Zwift, have greatly enhanced the tolerability of indoor bicycle training sessions. Online camaraderie, competition, and visual stimulation have transformed indoor riding. And the Elite Rizer, which raises the front of the bike and allows steering input, adds additional realism, training value, and enjoyment.

I tested the Elite Rizer on Zwift for the last 2 months. I have historically avoided indoor riding at all costs, preferring to ride in the cold, rain, and dark over mindlessly pedaling indoors. But the Elite Rizer, combined with an interactive trainer and Zwift, further transformed indoor training.

In short: The Elite Rizer added significant realism and fun to indoor training sessions. Zwift and other platforms have already transformed indoor riding from an avoid-at-all-costs activity to one that is tolerable. The dynamics the Rizer added kept me more engaged and entertained while adding more training specificity. Amazingly, I had fun at times. The only drawback is the high price.

Elite Rizer Review: Basics

Elite Rizer
(Photo/Elite)

The Elite Rizer added two functions to my smart indoor trainer; it matched the pitch of the bike to the pitch of the virtual terrain and added steering input. A motorized screw drive powers the up-and-down movement of the front of the bike. Steering input feeds through the same pivoting front fork mount that connects the fork to the screw drive. The Elite Rizer doesn’t allow leaning, though.

The Rizer connected via Bluetooth (it also supports ANT+ FE-C) to my Apple computer and Elite Direto XR-T home trainer without issue. It also meshed with Zwift without hassle. Unlike its only competition, the Wahoo KICKR Climb, the Elite Rizer is compatible with trainers from other brands as long as they allow the rear axle to rotate freely and have the space for the frame to move with it.

The Elite Rizer is compatible with training platforms other than Zwift, which include Elite’s My E-Training, FulGaz, MyWhoosh, and ROUVY, among others. But Zwift is the only platform at the moment that supports steering inputs.

Elite includes fork adapters, so QR, 12 x 100, 15 x 100, and 15 x 110 mm will all work.

The dimensions are 28.6 inches high, 13.5 inches wide, and 15.2 inches long, and it almost weighs a claimed 31 pounds. This hefty weight corresponds to the solid and modern-looking stainless steel and aluminum build. Elite sets the maximum rider weight at 264.5 pounds.

The MSRP is hard to swallow: $1,099! This is surprisingly high for a trainer accessory and more than double the price of some interactive trainers.

Grade Simulation

Elite Rizer at full climb
The Elite Rizer at maximum +20% grade; (photo/Elite)

The Elite Rizer simulates climbs up to +20% and descents down to -10%. It was nearly silent; I never heard the motor over the small, super quiet fan I use to cool myself unless the climb was abruptly steep or if the ups and downs were in quick succession. I also felt no extraneous feedback through the bars or bike. The screw drive mechanism was surprisingly smooth.

What was interesting and not obvious when I set the Rizer up is that it slides back and forth on two rods that make up the base. This minor movement is necessary because the screw drive part of the Rizer is straight up and down. Slight motion in this plane is also required for steering input.

Elite Rizer base
The rods allow necessary fore-aft movement of the base; (photo/Elite)

I didn’t notice any delay in angle change unless the virtual terrain changed abruptly. If a flat road suddenly kicked up or down or rollers came in quick succession, I felt a slight disconnect between what I saw in the virtual world and how my bike felt.

The top of the Rizer has an unlock button to disconnect the control from the computer (in case your dog comes to visit, etc.). Once unlocked, up and down buttons provide manual control, as does a Rizer app.

Zwift has a little quirk that limits the usability of the Rizer, but there is a workaround. The default difficulty in Zwift is 50%, meaning that the program will half any climbing grades. It doesn’t alter the speed, but it does change how the trainer feels in relation to the virtual grade. This is strange to me, as part of the reason to get an interactive trainer is to get realistic loads.

Setting Zwift to 100% trainer difficulty takes care of the climbs, but interestingly, it’ll still halve the descent grade. Fortunately, setting the difficulty to 100% in the Rizer app matches both climbs and descents to what is on screen (up to the Rizer’s physical limits).

The added vertical movement of the bike kept me much more engaged in the virtual world, adding significantly to the tolerability/enjoyment in the pain cave. I could lose myself in the realism for short periods of high effort, the climbs feeling and somewhat looking like they do outdoors. And the training specificity in muscle usage during climbing was an added benefit.

The downhills also felt much more natural and engaging to the 10% limit. I found myself habitually going to my drops when my bike pointed down, which I didn’t do without the Rizer.

Steering Simulation

Elite Rizer steering input
Where the steering magic happens; (photo/Seiji Ishii)

The steering didn’t feel as free as it does on the road. There was slight resistance, but the movement was smooth, without any extraneous feedback through the bars or bike.

Steering input had limited use on Zwift, although it wasn’t any fault of Elite. The steering only works in select races, but it works in all Zwift worlds and routes.

Once the Elite Rizer was paired with Zwift, I no longer rode “through” other riders. Instead, I would get bumped around. It was up to me to steer into drafts and around others. I could cut under them in turns or pedal harder and try to move around on the outside. I could weave from the road centerline to the edge freely when on my own. The reaction between the steering input and what I saw on screen was quick, and there was never enough lag for me to care.

The lack of leaning didn’t at all detract from my experience like I thought it would. Somehow my brain understood that this was a simulation and that not everything I do outdoors translated indoors. I never once felt weird about not leaning into turns in the virtual world.

And again, the interactivity kept me more engaged when I was riding in a group. I had to manage my steering and pedaling output to stay in the correct spot for the best draft. I connived plans to gain better positions in turns. And habitually, I would put myself on the edge of the virtual roads when there was an aggressive rider behind me to force them to pass on one side. The ability to steer did make indoor sessions much more tolerable. Combined with the grade simulation, I admit at times, I was having fun.

As of this writing, I have not been able to join a steering-enabled race. I understand that steering in Zwift is a competitive advantage that very few people have. But I did wish it worked in all races.

An added benefit of the steering ability was simply the motion of the bars. When standing on climbs, I felt the ability of the bars to move more naturally was much more comfortable on my joints. I had wrist reconstruction surgery a few years ago, and stationary cycling bothers it more than anything else, even dirt biking. But the bar mobility offered by the Rizer greatly reduced stresses that contributed to flare-ups.

Elite Rizer Closing Thoughts

The Rizer did all Elite promises and did it well. And for me, the results were significant. I abhorred indoor cycling of any kind. Trainers or rollers, it didn’t matter. For decades, I would ride in the cold, rain, wind, and dark to dodge riding indoors. And occasionally, I would miss riding altogether versus suffering the mental anguish of indoor training when it was deemed unavoidable.

But interactive trainers and Zwift changed that a bit, and riding indoors became somewhat manageable.

But the added distraction, entertainment, and training specificity made possible by the Elite Rizer upped the ante. I caught myself enjoying the realism and gamification delivered by my enhanced indoor training ecosystem. I was immersed enough that I was not staring at the clock counting down the remaining time.

The only drawback to the Rizer, and it’s a big one, is the $1,099 MSRP. Indoor cyclists with interactive trainers have already invested a lot, and this high additional cost (more than many interactive trainers) is quite the barrier. The only competitor, the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB, sells for an MSRP of $700 but only works with the brand’s trainers — and it doesn’t have steering.

If you have the money to spend and you must ride indoors often and for long periods, the Elite Rizer could be worth it. And in my opinion, if you absolutely abhor indoor training, then it’s so much more desirable. For the first time in 40 years, I’m finding myself smiling and engaged while pedaling away indoors, and maybe you will too.

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