Top Three Bike Resistance Trainers for 2016 | Get 'Winter Fit'
Three Good Bike Trainers: Spin Class in your Living Room
I see it all the time: people rededicate themselves to getting in shape, and immediately go out and buy a fancy piece of exercise equipment. They take up tons of space in your house and they tend to be complex and intimidating. Why bother? If you own a bicycle already, you can just buy an indoor resistance bicycle trainer and start spinning in the comfort of your own home.
Bike resistance trainers are getting really popular, and they're also getting quieter, smaller, lighter and easier to set up. For that reason, lots of people are realizing their potential as an exercise source. Let's be honest, who wants to ride in the rain and cold? Set it up indoors and enjoy your favorite TV show while you work out.
That being said, there are a ton of competing products. This article will help narrow down the cream of the crop and hopefully help you find an indoor resistance cycling trainer that's easy to use, runs quietly and gives you years of great use. We'll look at the utility and usability of each trainer, as well as the asking price.
If you're confused about any of the details, please leave a comment and I'll clarify.
Different Types of Resistance Bicycle Trainers
This is probably one of the most confusing aspects for an uninitiated customer, mostly because there are a ton of different ways that a trainer can create the resistance necessary to mimic road conditions and give you a real workout. Before we get to the reviews of my favorite indoor cycling trainers, I'll define a few different types to help you out.
A wind type resistance bike trainer makes use of a fan that creates wind resistance as you pedal. They're mechanically simple and the resistance increases with your effort, but they're also among the noisier options.
A magnetic bike trainer makes use of strong magnets and an internal flywheel to create the resistance you'll need. They are really quiet and slick, but they can tend to run a bit pricier than other models. There are some that combine internal fluid with magnets to increase the resistance range, but they're pricier yet still.
If you're not opposed to plugging in, an electronically controlled stationary cycling trainer can be a revelation. They're quite pricey, but they simulate a natural riding experience by applying brakes once you get up to a certain speed. This has the added bonus of letting you customize each ride (hill climb, downhill, etc).
These trainers increase resistance centrifugally by making use of resistance plates that gradually shift position as you pick up speed. They are quiet and offer probably the most natural resistance of the bunch, but like the fluid magnetic variety, they can be expensive.
Another type of common indoor stationary cycling trainer stands is the roller variety. They make use of large roller pins that both the front and the rear wheel rest on. They're bigger, bulkier and noisier than the rear wheel types I'll be focusing on, but they offer a more realistic 'side to side' motion.
So Which One is Best?
The type you end up going for has a lot to do with the type of riding you prefer, and the amount you're able to spend. The better indoor bicycle trainers tend to be more costly, but it's worth investing in if it will ensure you'll use it. An uncomfortable / irritating trainer will just collect dust. Besides, compared to most modern exercise equivalents, they are very reasonable.
I'd personally opt for either the magnetic fluid resistance kind, or the centrifugal. The feel is good on both types, and they're not very noisy.
CycleOps Fluid 2: A Bike Resistance Trainer with Rave Reviews
The CycleOps Fluid 2 is a wonderful option for anyone seeking a high quality indoor training experience that offers enough resistance for even a conditioned rider. This unit combines a magnetic internal flywheel with fluid resistance to not only give you a nearly infinite power band to work out with, but also to simulate road conditions.
It's a really well made trainer for a lot of reasons. The legs fold down so you can store it flat in a closet or out of the way. There is a cam lever used to adjust the rear flywheel to fit snug against the rear wheel, and it comes with the hardware you'll need (assuming your bike has a rear skewer axle.)
The trainer itself is tuned perfectly through a series of tests, and the amount of resistance is almost perfectly matched to the speed and type of riding you'd be doing at that resistance level. You can even use your gears as normal. Unlike a lot of cheaper fluid trainers, this indoor bicycle stand has good seals and should last a long time.
This trainer is built to accommodate most bicycles, and can work well with 650c, 700c and 27" wheels. You should not that 29'er bikes won't be compatible with this system.
RAD Cycle Max: An Inexpensive, Magnetic Trainer
If budget is a concern for you, you'll be happy to know that there are some pretty decent indoor cycling trainers for well under $100. They are not as feature rich or as 'smooth' as the more expensive models, and they do 'max out' at a certain resistance level, but they're a great way to add a little cardiovascular exercise to your routine without spending a ton.
The RAD Cycle Max Racer is straightforward but features a lot of extras. There are 7 difference resistance levels to choose between, and you can switch through them using the handy little cable adjustor. The upper end of the resistance is pretty intense, so it's probably more than enough for any cyclist. The whole unit folds up flat to store away, and it even comes with a front wheel floor pad to keep your bike upright.
It works well with most wheel sizes, all the way up to 28 inch wheels. It's not fancy, and it's not a road simulator, but I like it for the price and it's very well made.
Kinetic Rock & Roll: Ultimate Road Simulation
This is definitely the most full featured and also the most expensive of the trainers I'll be reviewing, but it's one I hope you'll consider because it brings a lot to the table. Most indoor cycling trainers are stationary, and offer no 'side to side' motion that you'd normally have on a ride.
The Rock & Roll addresses this, and the trainer allows the ride to shift from side to side with each rotation of the pedals. It sounds strange, but once you get riding on it you'll be blown away by the realistic and natural motion. It does a great job of engaging the core muscle groups that would otherwise be ignored by most conventional resistance cycle trainers.
The resistance unit itself is a combination magnetic and fluid style system that's really well made, and broken fluid seals will not be an issue. It's a good cycling resistance trainer that will last for many years.
Because the unit incorporates side to side motion, you're using the same instinctive balance you'd use when on the road. It's a lot more satisfying to ride and the power band is perfect for any skill level. It's a step up in price, but I urge any serious cyclists to consider this and other products by Kinetic, they are pretty superb.
What About Other Considerations?
Most of these trainers will provide you with everything you'll need to get rolling. That said, if the unit you buy doesn't come with a front wheel cup, it's a good idea to get one. It keeps your tires off the carpet or floor, and it provides you with a bit more stability.
Another thing I'd recommend looking into getting is a large floor mat that's long enough to accommodate your trainer and the full length of your bike. This will help protect your flooring, but it also reduces noise that might travel downward.
A final tip: be sure to wipe down your chain with a rag before using your bike indoors. It's a great idea to keep your drivetrain well lubricated, but oil spatter can make a big mess. Give it a wipe down before you get cycling and safe yourself a cleanup later on.