An indoor bike trainer is a great way to maintain and even build your cycling fitness when winter weather makes it unpleasant or impossible to go outside. Simply set up your regular bike on an indoor bike trainer and pedal away. Sure, it is not as much fun as biking outdoors. But with technological aids such as a TV, iPad, or a cycling app to provide entertainment or inspiration, it need not be boring. In this post we describe the different types of indoor bike trainers available, and list 5 of the best indoor bike trainers. We also recommend a couple of essential accessories to make your indoor bike training experience more comfortable.
Chart Comparing 5 of the Best Indoor Bike Trainers
|Serious cyclists looking for a premium indoor trainer||Fluid resistance||Quiet, premium construction, realistic cycling feeling, patented leak-proof technology; highly adjustable resistance, unconditional lifetime warranty||Best Price on Amazon Right Now (includes riser ring): $307.18|
|People looking for a budget magnetic resistance option||Magnetic resistance||Cheap, solid, quite noisy||Best Price on Amazon Right Now: $0.00|
|People willing to invest a bit more money for a well rated magnetic trainer||Magnetic resistance||Fully adjustable legs, resistance remote, ships with a mat||Best Price on Amazon Right Now: $169.90|
|People who want a medium quality trainer and don’t mind if it is noisy||Air resistance||Lightweight and durable. As wind resistance units go, this is one of the very best||Best Price on Amazon Right Now: $235.99|
|Serious cyclists who want a premium trainer that is super quiet and comes with awesome Bluetooth Smart app access||Electronic resistance||Realistic cycling feeling; engages your core; you can link it to useful apps with Bluetooth; automatically adjusts resistance to simulate ride conditions; unconditional lifetime warranty on the frame||Best Price on Amazon Right Now: $549.00|
Types of Indoor Bike Trainers
There are two basic kinds of indoor bike trainers: roller trainers and turbo trainers. All of the trainers recommended in this post are turbo trainers. We have focused on these because we find roller trainers just a little bit … scary. They basically require you to ride your bike on three spinning rollers without moving forward – which requires skill and balance in order to avoid falling off or riding into walls. So, they would not be our first choice. However, if you do happen to be highly skilled and very confident, take a look at this CycleOps Roller Trainer.
If you don’t want to take any risks, the turbo indoor bike trainers recommended in this post are stable and safe. They include trainers that use fluid resistance, magnetic resistance, air resistance, and electronic resistance.
How Turbo Indoor Bike Trainers Work
You place the turbo trainer device under the rear wheel of your bike, transforming your regular bike into an indoor trainer. The rear wheel of your bike is suspended in an A-frame and the tire rests on a roller in a resistance unit.
The trainer device uses a variety of techniques to provide the resistance required to give you a workout (as you don’t have the regular resistance that results from propelling your body weight forward).
Indoor Bike Trainers that Use Fluid Resistance
The technology in indoor bike trainers has come a long way, and modern trainers that use fluid resistance are relatively quiet. They are also relatively expensive, but as with most things, you get what you pay for. In a fluid resistance trainer, the resistance is created by turning a blade inside a container of fluid. Fluid resistance is progressive, that is, it increases as wheel speed increases, because the fluid becomes thicker as its temperature increases. The fact that the resistance increases in this way means that you will never get so fit that your trainer is useless.
Fluid resistance units are the second quietest indoor bike trainers – just behind electronic resistance indoor trainers.
Most Highly Rated Fluid Resistance Indoor Bike Trainer: The Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer
The most highly rated fluid resistance indoor bike trainer on Amazon is The Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer (the green one pictured above). Reputable sources such as Tri Sports.com rate it as the best fluid trainer on the market, while modernbike.com and Fit Werx note that it is one of the two most popular fluid trainers. They are also the official indoor bike trainer for the USA Cycling Team. Crucially, they have overcome the Achilles heel of fluid resistance units, in that they have patented a design that does not leak.
The Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer fits 22 to 29-inch wheels, and is highly rated for the following reasons:
- It is quiet. You can watch TV as long as you turn it up a bit, and it won’t bother the neighbors. The level of noise for people in adjoining rooms is similar to a ceiling fan.
- It gives a realistic cycling feel.
- It enables you to make solid fitness gains during winter.
- It is completely stable – so much so that you can stand up to sprint on the pedals.
- It arrives almost fully assembled (you do still have to add your bike!)
- It is easy to put up and take down.
- You can set resistance from 5 to 3,000+ watts with the power calibrated resistance unit. This is enough for even Olympic-level athletes.
- It provides outdoor ride simulation by automatically adjusting resistance as you change speeds and shift gears.
- You can realistically coast down (no pedaling) from 20 mph in 15 seconds.
- To make the training more precise, you can measure power by pairing it with Kinetic’s inRide Watt Meter accessory and Kinetic Fit app.
- It is made of solid, quality materials and lasts for years, backed by an unconditional lifetime guaranty.
- It ships with an extra hub, in case your own one does not fit.
- It has an interesting, patented magnetic drive systems that links the drive system together. This drastically reduces wear and tear issues, as explained in this video.
Indoor Bike Trainers that use Magnetic Resistance
Magnetic indoor bike trainers use adjustable magnetic resistance to create drag against the bike wheel. The unit is driven by a flywheel with rotating magnets that create resistance as they are engaged or disengaged. To adjust the resistance, you usually have to get off your bike and choose a new level on the trainer. However, some models enable you to change the resistance with a handlebar-mounted cable that you attach to the trainer. The amount of resistance they can generate is finite, so your unit could become useless if your fitness improves substantially.
Magnetic resistance units are noisier than fluid resistance units, but quieter than air resistance units.
Most Highly Rated Magnetic Resistance Indoor Bike Trainer: Blackburn Tech Mag Race Trainer
The Blackburn Tech Mag Race Trainer is the most highly rated magnetic indoor trainer on Amazon.
The Blackburn Tech Mag Race Trainer is highly rated for the following reasons:
- It is not very noisy.
- It has a Fast Crank mounting system and fully adjustable legs so that you can use it on pretty much any surface.
- Great price for the quality.
- It ships with a resistance remote that you can attach to your handlebars and remotely change your level of resistance as you warm up.
- It ships with a mat to protect your floor and reduce noise.
Best Budget Magnetic Indoor Bike Trainer Option: Gotobuy Premium Magnetic Trainer
The Gotobuy Premium Steel Bike Bicycle Indoor Exercise Trainer Stand is a budget option in magnetic resistance indoor bike trainers. It is somewhat noisy, but is reasonably easy to assemble and has many satisfied users. At this price point, it is not going to offer you high-end features of any kind, but will provide a basic workout indoors.
Indoor Bike Trainers that use Electronically Controlled Resistance
These trainers are for those who want the best possible indoor bike training experience, and have the money to pay for top quality. They are smart trainers with a load generator that can be electronically controlled. Forget about adjusting resistance by hand. With these machines, you will be choosing a simulated bike ride – say, perhaps, a bracing ride through the Alps – and the electronic resistance unit will automatically adjust the resistance for you, to simulate that ride. You will be freed up to watch TV while your ride data streams alongside your show, or – even better – to immerse yourself in a virtual ride using videos from an app like The Sufferfest.
Most Highly Rated Electronic Resistance Indoor Bike Trainer: Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control Bike Trainer
The Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control bike trainer is like the Kinetic Fluid Trainer at the top of this post, only better, and more expensive. It is better for two main reasons:
- It is set up for Bluetooth Smart connectivity, giving you access to all kinds of cool cycling apps, such as Kinetic Fit, Zwift and TrainerRoad.
- The frame lets your bike move from side to side, so you have a more realistic experience, and your core muscles get a workout too.
The Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control bike trainer fits 22 inch to 29 inch wheels, and is highly rated for the following reasons:
- It is set up to offer an immersive experience, coupled with efficient, targeted workouts and ride simulations that will get you hammering those cranks and getting fitter.
- It has a huge flywheel (14.3-pound) to provide a realistic road feel.
- You control the resistance and record data with apps. So, for example, you can simulate alpine climbs. The resistance will automatically adjust to simulate terrain changes.
- It’s very quiet.
- It comes with an unconditional lifetime warranty on the frame and frame parts. The electronic resistance unit is covered by a two-year warranty.
- You have complete data access and control with the Kinetic Fit App. This app gives you a wide range of training plans, and lets you stream your workout data to your chosen device, right next to the content you are watching
- The Kinetic Fit app is compatible with AirPlay, Chromecast, Apple Watch, Google Wear, Mio Heart Rate Sensors, the Kinetic Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Strap, among others.
- With the Kinetic Fit app you can stream your workout data to your TV or device alongside your favorite movie, video or YouTube content directly through the app.
- You can also chose to stream The Sufferfest, which has premium cycling videos, and synchronize to your own personal workout (a subscription is required). This app was voted App of the Year by Bikes Etc.
Indoor Bike Trainers that use Air Resistance
Turbo trainers using the original air resistance method use a fan to create wind resistance. They generate resistance by spinning a bladed disk or fan through the air. They can be very loud, but a very good one will generate a fairly realistic cycling feeling with smooth, progressive resistance.
Air resistance trainers are the noisiest of all indoor bike trainers.
Most Highly Rated Air Resistance Indoor Bike Trainer: Kinetic Cyclone Bike Trainer
This trainer is from leading brand Kinetic, and is the lightest unit they make (basically because fans weigh less than fluid resistance units). If you want to go with an air resistance unit, this would be an excellent choice.
The Kinetic Cyclone Bike Trainer fits 22 to 29-inch wheels, and is highly rated for the following reasons:
- It offers smooth, progressive resistance to replicate an outdoor ride feel and coast down experience, thanks to its dual 2.2 lb. flywheels (which are the largest of any wind trainer).
- You can set resistance from 5 to 1000 watts.
- It is lightweight and durable.
This indoor trainer is a lot noisier than the Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer at the top of this post, and will not provide as much resistance, so if noise is a concern and you are very fit, this unit is not the one for you. If however you want a cheaper option from a leading brand, this could be the one.
Accessories for Indoor Bike Training
Almost all of these trainers will require a front riser to keep the bike level. These are cheap and essential, because the trainer raises the back wheel, and you need your bike level to feel comfortable. You may be able to manage if you still have an old phone book lying around! If not, this CycleOps Riser will fit any indoor trainer, and is so completely adjustable that you can simulate cycling uphill (although, I am not sure I would ever want to do that!)
Also, it is essential to purchase a training tire for your rear wheel. Otherwise, you will wear out your regular tire at an alarming rate, which is just a waste of money. Training tires help to make the turbo slightly quieter, and are made from a slightly harder compound of rubber so they will not wear down so quickly.
Next, unless you live alone in a large, empty palace, you will probably want to minimize the noise you generate. The best way to do this is by spending more money for a quieter machine. But whatever you end up buying, a good way to minimize noise is to place your training setup on a yoga mat or similar mat. This will soak up some of the noise, and also catch the sweat that is gong to be dripping off of you! If you want something tougher than a yoga mat, it is possible to buy a mat that is designed for indoor trainers to stand on, such as this one by Kinetic.
If you don’t already have one, a decent fan is highly recommended. When cycling outdoors, the wind helps to keep you cool, but indoors you don’t have this. So, you are going to be able to keep going a whole lot longer if you have a fan to cool you down.
Finally, as with any indoor workout, keep a towel handy!
Good luck – we hope you find the perfect indoor bike trainer and have a lot of fun with it. If there is a great one we have missed, please let us know in the comments and we will try to add it in!
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