Getting on your bike and heading to the streets for an invigorating ride is one of the most enjoyable and beneficial forms of exercise that exists. Yet what happens when inclement weather gets in the way of your cycling plans? Well, if you’ve got a quality indoor bicycle trainer, it’s not a problem. