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Shopping Guide for Best Bike Trainers

When the weather turns cold or rainy, hitting the streets for a bike ride isn’t always the best idea. That’s when a bike trainer comes in handy. A trainer stabilizes your bike, so you can ride it inside when you can’t head outdoors. They’re compact and portable, too, which means you can easily fit a trainer in your home — or take it with you when you travel.

But while a trainer may seem like a simple device, choosing the right one can be tricky. How do you decide on the best bike trainer for you? Just ask us! At BestReviews, we don’t accept products or perks from manufacturers, so you can trust that our recommendations are honest and unbiased. We conduct field and expert research and interview real-life customers to give you the information you need to make educated shopping decisions.

If you’re ready to buy a biker trainer, take a look at the matrix above for our top five picks. For more on selecting a bike trainer, including the different types, what features to look for, and how much you should pay, read on.

The tread of the tires can affect a bike’s fit. Check the specifications for any bike trainer that you’re considering.

Do I Need a Bike Trainer?

  • With a bike trainer, you’ll be able to keep up your bike riding all year, no matter how cold, snowy, or rainy it is.

  • If you exercise during rush hour or other busy times of day, you don’t have to worry about braving traffic or stoplights with a bike trainer.

  • A bike trainer makes it easy to exercise whenever you have a free moment at home, so you don’t have to run to the gym or go for a bike ride after dark.

  • Bike trainers allow for interval training, or alternating low- and high-intensity periods of exercise, for maximum fat burning.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer

Quiet, Real Road Feel

Owners are particularly impressed with how quiet the CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer is. The loudest sounds you’ll hear when using this machine are your own grunts of exertion. The CycleOps also earns praise for its realistic feel. The flywheel size has recently been increased, so that additional inertia — or rather, the effort required to overcome it — may well be a factor in this.

Types of Bike Trainers

Types

Wind Bike Trainers

With a wind trainer, your pedaling powers a fan to create resistance. For greater resistance, you pedal faster or increase the bike’s gear. Wind trainers are very durable and also inexpensive.

They can be loud, don’t offer adjustable resistance, and can’t provide a real road feel, however.

EXPERT TIP

Wind bike trainers are usually the least expensive, so they’re an ideal option for riders who are new to indoor training.


Staff  | BestReviews
Types

Magnetic Bike Trainers

Magnetic trainers use a magnetic flywheel to adjust resistance.

Some higher-tech trainers use electromagnetic resistance, which you can adjust via an app or remote.

On the downside, they aren’t as durable as other types of bike trainers.

DID YOU KNOW?

Magnetic trainers provide adjustable resistance, quiet operation, and more features than wind trainers.

Types

Fluid Bike Trainers

Fluid trainers are similar to magnetic trainers, but they contain a fluid chamber for added resistance. As a result, they have a variety of resistance options.

They can be expensive, though, and aren’t especially durable.

A fluid bike trainer is extremely quiet and offers a real road feel.

Staff
BestReviews
Types

Rollers

With rollers, you ride your bike on the rollers instead of locking the back wheel into a trainer. This gives a realistic road feel.

Rollers are ideal for improving your balance and form, and they typically come with a budget-friendly price tag.

However, they don’t offer any resistance, and it can be tricky to learn how to use them.

DID YOU KNOW?

Rollers offer the most authentic riding experience, allowing you to work on your balance and form.

What to Look For When Buying a Bike Trainer

Considerations

Stability

Choosing a stable bike trainer is the best way to avoid any accidents or injuries. In general, the wider the trainer’s base, the more stable it will be. Some trainers also offer a leveling feature, which makes them more stable on an uneven floor or surface.

Considerations

Storage

Bike trainers are compact, so they’re usually easy to store. If storage space is an issue, look for a trainer that has folding legs or folds in half.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer

Light and Realistic

The CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer is competitively priced for those who want a realistic riding experience while training. It's well-made and stable, but thanks to the use of alloy instead of steel, it's also quite light. The CycleOps won’t accommodate smaller wheel sizes, but it’s perfect for triathlon, mountain, and road bikes.

Considerations

Type

For the best results, match a bike trainer’s type to your fitness needs and goals.

  • If you want the most realistic riding experience, fluid trainers or rollers are the best option.

  • Rollers are particularly good if your goal is to improve your balance and form.

  • Beginners do better with wind or magnetic trainers because the bike is balanced for you.

  • For those on a budget, wind trainers, magnetic trainers, and rollers are the most inexpensive types.

EXPERT TIP

If you want a trainer with adjustable resistance, magnetic and fluid trainers are ideal.


