Choosing an Indoor Trainer

For fair-weather cyclists like me, winter means a lot more miles logged indoors than out, so I figured it was time to do a brief overview on indoor trainers. Here’s a breakdown of the available options:

Wind Trainers (Resistance provided by an exposed fan)

  • Pros
    • Inexpensive (generally $100 & up)
    • Natural road feel
    • Ease of use (simply change gears to change resistance)
  • Cons
    • Noisy
    • Not good for low-cadence, high-wattage workouts. (You may not get sufficient resistance spinning even your largest gear below 80rpm.)

 

Magnetic Trainers (Resistance provided by magnetic force on an enclosed steel flywheel)

  • Pros
    • Reasonably priced ($150 and up)
    • Quiet
    • Adjustable resistance, usually sufficient for intense workouts.
  • Cons
    • Unnatural, “choppy,” road feel
    • Not user friendly. Resistance is altered via external controls which can be prone to failure.

 

Fluid Trainers (Resistance provided by a “fan” enclosed in fluid)

  • Pros
    • Quiet
    • The most natural road feel
    • Ease of use (simply change gears to change resistance)
    • Sufficient resistance for high-watt, low cadence workouts
  • Cons
    • Expensive (Generally $200 and up)
    • Cheaper units can leak fluid and become very hot to touch

 

If the cost of a fluid trainer is not prohibitive, it will provide the best road feel and more than enough resistance for any type of workout. While most people choose the magnetic trainer as the “second best” option, I often recommend wind trainers for their ease of use and smooth feel. Indeed, wind resistance units may not provide enough resistance for some, but if you are using a 52 or 53 tooth large chainring with an 11 tooth small cog, you will have a hard time maxing out your windtrainer at normal cadences of 80 to 100rpm. That said, if you can spin a 53×11 at 100 rpm on a windtrainer, you will surely have noise complaints from your neighbors.

In short, be realistic about your abilities and your relationship with your neighbors before your make your decision.

…Till next time.