Within the last couple of years, indoor training has become commonplace. Rollers and turbo trainers are both great tools for rider’s workouts.
Bringing your ride inside allows you to fit a ride into your bike training program no matter the time of day (or weather) and you never have to worry about traffic.
Bike Rollers Vs. Trainers
If you is serious about your cycling you will need both pieces of training equipment, but let’s have a look at which one you will need first, and what you can do with them. And looks at which types of riding each is best suited for.
First off, neither device manages to precisely replicate the riding experience. An indoor bike trainer stand and rollers are both come with many different levels of resistance and accessories to fine tune the experience. Both are reasonably portable and don’t require a lot of storage space. Both will give you an incredible exercise indoors.
Both rollers and trainers can generate a lot of noise, you will may have noise complaints from your neighbors, but choosing a quiet unit can help keep the peace. They might appreciate it if you choose rollers or a quiet trainer like the Cycleops Fluid 2. Watching TV or videos can also be difficult without headphones too.
You can ride any wheel size on rollers — Road, 29/26/650 Mountain bike, 24 wheeled BMX bike, thru-axle, quick release — just set-up and ride. Check each trainer for compatibility if you ride something besides a standard 700c road wheel.
A set of rollers is a great tool for developing excellent balance, learning to pedal smoothly and efficiently, and for warming up for hard track events. If you want or need to work on your pedaling form and efficiency while holding a straight line, you can’t get a better option than rollers.
By contrast, trainers are far more effective at providing variable resistance workouts for developing strength and power. They don’t require a lot of concentration either, so the user is free to flip through channels on the TV, read a magazine, and send text messages.
Most riders who race and/or take their fitness level seriously, use a stationary trainer as a training tool. If you are not a racer nor a very experienced cyclist, a turbo trainer is a very best choice for you.
Finally, trainers are hard on the rear tyre so they will wear out very quickly. If the bike is still being used outdoors, then a spare wheel or bike trainer tire will come in handy.
Types of Trainers
Overall, there are not a lot of options for rollers in the current market, which keeps things simple for the buyer. While in order to simulate the sensation of riding an actual (road) bike, there are several different ways turbo trainers provide resistance while you pedal. You have 3 major types of stationary bike trainers stand to choose from — Fluid, Magnetic and direct drive turbo trainer, as well smart with a virtual bike trainer.
- Fan/wind trainers have a reputation for making a thunderous noise, but a cheap option. Blades spin in the air and create resistance for the roller. Similar to fluid trainers the resistance is usually controlled by you changing gear on the bike. These are hard to come across now as they have been outdated by greater technology.
- Magnetic trainers use the force of a magnetic field. Your bike’s back wheel sits against the roller, and the resistance in the attached magnetic unit creates turning resistance on the back wheel. They are quieter than the air/wind resistance turbos. Most magnetic resistance turbos have the ability to increase the magnetic force on the unit; to vary the resistance that you are pushing against; this is done through a trigger switch, which you can usually mount on your handlebars.
- Fluid trainers offer a quiet and smooth ride but are more expensive. The resistance in a fluid-based system is created by a propeller, which spins inside a fluid-filled chamber. Fluid-based systems are usually recognizable by the cooling fins on the fluid chamber. This design provides a steadier resistance than magnetic systems, and the ability to control the resistance comes from you changing gears on your bike, rather than an external resistance trigger that is found on magnetic trainers.
- Direct drive trainers come with a cassette mounted directly onto a resistance unit. They offer a much more realistic road feel than the other trainers and are generally much more stable too. They can be quieter too. The downside is that they are often much more expensive than either.
What Is a Smart Trainer?
Turbo trainers (these can be the fluid or direct drive or magnetic) are now morphing into smart trainers to help you get more from your indoor training. They have the ability to wirelessly connect to smartphones, via Bluetooth technology, to offer the most advanced indoor ride on the market.
If you are in the market for a Smart Trainer, you want both ANT+FE-C(Fitness Equipment Control) and Bluetooth Smart communication capabilities. This will ensure that you have access to the greatest range of applications. These devices include; PC, smartphones, Tablets, and Garmin cycling computers.
Non-smart are still compatible with most virtual training platforms. An ANT+ or Bluetooth speed/cadence sensor, heart rate monitor, or power meter would do the trick too.
Usually PC is not feature ANT + / Bluetooth, you also need to buy a USB stick to communicate with trainer or roller devices.
Many smart trainers also allow you to create your own courses and ride simulations of real climbs and roads or even interact against or with people from all over the world. They are capable of adjusting the resistance to recreate climbs and descents.
There are numerous free and paid apps on the iTunes App Store and Google Play store, designed to fully control the resistance of your smart trainer and offer a customized training experience.
