Indoor Trainer Guide

Around three years ago, it was a fairly easy task to guide a customer to a suitable indoor trainer. There were really only two choices to make; magnetic or fluid, and how much money they were willing to part with. Typically, fluid trainers were more desirable as they gave a closer road feel and progressive resistance, but this also came with a slightly higher price tag.

Fast forward to today; we now have an increasing number of choices to make when purchasing a new indoor trainer. The advancements in technology have fueled this growth in the trainer market where it’s now commonly acceptable to spend up to $2000 on a smart trainer!

To help you with your decision process, here’s a breakdown of what’s on the market at the moment.

Rollers:

Popularised by track cyclists, rollers have been around for decades and were the very first form of stationary training. Rollers have proved to be a great tool to use for a quick intensity session or to warm up pre-race. But be warned, they should be adopted with caution as they do take some time to master and require extreme concentration to keep balanced. Rollers are suited for the more advanced cyclist who wants to spin a high cadence and also work the core of the body when riding. You simply cannot ‘switch off’ or relax on a set of rollers!

Benefits:

  • Easy to take to a race or event for warm up
  • Work upper body and core

Downside:

  • Hard to master
  • Usually cannot adjust the resistance
  • No ride data recorded
  • Wear tyres easily

Price range $200 – $500

The lightest and easiest rollers I have found are the Tacx Galaxia.

tacx-galaxia-rollers-WT061

Smart Rollers: 

Smart rollers take the oldest form of stationary training and bring it into the modern world with the ability to connect to smart apps via Bluetooth or ANT+ technology. Smart rollers allow the rider to ride changing gradients as the rear drums electronically adjust resistance. Though just like traditional rollers, these still take a lot of concentration and balance to master. The prospect of this technology moving forward is really exciting and I believe they offer the closest thing to real road riding.

Benefits:

  • Automatic adjustable resistance
  • Free float feel
  • Connect to smart apps via Bluetooth or ANT+
  • Quieter than traditional rollers
  • Ability to track workout data

Downside:

  • Require good balance and concentration
  • High in cost

Price range $700 – $2000

The Elite Real E-Motion B+ is the market leader.

elite-real-e-motion-b+-training-rollers-E0121302A

Traditional Fluid or Magnetic Trainers:

The simplest form of indoor training, traditional trainers are now considered entry level in the market. Best suited to the unfussed rider who just wants to jump on and turn over the pedals with the motto that any training is better than no training. This will turn your bike into a stationary exercise bike so you can pedal away and work up a sweat at home. To get the most out of your training you can run a heart rate monitor and speed sensor to track workouts.

Benefits:

  • Cheap in price
  • Easy to set up
  • Simple to run

Downside:

  • Resistance change is usually manual
  • Feel more like an old gym exercise bike than riding on the road
  • No data recording
  • Tyre wear

Price range $80 – $500

If you are interested in purchasing a fluid or mag trainer some good options are the JetBlack M5 Pro Magnetic, or the CycleOps Jet Fluid Pro trainers.

Smart Trainers: 

Smart trainers have reinvented indoor training and give an exciting new prospect to what was always considered a dreaded workout. Through pairing IOS or Android apps the rider can bring the outside riding experience direct to their home. Most use electromagnetic resistance which automatically controls the feedback of the trainer instantly based on the course or virtual riding conditions. These trainers are aimed at the customer who wants to get more out of their training whilst staying occupied and entertained on the bike. A smart trainer will give you the ability to track ride data and statistics.

Benefits:

  • Resistance is changed automatically
  • Give a more realistic road feel
  • Record training data and set pre-planned workouts
  • Connect to smart apps via Bluetooth or ANT+

Downside:

  • More expensive in price
  • Usually require a power source
  • Only give virtual power readings

Price range $500 – $1000

The best value for money smart trainer at the moment is the BKOOL Go Smart Trainer, but another solid package is the Cycleops Magnus Smart Trainer.

Power Trainers: 

Used by almost every rider in the pro peloton, a power trainer is for the serious cyclist who that demands the most accurate resistance and data readings (or that person who must have the best of the best to talk about at the coffee shop).

Most of the new power trainers on the market are direct drive, so there is no loss of effort through the rear wheel, giving the rider the most realistic feel possible. This also allows the trainer to freecoast on the flats or down a hill and not loose momentum.

Many smart trainers on the market will give a ‘virtual’ or ‘estimated’ power reading, however, a real power trainer features a power meter strain gauge to give a real and accurate power reading. Having a power meter means you have a quantitative number to gauge your efforts. Unlike speed, cadence or heart rate, there is no cheating a power reading. The power reading equates to exactly how much effort you are putting out.

Benefits:

  • Real and accurate power data
  • Much quieter than traditional trainers
  • Resistance is changed automatically
  • Direct drive providing the ability to freecoast and give a more realistic road feel
  • Connect to smart software
  • Record training data and set pre-planned workouts

Downside:

  • Most expensive on the market
  • Usually require a power source

Price range $1000 – $2000

The market leaders and most popular power trainers are the Tacx Neo and the Wahoo Kickr.

tacx-t2800-neo-smart-trainer-WT2800-front
Tacx T2800 NEO Smart Trainer
wahoo-2016-kickr-power-trainer-WFBKTRNR2
Wahoo KICKR 2 Power Trainer

As you can see, there is now a lot more to consider when looking to purchase a new home trainer. My advice to anyone in the market is to do your research to see what trainer is going to suit your intended training and which ones are compatible with your bicycle. With indoor trainers’ vast advancements in technology comes the reality that there is definitely value in spending more on a smart trainer. It is going to give you more functionality to keep you occupied and will have a much nicer feel, hopefully motivating you to actually want to train with it, rather than have it just collecting dust.

By Nelson Andrado – Pushys Sponsored Rider

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