Tomorrow will be my first ride on the trainer in a year. Some people may groan when they read this thinking that riding indoors is boring or worthless but these indoor rides are critical for my sanity and fitness during the winter. I don’t mind riding when it’s frigid cold out, but in Denver we get a lot of freeze/thaw/freeze which leaves a lot of black ice. Black ice and over confident drivers shouldn’t be put together, but they often are on the streets of Denver. Additionally, riding the trainer gives you very dedicated training time to knock out intervals and pile on the watts. You don’t need to find the perfect road, or be frustrated with stop lights and you can get your work out done quickly during kids naps!
There are many trainers on the market these days, and in an effort to add clarity to the confusion I put together a quick guide to the essential pieces that you need to know when buying a trainer.
Entry Level Bike Trainers
There are two types of entry level trainers. One uses a magnet to add resistance to your wheel, and the other uses wind. Both of these would work well if you are in the garage and basement with headphones on. The wind is by far the loudest, and I have experience “out pedaling” the resistance so that I couldn’t make my ride harder. I wouldn’t recommend these options if you are trying to do dedicated interval speed work, or if you want to be in the house. The magnetic one is the best value of trainer on the market. Perfect for the person needing to get in a spin, and doesn’t care about the noise. If you buy a magnetic one make sure it has a remote to change the resistance from on the bike. There aren’t too many wind trainers out there these days, but you may find some on craigslist for dirt cheap.
Recommended Magnetic Trainers
Mid Range Bike Trainers
As an avid indoor trainer user I’ve typically fallen in this mid-range area. This level of trainer will use fluid to provide the resistance to the fly wheel, and will get harder as you go faster. The only noise is that of your tire and you can easily watch a TV show with someone else while riding. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on my Kinetic Road Machine (original) and have not experienced any issues with it. This includes long endurance rides of 3+ hours, and hard interval work. There are a few trainers in this category that I would recommend.
Recommended Fluid Trainers
High Performance Bike Trainers
For over a decade there has been only one “high-performance” trainer, the Computrainer. This is the trainer you’ll see at indoor cycling studios, or at your cycling coaches paincave. It measures all of your stats, connected to a computer and allows you to ride in a game like environment. A few others have hit the market like Tacx, Wahoo Kickr, CycleOps PowerBeam, and even “smart” trainers that offer wattage tracking. Most of these trainers have integrated apps for your computer, iPad or smartphone. These applications integrate videos, and a gaming experience to push you are hard and keep you interested through the monotonous indoor time. I haven’t used many of these other than the Computrainer and Tacx, but I can tell you based off friend’s experiences what is the most sought after for this season.
Bike Trainer Accessories
None of these are a requirement but nice to have. Your new trainer should come with a trainer skewer to replace your current one. If you are going to use multiple bikes on the trainer, buy multiple trainer skewers. You don’t necessarily need to take these out everytime you are done with the trainer. I leave my trainer skewer in from now until March. It adds a few grams to my bike, but it’s a lot less hassle. The riser block below is for your front wheel to be level with the rear wheel, it also has a few different heights to help engaged your muscles (you can also use a phone book). The bike thong will keep a good amount of sweat off your bike, and your mechanic won’t hate you as much come March.
I would be remiss not to mention a few other things in this guide. In the future we will dive deeper into other indoor options like rollers, stationary bikes, and various apps/videos that you could subscribe to. Finally, I want to mention a new product coming out in January 2016 that could change the trainer world. Feedback Sports is releasing a new portable trainer called the Omnium that is one part rollers and one part amazing. This will be the perfect trainer for space crunched cyclists, or for warm up and cool down at races.