A common favorite among regular turbo riders is the Zwift app, which is basically a turbo training game that lets you link your laptop to your turbo trainer and cycle computer, and compete against other riders in a virtual world.
Using a smart trainer to do targeted interval work in specific power zones can rapidly improve fitness. If you slow down your cadence the resistance per pedal stroke increases, speed up and the resistance per pedal stroke decreases, but the power output holds steady forcing you to hold a specific power target.
If your goal is to maximize that time to achieve the highest level of fitness possible then you are better served spending that time working somewhere in the tempo to the threshold range.
Making a Purchase Decision: How to Choose an indoor bike trainer?
Indoor trainers are also called Turbo trainers. Past times, fluid trainers were thought to have the best or most realistic resistance curve, with the level of resistance being dependent on wheel speed.
Until recently, nearly all of the big players in the market now have smart trainers available and all the pros are using direct drive.
- If you plan to be on the trainer every day 6 months out of the year, then a smart trainer is your best choice, to alleviate boredom and keep your stoke high. If you are a beginner or are not likely to use it much, an entry level turbo will do the job.
- If you plan to use a mountain or other off-road bike then you should consider a direct drive trainer. Mountain bikes and other bikes with knobby tires tend to slip and create noise and vibration when used with a wheel drive trainer. Direct drive trainers do not suffer from this as the rear wheel is removed.
Some of the top companies that manufacture indoor bike trainers are Kinetics, CycleOps, Elite, and Tacx. Choosing is hard work. Too much choice paralyzes. We’ve all been there. Good news we helping your narrow down the selection. The following are some of what we think is the best bike trainers & rollers for sale review:
Best Indoor Bike Workouts
#1 CycleOps Hammer Direct Drive Trainer
When it comes to CycleOps, it is one of the best trainer brands in the world. Having manufactured a series of high-quality indoor trainers –with varying resistant types – in the past, the Hammer Direct Drive is the first-ever direct-drive smart trainer which is ever manufactured by this company.
Weighing just under 50lbs, users can easily move this trainer from one point to the other thanks to the handle which is designed at the balance point of the direct drive trainer. It also consists of a 20lb flywheel which works incredibly well when it comes to delivering superior road felling.
As evident from the name of this product, it is actually a direct drive trainer. Basically, it allows you the luxury of taking off the rear wheel of your bicycle before mounting it directly with this product.
Moreover, there are a couple of legs, designed on the bottom of this unit, which works as a stabilizer. These legs can be easily folded into compact dimensions which helps users in transporting this trainer from one place to the other.
For ease of connectivity, this virtual personal power trainer is compatible with both, ANT+FE-C as well as Bluetooth 4.0. Once connected with the desired device, it is quite easy to adjust the resistance level of this trainer as per your personal preference. You can also control it with the help of zwift interactive trainer which makes it a versatile product.
So if you’re looking for the best smart stationary trainer, have a look at the CycleOps Hammer Direct Drive Trainer. Extremely high-performing, this is an easy-to-use product even for the newbies. The maximum resistance which can be handled by this product goes up to 2000W which makes it an ideal indoor trainer even for elite-level riders.
CycleOps Hammer vs Wahoo Kickr
Top of the line direct-drive smart trainers are amazing tools, the Wahoo Kickr is an awesome direct-drive smart trainer that narrowly missed out on our Editors’ Choice Award.
Spending over $1000 on a trainer is a big commitment, and can truly alter your indoor experience while providing you with laboratory quality power analysis.
Non-smart trainers are seriously lacking in the area of interaction, lack the accuracy and supreme road feel of a direct drive model, but they are cheap at the price.
In the end, the addition of any indoor trainer to your training arsenal is bound to pay dividends in your spring fitness. Assess your needs and make a decision based on what is important to you.
#2 Tacx Vortex Smart Ergotrainer with Electro Brake
The Tacx Vortex Smart Ergotrainer with Electro Brake is an ideal product for budget-oriented customers who don’t want to spend heavily on this purchase. Available at a reasonable price tag, this unit still consists of all the features that one could expect from a hi-fi indoor trainer.
Coming towards the tacx vortex smart review, it features a 2kg flywheel along with steel support legs to ensure a hassle-free ride. Regardless of the speed at which you’re riding this indoor trainer, such a construction keeps it in firm contact with the underneath surface. It also has anti-slip rubber grips which make sure that your feet stay in place on a consistent basis.
The Smart Ergotrainer works with both Bluetooth as well as ANT + and it also connects readily with Zwift. The fact that this trainer comes with a maximum resistance of 950 watts makes sure that you won’t be left behind by your partners on this app and with the help of 16 magnets, this product offers smooth resistance changes.
