Updated: May 29, 2015
Bike Trainer Reviews:How do you go about training for a road bicycle race when you live in a cold weather climate like Minnesota? It's very hard to get outside during the winter when temperatures are cold and it's snowing. Even in a place like Portland, Oregon training during the winter is difficult with constant rain and wet conditions. I have several friends that do competitive road racing with their bikes and their training schedules get altered a bit from November to April each year. A bike trainer is the simplest of solutions. Just put your bike up on the cycle trainer and off you go. Simulating the real experience you find on the road is not the same, but these cycle trainers have become quite advanced at replicating things like wind resistance - the one thing most riders agree is hard to get on a trainer. You could always buy a recumbent or exercise bike for those off-seasons workouts, but road racers will argue 'it's just not the same'. We will run you through a buying guide with brands, prices, and features so you can make an informed purchase. See all the details below.
Choosing a Bike Trainer - The first thing to cover are the resistance types available with bike trainers. There are 6 types - mag, wind, magneto, fluid, electronic, and centrifugal force. The key is to get the resistance to increase the faster you ride - much like it would on the road. Wind resistance trainers tend to be loud and the resistance levels at the upper end of things are definitely limiting. A mag (magnetic) trainer will be quieter than the wind resistance models, but they too lack in the ability to increase resistance as you pedal faster. An adjustable magnetic trainer lets you set the resistance - often using your shift levers or via a remote control unit that comes with the product. A magento trainer is better at creating resistance when you are cycling at a faster rate. There are magnets that get dispersed to the outer edges of the unit when the speed increases, therefore increasing resistance. Based on popularity, the fluid trainer is the one to get. If you want the closest feeling of actually riding on the road, experts and riders agree that the fluid units are the way to go. They run quiet and as you increase the pedaling speed, resistance is increased as well. Owners say the fluid cycle trainers are smooth and offer lots of resistance levels. Centrifugal force trainers use BB's instead of fluid, but the concept is very similar. The faster your back wheel goes, the BB's are forced to the edge of the unit which increases resistance. Lastly, you have the electronic cycle trainers that use an electromagnetic brake system. They also let you connect to your computer and enjoy a sort of virtual reality biking experience. Ride against your friends and compete on different road races. They are the most expensive - many are $1000 or more (Tacx is a top brand). Speaking of brands, the big names in the industry are CycleOps, Kurt Kinetic, Blackburn, Elite, Forza, Minoura, Bell and RAD Cycle Products. Prices - You will find a few priced below $100, but the majority are between $100 and $200. The fluid trainers are going to be closer to $300 and the electronic trainers as mentioned above will cost the most. Cycle Trainer Reviews - Ok, you've got the basics on which types exist, the brands, and the pricing. Now, which one is best for you. We suggest reading reviews to match your skill level or training schedule with the bike trainer that fits your needs. Unfortunately Consumer Reports has never done a review on these indoor bicycle trainers, but you can still find in depth reviews from experts and owners alike. We like websites like Biketrainerreviews.com, Trisports.com, Cycling-Review.com, and Bikeforums.net for invaluable feedback and comments. Amazon.com is another great source when wanting to hear from consumers who have actually bought and tried the product. Read up on the pros and cons for each model and make. Many reviews give honest opinions about the various features on each indoor cycle trainer. You can browse the best selling bike trainers here.