The trainer has always been a necessary evil during snowy winter months, more chore-like than fun. Boredom and discomfort often derail my winter training plans. Fortunately, smart trainers and virtual riding platforms like Zwift and TrainerRoad have been a huge help.
Now, after embarking on a successful weight loss journey, I’m more motivated than ever to get on Zwift and take my training to the next level this winter. This means I’ve also thought a lot about how to take my riding set-up to the next level. I already had all the essential gear, but I wanted a way to make indoor riding feel more realistic.
My new indoor riding set-up.
I’ve read a lot about homemade training platforms that let your stationary bike move naturally while you ride. Unfortunately, I don’t have time (or woodworking skills) for that sort of project. So, I found myself drawn to Saris’s MP1 Nfinity trainer platform, which is ready to go out of the box. But the price made me hesitate. The MP1 retails for $1,199.99. That’s more expensive than Saris’s top-of-the-line smart trainer, the H3, and equal to other popular smart trainers like the Wahoo Kickr. The MP1 had potential to be a gamechanger for me. But was it really worth spending that much money?
Maybe now I can answer that question. As you can see above, the MP1 is the new centerpiece of my trainer dungeon (a.k.a. my guest room). Full disclosure, Saris co-sponsors the Saris + The Pro's Closet (STPC) Zwift team so this MP1 was provided for my test. After getting to know the MP1 better, and riding with it on Zwift and TrainerRoad, I’ve come to really appreciate its benefits — and they actually go way beyond just its fun, realistic ride feel. Hopefully, my experience can help you decide if the MP1 is right for your trainer dungeon.
Unboxing and set-up
The MP1 ships in a large box. If you’re strong enough, it’s not too hard to slide it around. If you have the classic cyclist physique (no upper body), you might need to get another person for a team lift. The nice thing about the MP1 is that it comes fully assembled. You open the box, pull it out, and that’s pretty much it. Once out of the box, the platform is actually very easy to pick up and move around.
The platform comes with a front-wheel block, two risers for the front wheel, two straps for securing the trainer, and a silicone-impregnated flannel cloth for cleaning and lubricating the rails under the platform. Before you do anything, you need to lube the rails with this cloth. It’s easy and the instructions say this should be done every 30 hours of riding or once a year.
Positioning your bike and trainer on the platform is pretty intuitive. I just plopped my Saris H3 on, strapped it down, and was in business within minutes. Saris also provides a fit guide to help you position most popular trainers. The key is to align your bike with the center of the platform.
The platform itself is about the length of a regular bike and trainer set-up, but you will need about 10 inches of extra room in front and behind to account for the fore and aft movement. If you’re short on space, it’s good to keep this in mind.
Leveling the platform proved to be a key setup step for me. It took a few rides to get everything feeling balanced using the platform’s adjustable feet. If it wasn’t level, it felt like my bike leaned too much to one side while riding.
Riding the MP1
I’ve always struggled with comfort while riding indoors. Even after a professional fit that made outdoor riding feel sublime, my body just doesn’t seem to get along with sitting on the trainer. Outdoors, my position is dynamic, stretching me out and actively relieving pressure points. On the trainer, however, I always felt too rigid and locked in. I was usually fine for an hour or so, but if I went any longer, my hands, sit bones, and soft tissue suffered. I'd quit workouts and rides, leading to inconsistent training. I hoped that the MP1 could help me stick to my fitness goals by making longer rides more comfortable.
Movement at 150 watts.
So is the MP1 my key to better indoor cycling? Interestingly, when I just pedal easy, I hardly notice it's there. If I look down, I can see the platform moving a couple of millimeters in each direction. It doesn’t seem like much.
Out of curiosity, I took my trainer back off the platform after a few rides to see how noticeable the change was. Initially, I noticed the movement’s absence, but I adjusted pretty quickly to the old, motionless sensation. If you do nothing but easy zone 2 rides on the trainer, the MP1 will still provide a little benefit, but probably not enough to be worth it.
Movement at 400 watts.
However, the MP1 really responds when you ramp up the effort. More power causes more platform motion. You both feel and see this. I’ve really come to appreciate having the MP1 during hard workouts and fast Zwift group rides and races. When I’m forced to mash the pedals, the platform yields generous movement. When I stand up, it responds immediately, and when I sit back down it gives me a comfortable rearward movement. Not only does this feel really nice on the bum, but it’s really fun as well.
Close up of how the MP1 provides fore-aft movement with rollers and rails.