Another impressive feature in this product is the presence of electro-brake technology which, when paired with a smart training app like Zwift, registers speed changes with impeccable accuracy.
Incorporating a series of workout programs, users can use this software to reach their fitness goals in an imperious manner. Apart from using the Tacx Vortex with Zwift and other such software, you can also use it with the built-in Tacx software.
#3 CycleOps Magnus Trainer
A recent addition to the CycleOps’ line of indoor trainers, the Magnus Trainer has impressed a large variety of customers ever since its introduction.
This is basically a rear-wheel-driven trainer which is ideal for all those riders who want to enjoy the real-like-riding experience without setting foot out of their homes.
Weighing just under 10kgs, this trainer has a pretty lightweight flywheel that weighs as low as just 1.2 kg. It also features folding support legs which offer a reliable stand to make bike stationery.
Moreover, the weight limit of this trainer is restricted to 300lbs (Bike + rider) which is quite similar to other such products from Cycle-Ops.
The maximum resistance being offered by this unit is no more than 1500W which is quite impressive for a trainer available at this price range. It has the ability to measure both power and speed and the manufacturer has designed this unit with a 3.5m long power cord.
When it comes to connecting this trainer with Zwift or any other such app, it is quite a simple process. The CycleOps Magnus comes equipped with an LED light which, as you turn on this unit, starts blinking in the form of green light. Then as you connect it with any gadget via the ANT + FE -C, the green light turns into solid white.
You will need a USB dongle if you want to connect this device with your laptops with the help of ANT+. On the other hand, when this trainer is also compatible with Bluetooth, the green light will turn blue if this is your preferred mode of communication.
The 2-inch resistance unit can be connected with a wide range of wheel sizes, from 26 inches to 29 inches but when it comes to the width of the tires, it is limited up to 2.0’’. For making sure that the users get a consistent and reliable ride, the mountain bike trainer comes with a clutch knob.
Having a similar mechanism to the gas cap on your car, you will hear an audible click once the knob reaches achieves optimal tension between the tire and the resistance unit.
So if you’re looking for a good bike trainer within a reasonable price range, the CycleOps Magnus Trainer is worth a try.
#4 Kinetic Road Machine Smart Trainer
Yet another high-quality product from this manufacturer, the Kinetic Road Machine Smart Trainer is another product based on the hi-fi fluid resistance units.
In comparison to the Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer, users have to spend a bit higher amount of money on making this purchase. But one could see the reason behind it after looking at the feature-set of the Kinetic Road Machine Smart Trainer.
Available in a stylish green color, users will get a one-month free subscription, on making this purchase, for the Kinetic Fit app. This isn’t available with the 2.0 Fluid Trainer as the manufacturer has limited this offer only with the purchase of smart trainers.
This trainer believes in a very quiet operation and even without the trainer mat, it works without producing much of a noise. One thing which riders often complain about is fluid trainers is that they are vulnerable to leaking. This happens when the fluid enters into the fluid chamber from the drive shaft.
However, there is no such problem with the Road Machine thanks to 2 different sets of magnetics which are integrated on either side of the wall (1 set on each side).
As compared to the Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 as well as the cyclops fluid 2 reviews, the Road Machine has the ability to connect with Zwift as well as other such smart applications. It does so via iOS, Android and Mac, or even Windows operating systems. It also allows you the luxury of calculating power by pairing this unit with the inRide sensors.
#5 CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Trainer
The CycleOps Fluid2 is another hi-fi indoor trainer which depends on the fluid resistance units. At the moment when there is a number of fluid trainers available in the market, this one is rated very highly by the indoor riders.
But how does this product compare against Kinetic Road Machine Smart trainer which is another superior-quality fluid trainer?
First of all, this indoor bike trainer 2 is an environmentally friendly product all of its components are made from fully recyclable, non-rusting materials. Secondly, as you ride this machine, it produces a slightly lesser level of noise as compared to that of Kinetic counterpart.
However, one thing which Kinetic Road Machine is slightly ahead of the CycleOps Fluid 2 is its ability to deal with the potential fluid leakage. As already mentioned, the Kinetic unit makes use of 16 magnetic units in order to ensure a leakage-free construction.
Even though the CycleOps Fluid 2 isn’t any less of a durable product, as it relies on the O-ring seal for preventing the leakage, some riders are still in two minds regarding the durability of this product.
However, the CycleOps does come with a lifetime warranty so even if anything goes wrong, which is highly unlikely, you can always replace this product.
