Which bike trainer is best?
Riding your bike along the road or in the mountains is among the most enjoyable exercises one can partake in. The only downside is the weather can quickly cancel or cut short your planned outing. With a bike trainer, you can set your bike up inside and still get your workout in.
The best bike trainer is Kinetic By Kurt Road Machine Control. It’s expensive and on the bulky side, but its design can simulate real-world biking as few other trainers can.
What to know before you buy a bike trainer
Bike trainer types
There are four types of bike trainers.
- Magnetic trainers use magnetism to adjust their resistance. High-end magnetic trainers use electromagnetic resistance you can adjust from your phone or with a remote. However, they aren’t the most durable.
- Fluid trainers use fluid chambers to provide resistance. They also aren’t the most durable, and they’re expensive as well.
- Wind trainers use a large fan that spins and generates more resistance the harder you pedal.
- Roller trainers don’t offer resistance, as you don’t lock in your bike. Instead, your bike rests on the rollers, requiring you to balance manually. They have a learning curve, but they’re among the most affordable.
Bikes usually attach to trainers in one of three ways.
- Stationary attachments grip the bike and don’t let go. The bike stays upright at all times.
- Articulating attachments let the bike pivot on the base, which allows the bike to rock from side to side as if it were really on the road.
- Replacement attachments require you to remove the rear wheel from your bike and attach it directly to the trainer. As your tires aren’t used, you won’t wear them down.
Some bike trainers can connect to your phone over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth so your exercise can be tracked or you can interact with your preferred smart training app.
What to look for in a quality bike trainer
The best bike trainers have wide enough bases that there’s no risk of toppling over. Some include leveling features that keep you and your bike stable and flat on uneven surfaces. Other trainers have narrow bases with little stability, so if you need help remaining upright, you should prioritize base size.
Most bike trainers are small enough that storage isn’t much of an issue, while large bike trainers usually have folding parts to make storage easier.
Noise and vibration
Bike trainers generate vibrations as you ride that generate noise in turn. Wind trainers tend to be the loudest, with magnetic and fluid trainers tending to be quieter. If you live in a multistory home or apartment, keep in mind that the vibrations will rattle the ceiling of the floor below — you may need to purchase pads to prevent annoying those below you.
How much you can expect to spend on a bike trainer
Bike trainers cost $50-$600. The most affordable trainers cost less than $100, and in some cases, as little as $20. The best trainers tend to start around $150. Most cost $100-$300.
Bike trainer FAQ
What are the benefits of using a bike trainer?
A. There are a few key benefits. The biggest is being able to bike in your own home whenever you have the time without worrying about weather, traffic or other cyclists. Bike trainers also let you watch something while you bike, if you prefer that to taking in the scenery. Finally, they’re excellent for interval training.
Are bike trainers easy to assemble?
A. Generally speaking, yes. In fact, most trainers come fully assembled out of the box. Those that require assembly rarely require much time and effort. Most trainers offer expert assembly during checkout for an extra fee if you’re nervous about assembling it yourself.
How can I tell if my bike will fit a certain trainer?
A. Most trainers explicitly state the size of wheel they’re compatible with, with the most common being 26 inches. Many are also compatible with up to 29-inch wheels. You can find adapters for most trainers to fit your bike if it has non-standard wheels, such as those sized 20-24 inches.
What’s the best bike trainer to buy?
Top bike trainer
What you need to know: This trainer provides the best real-life riding simulation.
What you’ll love: It uses a rocking back-and-forth system to mimic the motions of biking outdoors and it supports speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. It includes a 6-month subscription to the Kinetic Fit training app, and it can connect to your phone over Bluetooth.
What you should consider: It’s among the largest trainers, so you’ll need plenty of space both during use and in storage. It’s also one of the most expensive trainers.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top bike trainer for the money
What you need to know: This trainer is a good choice for occasional indoor cycling.
What you’ll love: It connects directly to your bike’s rear wheel without needing to be taken apart. It stays cool thanks to an internal cooling system, and it includes a handlebar-mounted shifter for easy resistance changing. It can connect to most indoor cycling apps through a speed sensor purchased separately.
What you should consider: It’s a little on the noisy side. A few consumers received trainers with damaged paint jobs. Others had issues with it wearing down faster than it should.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This is perfect for cyclists on a strict budget.
What you’ll love: It’s compatible with most road 700C bikes and 26-inch wheels using a magnetic system. Biking is smooth and the frame is sturdy, heavy and durable enough to handle rigorous cycling. An axle adapter is available but sold separately.
What you should consider: It’s among the noisiest trainers. Some customers had issues with the resistance. Attaching and detaching your bike can be a hassle.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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