Best Bike Trainer/Turbo trainers: A complete buyer’s guide – Top 5 Reviews

Best Bike Trainer

If you are passionate about cycling, you’ll know the frustration of bad weather hindering your training program.

Turbo trainers cannot replicate the feel of the road under your wheels but they certainly serve a purpose. They were never meant to replace your bike, simply to enable you to use it when you otherwise would not have done.

If the rain outside is driving down and the wind howling, being able to use a trainer keeps you focused rather than missing a ride.

Exercise bikes have their place for cardio but, for the committed cyclist, turbo trainers are an invaluable addition to the home gym.

We’ll outline today at 5 of the best bike trainer reviews.

**Below, you'll find more detailed reviews, but you can click the links above to see current prices and read customer's reviews on Amazon.

Before showcasing these products, we’ll walk you through the basics of bike trainers. This should all simplify your buying decision.

Make sure you get the best bike trainer for your needs.

What Is A Bike Trainer?

Bike trainers, also known as turbo trainers, are nothing more than a simple device that allows you to ride your bike while stationary and indoors.

Whether it’s maintaining your training goals during the cold winter or properly warming up for a coming race, a bike trainer is a must for any serious cyclist.

The bike trainer clamps around the rear wheel of the bike and suspends it in an A-frame. This leaves the back tire sitting on a roller.

You simply hop on and start pedaling then the rear wheel causes the roller to turn.

Turbo trainers come with a resistance unit fitted. These are one of 3 main types:

  1. Magnetic
  2. Fluid
  3. Air

There is also an electromagnetic option. This recreates the experience of cycling so it’s almost virtual reality. This is an extremely expensive option but merits mentioning.

So…

Bike trainers really are very basic pieces of equipment that deliver superb results.

Why Use One?

Opinion regarding bike trainers divides cyclists…

Many think that they are just too boring to use and others think that they are a very punishing way to train.

For many, though, if it’s not possible to get out in the real world for a proper ride when the bad weather sets in. With rain and wind making things miserable and icy roads a potential danger, when the summer months are just a memory, it’s turbo time!

When it comes to precise and targeted training, the benefits of cycling outside can turn into drawbacks and problems. General traffic, stop lights and junctions, uneven surfaces and unexpected hills all combine to slow down progress, to make it less certain…

With a bike trainer, you can laser-focus your training whatever the outside conditions. Whether it’s a swift sprint or an interval pyramid, a bike trainer is constant unlike the ever-changing natural world.

Another key reason to use a turbo trainer is time. Everyone is busy. Perhaps you don’t have time for a full ride before or after work. This is where a quick half-hour on the bike trainer comes into its own. If you do not have sufficient time to hit the road, you can still take advantage of a high-intensity cardio session in as little as 30 minutes.

If you compete at any level, turbo trainers are also a superb method of warming up or cooling down before a race. Their ultra-portable nature means they can be stashed in the trunk of your car with ease. Their use in this capacity is gaining popularity.

How To Choose?

How To Set Up Your Bike Trainer

best bike trainers

In an ideal scenario, you will set up your bike trainer in a dedicated space like a utility room, garage or other covered outdoor area. If this is not possible, work with what you have got. Just bear in mind that using a turbo will result in lots of noise, heat and sweat.

A flat surface is essential. It should be solid and smooth if possible. Concrete, tiling and lino are all safe bets. Carpeted floors are not a great choice. You’ll need the feet of your trainer to be level. The last thing you want is for your equipment to start rocking around so sidestep the carpet.

Ventilation is key. You will be expending a great deal of energy and sweating profusely. Whether it’s opening windows to generate a pleasant breeze, using a fan or AC, go with what works best for you but ensure that there’s ample air.

  • Handy Hint: If sweat drops off onto a dirty bike, dirt can easily flick up from the wheels or drive train and splatter your wheels. Clean your bike before using your turbo trainer to prevent unsightly messes.

Resistance is extremely important as you set up your trainer. Pop the rear wheel onto the roller so that the tire is very slightly squashed. Avoid too much contact as this will make the wheel too tough to turn. Equally, don’t let it hover above as the wheel will skip when you start pedaling.

Make sure the wheel is straight and sits perpendicular to its roller. The quick release skewer on the back of your bike should be straight inside the clamp fixing it to the A-frame. Clamp it securely to avoid wobbling.

The wheel should sit centrally in relation to the roller.

Now you are ready to roll, some more useful tips to maximize your turbo training…

  • Invest in a turbo block. This device will raise your front wheel and level it to the rear wheel a few inches off the ground
  • Don’t forget to have a towel close by to mop off any sweat
  • Never underestimate the rigor of using a bike trainer. You will need lots of water to hand to rehydrate as you exercise
  • A stereo or external speaker works better than earphones as you will sweat so much
  • Time your sessions using whatever device works best for you
  • Record details of your training so you can monitor your progress
  • If you are using your trainer in an apartment or you have hard floors, think about the noise factor and consider your neighbors. This is where a correct and stable set-up helps

What To Look For…

Resistance

The single most important element when considering what bike trainer to buy is the method of resistance. This will impact the feel of the ride.

