No matter where you live, there are times when riding outside isn't possible. Even in the dessert environment of Tuscon, Arizona, riders will get thwarted by the occasional Summer monsoon. And for most of us, indoor riding is a much larger part of the training picture. For guys like Andy Potts, it's by choice - he does 95% of his riding on a trainer, even when the weather is peachy.
Resistance units typically come in one of three varieties. Wind trainers are the entry level, offering smooth resistance at low cost, but at the price of their very loud noise. You'll want to put on headphones when riding a wind trainer, and your family will want you to go in another room with the door closed. Next up are magnetic trainers, which are quieter, but not as smooth, and expensive. It's kindof a no-man's-land in terms of trainer tech.
And then there's the fluid trainer. These use a fluid-filled chamber to provide resistance against your wheel, and are the quietest option of all, though you'll still need to turn up the TV a bit to hear. They're the best option out there, but they used to come with a big problem. Traditionally, fluid units had a problem that they couldn't be truly sealed, and were prone to messy, sticky leaks. The more you used them, the more likely they were to fail. The ONLY company I'm aware of to have truly solved this problem is Kurt Kinetic. Kurt's solution is to seal the fluid chamber completely, and couple the resistance using a series of magnets on the other suide of the fluid chamber. Kurt has a great explanatory video for the unit.
The Road Machine is Kurt's standard fluid trainer, bettered only by their fabulous Rock And Roll trainer I reviewed earlier. The Road Machine features a standard folding design that provides a nice stable base when deployed, and a measure of portability when folded up. The trainer is pretty heavy, but easy enough to throw in the back of a car if you want to warm up at a race or something.
The construction of the Road Machine is perfect. Long before I ever started TriRig, I was the proud owner of this trainer, which came in a different color at that time. After 5 years and countless winter hours on that trainer, it was still in perfect condition. The only part that wore out was the L-bolt that secures the bike, which had stripped slightly. Kurt replaced it for free, and everything else still looked and functioned like it was brand new. This big green machine is nearly identical to that older one, except for the color.
Getting your bike in and out is easy - there's a quick release that you use to lock in your rear wheel, and then you just screw the resistance mechanism up until it's tight against your wheel. The quick release is different from the one on the Rock And Roll trainer, and actually, I think the one on the Rock And Roll is better. But it's also $200 more expensive. At $369 retail, the Road Machine isn't cheap, but it's got the best resistance mechanism on the market, and will last you your entire cycling career. There's no reason to upgrade to anything except Kurt's own Rock And Roll version, which combines the same fluid unit with a very comfortable suspension mechanism.