A bike trainer (also know as a bike stand trainer or a turbo trainer) allows a person to train indoors on their own bike. You simply connect your rear wheel to the trainer so that you can pedal against a given resistance supplied by the trainer meaning you can change gear and brake as if outside while remaining stationary in the comfort of your own home.
These are generally used by people wanting to improve their speed or stamina on their own bike rather than using a gym machine with the inappropriate set up. It also gives you the freedom to train in all weathers which for road cyclists is very important as trying to battle against wind, rain and snow is virtually impossible without risking serious injury. They are also used to warm up prior to a race or competition, for example sprint cyclists are often seen pedaling away on stationary bikes attached to a trainer to warm up beforehand and also to cool down and get lactic acid away from the muscles. Our reviews help you select the trainer most suitable for your needs.
Top Trainers by Type
Here are our #1 choices by trainer type. For more information regarding different types of trainers click here.
|Best Fluid Bike Trainer||Best Magnetic Bike Trainer||Best Wind Bike Trainer|
|Product||Kinetic Road Machine Fluid Bike Trainer||Gavin Indoor Bicycle Cycling Trainer Exercise Stand||CycleOps Wind Trainer|
|Our Review||Read our full review||Read our full review||Read our full review|
|Bike Wheel Size||22-29"||27-28"||26-29"|
|Dimensions||H23" x L19" x W23"||H20" L18" W24"||H21" L18" W24"|
|Weight||27 pounds||20 pounds||18 pounds|
Different types of trainers
Bike trainers come in a variety of designs depending on what type of resistance is being provided. The four most common types use either wind, fluid, magnetic or centrifugal resistance.
- Fluid – These combine the magnetic flywheel with fluid chambers that produce the resistance. The best asset this has its nearly silent and resistance can be added progressively, however friction can cause them to overheat and the possibility of leaks.
- Magnetic – simply a magnetic flywheel that creates resistance for the rear tire. Main pro is that is almost silent but the downside is they are prone to breaking and they have a limit the amount of resistance they can provide.
- Wind – this uses a fan that is powered by the cyclist’s legs and in turn provides increased resistance the faster they pedal. The pros are that it is realistic to cycling outdoors but the cons are it can be very noisy and there is a limited amount of resistance available.
- Centrifugal – pressure plates provide resistance to the rear tire. The main pro is that it is almost silent too and the resistance can be adjusted. However they are also prone to breaking under extreme use.
- A different kind of machine is a roller trainer (also know as a cycling roller). These are a set of unsupported roller bars which allow you to cycle while stationary with both front and bike wheels turning in comparison to just the rear on the turbo trainers. These are great but can be expensive and are much harder to use than the turbo.
Reviews of our top choices
The best fluid trainer and the best overall: Kinetic road machine
The Kinetic road machine fluid bike trainer is made by Kurt Kinetic which was founded in 1999. Kurt Kinetic currently holds the patent for the first leak proof fluid resistance unit and they hold a great range of stock from fluid trainers to cycling accessories.
This is a versatile product with a leak proof system which also has an automatic resistance setting, allowing the resistance to increase without the use of a lever. This fluid based mechanism is one of the first of its kind and boasts being leak proof to improve the life span. The Kinetic road machine has a stable platform to increase the balance when stand up riding for pushing hard on those hill climbs. It also fits wheel sizes from 22 -29 inch. The tire roller is made of stainless steel and is relatively larger than much of the competition which means it will last longer.
The main product features are:
- 6.25 pound flywheel with completely sealed resistance unit
- 80 cooling fins to stop overheating
- Automatic resistance controls
- Extra stable platform
- Leak proof magnetic drive system
The kinetic road machine is one of the more expensive units in this category with and list price of $379.00 although it can usually be found at sub $300 level (see latest prices at amazon.com). With price come features and solid quality, and this is our overall favorite among all trainers reviewed here.
