How to Choose an Indoor Bike Trainer

Photo Credit: Kinetic

Portable, smooth, quiet, affordable—different folks have different tastes as far as choosing the best indoor bike trainer for them.

Bryan Whitbeck, owner of Black Mountain Bike Shop in San Diego, has seen it all. Even in an ideal climate for outdoor winter riding, Black Mountain sells its share of indoor trainers (mostly due to the short daylight hours). And he notices a trend when a cyclist comes in looking to purchase one.

"Most people tend to do one of two things," Whitbeck said. "They either beeline to the price because they're not sure if they're going to use it. Or they come in, they're excited, they're pumped up and they don't want to hear noise and they have a nice bike so they don't mind spending a little bit."

Not sure where you fall on that spectrum? Here's a handy guide to finding the right indoor bike trainer for you.

The Types

There are four common types of bike indoor trainers:

  • Wind, in which the cyclist powers a fan that provides resistance;
  • Magnetic, in which a fixed resistance is offered by a magnetic flywheel;
  • Fluid, in which silicon within the unit offers resistance;
  • Rollers, completely different from the other three, in which the unattached bike is balanced on top of three cylinders.

All four have distinct differences that set them apart. Wind trainers are the cheapest but also the noisiest. Magnetic trainers are an affordable (and quiet) option but the fixed resistance is not ideal to many cyclists. Fluid trainers are quiet and offer progressive resistance, but are pricier. And rollers are challenging to master due to the need for a refined pedal stroke to keep your balance.

Wind trainers can be found for around $150, while fluid trainers can range anywhere from $350 to $400. Magnetic and rollers fall somewhere in between.

Some of the top companies that manufacture indoor bike trainers are Kinetics, CycleOps, Elite and Tacx and Minoura.

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