Saris Hammer H3 Review Overview

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Saris (formerly) Cycleops launched the Hammer 3 (H3) late-2019. The trainer is an upgrade on the Cycleops H2.

First, a quick rundown of what you’ll get in this post.

  • Top numbers.
  • What’s in the box.
  • Sounds
  • Performance
  • Where it fits in the market
  • Overall

As you’d expect, there are some improvements on the H3. Probably the most notable is a reduction in the noise and more accuracy. From the look of things, the Saris H3 isn’t a dramatic upgrade over the H2.

Here are the top numbers:

  • Connection: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Accuracy: 2%
  • Noise: 50 decibels
  • Power: 2000w
  • Incline: 20%

By the way, if you want an overall comparison, here’s our piece on the best direct drive trainers for 2020. 

One of the new features is a new drive mechanism with a new belt as well. This has brought about noise reduction although reports are that you can still hear it.

Saris has also improved the H3 firmware. Previous iterations suffered from power spikes during sprints. The firmware is also available to the older trainers.

Probably the most important issue is the price point. Here the H3 comes in at under $999. Pricey but less than other top-end trainers.

It contains all the things you’d expect. Power cable, front-wheel stand, and like most trainers, no cassette.

As an aside, when will it become the norm to get cassettes installed on trainers. If you want a new one, fine. But for $1000 it’s not too much to ask to have a 12-28 installed as default.

The unit has locks on both legs that allow it to fold in/out and then lock in place. It also has adjustable feet in case your floor is as uneven.

Riding on the road – except not really

The Saris Hammer 3 seems to have a good reputation in terms of road feel. DCRainmakers says:

I’m not quite sure it’s the best. I’d say it’s very close between it and the Wahoo Kickr 2018. I would say the road-feel is better on the H3 than the Tacx Neo/Neo 2 though.

How does it sound

In terms of sound, Saris gives a specification of 59 decibels at 20 mph. In its words, the H3 is five times quieter than previous generations.

The company reckons the H3 is it’s quietest smart trainer yet. It’s certainly quieter than competitors at a slightly higher price point like the Kickr.

Here’s what Bikeradar thought:

It’s far quieter than the H2, and at 20mph I measured the levels on an iPhone app at 61dB. Like so many of the higher-priced trainers, it’s the bike’s transmission that makes the most noise.

Applications and connections

Most trainers use the same APIs. So you can expect to connect to the likes of Zwift, Trainerroad, The Sufferfest, etc, easily enough.

As you’d expect from a smart trainer at this price point, the Saris H3 includes the usual connections such as BlueTooth and ANT+, including cadence.

You can also connect via your bike computer. So, you can re-ride the route you’ve just done outside.

Does this cycling smart trainer have the power?

We looked at testing reports looked for Zwift and Trainerroad using Bluetooth and an Apple TV (Zwift’s preferred connection method). Yes, the old favorites.

With the applications connecting in the same way, they are not totally relevant. Probably the most interesting thing in picking these two applications is the different use cases they present.

Zwift tends to change road and incline, ie ERG. While Trainerroad is mainly focused on a constant power output.

image_20200229_161519_51 Saris Hammer H3 Review Overview
Compares nicely with the Kickr

Two different use cases but the speed and responsiveness are equally key in both.

On Trainerroad the results, seem to be pretty good in response terms. There have been some reports about accuracy issues but overall this came out quite well too.

When it came to Zwift, there were a few issues in terms of delay. Overall, it was also accurate on ERG and accuracy.

The only reported issue was cadence. Here’s DCRainmaker:

The only downside from an accuracy standpoint is really the cadence – which seems to struggle with large shifts in power.

How the Saris Hammer 2 compares with other turbo trainers

We put this trainer into our database and ran the numbers.

One of the things about this trainer was how well it worked out on price compared to the other models (both top-end and mid-range).

On the line of truth, it appeared to be priced well in terms of accuracy, power, and incline. Whereas other smart trainers like the Elite Drivo II or Tacx Neo 2 came out as slightly overpriced, despite performing better.

smart-trainer-incline-comparison Saris Hammer H3 Review Overview

looking at this, and looking at the other options –it looks like Saris has found a nice little niche in the smart trainer market with the H3.

The ERG responsiveness, in particular, seems to be a standout factor. But on the downside, it appears to be let down slightly by the cadence accuracy.

Saris Hammer H3 review conclusion – good value high-range smart trainer

In terms of value and performance, it does well against the likes of the more expensive Wahoo Kickr and the Kinetic R1 in particular.

That said, on pure spec, there are better value trainers. The Direto-X comes to mind here, which we think is good value.

Like the Direto-X, the Saris Hammer 3 seems to have formed a new group. You could either describe it as a budget high-end trainer or a high-end mid-range smart trainer.

Either way, it’s a solid piece of kit. Well, suited to someone who just wants accuracy. Though it would be nice if they sorted that cadence issue out.

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