Exercise needs to be an all year round pursuit if you want to get in shape and maintain a reasonable level of fitness. Unfortunately, unless you live in a tropical paradise, the weather has other ideas. While dedicated individuals have no problem pounding the pavement or cycling outdoors in the cold, wet and windy weather, most casual fitness enthusiasts prefer to stay indoors with a warm drink! What if there was a way to pedal your way to fitness without having to expose yourself to inclement weather conditions? As it turns out, there is!
Comparison: Best Bike Trainers: Turbo Trainers & Rollers
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What is a Bike Trainer?
Depending on the model, this piece of fitness equipment is also called a turbo trainer or a cycling trainer. Irrespective of the name, a bike trainer allows you to cycle indoors. Connect the rear wheel of your bicycle to the device and start cycling! It supplies a set level of resistance (which you control), so you can brake and change gear; it offers the same fitness benefits as outdoor biking without the rain beating against your skin.
There are several types of turbo trainers to choose from:
- Air Resistance: This is a fan powered device that is one of the cheapest models available. On the downside, it is not adjustable so you can only alter speed by changing gears or pedaling faster. They are extremely loud so not a good option if you have paper thin walls.
- Magnetic Resistance: These devices are adjustable so you can create a tailor-made training session. They are quieter than their air powered counterparts, and if you pay a little extra, you can get electromagnetic trainers. These machines are laden with features which make them versatile and fun.
- Fluid Resistance: This device builds on the magnetic resistance idea with a fluid-filled chamber to offer even more resistance. They make little noise and allow for customized workouts but on the downside, fluid resistance turbo trainers aren’t always durable, yet they can be expensive.
- Bike Rollers: This is an excellent option if you’re looking to improve your balance or pedal stroke. It is a unique type of bike trainer because you cycle on rollers. It provides you with a more realistic and challenging ride.
- Smart Trainers: These are advanced devices that can connect to your computer or Smartphone. Some innovations control smart trainers and allow you to cycle your favorite outdoor route, indoors!
Why Do I Need A Bike Trainer?
First and foremost, if you enjoy exercising but live in an area where bad weather prevents you from training in the great outdoors, a turbo trainer allows you to workout consistently on your own time. Perhaps you’re awake 30 minutes early for work; why not jump on your bike trainer and get yourself ready for the day?
If you own a bicycle, you probably feel more comfortable on it than you would with a gym equivalent. You could purchase a turbo trainer just to keep your level of fitness up during the winter or else you can use it to get into prime shape for a competition or race. You can even use a bike trainer to warm up on the day of a race. Professional cyclists often use one of these devices to get ready for an event and also to remove lactic acid from the muscles after racing.
Best Bike Trainer – Turbo Trainers
1 – Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer
According to the manufacturer, Kurt Kinetic, the Road Machine is the most reliable fluid trainer on the market. It isn’t cheap, but it excels in the value for money stakes. This turbo trainer has a leak proof system and automatic resistance setting. As a result, you can quickly and easily change the difficulty of your workout.
It has a stable platform which allows you to stand up while riding and it is designed for wheel sizes of 22-29 inches. The roller is made from hardened stainless steel and is larger than the majority of rival brands. The 80 cooling fans to prevent overheating is an excellent addition, and it has a lifetime warranty.
It weighs 27 pounds and isn’t exactly a small unit. The fact it doesn’t fold is a disadvantage, and the maximum resistance may not be enough for very advanced riders. Overall, the Kinetic Road Machine has received widespread praise from users because it is a safe, reliable and efficient device for maintaining fitness levels.
2 – Gavin Indoor Bicycle Trainer
Gavin may not be a renowned turbo trainer manufacturer, but its indoor bicycle is one of the best budget bike trainers available. At less than $100, you get a piece of equipment compatible with 26-27 inch wheels. Despite the low price, the Gavin Indoor Bicycle is constructed from durable material, and you can fold it away when it’s not in use.
The broad support base ensures the trainer is extremely stable and we like the addition of the front wheel block. There is a quick release system, and the machine is aesthetically pleasing to boot.
The main downside is the lack of resistance settings which means you can only change the speed by switching gears or increasing/decreasing your pedaling power. Given the price, this is a minor complaint. Overall, the Gavin Indoor Bicycle provides you with a smooth ride, and it doesn’t make much noise. This magnetic unit offers a cheap and easy way to keep fit in the depths of winter and is worth a second look.
3 – CycleOps Fluid 2 Indoor Trainer
This is apparently the best selling turbo trainer on the market and is in the mid-range of pricing. The Fluid 2 is designed to provide users with a realistic road feel thanks to the precision-balanced flywheel. CycleOps has adjusted the fluid levels for increased resistance, and the result is a challenging yet quiet ride.
