As seen in:
CycleOps
Fluid 2 Trainer
FDW
Steel Bike Indoor Stand
RAD
Portable Magnetic
Cascade
Health & Fitness Fluidpro
Kinetic
Road Machine 2.0 Fluid
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Good

Wide resistance range that reacts to exerciser input. Impressively quiet.

Five speed choices and adjustable resistance. Robust and durable. Low price.

Folds almost flat for easy storage. Includes a wheel skewer.

Stable, high-quality construction. Smooth feedback and a "real road" feel. Versatile.

Arrives fully assembled. Realistic outdoor feel. No-leak guarantee included in lifetime warranty.

Bad

No riser included. Some complaints about the quality of assembly instructions.

Includes no wheel skewer or rising ring, which could result in the need for extra purchases.

Resistance is not adjustable. No rising ring. Some concerns about durability and noise.

Owners must use the factory-provided skewer. Fixing method for skewer does not work with all bikes.

Includes no rising ring. Rare complaints about noise.

Bottom Line

Lightweight, durable, and reactive, this popular machine is the best on the market.

May feel more like an exercise bike than a true bike, but owners love the machine and price. The best deal available.

A low-cost bike trainer with a few known flaws and plenty of satisfied customers.

An excellent machine with a drawback (requires manufacturer skewer) that will be limiting for some consumers.

This trainer provides an extremely realistic ride and a no-leak guarantee.

How we decide
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Products received from manufacturers
66
Models Considered
46
Hours Spent
2
Experts Interviewed
178
Consumers Consulted

Best Bike Trainers

The mechanism of a bike trainer would, at first, seem pretty simple. For that reason, there are a lot of machines out there that aren't built as well as they should be. These machines, often very cheap, can easily tempt consumers. We put together a shortlist of models that meet all basic expectations, some of which are very affordable. We've also extended the budget a bit for those who want the most realistic road riding experience possible. Our finalists are:

Products we Considered

CycleOps
Fluid 2 Trainer
FDW
Steel Bike Indoor Stand
RAD
Portable Magnetic
Cascade
Health & Fitness Fluidpro
Kinetic
Road Machine 2.0 Fluid

Considerations

Type & Construction

Four types of bike trainer drive exist: "wind," "magnetic," "fluid," and "roller." Wind drives tend to be loud; roller drives require considerable skill to stay on. As a result, we focus on the magnetic and fluid types in these ratings. We also cover construction in this section. Lightweight trainers are easier to move, but are you better off with something more robust? We discuss such issues here.

Features

In this section, we examine important details such as the wheel sizes each trainer can accommodate and whether riser rings or wheel skewers are included. The information we provide will help you find a trainer that maximizes your exercise routine.

Peformance

When choosing exercise equipment, user experience is a vital element of the equation. In this part of our bicycle trainer review, we look at how each model actually feels in use and incorporate the feedback of real-world owners.

Price

While none of our finalists are outrageously expensive, there's a fair gap between the bottom and the top. In this section of our ratings, we look at the value each product's price tag represents.

Considerations

Type & Construction

Magnet Steel Bike Bicycle Indoor Exercise Trainer Stand

As you would probably guess from the title, the Magnet Steel Indoor Bike Trainer Stand uses a magnetic flywheel to provide resistance. Frequently on cheaper models, this means you get just a single speed. The Magnet Steel, however, provides a choice of five different settings. The heavy-duty welded steel frame (20 pounds) isn't the lightest, but according to several owners who are themselves over 250 pounds, it's robust enough for regular, hard use.

RAD Cycle Products Indoor Portable Magnetic Work Out Bicycle Trainer

The RAD Cycle Products Portable Work Out Bicycle Trainer is another product on our shortlist with a magnetic flywheel, but it doesn't have the adjustable resistance offered by the Magnet. RAD's approach is that you simply change gear on your bicycle to change resistance. The manufacturer claims that their training stand is made from "the finest materials," making it very lightweight. While it's true that the machine weights only 17 pounds, it appears to be welded steel like most others in its class. There's nothing wrong with that – welded steel is quite durable – but we don't see anything "extra special" about it.

Cascade Health & Fitness Fluidpro Bike Trainer

Like the Magnet Steel, the Cascade Fluidpro Bike Trainer employs a resistance mechanism that is evident in its product name. According to the manufacturer, this model uses a hydraulic flywheel that gives smooth feedback and, because resistance automatically increases in response to your pace, a feel that's close to real road riding. When we first saw it, we wondered whether the front legs were wooden – and thus a weakness – but the truth is that the Cascade Fluidpro is a high-quality trainer of mostly welded steel. Weighing in at a substantial 32 pounds, owners say its weight gives it great stability.

Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer

Like the Cascade Fluidpro, the Kinetic Road Machine delivers high stability. Not surprisingly, this 28-pound machine is another hydraulic flywheel model. Construction consists of steel tubing, which in theory only adds to the trainer's strength. Our research certainly has not encountered any reports of breakage. Owners love the fact that the Kinetic Road Machine feels a lot like real outdoor cycling.

CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer

Tubular alloy is the material of choice for the CycleOps Fluid 2 Bike Trainer. (In this case, the material is two inch/16 gauge.) The trainer's construction is rigid, but at only 20 pounds, it weighs less than similar steel-built models. Because of its lighter weight, the CycleOps is conveniently portable. As for the hydraulic resistance system, it employs what CycleOps calls "PowerTune" technology, delivering a wide resistance range that reacts to your input.

According to several users who are over 250 pounds, the Magnet Steel is robust enough for regular, hard use in spite of its light weight.
Considerations

Features

Magnet Steel Bike Bicycle Indoor Exercise Trainer Stand

The Magnet Bicycle Trainer takes wheels in the following sizes: 26 inches, 27 inches, and 700C. This covers the most commonly used diameters, so the majority of people will be happy. There's no riser ring, so you'll either have to put a board (or something similar) under the front wheel to level up the riding position or buy a riser ring separately. There's also no wheel skewer. (Whether that's important or not will depend on the type of bike you ride. If you've got a road racer with QD levers for the rear wheel, that's another extra you'll have to pay for.) When not in use, the Magnet Steel folds neatly away for easy storage.

RAD Cycle Products Indoor Portable Magnetic Work Out Bicycle Trainer

With the RAD Cycle Products Trainer, you can use either 26-inch or 700C wheels. (The former is popular on mountain bikes; the latter is popular on road bikes.) As with the Magnet Steel, tire size isn't critical because additional adjustment is available. The RAD includes no ring riser, but a quick release skewer is provided. (Considering the RAD's lower price, this provision is quite unusual.) This bike trainer is the lightest model in our ratings, and it folds almost flat for easy storage.

Both a riser and a skewer are included with the Cascade Fluidpro Bike Trainer Stand. The riser actually has three positions, so you can not only level your bike but also create the sensation of cycling uphill. Cascade recommends that owners use the included skewer (rather than a different one), and herein lies a problem for some. If you don't have a quick-release rear wheel, it may not be possible to clamp your bike securely. Some bikes will work with the Cascade and some won't, but you'll only be able to find out on a case-by-case basis. You always have the option of modifying your rear wheel – and that might have long-term benefits – but conversely, it's an additional expense. This is a shame, because the Cascade bike trainer is a versatile fitness machine that can take wheels from 24 to 29 inches. As with the Magnet and RAD, it folds easily for storage – although at 32 pounds, it's still quite heavy.

Unlike most bike trainers, the Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Bicycle Trainer comes fully assembled and ready to go. Oddly enough, no riser is included with this product, but plenty of owners have found success in placing a few books under the front wheel. A wheel skewer is included and enables the Kinetic trainer to take an ever bigger range of wheels than the Cascade – from 22 to 29 inches. Conveniently, the Kinetic Road folds to a nearly flat position when not in use. An additional accessory you might consider purchasing is the Kinetic inRide Watt Meter, a device that monitors a number of parameters including power, distance, speed, and cadence.

CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer

The CycleOps Fluid 2 Cycle Trainer includes a wheel skewer but not a riser. While that omission is understandable on cheap bike trainers, it's a surprise on premium models like this – especially considering the fact that the manufacturer has put so much thought into the overall product. The CycleOps accommodates wheel sizes of 650B, 700C, 26 inches, 27 inches, and 29 inches. In other words, it caters to nearly everyone! One interesting option customers enjoy with the CycleOps is virtual training. With the CycleOps system, you can use your TV, computer, or tablet to take rides all over the world. The manufacturer suggests a trainer tire if you plan to do virtual training, and there is a small monthly fee for the service, but free trials are often available.

With the CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer system, you can use your TV, computer, or tablet to take virtual rides all over the world.
Denise
Expert Consultant
Denise
Health Care Professional

Denise has a background in healthcare and physical therapy. She also has the unique experience of raising three boys. Through the years, she has coached her sons and many of their friends through their share of childhood health problems and accidents. When not helping others recover from their injuries, you may find Denise working in her garden or reading.