Staff  | BestReviews
Considerations

Noise

Every bike trainer will make some noise because of the vibrations, but some models are louder than others.

Wind trainers tend to be very noisy, while magnetic and fluid trainers are quieter, making them ideal for apartment dwellers or people with roommates.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Cascade Health & Fitness Fluidpro

Sealed and Smooth

The main complaint about fluid bikes is that quite a few leak at the shaft O-rings — an area that withstands a lot of pressure over time. The approach of the Cascade Health & Fitness Fluidpro is to “thermally seal” the drive, an innovation that the manufacturer backs with a lifetime guarantee. Owners are delighted with the feedback they get from the Cascade when riding. Power transfer is smooth throughout the entire gear range.

Considerations

Bike Attachment

With wind, magnetic, and fluid trainers, your bike attaches to the trainer, which holds it in place. Most trainers feature a stationary attachment that doesn’t offer side-to-side motion.

However, some trainers use an articulating attachment, so the bike can pivot on the trainer’s base. This type of attachment allows you to lean the bike side to side as you would on a real road.

Some trainers attach directly to the bike’s frame at the rear dropouts, so the trainer replaces the bike’s back wheel. This type of attachment doesn’t use friction from the tires for resistance, which protects your tires from wear and tear.

Keep in mind that direct-attachment trainers may not be compatible with axle standards or drivetrains.

DID YOU KNOW?

Articulating attachments give a good core workout and a more realistic riding experience.

Considerations

Interactivity

Some high-end bike trainers are equipped with Bluetooth and wireless connectivity, so you can connect via training apps to your smartphone, tablet, or fitness tracker.

These trainers keep track of your fitness data, such as miles logged and speed. You’ll pay more for a smart trainer, however.

Smart bike trainers allow you to mimic a course you’ve ridden outside, with the trainer automatically adjusting the incline and resistance.

Staff
BestReviews

Tips and Tricks for Using a Bike Trainer

  • Set up your bike trainer in a cool area of your home, such as the basement or garage, so you don’t overheat while you’re riding.

  • Try to eat within three to four hours of using your bike trainer to ensure you have enough energy for maximum performance.

  • You can work up a serious sweat on a bike trainer. Make sure you have plenty of water and towels on hand.

  • Don’t jump on your bike trainer and immediately ride at max effort. Start off with five minutes of moderate riding to warm up your body for the more intense intervals.

  • Vary your bike trainer workout. A simple drill is four minutes of maximum intensity, followed by two minutes of moderate intensity, in repetition.

  • It’s a good idea to include a five-minute cool down at the end of your bike trainer workout to slow your heart rate.

  • It’s easy to go overboard with bike training. Give your body a day off to ensure it has time to recover.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid

No Leaks, Guaranteed

Kinetic is one of the world’s most reputable bike trainer manufacturers. In the opinion of most owners, the Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid carries on that positive tradition. Kinetic was one of the first companies to tackle the problem of fluid leakage and include a no-leak guarantee in its lifetime warranty. Owners are impressed with the Kinetic’s build, stability, and realistic ride, too.

How Much Should I Pay for a Biker Trainer?

Bike trainers are available at a variety of price points depending on the type and the features they offer. But in general, you can expect to pay between $30 and $600.

For wind and magnetic trainers, you’ll usually pay between $30 and $100.

For roller trainers, expect to pay between $90 and $200.

For fluid trainers, you’ll usually pay between $150 and $350.

Set up an entertainment device near your bike trainer to make your training more enjoyable. Stream movies or shows while you ride on a TV, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

FAQ

Q. Do I have to assemble a bike trainer?

A. Some bike trainers come fully assembled, so you can use them right out of the box. Other models require assembly, but it’s usually a simple process. Most bike trainers take less than five minutes to put together.

Q. What’s the difference between trainers and rollers?

A. Both allow you to ride your bike in a stationary position indoors. Rollers have nothing to hold the bike upright, so you have to balance on the bike like you do when riding outdoors. That’s why rollers provide such a realistic riding experience. Trainers, on the other hand, are stands that hold your bike upright, so you don’t have to balance yourself.

Q. How do I know if my bike will fit a specific trainer?

A. Measuring your bike’s wheels is the best way to tell if it will fit a specific trainer. Most trainers will fit 26” wheels. Many will also accommodate up to 29” wheels, but you should check the product specifications to be certain. If you have 20” or 24” wheels, you may need to purchase a wheel adapter to ensure that they fit securely.

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    Bob
    Writer
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    Web Producer
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    Eliza
    Digital Content Strategist
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    Jennifer
    Writer
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    Katherine
    Editor
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    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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