A good bike ride can be a great way to make your day if you’re like us. A great ride is one that allows you to get outside and explore, as well as enjoy the sun. The problem with cycling is that bad weather can make it difficult to ride on the roads or trails. Indoor bike trainers are the solution.
These units are known by many names: bike spinners and smart trainers, brands such as Wahoo and Peloton, and you may even hear people talking about old-fashioned rolling machines. All of them do the same thing: let you ride your bicycle indoors.
Indoor Bike Trainer Experience
It might be raining, too windy or you want to avoid traffic jams or unsafe dusk rides. You can simply mount your bike to a trainer and get the exercise you desire, at home. If done properly, workouts on a bike trainer can be one of the most effective ways to get your tri-training plan. It will also help you keep going when it’s dark, cold, or rainy. It can feel like you’re going to a spin class, even if you have a plan for 45-60 minutes.
A turbo trainer is often criticized for being boring. You can find it boring and you don’t feel the thrill of being outside. Sometimes, however, it’s just good to get out of your house. Trainer workouts are intense and can provide some of the most beneficial cardio work you do all year. The NIH found that most cyclists experience a measurable increase in their overall cycling efficiency after 12 weeks of intense cycling training. You will feel great by the time your first race is over if you have a solid indoor training base.
It is clear that interval cycling is effective. If you want to improve your riding speed, it is important to incorporate trainer workouts into your training season.
Indoor Bike Trainer Basics
You can even take a spin class at home.
A bike trainer typically consists of a frame, clamp that holds the bike securely, a roller that presses against the back wheel and resistance mechanism. The exception is the more expensive “direct drive” model, which is described below. You can use the trainer to mount your bike so that you have a similar workout to an outdoor ride but in a controlled environment.
Smart trainers are an upgraded version of traditional bike trainers. They are direct-drive, meaning you can take your rear wheel off and hook up the trainer directly. We have compiled a smart trainer buying guide. It’s worth a look.
Bike trainers can be used for training before triathlons and other races. Others use them to replace riding outside in bad weather. A bike trainer can be a great way to get a good workout and provide riders with more challenging rides than outdoor riding.
What you should look for in an indoor bike trainer
There are many turbo trainers and bike trainers on the market today, some more expensive, better equipped, or both. These are the key factors to consider when deciding which turbo trainer or bike trainer is right for you.
Price / Budget
This is an easy one. No matter how tempting a $900 bicycle trainer may seem, you need to make sure that the purchase is within your means. Your workout quality will depend more on how hard you work, than the amount of money you spend on the trainer.
The resistance is the power output, or wattage, that you can use to train your bike before it reaches its maximum. A beginner bike trainer might be the best choice for you if you’re just starting out. A more advanced trainer that includes a power meter is worth it if you’re training for serious races or need to be precise in your effort levels. Many of us cannot get more than 1,000 watts of power. However, if you can, then some budget trainers may not be suitable for you. There will be models that can reach more than 2,000 watts, which is something most people won’t ever dream of.
Although wind resistance trainers are often less expensive, they can be louder. Fluid trainers, while less noisy than wind resistance trainers, are much more expensive. You can exercise in an aerobic setting.
Trainers with direct-drive motors are generally quieter to use.
You might want to choose quiet if you have a shared apartment or with two other people. You might have more options if you have a quiet, private workout space. A lot of bike trainers now have decibel ratings so that you can easily compare them. Smart trainers are quieter than ever in recent years. A new smart trainer should be 60 decibels.
Don’t cut corners on your bike trainer if you plan to ride long distances or do intense workouts. It is possible to spend less on workout gear if you invest a little more in quality. Some trainers have been reliable for many years and required little maintenance. It is common to be reminded that the fluid seal is the most important thing in cycling. A traditional trainer can leak fluid, but smart trainers are not affected by this problem. It hasn’t happened to us yet, however, and we have had great success with our CycleOps and Kinetic trainers.
Compatibility with your bike
Although this is not usually an issue for most road, tri and mountain bikes, it is important to make sure your trainer and bike work together. The trainer will work with 90% of road and tri bike frames. However, it is possible to have a more elaborate feature on your frame’s rear end and in the dropout area. Some bike manufacturers state that if you use a trainer and break a carbon fibre frame, you will void your warranty. Carbon fiber trainers have been used for many years without any problems. However, it is worth noting if your bike is very expensive or you are a heavier rider. Make sure you check that the trainer can be used with any type of powermeter. If both components were made within the last 3 years, they should work
Smart Trainer Technology
A bike trainer has been a simple piece of equipment for many years. It had a roller and a clamp to hold your bike in place. Trainers and spinners have become smarter than ever ( , which we discuss in our smart trainer review). You can now buy trainers that have a built in powermeter or can be integrated with streaming workouts via paid online services. This technology can be expensive, but it is worth the investment if you are the right person. The review is focused on the non-smart, standalone trainers. However, streaming videos can be used with them in the same way. We did however include the Wahoo kickr, which is part of the smart line. We didn’t want to overwhelm this review with information about smart trainers.
