Winter has arrived and for most of us, that means the small amount of time we had in the early evening to squeeze in a ride has vanished. Not only is it darker earlier, but winter storms, rain, snow, and sleet will keep a lot of us off the roads this winter. Cyclists are then faced with two options. Either enjoy the “off-season”, losing all the fitness they’ve built up over the summer, or turn to an indoor trainer.
This guide will help you decide on which trainer will best fit your needs.
A couple of key factors you should be concerned with when selecting a trainer:
First, noise level. Even though some indoor trainers are advertised or reviewed as quiet, they all make noise. If you can, try out whichever indoor trainer you’re considering at your local bike shop if possible before purchasing. Your level of tolerable noise may be quite different than the next persons. Remember, a loud trainer may be more hassle than it’s worth and you may end up not wanting to spend much time on it.
Second, how does the trainer feel? The goal is to feel like you’re riding on the road as much as possible. If a trainer doesn’t feel like riding on the road, reminding you of how great it is to cycle, will you use it very much? Chances are no.
As appealing as low cost trainers may be, you should keep those two points in mind when setting out to purchase a trainer. Trainer nirvana is had when you find a trainer that fits your budget, is bearable decibel wise, and reminds you of how great it is to ride your bike. All while helping you stay fit and ready for the upcoming season.
There are generally three types of trainers – wind, magnetic, and fluid. Let’s go over some of their features and drawbacks.
The wind trainer is generally the least expensive of the three types of trainers. It’s both an effective and economical way to get started indoors. The downside though is that they’re also typically the loudest. With wind trainers the resistance comes from a flywheel fan that spins up as you spin the cranks. The harder you pedal, the more resistance you’ll feel. It’ll get you spinning indoors, but with limited resistance options. Though high on the value scale, the noise keeps us from recommending this type of trainer. Unless of course, it’s this or not riding, in which case, we say go for it.
The Mag trainer is the next step up from the wind trainer. Much quieter than a wind trainer, magnetic trainers get their resistance from magnets instead of a fan working against the wind. Mag trainers are considered linear in their resistance level. Meaning the resistance is steady and you could get on one and pedal up to 35-40mph without any change in resistance. Though, some well-engineered mag trainers will give you a varied workout by having some sort of ability to change the resistance, either a dial near the rear or a remote adjustment dial that can be fitted to your handlebar.
Fluid trainers are considered the quietest of the three types, but are the most expensive as well. Fluid trainers are considered progressive resistance, the faster you go, the higher the resistance becomes. It’s great for interval workouts because of this. A fluid trainer uses a synthetic silicone liquid that is resistant to heat, so that it’s viscosity is consistent throughout the lifetime of the trainer. Combined with a beefy flywheel, the fluid trainer also recreates the most realistic road feel of all three types.
Ahem… There’s also rollers.
Rollers are great for working on balance and will help greatly with your bike handling skills, but the major drawback is that the most rollers do not offer any resistance. You could buy an aftermarket resistance unit, Cycleops offers one, but unlike the other types, your bike is not stationary and this type of indoor trainer is tricky to use for most.
Hopefully this quick guide offered some assistance and consumer knowledge to you. No matter which type you buy, the most important thing is to use your trainer. The trainer is a very useful tool in these winter months to help maintain your fitness and help you hit the road spinning when spring comes around.
Here are a two videos we did with Karl of Silicon Valley Cycling Center on a range of Indoor Trainers you may want to consider…
Trainers Part 1/2
Trainers Part 2/2
As always, you can also check out fellow RoadBikeReview Community Member’s Trainer Reviews –
RoadBikeReview User Posted Trainer Reviews