A bike trainer, sometimes known as a turbo trainer, is a piece of equipment that allows a person to use their own bike to train indoors. The rear of the bike is held by the trainer and the rear wheel spins against a roller which creates resistance to pedalling. This allows the rider to change gears to adjust how hard it is to pedal just as they would do on the road; however they are in the comfort of their own home.
They allow you to train in all weathers, so when it is snowing, raining or icy and dangerous to cycle on the roads you can still train. They also allow you to train on your own bike rather than a gym machine that is not set up for you, so any fitness you develop is easily transferred to riding on the road. They are useful for warming up and cooling down before and after races or hard training sessions, preparing the muscles by warming them up ready to go and flushing out the lactic acid you have built up after for a faster recovery. Check out the best bike trainer reviews below which will help you find the best trainer to suit you and your needs.
|Bike Trainer Model||Compatibility||Portability||Extras||Our Rating||Price|
Best Magnetic Bike Trainer
|26", 27" or 700c wheel||Foldable||5 internal resistance settings. No noise.|
Best Fluid Bike Trainer
|N/A||Foldable||QUIETEST! New larger flywheel. Self-cooling mechanism.|
Best Wind Bike Trainer
|26 in, 27 in, 29 in and 700c bikes||Foldable||Steady, progressive wind resistance with very low noise|
Types of Trainers
There are different types of bike trainers which vary in the type of resistance that that is put against the rear tire as you cycle. There are four common types of resistance; wind, centrifugal, fluid and magnetic.
- Wind – As the cyclist pedals it spins a fan within the trainer, and the faster they pedal the more higher the resistance. The increase in resistance the harder you pedal makes it realistic to cycling outdoors, however they can be extremely loud and the resistance from the machine can’t really be adjusted.
- Fluid – Fluid trainers are basically the same as wind trainers, however the fan is spun immersed in oil. This creates resistance that is much more similar to cycling on the road. They are also the most silent type of trainer, though there is the risk of the fluid leaking and the oil heats up as you train which increases the resistance even if you don’t want it to. See reviews of fluid trainers.
- Centrifugal – Resistance is applied to the rear tire by pressure plates on the roller. This means they are practically silent and the resistance can be easily and precisely adjusted to suit you the best. As they can be so finely tuned, they are very easy to break if you are using them a lot.
- Magnetic – Magnetic trainers use magnets to slow the spin of the roller your wheel is spinning so that it provides resistance. As the strength of the magnet can’t really be changed, there is very little customization in the resistance it provides. They also easily go wrong as any movement of the magnet can affect the resistance and make the trainer useless. See reviews of magnetic trainers.
Reviews of the Top Bike Trainers
Best Magnetic Bike Trainer: FDW SteelFDW is a small company that makes a limited range of cycling products, with this trainer being really the only popular piece that they produce.
The FDW magnetic bike trainer is a sturdy steel built trainer that can fit any size tire so it can be used by road bikers and mountain bikers alike. The mechanism to attach the rear of the bike to the trainer can be adjusted by a large margin, so almost any size bike can be used. The trainer also has a large amount of resistance adjustment that is done from a handheld knob that can be attached to your handlebars as you ride, allowing you to adjust it as your training goes on without interrupting you.
- Can fit 26 inc, 27 inch and 700c tires
- Choice of 5 resistance settings
- Strong steel and can be folded down for ease of travel
- Road like feel
Positives and Negatives
One of the biggest positives to this product is the price. It is extremely cheap for the quality of the product and the features it packs. It is easy to set up and the ability to adjust the resistance while on the bike allows you to spend the least amount of time setting up as possible. The ability to fit almost any bike size into it also makes it perfect for any type of cyclist.
On the other hand, the trainer is not the most stable, so would not be suitable for sprinters or very strong cyclists who may throw the bike off balance and cause the trainer to tip over. For this reason, the FDW bike trainer is best for beginner to improver cyclists who are trying to build strength that they don’t have yet.
The biggest compliment from customers is about how quiet the FDW trainer is. Many say they can watch television or listen to music on normal volume. They also say the range of resistance is more than enough for anyone to find the perfect spot to cycle in.
Most of the negative comments are about the inability to sprint on the trainer as it is not sturdy enough for it to be done safely.
Best Fluid Bike Trainer: CycleOps Fluid 2CycleOps is a large company, part of the Saris cycling group that produce a wide range of trainers in all of the trainer types. Their best by far is the CycleOps Fluid 2 which combines all of their experience in bike trainers and the performance of fluid trainers, and is the bestselling trainer in the USA.
The CycleOps Fluid 2 has a patented fan design and flywheel that makes the trainer fully customisable in resistance not only on the trainer itself, but also using the gears of the bike. It also fits mountain bike and road bike frames and tires so all types of cyclists can use it. It has a built in cooling system so the oil does not get to hot, which can be a problem in other fluid trainers. There is also an app that can be used in conjunction with the trainer to optimise your training.
- Leak proof
- One of the quietest trainers on the market
- Self-cooling so doesn’t get to hot
- Foldable for easy transportation
- Bestselling trainer in USA
Positives and Negatives
The quietness of the trainer is one of the biggest positives of the CycleOps Fluid 2, as the oil in the machine dulls the noise of the fan that is spinning. The trainer is also extremely stable and solid as it is made of heavy metal and has wide feet preventing the trainer tipping while sprinting and pushing hard against the pedals. This makes the trainer suitable for experienced and improver cyclists especially.