However, we recommend you check out our article on Smart Trainers and Apps.
These factors, along with space for storage, all play into the decision to buy a bike trainer.
Four of the Best Indoor Bike Trainers Available
Saris Fluid2 Trainer
A sturdy, reliable basic trainer (not a smart trainer)
The best for people who need a basic trainer that is non-smart and can withstand a beating while still being durable.
The Fluid2 is bulletproof and lasts a long while. It does its job. What more can you ask for?
The new brand name of CycleOps is Saris. It is one the most prominent bike trainer manufacturers worldwide. Their trainers are best-sellers in the United States and have been praised by critics. The Saris Fluid2 Indoor Trainer is one of the best-selling models. This model has earned CycleOps much respect, recognition and revenue over the years. The Fluid 2 is reliable and durable, as we know from personal experience.
The Saris Fluid2.
Although the initial price tag may seem daunting, many users say that it is well worth every penny. This trainer has a fluid resistance mechanism which makes it feel very road-like and produces a lot less sound. Bike trainers can be boring for avid and professional cyclists due to the way they are stationary and unrealistic. This trainer, however, offers a road-like experience that makes it more realistic and more enjoyable. This also allows for more practice.
This trainer can be purchased as part of a complete kit. It will include a climbing block for your front tire and a sweat mat to place under the bike. The Saris is compatible with both mountain and road bikes. However, a road bike with a trainer or slick rear tire will work best.
You can connect to apps such as Zwift or Rouvy by choosing the “smart equipped” option. It is not a smart trainer, but that’s not what it is. However, people have had many years of great training without having to go the smart route.
You will have a great riding experience thanks to the adjustable foot pads, hydraulic fluid that is used for resistance and the well-made frame.
Wahoo KICKR SSNAP
Wahoo KICKR Snap
This is a good trainer that introduces some basic smart features.
Ideal for:Riders looking for smart features, but not the money to buy a smart trainer.
Wahoo has been creating the KICKR line for many years. With the Snap model they have created a basic trainer that includes some smart features. This allows you to try out smart trainers without spending more than $1,000.
The Snap is a trainer for tire-ons similar to the Saris Fluid 2. However, it is wired to transmit a basic signal that can be used with smart cycling apps. We prefer direct-drive models, but if you have the money for it, the wheel on model is superior to nothing in terms of smart features.
To adjust the resistance of the trainer, you can use an app on your smartphone, tablet or computer. (On a basic trainer that is not smart, the only way to modify the resistance is to shift to a harder gear. You can adjust the resistance for easier or harder workouts. If you want to get in a good workout while listening to music, the trainer can be used in non-smart mode.
You may be able to train as a smart trainer if you plan to do Zwift for 200 hours over the winter. This is a great way to get started with smart-training apps for a fraction of the cost of a basic dumb trainer.
The Tacx Flux 2 is a good option if you have the funds.
>You can find here.
Tacx Flux 2
It’s more expensive but well worth the investment. This trainer is smart and fun to ride.
Ideal for:Cyclists looking to hire a smart trainer but are not ready to spend too much on a trainer.
We like the Tacx Flx 2 of the year’s crop for its smart trainer. It is a great value overall.
Tacx Flux 2
Smart trainers are a game changer. They can seamlessly integrate with apps such as Zwift or Trainerroad. You can see your power stats and cadence and feel increasing or decreasing resistance as the course or workout changes. Zwift allows you to ride with friends and groups.
This trainer, which is the most expensive, is for those who are able to spend nearly 1,000 dollars on a bicycle trainer. This trainer falls under the smart trainers category. It starts at $600 but can go up to $11,500. The price tag is justified considering the many features it offers. If you’ve never used one, this is a direct-drive trainer that has smart technology.
Direct-drive is a great feature because it eliminates tire pressure variability and allows for you to use a trainer tire without worrying about it. Simply remove the rear wheel and attach your chain to the trainer by hooking it directly into the unit. These smart features are for people who intend to use the unit with a third-party app such as Zwift. The Flux trainer will work well with your Zwift set and you’ll be smart-riding all winter.
We’ve ridden every smart trainer out there, including CycleOps and Saris. Peloton is also available. The quietest of the bunch is the Tacx, although the Tacx high-end model is very expensive at almost $1,500. The Flux 2 model doesn’t have as big a flywheel, but it is still responsive and powerful enough to handle the majority of riders. The maximum power output is 2,000 watts. This is more than enough for most riders. It is difficult for most cyclists to reach 1,000 watts even for a few seconds. A power meterby by itself would cost $600 to mount on your bike. So, a smart trainer kills two birds with one stone. A smart trainer can track power and other important output stats using any number of apps that you can pair with it.
Flux 2 has firmware that connects automatically to the app and does not require any technical knowledge. We recommend Sufferfest, Zwift and Trainerroad if you are looking for a recommendation for an app.
It is a significant investment but well worth it.
>Get the Flux 2 here.
Kinetic Rock and Roll Training
Trainers from Kinetic
It’s basic and not smart, but it will make you sweat.
For people who don’t mind spending a little on indoor backup cycling for rainy days.
One of the most well-known and highly-rated bike trainers on the planet is Kinetic. Since 1999, they have been producing trainers in their distinctive green colors. Although the design has evolved, they are still a trusted brand for those who want the classic.
Kinetic is a great choice for bike trainers, despite the high upfront costs and steep learning curve. Nearly all their trainers have been praised as brilliant pieces of technology. The Rock and Roll bike trainer is one of their most popular and highly regarded models.
It gives you a more realistic experience than other “wheel-on” trainers. Although a bike trainer is designed to keep the bike stable, it doesn’t simulate real riding. The trainer allows the bike to be moved in the same way as outdoor riding. This unique feature is not the only one. The fluid resistance unit, which slows down beginners and adjusts resistance to suit their needs, is the best on the market.
You might consider spending a few hundred extra on something like the Tacx Flux 2, which is a smart, affordable trainer. The Flux 2 is available in more detail below. This is a great option if you’re looking for a trainer with a classic look.
Although it’s a large trainer and quite expensive for non-smart trainers, the ride is great and the fluid resistance makes this an essential purchase for all bike enthusiasts. Get it here.
Do I need a smart trainer?
We are often asked if it is better to have a smart trainer than a regular one. The answer is always the same: Get a quality trainer. Even a non-smart one can do wonders for your indoor and outdoor training and fitness. Consider how important you consider the community and how much money you plan to spend.
We think it is worth upgrading to a smart trainer.
Smart trainers allow you to use interactive apps like TrainerRoad
You don’t have to spend more than $500 to get the smart trainer functionality. Smart technology is for you if you value riding in a group or interactive class. We can assure you that the smart technology has made us happy for many years. We are here to tell that even though these videos may seem very 2000, you can still get a great workout from them.
Important note: Putting together a smart trainer can be more complicated than setting up a traditional trainer. You simply take the traditional trainer out of its box, attach your bike to the trainer, then clamp it in. Then, place your front wheel on a block and you are ready to go. You will likely remove the wheel and cartridge from a traditional trainer and attach a cartridge to the smart trainer. Then you can sync the trainer with the app that you use. A traditional trainer may be better if you need something that’s easy to plug and play on rainy days.
The Saris H3 is our favorite smart trainer for money, aside from the Tacx Flux 2 we wrote about above. You can read our SarisH3 review here.
Fluid vs. Magnetic Bike Trainers
Fluid trainers actually contain fluid that creates resistance.
There are two types of trainer mechanics: magnetic or fluid. This is the heart of the trainer and provides resistance for your workout.
Fluid trainers have a “roller” that connects to an impeller. This rotates through fluid and provides resistance for your pedal strokes. Magnetic trainers don’t use fluid. Instead, the magneto can be manually adjusted to your desired resistance level.
When it comes to traditional trainers, fluid trainers are often regarded as the superior option. Fluid trainers have a more road-like feeling and can be used to intensify your workouts without limiting the resistance. Fluid trainers today almost never leak, which was a problem many years ago. Fluid trainers are also much quieter.
Because they are less complicated, magnetic trainers are often cheaper. They are often limited in their range, which can cause less variation in your workout and make it more difficult to outgrow resistance if you’re a good cyclist. Although smart trainers tend to be made with magnetic technology it is far more advanced and a different type of trainer than the basic ones.
Buy a traditional, non-wired, smart bike trainer. Go with the fluid.
What about Bike Roller Trainers
Although the old-fashioned, roller-style bicycle trainers are still in use, they are losing market share to newer fluid trainers and smarter bike trainers. “Rollers” Saris Roll, a high-quality trainer in the roller-style style.
We might be a bit harsh on the rollers. They actually have some advantages.
- Some cyclists require balance. This is an important part in training and some feel it provides a more realistic work environment.