You don’t notice out on the road, but pedaling causes a mild fore-aft (as well as side-to-side) oscillation of your bike. The MP1's ultra smooth, well-tuned fore-aft and side-to-side movement is what takes it to the next level. It'll really benefit cyclists who ride hard, do ultra-long sessions, and spend multiple days in a row on the trainer.
On that note, I should say it doesn’t exactly mimic what it’s like to stand up on the bike outdoors (but this is true of every rocker plate). In real life, when you stand, the bike leans aways from the leg performing the downstroke. On the MP1, the platform leans toward the leg performing the downstroke. To properly stand and pedal, you have to actively nudge the bike the opposite direction with your arms. It’s weird at first, and it took some practice, but after a few rides I had it down. Saris has a nifty instructional video if you need it.
Even though the MP1’s movements don’t perfectly translate to outdoor riding, I don’t think they need to. Realistically, no rocker plate can mimic the feeling of balance, movement, and speed you get outdoors. Compared to homemade rocker plates though, the MP1 might provide the most realistic riding experience possible. I think the most important question to ask is, “Is it as comfortable or enjoyable as riding outdoors?” For me, the answer is mostly yes.
I only say “mostly” yes because, really, if the weather is nice I’ll be riding outside. Outdoor riding is more fun and no trainer set-up can ever top that for me. The MP1 gets pretty darn close though.
The MP1 uses a leaf spring to provide smooth and controlled side-to-side movement.
The movement is incredibly smooth and natural. Besides learning to pedal while standing, it doesn’t take any thought or effort to adapt. You just ride and naturally find ways to scoot and move around that increase your comfort tenfold. Without the platform, I never felt comfortable moving around because it would feel like I was just smashing my backside into a rigid object. Now, I’ll purposely shake the bike side-to-side or rock it around when I get stiff or bored. I’m more willing to stand up and attack because I feel loose and more active on the bike.
The MP1 has allowed me to do longer sessions and stay more engaged because I’m not distracted by my sit bones hurting or my hands and nether regions going numb. I managed to do a pleasant three-hour trainer ride the other week, which would have been pure misery before the MP1.
On Zwift, it’s improved the feeling of immersion. I’ve actually defected from TrainerRoad to Zwift, because riding the MP1 adds so much to my enjoyment. I’m now willing to just cruise around and explore virtual worlds during easy rides. Before the MP1, I would have just skipped riding because easy trainer rides felt so boring and weren’t worth the pain.
Standing and attacking on the MP1.
The MP1 has also reinvigorated my motivation to train and compete. I’ve been jumping in Zwift group rides and races, going harder than ever. If your biggest concern is performance, the MP1 is definitely worth considering. Several riders on the STPC team like to train and race with the platform. STPC rider Matt Gardiner told me that the MP1 platform improved his power output by up to 20 watts.
I tested this out for myself by doing two TrainerRoad ramp tests on and off the platform. My FTP result without the platform was 269 watts. With the platform it was 276 watts. Less than Matt’s 20 watt difference, but still significant. Of course, this isn’t exactly solid science. There was a week and a half between the two tests, and differences in sleep, recovery, motivation, and fueling will affect the results.
Beyond that test, I feel like I’ve been doing better in Zwift races with the MP1. I find it easier to dig deep and ride at threshold when I’m more comfortable. This mirrors my understanding that greater comfort is the key to more sustained power. Some riders struggle to make power when stuck in a fixed position on the trainer. If you’re one of them, the MP1 could help you unlock more performance.
Should you buy the MP1?
I hope the MP1 never leaves my trainer dungeon.
I have very few issues with the MP1 platform. Some reviewers have complained about the looks, but I actually like it. The birch top is treated to resist sweat but I am a sweat machine, so I’ll have to report back in a few months to see how the surface holds up. I have found that the grip tape can be a pain to clean. Lint sticks to it, and I already tore some off with my cleats during an ungraceful dismount. Besides that, I really have no complaints.
I can’t tell you how to spend your money, but I can tell you how I’d spend mine. If I ever have to send the MP1 back, my credit card will take a hit because I’m immediately buying another one. The fact that I hope to keep it forever says a lot about what I think of it. I'm a convert, and I don’t like the idea of going back to riding indoors without it. I truly believe the extra comfort and amusement the MP1 provides is helping me get fitter and enjoy riding indoors more.
But be warned, I’m also the type to splurge on bikes. I like having the best equipment. The MP1 is perfect for bike nerds like me. If you’re on a tight budget, or more casual about indoor training, then the MP1 probably isn’t worth it. That sort of money is better spent on a good smart trainer, a nice TV or monitor, and a powerful fan. Maybe put it toward a nicer bike. But if cost is a minor concern, and you want the best indoor training set-up possible, then the MP1 is a must have tool.