Likes and Dislikes
This indoor trainer boasts lots of excellent technologies that help to increase the lifespan and function such as the leak proof drive system, the cooling fins and the larger roller. These are the best things about it but with so much technology it begs the question is there more to go wrong? It caters for a range of wheel sizes which is definitely a positive and the automatic resistance settings allows for easy riding without having to stop or adjust. Another positive is the manufacturer Kurt Kinetic which is well known for good quality and innovation in this space.
However with these automatic systems you can only work as hard as the unit lets you which can be a negative for more advanced riders. However the use of aluminum and stainless steel make this unit sound extremely sturdy and capable of dealing with a lot of use. The fact it cannot be folded is also a negative and it weighs 27 pound so moving may not be that easy. It appears to suit the average rider who will use it more than once a week to compensate for the high price tag. It does come with a lifetime warranty which in my personal opinion is priceless.
The customer feedback for this product mostly very positive. The main themes are the low noise level and the ability to be able to ride and listen or watch TV without being disturbed by the trainer. Also the strength and sturdiness of the unit has received positive comments. Many also mention the fluidity of the spinning from the magnetic drive giving a realistic feel.
The only real negatives which have been reported appear to be opinionated rather than factual, such as the computer being too small and the higher resistance not fully mimicking an outdoor ride. Also the mounting of the bike takes time and can be frustrating.
I give this trainer a 4.5 out of 5 wheels.
The best magnetic trainer: Gavin Bicycle Cycling Trainer
This particular trainer is made by Gavin which is a small company that has a medium range of cycling products available.
Not that this affects the quality of this product. The main features are it has an extra wide frame which allow for extra stability and is made with heavy duty construction but still boasts the ability to fold easily for storage. It includes its own quick release system so the buyer does not have to pay out for an additional system if their bike does not have this feature. It has a single resistance setting which progressively increases through the magnetic resistance and is compatible with most bikes (26” 27” and 700cc) and it also comes with a front riser block.
This is a very good looking product and I really like the orange design which makes it stand out from the crowd, I am also impressed with the wide base of support which can only enhance the stability of the product, although it may need more space to be used is a small price to pay. The fact it comes with a front riser block and its own quick release system is something not all other trainers can boast about which in my opinion sets this above its main competitors. The only downside to this product is the single resistance setting which increases as the bike speed increases which suggests it may not suit everyone.
This is quite reasonably priced with a list price of $100.00 (see latest prices at amazon.com). In y opinion the unit is well worth the price.
What the users say
Customer reviews are mainly positive. Most of them boast about how easy it is to set up and how good it looks. The customers love the fact it is foldable and has the additional stability and the front riser being supplied is a big bonus. A common theme is versatility and the fact it can be adjusted to suit different bikes, and then the biggest plus of all I believe is the reviews say how quiet the machine is. There are very few negative opinions on this product, those state that the instructions are actually relatively poor and hard to understand.
I believe this product is suited to almost any cyclist, from the people wanting to cycle leisurely while watching TV or reading to those wanting to increase their speed and stamina. This is our favorite magnetic unit of all trainers reviewed by us. I give this trainer 4.5 wheels out 5!
The best wind trainer: CycleOps Wind Trainer
The CycleOps Wind Trainer is made by CycleOps and is one of their cheaper indoor bike trainers. CycleOps is a relatively large company offering a range of products in the indoor trainer market they are part of the Saris Cycling group that was started in 2006 and they are specialist in indoor bike trainers and they have a great range of products available along with parts and accessories to make your CycleOps trainer more comfortable.
This unit uses wind resistance to provide a change in intensity and gear whilst cycling with a vortex blade design to allow high powered action while limiting the noise it produces. This is the simplest of the three products reviewed here and the resistance adjusts automatically with increased wheel speed and can generate 600+ watts of power. The CycleOps Wind Trainer is foldable allowing you to store away
when not in use and only weighs 18.5 pounds, It also can be adjusted to allow both mountain and road bikes to be connected meaning you do not need to change your tires.
The main product features are:
- Foldable and lightweight
- Steady progressive wind resistance
- Zinc fan blades double as heavy flywheel
- Automatic resistance setting
- Lifetime guarantee
The list price of this CycleOps Trainer is $159.00 (see latest prices at amazon.com) and is one of the cheapest indoor trainers in the top end bracket.
