INDOOR TRAINER BUYING GUIDE

Shaun George BOTS Guides

Your love for cycling shouldn’t be dampened by poor weather conditions or a lack of time. Wouldn’t it be great if you could train, warm-up or even compete with fellow cyclists around the world from the comfort of your house? Well, it’s possible with an indoor cycling trainer. You can keep cycling for hundreds of kilometers, even if it’s raining cats and dogs outside your house. What’s cooler is that you can train for upcoming races or events regardless of the weather conditions or the time of day outside.

A bicycle trainer is basically a piece of equipment that makes it possible for you to ride your bicycle from a stationary position. Very much like a treadmill, the trainer allows you to cycle in a fixed place. But unlike a treadmill, a trainer is not entirely a separate piece of equipment. Instead, it’s a device that attaches to a regular bicycle so that you can ride your bike in a stationary position while also being able to use it again whenever you like, outdoors.

DO I REALLY NEED A TRAINER?

This is a question that we really cannot answer because each rider has their own requirements and expectations out of a trainer. Budget is another very important consideration for a first-time buyer. But perhaps the most important consideration for a buyer would actually be intended usage and future goals. Other considerations would include time availability and surrounding weather conditions. Say it’s monsoon time,  riding outdoors wouldn’t be the most pleasurable activity to partake in. If you live in particularly cold regions then it would be a good idea to look at getting an indoor trainer for morning rides.

An indoor trainer is also a great idea for riders on a time constraint. That would be office goers or just people with packed daily schedules. Riding on your trainer will save you a considerable amount of time each day and will help you stay motivated to ride as you don’t have to miss a day regardless of the weather conditions and time availability at hand. 

Professional cyclists also use trainers to warm-up and cool-down before and after rides. They also use smart trainers at home to improve speed, efficiency, and endurance. 

So you can weigh out your requirements and opt for a trainer if it suits your budget and makes sense for long term cycling ambitions.

Types of bike trainers-

MAGNETIC

Your bike’s rear-wheel drives a fan that provides resistance. As you pedal harder, the resistance progressively increases. Most of the wind-based trainers in the market are available at a fairly reasonable price point. They’re also quite lightweight which makes them easy to move around alone.

However, there usually isn’t much adjustability on offer for variable resistances. The fan also can get quite noisy which may not be ideal for home-usage.

ROLLERS

These trainers are also available in two types. Ones with a stand in the front and ones with rollers in the front as well. This type of trainer gives you the most realistic feel as there is a direct drive from your rear wheel to the roller. The models with

a roller for the front wheel requires a good sense of balance. It’s usually used by the professionals.  You need to maintain a consistent cadence to have an enjoyable experience on the trainer. Roller trainers do also come in very basic variants as well. It’s a simple set up that is great for a warmup before a race. Not the most ideal setup for training or long duration workouts as resistance cannot be adjusted.

FLUID

These trainers have some form of a liquid within the trainer housing providing resistance, usually silicon. The fluid drag can simulate multiple scenarios and that’s why fluid trainers are becoming a common choice among pro endurance riders. It’s fairly accurate and realistic to use. 

The fluid inside contributes to a bulk of the gross weight of the trainer. Due to internal fluid friction, it also tends to heat up with heavy usage. Fluid trainers are also more expensive than wind and roller trainers.

INTERACTIVE/SMART TRAINERS

These trainers are the ultimate indoor trainers as they also offer statistical rider input and output data that a rider can access via their mobile devices or laptops to analyze their performance. It’s a good way to receive riding feedback for improvement further down the line. These trainers also have a ton of adjustability options for all rider requirements. 

 They aim at stimulating an outdoor ride with realistic experiences, visuals, and resistances. These feature Bluetooth or/and ANT+ compatibility so you can capture more data and also pair external devices such as heart rate monitors for minute details. All these additional features will cost you plenty but might give you the motivation to get into some serious training.

Things to look out for-

  • Performance
  • Portability
  • Adjustability
  • Ease of use
  • Pricing
  • Noise levels

Which type of trainer is the best for me?

Smart trainers are your best bet these days as you can keep all your ride data on your devices or even share them on social media and compete with friends. Smart trainers also have a plethora of adjustability options and can be adjusted on the fly. However, smart trainers can be quite expensive and may not be worth the money for riders not looking to get too serious into the statistical data and just want a basic trainer.  

In that case, wind and roller trainers are the most economical options for a beginner. They’re also fairly accurate and realistic.

Go through the different types of trainers above and see what kind of trainer suits your requirements best. According to that and your budget, you can lock in onto a trainer. Don’t limit your budget onto a trainer that’s much cheaper than others in the market as it probably indicates that the manufacturer has cut corners in product development and overall quality which is never a good thing. 

Wahoo, Kinetic and CycleOps are some of the best trainer manufacturers in the game these days. You don’t have to spend too much for a decent trainer these days. Most basic trainers these days do the job just fine. Additional features and adjustability will cost more.

MAINTENENCE

Since trainers spend most of their time inside houses or enclosed spaces there’s not much maintenance required to keep them running healthy. 

Although there are a few basic things you can do to ensure your trainer lasts as long as realistically possible. 

Clean the roller- Keep the interface surface clear of any debris. It’ll function smoother this way.

Lubrication- Lubricate the tensioner and tensioner mechanism.

Tighten frame bolts- Occasionally tighten the frame bolts after weeks of heavy usage.

Storage- Store the trainer in a cool and dry area away from direct sunlight when not in use.

SUMMARY

For some, a trainer can be a big-time and money saver. Riding your bike indoors means it’s undergoing less wear and tear as it isn’t exposed to the elements and pollutants that can wear out your drivetrain pretty fast. It’s also a great way to train for an upcoming race or event. Go over the list above to see what kind of trainer is best for your requirements and usage pattern. There are a bunch of pocket-friendly options out there too for riders who are just starting out.

Being able to save a ton of time getting ready for a ride and being able to ride even if the weather outside is far from ideal, is a big enough reason for most riders to invest in one. What are you waiting for?

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