Most cyclists loathe the indoor trainer. It’s unnatural. It lacks the pure visceral feeling we get when we’re out on the open road pushing ourselves to the limit, whether it be on a climb or trying for our fastest time on a particular stretch of pavement. Once you get into the benefits of cycling though, you find yourself wanting to ride at every spare opportunity. During the shorter days of winter, those opportunities are fewer and father between. The indoor trainer then may be the only way you end up getting your rides in.
Over the past several months, we’ve spent a good amount of time on trainers. We’ve rounded up the 5 most interesting trainers you should consider when shopping for a trainer. Having spent a good amount of time indoors, we’ve found that the key to surviving the indoor training session is positive thinking! Hokey, yes, but it’s important not to think of it as a chore, but rather a way for you to extend the window of opportunity to get miles in on your bike. If done right, you may even come out stronger and fitter than if you ditched the bike to cross train at the gym. Case in point, we recently interviewed Optum Pro Cycling Team Rider Tom Zirbel, he gave us some great insight on his indoor training regimen as well as some tips on how to keep indoors training interesting, check it out here.
Let’s get down to the trainers.
Trainers break down into three major categories – Wind, Magnetic, and Fluid. Rollers are also an option, but for this post, we’ll focus on just trainers. Wind trainers are cost effective, but they’re also loud and very limited in terms of resistance, so we won’t get into them either. With that said, here are our recommendations for trainers…
Best Value & Price
Travel Trac Fluid – $249 MSRP
Let’s start off with our recommendation for the most price conscious buyer, the Travel Trac Fluid. It’s a typical fluid trainer, with progressive resistance, meaning the harder you go, the harder the resistance becomes. It’s prebuilt and ready to go right out of the box, making bike setup a breeze. If you’re looking to put down base miles and just get your heart rate going, this trainer will get you there, and at quite the bargain. There is good resistance to get you and your heart rate going, it’s smooth, and you’ll even feel the burn. With the Travel Trac Fluid, when you run out of gears, you run out of resistance levels as well. Therefore, if you’re looking to do interval workouts at higher thresholds and intensity levels, you may find this unit runs out of resistance levels and may not get you into that Zone 5 level. You may want to opt for the Travel Trac Fluid+, which will allow you to add even more resistance than the Travel Trac. then again the Travel Trac is the most economical of the bunch at just $249 MSRP (though it can be found on sale for as little as $169). (Read more…)
Best Fluid Trainer
Kurt Kinetic Rock & Roll – $570 MSRP
On the opposite side of the spectrum for those with deeper pockets, we present the Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer. The MSRP is on the high side for a trainer at $570, but this isn’t your typical fluid trainer. Most trainers on the market are very rigid and don’t feel natural at all as all the side to side movement when riding a real bike is eliminated. In addition, more stress is put on the body and the bike since all the lateral motion has to be absorbed by both body and bike. Kurt Kinetic aims to solve this woe by allowing some lateral and up and down movement in the Rock n Roll trainer. It accomplishes this with adjustable rubber dampers on the trainer platform. The movement is adjustable and combined with the heavy flywheel results in a trainer that is indeed more realistic, quiet, and smooth. Be sure to allocate a lot of space though, because the Rock and Roll requires quite a bit of space, it has a massive 4 foot wingspan. (Read more..)
Best Software Suite
RacerMate Computrainer Pro – $1629 MSRP
Though, the Rock and Roll carries a hefty pricetag, it wasn’t the most expensive trainer we tested. That honor would go to the RacerMate Computrainer Pro. The CompuTrainer by Racermate is perhaps one of the longest running training products on the market. Originally making it’s debut in 1986, it continues to be one of the most relied upon training tools for weekend warriors and international pros alike. The Computrainer pro uses a 1500 Watt electronic load generator, which is more resistance than most users will ever really need. Not only that, but the Computrainer comes with a powerful software suite that when attached to a PC turns the Computrainer into one of the most powerful and sophisticated indoor systems available. Power training will give you accurate power measurements, SpinScan will help you pedal efficiently, and Real Course Video will have you training on REAL roads. In addition to real roads, you’ll be able to race multiple riders, real or virtual on those same courses. It’s everything you could look for in an indoor training system, and it’s priced accordingly at $1629. For extremely serious riders, looking to improve their form and performance, we have no problem suggesting you look at the CompuTrainer, but be prepared to pay. (Read more…)
Best Use of an iOS App
Minoura’s LR760 – $380 MSRP
Of course, if you’re not ready to put down the equivalent price of an entry-level road bike for an indoor trainer. There’s another option that we would suggest, Minoura’s LR760 plus their iOS LiveTraining app. The combo retails for a digestible price point of $390 (trainer + App). You’ll get the Minoura LR760, a magnetic trainer that features an advanced Neodymium flywheel and 13-way adjustable resistance knob that mounts to your handlebar. The advanced rare earth magnets used on this trainer allow a great range of progressive resistance, moreso than the traditional linear resistance found on other mag trainers. A relatively quite trainer, the LR760 also offers a smooth realistic riding experience. When you combine the LiveTraining iOS App, the LR760 turns into an extremely useful real time interactive training tool as well. The app will record your training sessions with all the standard values, speed, cadence, etc… but what it also offers, is a clever way to ride real courses. The app syncs up with your cadence and speed sensors and instructs you on what gear to be in and what setting to turn the trainer dial to, effectively simulating a particular section of road. The app will give you power numbers as well, a useful value to mark your progress throughout the year. (Read more…)
Best Magnetic Trainer
CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro – $399 MSRP
Another Magnetic trainer we would suggest you consider is the CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro at $399 MSRP. The SuperMagneto Pro is one of CycleOps’ most popular trainers and is only 2nd to their top of the line PowerBeam Pro. The SuperMagneto Pro also utilizes rare earth magnets to control four different resistance curves – easy, road, interval, and mountain. The versatility of trainer means it should appeal to a wide range of cyclist, from the new cyclist trying to ride more during bad weather indoors to the experienced rider looking for an intense interval workout. This Pro level trainer provides excellent stability and a smooth and most importantly quiet workout. The SuperMagneto also easily folds down into a slim profile when not in use for easy storage. The CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro is not only the best magnetic trainer, it’s the trainer we find ourselves recommending most to riders of all skill levels. (Read more…)
Some accessories to consider
With all things cycling, it seems there are always some essential accessories. Indoor training is no different. Some of the essential accessories we’d recommend you have on hand for a great indoor session are –
Fan – Your trainer will build up heat, a simple fan blowing airflow in front of you will serve two purposes, it’ll help you cool off, but more importantly it’ll keep air flowing over your rear tire and trainer. Your tire will wear out faster if it’s pushed to higher than spec heat levels. We keep a bigger fan in front of us, and a smaller one pointed directly at the trainer.
Mat – There are specific rubber mats sold to place under your trainer, but anything from the local hardware store will suffice. You’ll hopefully be putting in a lot of hard efforts on the trainer and you’ll surely be sweating. A lot. So it’s a good idea to keep the floor covered. It’ll also protect hardwood floors from the trainer shifting when you really put down the hammer.
Towel – Speaking of sweat, your bike frame and finish could use some protection as well. The towel can also be used to wipe your face as well. You could buy a specific cover for the frame, but why not just use what you have.
Riser – You’ll find that when your bike is attached to a trainer, it’ll be raised a little bit, a riser under the front wheel will help level the bike out. You don’t have to buy a specific riser, a phone book will do. But if you do want a specific riser, CycleOps offers one, as well as Kurt Kinetic – this one actually has some swivel action to it, so your font end can move naturally as well.
And it goes without saying, you might want to prop this all up in front of the TV or have some sort of motivational music playing. It’ll help take your mind off the monotonous task of riding indoors. If you really want to immerse yourself, there are plenty of ride dvds available on the market that not only will help you do intervals but do a pretty good job of showing you real point of view rides and races.