One of the best things about this fluid system is that there is no need for adjustment. In theory, you should be able to pedal as fast as you like without ever reaching a maximum resistance level. In other words, only your fitness level dictates the speed you travel.
It is a well-constructed piece of fitness equipment that should last for years, and it provides a wonderful ‘real road’ experience. The Fluid 2 is heavy so it isn’t the best machine to transport and it doesn’t respond well to out-of-saddle riding. However, it is a fantastic turbo trainer and deserves its reputation as one of the best fluid trainer options.
Best Bike Roller
Kinetic Z Rollers
Kurt Kinetic makes a well-deserved second appearance on our list as its Z roller product is outstanding. The design is basic; three rollers are attached to a frame, and when you fold it, the item looks like the letter ‘Z.’ It is easy to get this bike roller ready to go from a folded position; just flip both ends out and place the rubber belt in the right position.
You can adjust the Z Rollers to fit wheels ranging from 97-110cm, and there are grooves on both sides to allow riders to dismount on the left or right. You will barely know the machine is operating because it makes so little noise and because the frame doesn’t lock, it remains relatively stable on slightly uneven surfaces. The rollers are made from robust aluminum, and the product carries an unconditional lifetime warranty.
Kinetic Z Rollers are not ideal for beginners because there is no support. You are better served purchasing a traditional turbo trainer if you’re new to indoor biking. However, the Kinetic is ideal for intermediates looking to improve their balance. If you’re using rollers for the very first time, it is a good idea to place chairs or something else on both sides for support. Place a towel or mat beneath the machine to catch sweat.
Overall, the Kinetic Z Rollers is one of the best bike rollers online, and it is at an affordable price.
How To Choose A Bike Trainer
Although inexpensive turbo trainers enable you to exercise on a budget, they aren’t the easiest devices to use. Adjustments can only be made by changing gears or your pedaling speed. If you want adjustable resistance, be prepared to pay extra. Some bike trainers have a lever on the unit to make changes, but this is a tough task when in the midst of a session.
If you want the ability to alter resistance during a workout quickly, invest in a remote lever attached to the handlebar. At the upper end of the price scale, there are electronic control units on the handlebars that deliver detailed information about your session. Smart trainers are even more advanced and let you adjust resistance based on virtual terrain.
Don’t settle for a cheap frame as it could bend beneath your weight. A heavy frame made from durable material will offer stability; essential for HIIT training. The amount of space you have to work with will dictate the size of the frame. Don’t invest in a large, heavy-duty turbo trainer if it doesn’t fit snugly in your home. Choose a product that folds away neatly to conserve space.
Ease of Use
The best brands make it easy to attach the turbo trainer to the rear wheel of your bike. Look for a model with an ergonomic lever. Also, opt for a brand designed to fit wheels of various sizes in case someone else wants to use the machine.
Everyone needs good neighbors so don’t anger yours by investing in a bike trainer that sounds like a truck! High-quality turbo trainers have a hard rubber compound that absorbs most of the noise.
It is entirely up to you whether you want to invest in accessories for your bike trainer. Here are a few options:
- Floor Mat: A mat protects your floor from sweat and also reduces the noise created by the machine.
- Front Wheel: This props the front wheel up a couple of inches which is useful because the turbo trainer elevates the back wheel. Alternatively, place a book underneath the front wheel to save money!
- Training Tire: A bike trainer will flatten your back tire so consider purchasing a cheap version for indoor use.
Benefits Of A Bike Trainer
- A bike trainer is stable, so it is ideal for individuals new to cycling. You can sit, stand or even pedal while watching TV or reading.
- You can use a turbo trainer at any time of year to keep your fitness levels up.
- Depending on the model, it is possible to change the resistance to create a customized workout.
- You can stay fit even if you’re suffering from an upper body injury.
- Bike rollers provide a realistic feel akin to riding on an open road.
- Turbo trainers cause no undue wear and tear on your bike.
- Rollers help you learn how to ride in a straight line and improve your balance.
Negatives Of A Bike Trainer
- While a bike roller assists with balance, a turbo trainer does not. It does not prepare you for real outdoor riding if you are a beginner.
- As your back wheel is clamped tightly in a trainer, it could break or at least scratch your quick-release levers or your frame.
- The rear wheel will wear out quickly, so we advise you to purchase a cheaper back wheel for exclusive use with the turbo trainer.
- Even the best bike rollers don’t have resistance units so performing HIIT workouts is difficult.
If you enjoy cycling and are serious about staying in shape, a bike roller is an essential purchase. It allows you to perform workouts tailor-made for your goals and existing level of fitness. Best of all, you can train at any time day or night even if it is snowing outside! Just make sure you purchase a turbo trainer that doesn’t produce much noise; your neighbors may not appreciate being awakened by your 5 am exercise session!