This post compares 5 of the best budget indoor bike trainers. An indoor bike trainer is a great way to build your cycling fitness when bad weather makes it unpleasant to go outside. Simply set up your regular bike on an indoor bike trainer and pedal away. Then use a TV, iPad, smart phone, or a cycling app to provide entertainment and inspiration. There is no better way to get fit than to find a way to exercise while having fun.
At the very top of the range, most smart indoor trainers cost around a thousand dollars and more. But if you are a beginner at indoor bike training, you can get started with something a whole lot cheaper. In this post we describe the different types of indoor bike trainers available, and list 5 of the best budget indoor bike trainers. The trainers in this post range from less than $100, to around $500. (The very best of these is a SMART indoor trainer that is on sale with its price SLASHED right now.) We also recommend some essential accessories to make your indoor bike training experience more comfortable.
Chart Comparing 5 of the Best Budget Indoor Bike Trainers
|Serious cyclists who want a premium SMART trainer that is super quiet and comes with access to awesome apps via Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ FE-C||Electronic resistance. Fits 22 inch to 29 inch wheels||Realistic cycling feeling; engages your core; easy on your knees because it moves; you can link it to inspirational, fun apps with Bluetooth or ANT+; automatically adjusts resistance to simulate ride conditions; unconditional lifetime warranty on the frame; also compatible with Garmin||Usually around $550; on sale for $407; click here for exact price on Amazon Right Now|
|Serious cyclists looking for a premium indoor trainer - BUT who don't want to pay for a Smart trainer||Fluid resistance. Fits 22 inch to 29 inch wheels. Just replace your bike's quick-release skewer with the Kinetic skewer and mount your bike on the trainer||Official indoor bike trainer for the USA Cycling Team; quiet, premium construction; realistic cycling feeling thanks to the heavy 6.25 pound flywheel; patented leak-proof technology; highly adjustable resistance; pairs with Kinetic inRide Watt Meter to measure power output; unconditional lifetime warranty||Usually around $350; click here for exact price on Amazon Right Now|
|People looking for a BUDGET indoor bike trainer to try out indoor training||Magnetic resistance. Compatible with any bike with a 26-28" or 700c wheel and with a rear wheel axle between 4.92'-6.57"||Cheap, solid, a bit noisy. Will be quieter with road bikes than mountain bikes. You can use the 5 adjustable anti-slip rubber feet to even out any uneven flooring||Usually around $120; click here for exact price on Amazon Right Now|
|People willing to invest a bit more money for a well rated magnetic trainer||Magnetic resistance. Compatible with wheel sizes from 26" x 1" to 29" x 2.3", so it will fit a road, hybrid, or mountain bike. Will be quieter with a road bike||Fully adjustable legs and feet provide stability regardless of the surface; control resistance with a remote control; ships with a mat; lifetime warranty||Usually around $155; click here for exact price on Amazon Right Now|
|People who want a medium quality trainer and don’t mind if it is noisy||Air resistance. Fits 22" to 29" wheels, up to 29 x 2.4" tires sizes||Lightweight and durable. As wind resistance units go, this is one of the very best. Dual 2.2 lb flywheels (largest of any wind trainer) offer a realistic road feel and coast down. Progressive resistance from 5 to 1000 watts||Usually around $250; click here for exact price on Amazon Right Now|
How Turbo Indoor Bike Trainers Work
All of the indoor trainers in this post are on the cheaper side because of their design. Basically, they work by applying friction. With the more expensive trainers, you remove your rear wheel and attach your bike to a direct drive unit. With the trainers in this post, you place the turbo trainer device under the rear wheel of your bike. In this way, you transform 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. Because there will be a lot of wear and tear on your rear tire, we recommend that you buy a trainer tire.
The indoor trainer device uses a variety of techniques to provide the resistance required to give you a workout. (Because you don’t have the resistance that results from propelling your body weight forward.) This includes fluid resistance, magnetic resistance, and electronic resistance. We explain this further below.
Smart 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 good quality. They are smart trainers with a load generator that can be electronically controlled. Basically, you connect a smart phone or an iPad or a computer to the device via Bluetooth Smart and/or Ant +. Forget about adjusting resistance by hand!
With these machines, you can choose a simulated bike ride. Say, perhaps, a bracing ride through the Alps! 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 – you can immerse yourself in a virtual ride using videos from an app like The Sufferfest. You can also choose to set your ERG. The ERG mode is where the trainer adjusts its resistance automatically. This helps you hit a certain target power level without needing to shift.
A Bargain Priced Budget Smart Indoor Trainer
Usually these smart indoor trainers are very high end and cost upwards of $1000. However, we did manage to find a highly rated one, the Kinetic Rock and Roll. This trainer is currently on sale for less than half of that price. More about that trainer further on in this post.
Budget 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, the resistance 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.
Budget 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.
Indoor Bike Trainers that use Air Resistance
Turbo trainers using the original air resistance method have a fan that creates 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.
Budget Indoor Trainer #1: Most Highly Rated Electronic Smart Indoor Bike Trainer: Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer
The Kinetic Rock and Roll trainer offers many of the premium features of high-end smart trainers, but at a much lower price point (less than half). The primary reason it is cheaper is that it is a tire drive. That is, friction is applied to your own rear tire. With the more expensive trainers, you remove your rear wheel and attach your bike to a direct drive unit.
Video Showing the Kinetic Rock and Roll
This video gives you more information about this highly rated smart trainer:
Features of the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Trainer
Despite the comparatively low price, this smart indoor bike trainer offers all of the following features:
- It is set up for Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ connectivity. This gives you access to all kinds of cool cycling apps, such as Kinetic Fit, Zwift, TrainerRoad and Fit. These apps allow you to control the resistance and record your progress. To do this, you use apps on your phone, tablet, or computer. These apps enable you to create much more enjoyable training sessions. For example, you can simulate alpine climbs. The resistance will automatically adjust to simulate terrain changes.
- It is also compatible with Garmin.
- 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.
- 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. If you buy it from Amazon, you get the app free for a month, to try it out.
- The Kinetic Fit app is compatible with AirPlay, Chromecast, Apple Watch, Google Wear, Mio Heart Rate Sensors, and 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.
- The frame lets your bike move from side to side. So, you have a more realistic cycling experience, and your core muscles get a workout too.
- It has a large flywheel (6.2 pounds) to provide a realistic road feel.
- Fits 22 inch to 29 inch wheels.
- 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.
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Indoor Trainer #2: 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. Reputable sources such as Tri Sports.com rate it as the best fluid trainer on the market. Also, 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 (with no pedaling) from 20 mph in 15 seconds.
- To make the training more precise, and measure your fitness progress, 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.
Video of a Magnetic Drive System
This indoor bike trainer 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.
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Indoor Trainer #3: Best BUDGET Magnetic Indoor Bike Trainer Option: Sportneer Bike Trainer Stand
The Sportneer Bike 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 it will provide a basic workout indoors. It’s the number 1 best seller in bike resistance trainers on Amazon – so it could be that this is a good way to test the waters, and see if indoor trainers will work for you, without laying out the big bucks!
Indoor Trainer #4: 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.
Related Post: How to Get Bike Fit: Complete Bike Training Plan
Indoor Trainer #5: 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 other trainers in 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. However, if 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. Click here for an entire selection of training tires.
A Mat to Reduce Noise
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.
A Fan to Keep You Cool
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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