Finally, users will get the CycleOps 2 at a much-reduced price as compared to which they might have to pay for the Kinetic smart machine. Having said that, both these trainers are of the highest quality which means that you can purchase any one of them without any hesitation.
#6 Roller Tacx Galaxia 2016
Coming from a famous Dutch Company, which has more than 4 decades of experience while crafting high-quality rollers, the Rollet Galaxia 2016 from Tacx is an ideal indoor workout partner for all such riders which prefer a challenging riding experience.
Moreover, when it ensures the safety of its user, you don’t have to worry one bit about your bike getting off these rollers.
Featuring parabolic drums, this product keeps your bike centered throughout the training session. This is made possible by the slight curve which has been integrated on the drums’ design. However, you still have to put in some effort for balancing the bicycle which will eventually strengthen your core muscles.
For the sake of transportation, the Roller Tacx Galaxia 2016 can be easily folded which also makes it quite easy to store in a safe place. Finally, all the bicycles, with a wheel diameter ranging from 26’’ to 29’’, are compatible with this roller which makes it quite a versatile product.
#7 Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer
Even with the rising popularity of smart trainers, which have the ability to communicate directly with your computer, the Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer has earned heaps of praise ever since its introduction. Incorporating a solid construction, the fact that this product comes with a lifetime warranty (for the frame) tells you a lot about the quality of this trainer.
This fluid trainer, as evident from its name, uses silicon fluid to create the required resistance. As compared to other magnetic resistance units, this unit offers a smooth and quiet ride thanks to such construction. Another advantage of the fluid trainer is that as you push harder on the medal, the level of resistance increases with the speed of the wheel.
When it is imperative for any trainer to have a sturdy frame, this one comes with a powdered coated steel frame which is not only very stable but at the same time, it also allows you to give your maximum during a workout session. Starting from 22’’, this frame is compatible with 29’’ wheels which makes it quite an adaptable unit.
For effective power training, you can pair this trainer with the Kinetic’s inRide Watt Meter as well as the Kinetic Fit app. So all in all, the Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer is one of the best fluid trainers for bikes in today’s market.
#8 Blackburn Tech Mag Race Trainer
If you’ve purchased some sort of cycling accessories in the past, there is a big chance that you should be familiar with the brand, Blackburn.
A famous cycling brand, it has produced almost all types of cycling accessories, varying from lights to even the bikes themselves. And when it comes to Blackburn Tech Mag Race Trainer, it is another high-quality product from this particular manufacturer.
Incorporating a rather simple construction, this home bike trainer consists of a quiet magnetic resistance unit. Available at quite an affordable price, this cheap bike trainer comes with 6 resistance settings along with a remote which is mounted at the bar of this unit. Such a construction offers smooth resistance changes even during your workout session.
Another exciting feature in this home bike trainer is its aluminum frame which can be adjusted to various heights. Moreover, Blackburn has designed it with fully adjustable legs which makes sure that this unit won’t bend under your riding.
#9 Elite Arion Digital Smart B+ Trainer
When it comes to bike rollers that are available in today’s market, the Elite Arion Digital Smart B+ Trainer stands tall due to its hi-fi feature set.
It is one of the very few products – in this category – which comes with Bluetooth as well as FE-C connectivity. With the help of this technology, you can interact with different types of software, applications as well as other ANT+ devices.
Basically, these inside ride rollers have the ability to both send out and receive digital input during your workout sessions. As you spend time on this trainer, it lets you to send speed, power, and cadence to a compatible Bluetooth device.
In addition, when it can receive digital input as well, you can set resistance of these rollers with the help of your favorite workout programs, such as Zwift.
On making this purchase, users will get a subscription for the 12 months free Elite My Entraining App for absolutely free. Furthermore, it controls the magnetic resistance electronically which eventually depends on the interactive fitness app which you’re using with this unit. So as compared to cheap bike rollers, this is a long-lasting product with a superior-feature set.
Bike Training Tips
- Expect to sweat a lot, which means that it’s important to keep plenty of liquid on hand for long training sessions. Keep one or two water bottles close to hand. Headphones will get sweaty, so use a stereo or speaker.
- Having a towel nearby is a necessity too, and it’s worth considering installing a fan (or two) in the training area. There’s nothing worse than sweat dripping into your eyes.
- It’s worth putting down some kind of mat or sheet under the rollers or trainer to make it easy to clean up the training area. Grit, rubber, and lube will collect around the rear of the bike, while plenty of sweat will drip onto the floor.
- If you don’t have a bike computer, Garmin, power metre, or heart rate monitor you will need something by which to tell the time and pace your efforts.
- Buy or make a turbo block to raise your front wheel off the ground and make it level with your rear wheel that is sitting in the A-frame three to four inches off the ground.