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 »

CycleOps Climbing Block. Three levels of lift, stackable for steeper inclines. Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

CycleOps Climbing Block. Three levels of lift, stackable for steeper inclines (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery​


In addition to the trainer, you may want one or several accessories to help you get the most out of your sessions. Highly recommended is a floor mat, which helps in several ways. Mats will protect your floor against wear from the trainer's contact points, damp vibrations (especially important if you live in an apartment with downstairs neighbors), and keep sweat off the floor. Speaking of sweat, you won't believe how much you sweat on a trainer without the wind to keep you cool, so get a fan!

While two-by-fours will do in a pinch, front wheel riser blocks are more stable, faster to set up, and can be stacked to simulate riding on an incline. Most trainers hold the rear wheel off the ground so some type of support under your front wheel in required. Each riser block has several different heights so all your bikes will fit (with the exception of your BMX bikes.)

Trainers are notoriously hard on tires and will eat your expensive racing slicks faster than you can say "soft compound rubber." If you know you'll be riding indoors exclusively for a while, then simply put a trainer-specific tire on your rear wheel. These tires use a super hard compound to resist wear, and some have surfaces designed to reduce noise. If your trainer workouts are interspersed with real rides, then simply buying a dedicated trainer wheel will make swapping easier.

The business end of a trainer. Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

The business end of a trainer (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery​

Training Goals

At first, simply mounting up and riding will be enough of a novelty to keep you going, but this only lasts a few sessions at most. Having a goal for your off-season training is crucial to keep your interest and motivation high. For some, TV intervals will be plenty to engage us all winter long; turn on your favorite shows and sprint during the commercials, then alternate sustained hard efforts with recovery, spinning between advertisements. Others, though, will need specific training goals for their indoor sessions, which is where training videos come in. The Sufferfest (thesufferfest.com) and CVO (cyclingvideosonline.com) both offer inspirational videos to boost your speed, endurance, or whatever else needs sharpening.

If you are serious about off-season training and plan on spending a good amount of time on your trainer, then it makes sense to invest in a high-end fluid machine. Beyond the regular amortization justification for spending more, added value comes in the form of smoking your buddies after they have been slacking all winter and you've been following work out routines and videos. Plus, a higher-quality trainer lasts a long time, offering many seasons of use, making trainers a great investment.

If you're not the adventurous type who doesn't mind braving darkness, rain, wind, and snow to get their miles in, a trainer is your answer to maintaining fitness during the winter months.