We will help you to find the best indoor bike trainer for your needs! Indoor cycling is currently on the rise. There are several reasons for it. Especially the smart trainers and online games or whole virtual worlds create an entertaining experience out of a usually rather boring activity. Indoor cycling is actually fun!
It also has the advantage that you can keep a regular schedule. You don’t depend on weather conditions. It’s also safer than riding outdoors, which really plays a role if you e.g. live in a big and crowded city.
Let’s have a look at the different types of indoor bike trainers!
You can roughly distinguish between three types of cycling trainers: Friction trainers, direct-drive trainers, and rollers.
Rollers are the purist version of bike trainers. You just put your bike on top and start pedaling. They require quite some skill because you have to balance on them. But they’re also best to train your pedaling technique. You usually can stow them away quite well and they don’t need any power.
Friction trainers are mounted at the rear quick release. They’re set up so the rear tire is pressing against it and while riding the tire will feel resistance. The friction is caused either by fluid or magnets. Because the tire is conveying the force to the trainer, they’re creating noise. But they’re cheaper and more portable than direct-drive trainers and therefore a viable alternative to them, especially if you don’t ride regularly or want to try indoor training. They can also be used with Zwift or Sufferfest software.
To use a direct-drive trainer, you will have to remove your rear wheel and place the bike chain directly on the sprocket. They’re the most expensive version, but also the quietest and the ones you can use best with training software because they can measure your power the best. These are usually called “smart” trainers because they can adjust the resistance based on the program you’re using. That means if you ride up a hill in Zwift, you’ll feel it. This way you can experience e.g. real Tour de France routes like Alp d’Huez, which can be a lot of fun.
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The best indoor bike trainer
If money doesn’t matter and you want the best of the best, then in our opinion you’re making the right choice with the Wahoo Kickr. It’s sturdy, it’s precise, it’s quiet, it provides a lot of resistance if needed, and it’s expensive. But it’s worth the money. There are also a lot of accessories available that you can get additionally: the obligatory floor mat, the “headwind” a fan to cool you down, or a table to put your computer on. Because that’s definitely what you want to do: use the smart functionality and go on an indoor ride in a virtual world or a virtual training program. That’s where the Wahoo Kickr shines. But you always need electricity to operate the Kickr and you have to be connected via an app. If you just want to ride at home anyhow that shouldn’t be a problem. If you want to use the trainer as a device for a warmup before a race, you have to look elsewhere.
The Wahoo Kickr operates seamlessly with software like Zwift. It is paired via BlueTooth so you can use it with a smartphone or with a computer. It’s very well suited for online races or serious workouts because it has great precision with only +/-1% deviation.
Best value direct-drive indoor bike trainer
A little less sturdy than the Wahoo Kickr, a little less precise, not exactly as quiet, and a little less powerful but therefore just a little more than half the price and therefore our best value direct-drive indoor bike trainer is the Elite Suito. The really cool thing about the Suito next to its price tag is the fact that you can ride it untethered. No need to plug it into a plug and connect to a virtual online world. Just hop on your bike and do a short workout. But of course, it’s also possible to use this trainer with Swift and Co.
What needs to be said is that the maximum slope simulation the Suito is capable of is 15%. For most rides and workouts this is enough. If you want to go for Alp d’Huez, you’re exceeding its capabilities. Another disadvantage is the accuracy of around +/-2.5 percent. Nevertheless, the Suito is a great trainer almost on the price level of friction trainers. It comes pre-installed with a Shimano 11 gear cassette and is ready to go when it arrives. It can be folded and stowed away more easily than all other direct-drive trainers and is all in all a really nice, and relatively inexpensive smart trainer.
Best value smart friction / wheel-on indoor bike trainer
If you don’t want to spend as much money as for a direct-drive trainer and still want to have a smart trainer that you can connect to training software such as Zwift or TrainerRoad, then the Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 might be for you. It connects via BlueTooth or Ant+.
It is significantly louder than any of the direct-drive alternatives. It can’t automatically adjust its resistance, but it’s also way cheaper. An issue with all friction trainers is that you have wear on your rear tire. In most cases it makes sense to buy a special indoor trainer tire like the Schwalbe Indoor or the Elite Coperton. These tires reduce the noise and don’t wear out that quickly. It’s a worthwhile investment.
The Road Machine Smart 2 trainer is built well, it’s sturdy and its legs can be folded, so you can easily stow it away. Since it doesn’t need electricity and it’s quite compact, it makes for a nice race day warmup tool.