Most models, even the cheaper ones, will offer some way of tweaking the resistance. Using the gears on the bike itself is another obvious manner of ratcheting up the difficulty.

There are different technological forms of resistance available on turbo trainers. As with any purchase, you should think about your budget and your precise requirements to make this type of buying decision easier.

Magnetic

Those bike trainers at the lower to middle range price-wise usually offer magnetic resistance.

A magnetic field is created and a metal plate spins inside this. The ride sensation delivered will be smoother than the basic air resistance but not as impressive as the results from fluid resistance.

Some of the less expensive magnetic turbos allow you to adjust the resistance on the unit itself. This is problematic if you like to make tweaks mid-session. Superior models boast handlebar levers to simplify making changes on the go.

Many magnetic trainers have a fan built in to cool down the flywheel.

Fluid

The pricier and smoother fluid resistance bike trainers serve up an extremely satisfying feel.

An impeller churns around in a thick solution much like oil. As you pedal harder or engage a higher gear, the resistance is naturally adjusted since more effort is required to drive the impeller.

If you have sufficient funds and want a quiet, hyper-real ride, think seriously about one with fluid resistance.

Air

When turbo trainer technology burst onto the scene, the devices made use of a plastic fan to produce wind resistance.

This is now the cheapest way to get involved with bike training if you have limited funds at your disposal.

The principal drawback of air resistance models is the extreme noise they make. Be certain if you opt for one of these trainers that this will not prove problematic for your family or neighbors.

They also suffer from highly limited adjustability.

Think carefully about your needs and take the above into account if you decide upon a cheap air resistance trainer.

Smart Trainers

If you embrace technology and innovation, smart trainers can help you by harnessing apps such as Zswift for an unparalleled virtual reality experience.

With many of these smart trainers, you can create your own courses and backdrops so you really feel like you are winding around natural roads.

Power Meter

The power that you produce is measured in watts. This proves invaluable when you are trying to determine the effectiveness of your workouts and to analyze how your training is progressing.

Some more expensive models have a power meter built in. Another option is to use a power meter on the bike itself.

Portability

Some trainers fold up easily while others do not have this ability.

Think about how much storage space you have and whether or not you need to take your trainer out in the car with you.

Only you can decide if a folding model is necessary for what you want from it.

Noise

As we have already highlighted, some bike trainers are responsible for an astonishing amount of noise. Factor in wooden floors or tires with a heavy tread and this could further increase.

One obvious solution is to target a quiet trainer like the CycleOps Fluid 2.

If this falls outside your budget and your trainer is annoying those in earshot, there are other simple steps you can take to reduce that sound…

Buy yourself a vibration-dampening mat. This can work wonders.

If you do not mind investing in more tires, a set of slick turbo-dedicated rubbers will also substantially lessen any noise.

So…

We will now look at 5 of the best bike/turbo trainer reviews.

Best Bike Trainer Reviews

Magnet Steel Bike Bicycle Indoor Exercise Trainer Stand

First up is a very affordable trainer from FDW, the Magnet Steel.

You can assemble this turbo with ease straight out the box.

This trainer has magnetic resistance with 5 internal settings available. You can change the resistance from the handlebars which is great for those who like to make alterations without needing to stop and dismount.

You can use almost any type of bike with the Magnet Steel. Whether you have a road bike or a chunkier mountain bike, just twist a knob to accommodate wheels up to 27 inches.

The sturdy frame collapses and folds meaning you can stash it easily without taking up much space. You can also pop it in the car if you want to travel to a race with your trainer.

If you are just starting out and want to ride gently and infrequently, the Magnet Steel is a great introduction into the world of bike trainers at an ultra-keen price point.

Pros

  • Priced low so within everyone’s means
  • Ultra-simple to assemble
  • Fairly quiet so will not cause a disturbance
  • 5 resistance levels you can alter using the lever on handlebars
  • Heavy duty frame so highly durable
  • Easy to fold for ease of storage and transportation

Cons

  • Can be awkward to attach the cable to handlebars
  • Fairly narrow so some stability problems if you push yourself too hard

RAD Cycle Products Indoor Portable Magnetic Work Out Bicycle Trainer

RAD Cycle is positioned as one of the industry champions for all things related to bike trainers.

This magnetic resistance trainer creates maximum resistance with minimum noise.

You can choose from 7 separate settings easily alterable by clicking a button on the handlebars. These settings are actually pretty close together so make sure that the highest is not too easy for you if you are an advanced cyclist.

Weighing just 18 pounds, this lightweight unit also folds down allowing for space-saving storage and the ability to carry it around in the car without taking up too much room.

The slip mat and quick release are both nice touches for a trainer priced as reasonably as this model.

This magnetic turbo trainer works well with all styles of bike so you can buy with confidence whether you have a sleek road bike or a heavy-duty mountain bike with thick tires.

Overall, this is a solid and dependable bike trainer that won’t let you down. It’s a very stable and portable turbo that will deliver great results without breaking the bank.