Considerations

Performance

Magnet Steel Bike Bicycle Indoor Exercise Trainer Stand

A common criticism of bike trainer stands with magnetic resistance is that they're noisy. Reaction to the Magnet Steel Bike Trainer is mixed, with some saying they can use it while listening to music and others saying it's too loud. Tires will have an effect on this: the more tread, the louder they will be. (This is true of all cycle training stands.) Off-road tires can be particularly loud, which is why many recommend using race or training tires if you're going to be indoors for months on end. Owners should also be aware that the contract roller gets very hot and should not be touched. Again, this is true of all bike trainer machines! In use, owners tend to be very happy with this product's strength and stability – even those who consider themselves to be physically "big." Owners say the Magnet Steel feels more like an exercise bike than an actual outdoor cycle, but most were satisfied with this.

RAD Cycle Products Indoor Portable Magnetic Work Out Bicycle Trainer

Quite a few owners have expressed disappointment with the amount of noise the RAD Cycle Products Bicycle Trainer makes, even on bikes with fairy smooth tires. Flooring can have an effect, of course, but many still though it too loud. The majority, however, seem to accept that this level of noise is what you get with a less-expensive bike training stand – though a few thought that the trainer's resistance could be greater. When using this trainer, it's important to start at a low gear and speed up so resistance builds along with it. However, a few owners wondered whether RAD's weight savings had gone too far, resulting in a flywheel without sufficient mass. A few others were concerned about the product's long-term durability. Having said that, there are plenty RAD Cycle owners who think it's a perfectly good entry-level cycle trainer. Many of these satisfied customers question whether critic's expectations are too high when you consider how much this inexpensive trainer costs.

Cascade Health & Fitness Fluidpro Bike Trainer

The main complaint about fluid bike trainers isn't the noise. Rather, it's the fact 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 Fluidpro is to "thermally seal" the drive, a process that appears to be effective and that they back with a lifetime guarantee. Owners are delighted with the feedback they get from the trainer and their bike when riding. Often, they comment that power transfer is smooth throughout the entire gear range! There are occasional complaints about noise levels, but given how few there are, this could be a tire issue. In general, the Cascade Fluidpro is considered a high-quality machine that's built to last.

Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer

Kinetic is one of the world's most reputable bike trainer manufacturers. The company is known for its solid, well-engineered products. In the opinion of most owners, the Road Machine 2.0 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 this machine's build, stability, and realistic ride. According to the manufacturer, the "outdoor" feel is generated by this product's 6.5-pound flywheel and adaptive fluid system. Users agree, and critics are few and far between. The only complaint that's registered about this product is noise, but that's a rare occurrence.

CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer

Although noise isn't often an issue with the top bike trainers, owners are particularly impressed with how quiet the CycleOps Fluid 2 is. More than one owner has said that the loudest sounds they hear when using this machine are their own grunts of exertion! The CycleOps also earns praise for the realistic feedback it gives. 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. A self-cooling mechanism is designed to combat wear and extend the life of the hydraulic unit. Like the other top models on our shortlist, a lifetime warranty is included with this product.

The CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer is known for its realistic feedback, self-cooling mechanism, and ultra-quiet ride.
Considerations

Price

Magnet Steel Bike Bicycle Indoor Exercise Trainer Stand

If you're looking for an inexpensive introduction to indoor bike training, the $55 Magnet Steel Indoor Bike Trainer Stand would be an excellent choice. It may not have the "real world" feel of more expensive hydraulic resistance machines, but it's put together well, it's stable, and it will fit most common road and mountain bikes. A few owners aren't happy with the noise levels, but it must be remembered that tires and flooring can make a considerable difference. Most owners say it's not overly loud and that they believe the Magnet Steel imparts an excellent value for the money.

RAD Cycle Products Indoor Portable Magnetic Work Out Bicycle Trainer

At just $67, the RAD Cycle Products Portable Work Out Bicycle Trainer is a direct competitor to the Magnet Steel and shares many similarities with it. The manufacturer uses descriptive phrases like "finest materials" and "ultra quiet," but while it's a couple of pounds lighter, the RAD is made of welded steel just like many of its competitors. There's nothing wrong with that – many top bike trainers are made the same way – it's just a bit hyped on the RAD. It won't take a 27-inch wheel, but unlike the Magnet Steel, it does come with a skewer. Like the Magnet Steel, the RAD gets criticized for being too noisy, and there are those who think it doesn't provide as much resistance as it should. While the majority are happy with the performance for the price, a few have wondered aloud about the RAD's long-term durability.

Cascade Health & Fitness Fluidpro Bike Trainer

There's quite a jump in price from our first two contenders to the Cascade Fluidpro Bike Trainer, which costs $345. Cascade is a relative newcomer to the market, but this is a very good bike trainer. It's a bit heavy, but then it's also very robust. It will accommodate a wide range of wheel sizes, and you also get a three-position riser and a wheel skewer. (Note: the fixing method for the wheel skewer may not work for all bikes.) The thermally sealed drive should ensure trouble-free use. Almost without exception, owners are very pleased with the riding sensation they get from the Cascade Fluidpro.

Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer

You'll need to find $319 if you want the Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Cycle Trainer, and while that's at the upper end of the price range, the quality and know-how that have gone into this model justify the expense. As one of the best brands in this sector, Kinetic is renowned for its quality work and attention to detail. The Road Machine 2.0 is ready to go straight out of the box, and it will accommodate a greater variety of bike sizes than any other product in our ratings. The fluid unit is guaranteed not to leak, and the rider gets an experience that's almost identical to the "real thing" – cycling outdoors.

CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer

The CycleOps Fluid 2 Bike Trainer has a very competitive price for those who want a realistic riding experience when 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 the smaller wheel sizes that the Cascade and Kinetic will, but it's perfect for triathlon, mountain, and road bikes. We do find it a bit frustrating that, for the price, this machine doesn't come with a riser. Nevertheless, owners seem prepared to overlook that slight omission in favor of the excellent feedback this machine provides. A few people have complained about the quality of the instruction manual, but those who have called customer support say they're delighted with the help they received.

If you're looking for an inexpensive introduction to indoor bike training, the Magnet Steel Bike Trainer Stand is an excellent choice.

Best of the Best

The CycleOps is a beautifully engineered product with a light but strong alloy frame. The frame is neatly welded and coated with a protective epoxy resin that keeps it looking good even after several knocks and scrapes. It folds for easy storage and weighs only about 20 pounds, so you're not going to struggle to move it around. Having said that, it's a strong and sturdy product with no hint of flex or lack of balance.

Fluid technology is far superior to magnetic when it comes to the "feel" of the ride. The Cascade, Kinetics, and CyclOps all perform well in this area, but our winner has a large flywheel coupled with "PowerTuned' resistance. This resistance yields a power curve so close to real road riding that some people have trouble telling the two apart! There's also a self-cooling mechanism to prevent the overheating that some hydraulic systems get. When it comes to sizes, the CycleOps will accommodate 650B, 700C, 26, 27, and 29-inch wheels.

There are a couple of negatives. The CycleOps doesn't come with a riser, which is quite surprising considering the high caliber of the product. The instructions for assembly are poor, according to some customers. (A person with a little engineering acumen probably wouldn't have any trouble understanding them, but some customers thought them almost impossible to follow.) Fortunately, the company's support department is quite pleasant and helpful.

No matter how hard you pedal, the CycleOps stays quiet. As such, you could use this machine while watching TV; many owners do. You could also pay a bit extra to subscribe to the CycleOps virtual training program. This add-on gives you the chance to do your cycle training all over the virtual world! The Cascade and Kinetics came very close to winning this title, and we doubt you'd be disappointed by either product, but the CycleOps Fluid 2 just shades these products for the Best of the Best title.
Best of the Best
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Although it weighs only 20 pounds, the CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer is a strong and sturdy product with no hint of flex or lack of balance.

Best Bang for your Buck

Our Best Bang for Your Buck award goes to the Magnet Steel Bike Stand. It may not have the sophistication of the fluid machines on our shortlist, but it does its job consistently well – and should continue to do so for years.

Although it's not particularly heavy, the Magnet Steel is built strong and folds away easily when not needed. It doesn't take a huge range of wheel sizes, but it will accommodate most adult mountain, road, and triathlon bikes. Yes, the magnetic resistance makes this bike noisy – but just how noisy is difficult to say. If the noise bothers you, a change from off-road tires to race slicks would certainly make an enormous difference.

You certainly won't hear any complaints about the Magnet Steel's build quality and balance. Riders of over 250 pounds have expressed their satisfaction and confidence in its stability. In addition, the resistance mechanism is often complimented for how smooth it is.

This model is admittedly not on par with the fluid machines on our shortlist, but it costs just $55. Fluid machines cost a lot more than that! The contact roller does get pretty hot, but this is true of all magnetic machines. There shouldn't be any need to touch the contact roller, anyway. There's no riser (a strategically placed piece of wood will do), and one or two people thought it difficult to set up. On the other hand, others spoke about how easy the set-up process was.

Bottom line: the Magnet Steel Bike Stand is not packed with features and finesse, but it does what it's designed to do very well. You won't find a better budget trainer than this one.
Best Bang for your Buck
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The Magnet Steel Bike Indoor Exercise Trainer Stand does its job consistently well – and should continue to do so for years.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Editor
  • Ann
    Ann
    Operations
  • Jimi
    Jimi
    Product Analyst
  • Adrian
    Adrian
    Senior Engineer

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