- These are more affordable in general. Rollers will be the most affordable option for quality equipment.
- They can be easily moved. They are lightweight at less than 20 pounds, and can be transported relatively flat.
A traditional trainer or smart trainer is the best option for most aspiring cyclists. However, there are some situations where a roller-style trainer might be more appropriate.
What is the difference between a Turbo Trainer and a Bike Trainer, you ask?
Yes. Yes. Turbo trainers can be used in the same way as indoor bike trainers. In fact, trainers and spinners can be interchanged. Turbo trainer = bike trainer = spinner.
It is important that you find a trainer who works for you and within your budget. Do not get too attached to what they are called.
Are your tires worn out by a bike trainer?
Yes. Your rubber bike tire may wear quicker due to the heat generated by an indoor trainer. Consider a direct-drive trainer if you intend to use your bike as a trainer.
Is a bike trainer causing damage to your bike?
A bike trainer is safe if used correctly.
There was some concern in the past about the weight of a carbon fiber bike frame when it was mounted to an indoor trainer. Many manufacturers will void your warranty if you have an issue while using the trainer.
Two things were wrong with the old-fashioned bike trainers. They required a lot of torque to mount a bicycle in them. The seat stays on carbon fibre bikes were also susceptible to breaking.
Smart trainers are more popular and less stressful than ever. Most manufacturers don’t offer any warranty for their bikes.
Other Accessories for Trainers
A traditional trainer’s tire will not withstand the friction caused by a trainer tire.
You might also want to consider accessories.
- Training videos. These are, in our opinion, essential and the reason why you need a trainer. You can find many Cycling DVDs that will help you get maximum benefit from your workouts. A focused training session can transform your trainer session into an exercise class. These will provide amazing workouts if done correctly. These can be found in either DVD or streaming format. As your time and intensity preferences will change from day to day, we recommend that you have at least six to choose from. The Spinervalsseries is our favorite.
- Tire block. Most trainers come with a front-tire block. However, some trainers won’t have one, especially if they are used. The block is essential as the rear tire will be higher than the front without it. If you can get a trainer that comes with a set, make sure to purchase the complete kit. This means the block as well as any accessories.
- An mat can be used under your bike, particularly if you do sweaty workouts. The majority of mats cost between $35- $50, such as these from Amazon. If you don’t wipe up your sweat quickly, it can cause damage to some floors. After a hard workout, we know that wiping up a pool is not an option. It’s not difficult to find the right mat for your needs.
- Trainer tire. It can cause tire wear if you use your bike on a trainer. A typical road tire will last a shorter time due to heat generated by the tire friction. A trainer tire is recommended for $35. It is able to withstand heat and friction from traditional bike trainers.
For quick swaps when going on the trainer, we like to keep a spire, cassette, and tire handy.
A spare rim, cassette and skewer are optional. We often mount the unit on an old, worn rim and then swap out the entire wheel each time we move it on or off the trainer. It’s easy to make a quick change in the event of bad weather or to go outside. This is much easier and quicker than the 15-20 minute process of fitting the correct tire to your rim.
- Fan. You don’t need anything fancy, just a simple old room fan or office fan. If you’re riding indoors in a stationary position, with no breeze, you’ll get hotter and sweat more. A fan located a few feet from you can provide the necessary relief. A simple fan is sufficient. You likely have one spare in your closet.
- Towel. You will also need a fan. Keep small towels handy for when you go on your rides. A towel will keep you dry and help you sweat less. To prevent sweat corroding the headset bolts and stem of my bike, I prefer to place mine on top.
There are so many options, so make sure you do your research to ensure that your purchase is the right one for you. We stand behind the four items we have listed.
We could choose one for the regular, non-smart trainer. We’d choose the Flash for the smart trainer.
It is possible that the demand for bicycle trainers has exploded in 2020 because of the pandemic. Supply may take some time to recover. Please be patient and shop around — We do our best to keep product links up-to-date.
If used correctly and consistently, a bike trainer can be worth every penny. You are training on your own bike and getting to know the saddle and angles, instead of trying to learn the differences between the winter and summer bikes. If you’re anything like us, you’ll eventually crave the tougher trainer workouts of the winter.
This Useful …..
You can also check out our other cycling-related articles.
- How to Find the Best Entry-Level Tricycle
- Ideas for winter biking workoutsduring off-season
- We recommend the bicycle shoes for different situations.
- The Best Triathlon Shorts on the Market Today.
- Do you have the ability to bring your bike inside in winter? You can take a look at these entry-level fatbikes for all-season riding.
Setup your indoor bike trainer
This simple, non-salespitch video is a favorite of South Shore Cycles, B.C., Canada.