Pros

  • Low price but great functionality
  • Extremely quiet when in use
  • Lightweight and folds down for complete portability
  • 7 magnetic resistance settings accessible using button on handlebars
  • Front wheel anti-slip pad to help level the bike
  • Ideal for all types of bike so highly versatile
  • Very wide legs make this trainer extremely stable

Cons

  • Questionable aesthetics so see how you find the design and if this is an important factor for you
  • Very tough to set up cable to the handlebars
  • Not the best variation between resistance levels

CycleOps Fluid 2 Indoor Trainer

Next in line is a much more expensive fluid trainer from CycleOps.

Early fluid trainers have a bad reputation for O-ring failure resulting in leakage. That no longer seems to be a reported issue with the Fluid 2 and a new generation of fluid trainers.

Whatever your ability level, the Fluid 2 should offer more resistance than you will need. The fluid unit can resist more than 800 watts when measured on CycleOps’s Powertap wattage meter.

The frame, which folds for storage purposes, comes with a lifetime warranty. This steel frame has adjustable footpads to compensate for any uneven surfaces. The cam lever is quick load meaning you can slip your bike in with ease and get straight back to the last resistance level you were using. This really takes the sting out of the potentially laborious process of setting up some trainers.

With a patented fan design allowing the Fluid 2 to self-cool, leakage should not occur. This was something that blighted earlier fluid resistance bike trainers. You don’t need to worry about that any more.

CycleOps throw in a DVD filled with some pretty useful training ideas. Even experienced cyclists might come across some helpful pointers.

If you have a little spare cash and want a reliable, capable bike trainer from a reputable brand, think about investing in the CycleOps Fluid 2.

When you understandably spend a substantial amount of money on your bike, you should not overlook the importance of investing to get a worthwhile trainer to make the most of it when riding indoors.

Pros

  • Made by a brand with heritage that you can trust
  • Ultra-quiet so no disturbance
  • Very wide range of resistance settings
  • Almost unlimited power band
  • Large flywheel makes for a road-like experience indoors
  • Training DVD is a nice inclusion
  • Lifetime warranty on frame
  • First-rate customer service to help overcome any issues

Cons

  • Assembly can be problematic for some
  • Reputation for leakage puts some people off but this has been resolved

 Kinetic by Kurt 2013 Road Machine Indoor Bicycle Trainer

Another high-end option is the legendary Kinetic trainer.

This fluid trainer has a sealed chamber for fluid with silicone resistance fluid that will not leak. As mentioned above, this leakage issue is something manufacturers have worked hard to defeat.

The automatic resistance settings are wonderful and completely eliminate the need for any adjustment by lever or button.

The stable platform means that you can really push hard on hill climbs without worrying about toppling over.

This turbo is good for any wheels between 22 and 29 inches.

The Kinetic is really quiet so it will not cause any kind of unwanted commotion.

You can use the inRide Watt Meter via Bluetooth for a truly interactive, multimedia experience. You can also easily use other training apps.

If your budget will stretch to it and you want a no-nonsense bike trainer that allows you to push yourself and monitor results with ease, think seriously about one of the market-leading products, the Kurt Kinetic fluid trainer.

Pros

  • Automatic resistance settings for ultimate ease of use
  • Very stable so safe even when pushing hard
  • Patented anti-leak system for peace of mind
  • Great connectivity with training apps
  • Large flywheel for great ride sensation

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Some very advanced cyclists may dislike restrictions of an automatic system

Conquer Indoor Bike Trainer Portable Exercise Bicycle Magnetic Stand

We will round out our selection of the 5 best bike trainers with another cheap option, the Conquer Indoor Bike Trainer.

This magnetic resistance model is extremely affordable without sacrificing quality.

This trainer will accommodate any bikes with quick release wheels up to 27 inches.

The Conquer Indoor is not the quietest trainer on the market. Be honest about your living conditions and the outcome of a noisy device and buy accordingly. You can always think about using thinner tires to bring the noise down.

The frame is durable, stable and folds up for your convenience.

You’ll get a riser block thrown in for good measure. This will elevate the front wheel nicely.

For a cheap and cheerful entry to the world of bike trainers, the Conquer Indoor is worth looking into.

Pros

  • Very cheap so suitable for all budgets
  • Folding frame is highly durable
  • Single adjustment magnetic resistance
  • Riser block for front wheel included
  • Simple to assemble and use directly from the box

Cons

  • Many users report the trainer to be very noisy
  • Some complaints about inadequate resistance

Conclusion

Most cyclists think of bike trainers as a necessary evil…

They were not designed to replace cycling but rather to supplement it.

So…

If you are looking for the best turbo trainer for your own personal needs, take the above buying guide on board, check out which of the 5 trainers reviewed meets your requirements and buy with confidence.

If you have any questions regarding the best bike trainer or any other element of health and fitness, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We will do our best to get back to you as quickly as possible.

Happy cycling!

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My name is Harry Wilson. I'm the author of GoodHealthPlanning. Whether it’s workout routines, diet ideas or a guide to the equipment you need, we’ll help you get in the best shape possible. If you like this post, you can follow me on Twitter. Subscribe to Goodhealthplanning to receive instant updates.
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