It is potentially not very good for beginners as it is very expensive, and someone new to cycling might not want to spend that much money at first. Fluid bike trainers are also generally quite heavy due to the liquid inside so aren’t very good for travelling with, and can also break and leak quite easily if not used properly.
Most customers praise the trainer’s sturdiness and stability, allowing many to have had the product for years without any problems. The company is also very helpful to customers, replacing broken units for free much of the time, even if it is out of warranty a few years old. It is also praised for its quietness and smoothness making it much like cycling on the road, and makes the time spent on the trainer much easier.
The only problems people have had with the trainer are how difficult it is to set up as the instructions are not clear and the likeliness of the product to leak. Although it shouldn’t leak, some have found that it has although the company usually fixes this for free if it does happen.
Best Wind Bike Trainer: CycleOps WindThe CycleOps wind trainer is made by the same company that makes the best fluid trainer, the CycleOps Fluid 2, showing how reliable the company is. This trainer is the same design as the Fluid 2; however it is a wind trainer, so is much cheaper and has different advantages and disadvantages.
As resistance is produced by the fan that is turned as you pedal pushing against the air, the harder you pedal the more the resistance goes up, much like riding on the road. It also features various resistance settings adjustable on the trainer, so you can pick how hard you want the session you are doing to be. It fits almost any size frame and wheel, so is useful for all types of cyclists. It isn’t optimised to be silent however so if you are looking for a quiet ride you may have to consider a different type of trainer.
- Progressive resistance
- Quietest wind trainer on the market
- Foldable for easy transportation
- Built to be reliable and not have any problems
Positive and Negatives
Being half the price of the average fluid trainer, yet not having a lack of features makes this one of the best value for money trainer. This makes it perfect for beginner and improver cyclists as they don’t have to spend a large amount of money to get the features they will need without many negatives. It has a lot of customization in resistance and as you get faster resistance increases steadily much as it would on the road.
The only downside to the trainer is the noise it makes. All wind trainers make noise due to the way they work, however the CycleOps wind trainer makes less noise than any other wind trainer. If the noise is too inconvenient for you or it may annoy any neighbours then a fluid or magnetic trainer may be better.
Many customers consider this the best trainer for its price. It has the same stand as the higher end CycleOps trainers so it is very sturdy and many people notice this as they sprint or ride hard on it. They also think the increase of resistance as you cycle faster is good, as it recreates road conditions and makes cycling on a trainer feel more natural.
Although many have said that the trainer is louder than other types of trainer, they have also said it is not loud enough to be a distraction, and wearing headphones completely blocks the noise of the trainer as you cycle. However, people that live in apartments or have roommates say it is too loud for their living conditions.
Why use Bike Trainers?
Benefits of Bike Trainers
Bike trainers are slowly becoming recognised as one of the most useful training tools to a cyclist of any level. Training sessions never have to be missed due to bad weather, as the training can be done inside where the conditions are much better. Due to the continuous nature of trainer sessions, not having to stop for red lights or cars and not coasting down hills, they are much shorter so if you are tight for time a session can easily fit into your timetable. They are so small when folded so don’t get in the way, and the quieter ones allow for late night or early morning training without disturbing others.
The biggest advantage of trainers is how they allow you to train. As you have no disturbances that make you vary your effort they are brilliant for putting in short bursts or long drags of consistent power without having to slow or stop for others. You can also adjust your resistance to change the effort you have to put into it to move the pedals, making it so your hard sessions are hard, and your easy session are easy. For those that are competitive it allows them to train on their own bike all year round so they get used to it as much as possible for when they race, and those less competitive get to train or lose weight while listening to music or watching television.
Problems With Bike Trainers
Bike trainers do have some downsides. They do not allow you to practice balance and handling on roads or on corners, so if someone where to only ride on a trainer they would find they would have problems riding safely on the roads, making it essential for you to ride on the road as well as on a trainer. Your back tire can also start to wear down as it rubs against the roller that is spins, and after prolonged use the grip of your tire can wear away making it unsafe. Using cheaper tires or specially made trainer tires while on your trainer can make this less of a problem as you don’t use these on the road and are made to take the wear they will develop.
How to Choose a Bike Trainer
Choosing a bike trainer can be a hard process. There are many questions you will have to ask yourself before you purchase one to make the correct decision.
- Are you going to be sprinting or riding steady? If you will be sprinting on the trainer you will have to buy a sturdy trainer with a wide base so it does not tip over as you ride.
- How much money would you like to spend? Fluid trainers are the most expensive and wind trainers the cheapest of the types.
- Is resistance important? If it is then wind and fluid trainers will be the best purchases, however if it is not then magnetic will be the best type for you.
- Will you be using it a lot? Using a trainer a lot can create problems with it, so wind trainers or higher end leak proof fluid trainers are the best for durability.
Trainers can go from a low $50 to over $2000 depending on the type and quality. The top end, most expensive ones are designed for professional riders who will be using them often and can go very faster, much faster than even the top end amateur. A trainer is only good if it first and foremost fits your budget.
When using the trainer the most important thing to remember is to not cut out riding on the road completely. Just riding on the trainer can make your bike handling and balance disappear and can reduce your ability to climb up hills or descend down them.