• MSRP $1,200.00 (Zwift membership and trainer: $1,400)

When you’re going up against Jordan, you better be able to dunk. That’s basically what CycleOps was facing when designing the new H2 smart trainer: Deliver a ride that’s as good, if not better, than the Wahoo Kickr. The two trainers are similar in size, though the H2 is definitely bulkier. Both trainers weigh about the same. On paper, they’re very similar. In practice, the H2 positions itself as a serious contender to dethrone the Kickr as the best on the market.

It’s not quite there, but it’s darn close.

Spec for spec, the H2 is fairly similar to the Kickr: It simulates up to a 20% grade, which matches the Kickr; it offers 2,000 watts of resistance at 20mph, while the Kickr offers 2,200 watts; and it is accurate to +/-2%, the same as the Kickr. The H2 has a heavier flywheel (20 pounds) than the Kickr’s 16-pound unit.

The H2 integrates cadence, speed, and power into the unit, no additional sensors required. The Kickr allows for all of those measurements, but you’ll need to attach a cadence sensor to your bike to get that reading. (Slight) advantage: CycleOps.

There’s no assembly required out of the box, other than throwing on a cassette. And that’s the first knock against the H2: The cassette is not included. Nor was there a quick release in the box. For the same price, the Kickr includes both a cassette and a quick release. Both units include relevant adapters for quick release or thru-axles.

While the Kickr folds up more compact than the H2, the CycleOps definitely wins in terms of aesthetics. It’s a sleek unit that you wouldn’t mind having tucked in the corner of your living room when you’re not using it. The legs fold forward by releasing a lever on each leg. And when the legs are fanned out, they provide plenty of stability while riding. Each leg features an adjustable foot to level the unit, and it’s easy to do. Just turn the feet. The H2’s wingspan is wider than the Kickr by 11 inches (20 inches for the Kickr, 31 inches for the H2), so expect to use up a bit more space.

The H2 paired up quickly with Zwift, and while other Wahoo products like the Kickr Climb and Headwind won’t play nice with non-Wahoo trainers, I was able to use these peripheral devices manually with the H2. Wahoo warns that you can’t use the Climb with any trainers but the Wahoo, however, because your dropouts could get damaged. We didn’t notice any damage after several uses, but it might not be worth your while to risk it. It was a nice setup overall. If you’re not using the Wahoo peripherals, you can use the included wheel block for your front wheel to get yourself level.

It was immediately clear that the H2 was louder than the Kickr. It’s certainly not the loudest smart trainer we’ve used — not by a long shot, in fact — but if noise levels are your primary concern, the Kickr remains the quietest. The H2 isn’t that far behind, but the difference is noticeable.

The Kickr beats the H2 when it comes to smooth transitions from flats to climbs in virtual environments — but not by much. In fact, if you have never ridden a Kickr, the H2 will strike you as incredibly impressive. If you have ridden the Kickr, you’ll have trouble distinguishing between the two except in certain virtual situations. It seems, for example, that when you transition from a descent into a climb, the H2 lags slightly behind the responsiveness and smoothness of the Kickr. It’s subtle for sure, and probably not noticeable for the vast majority of users. You won’t be disappointed with it.

CycleOps has perhaps the best shot at competing head to head with Wahoo’s Kickr and coming out on top. It’s a close call between the two units in terms of performance and stability. With a few refinements — and the inclusion of a cassette and quick release, which the Kickr includes for the same price — the Kickr might be sharing the throne with the H2 before too long.