Likes and Dislikes
This is a great looking product, similar to the fluid 2 CycleOps trainer, the bronzed look gives this an elegant but professional look. I like the fact it uses traditional wind resistance which has less chance of breaking and has limited complex technology making it easy to use. It is great that it can be folded away because space is a precious commodity in many people’s households. A lifetime guarantee cannot be laughed at and this is an excellent selling point but not one that is new as many of these type of trainers have an extensive warranty period.
My dislikes for this unit are the noise level, it openly admits that if you are looking for a quiet trainer then the CycleOps Wind Trainer is not the best choice, however the honesty in the description gives the company a good level of trust. Also it appears to have a lower maximum power output that is available.
This unit would suit beginners who want a good quality trainer instead of a low priced standard trainer.
The average customer feedback is very positive. The common positive themes relate to the smoothness of the ride and the noise level is not as bad as many claim. Other common themes are the ease of use when changing bikes, the ability to fold the trainer and the realistic feel while cycling in comparison to fluid or magnetic drive systems.
Negative feedback on the other hand include how loud the unit is (so this is obviously a matter of opinion), but this can be affected by many variables such as tire, flooring and locality of other people/neighbor’s which could be affected. But it does seem to be the only negative that any reviewers can find and most say the unit itself is of high quality but did not get on with the sounds.
I would give the CycleOps Wind Trainer 3.5 wheels out of 5. Simply because of the noise it and would not work in an apartment building or if you have roommates.
More Information on Bike Trainers
There are lots of benefits to using a bike or turbo trainer. In my opinion the best advantage to owning one is you never have to put off training again. As a keen cyclist I know how depressing it is to look outside day after day and see heavy rain, and there’s never any fun in trying to battle the weather as well as your motivation to go out in the cold. So with a bike trainer you can simply set up indoors in a convenient space and pedal away for as long as you want. Secondly they are relatively small to store when you are not using it and they run quietly so can be used early in the morning or late at night without disturbing anyone.
From a fitness point of view they are great at allowing you to vary your training method, as they are stationary you can alter the resistance and speed to suit your needs rather than altering due to the landscape. For competitive cyclists it also means they train on their own bike which will have a very precise set up to maintain the optimum form. And for people wanting to lose weight you can set it up in front of the TV, browse on the iPad or read a book while cycling.
But where there’s good there’s bound to be bad. Using a bike trainer instead of rollers will not improve your balance which is a key component when undertaking cycle training so it could be good to have a set of rollers to mix up the training. Two other major downsides are the damage they could cause to your road bike, sometimes clamping the wheels in place can break your quick release system or chip the frame and secondly the rear wheel tire will wear down very quickly from the same surface contact for extended periods of time. A good tip is to use cheaper tires when training at home instead of your road tires. You may also consider a spinning bike as an alternative.
So what is the best bike trainer for me?
Well if you are a beginner cyclist it is probably best to use a stationary trainer to improve your fitness when you can’t train outdoors but never fully replace outdoor cycling with inside as this is essential to improve balance. If however you are a regular cyclist and don’t want to have the luxury of training indoors rollers may be the best option for you. They fully imitate the experience of outdoor cycling. The most important criteria for choosing the best bike trainer are:
- Decide whether you want a roller or a stationary trainer
- Do you need a trainer that is quiet – as the wind based type are far from silent
- How much money do you have to spend? Fluid trainers being the most expensive with wind the cheapest
- Do you need to vary the resistance? If not then wind trainers are good but if you do then fluid or magnetic are best
- How often are you going to use it? Durability of the trainer is very important as this is an investment in your fitness. You wouldn’t buy a car you knew would give up just when you’re getting started.
Bike trainers vary in price depending on quality. You can pick them up from your local cycle store starting at $50 but the elite level branded turbo trainers and rollers can reach prices of up to $2500. A useful region to buy a good reliable trainer for beginners is $50 – $100.
For more information regarding different types of trainers be sure to check out this video: