Winter Survival Guide: Trainers

What you need to know to ride inside

Who will benefit from using a trainer? Which cyclists should invest in one?  Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Who will benefit from using a trainer? Which cyclists should invest in one? Read on to find out (click to enlarge) Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Editor’s Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art’s Cyclery. The original post can be found here.

With the approach of “The Most Powerful El Nino Ever” this winter holds the potential for a lot of down time. However, even if your locale gets cold and wet every year, you don’t have to spend these dark days on the couch binge-watching your favorite HBO shows. You can watch them from your bike during trainer workouts.

Check out our other Winter Survival Guides to choosing and caring for components and picking the right apparel.

El Nino! Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

El Nino! (click to enlarge) Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

The No. 1 winter accessory for many cyclists is the indoor trainer. But who will benefit from using a trainer? Which cyclists should invest in one? Unless you reside between latitudes 23°26′14.0″ and 23°26′14.0″, the answer is, you. Even those of us lucky enough to live in beautiful San Luis Obispo, where the average annual rainfall is 19”, put in plenty of trainer hours during the months where daylight is scarce.

Piling up the miles outdoors before and after typical work hours is possible part of the year. But in the winter sunlight is scarce. If you are not comfortable relying on supplemental lighting for vision and safety, then you can kiss those miles goodbye. Unless, of course, you own a trainer. So how do you decide which type of trainer is best for your needs? Read on.

Kurt Kinetic Rock’n'Roll Smart trainer. Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Kurt Kinetic Rock’n’Roll Smart trainer (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Types of Trainers

First, ask yourself what is most important to you in a trainer? Realistic feel? Noise levels? Price? Fluid/hydraulic trainers present the most authentic experience, offering up more resistance the harder you pedal—called progressive resistance— just like on the road. Progressive resistance also means there is no input required from the rider to influence a fluid trainer’s performance.

Comparatively, magnetic trainers typically have a linear resistance curve, meaning their resistance level is set, no matter how hard you pedal (although higher-end magnetic trainers with progressive resistance are available). To give a wider range of use, magnetic trainers often have several resistance levels, changeable by the rider, either with a handlebar-mounted remote lever or on the resistance unit itself. Finally, wind trainers rely on aerodynamic resistance, and are usually not alterable. Fluid trainers generally cost the most, followed by magnetics, while wind trainers are the least expensive. Noise levels follow the same hierarchy, with fluid trainers being the quietest, and wind trainers downright loud.

Doing the standard fluid trainer one better is Kurt Kinetic’s Rock’n’Roll Smart Trainer. Thanks to its unique design, the Rock’n’Roll lets your bike move side to side, just as it would during sprints and out-of-the-saddle climbs. The Kinetic Turntable Riser Ring, which lets your front wheel lean with your bike, is an important accessory to the Rock’n’Roll trainer.

What type of bike will you be riding? Road, ‘cross, or mountain? Every trainer is natively compatible with the common quick release-type axle still found on most road bikes, but be aware that there are several axle standards, and your bike may require adapters to fit your trainer’s dropouts. Additionally, lower-geared bikes may benefit from magnetic trainers, as they often have higher resistance at lower wheel speeds. Magnetic trainers cover the spectrum from the basic CycleOps Mag Trainer, to the advanced, feature-rich Super Magneto Pro, which features several resistance curves for variety in your workouts.

Continue to page 2 for more of our guide to trainers »
About the author: Arts Cyclery

This article was originally published on the Art's Cyclery Blog. Art's Cyclery is dedicated to offering free expert advice, how-to videos, and in-depth product reviews on to help riders make an educated decision when selecting cycling gear.

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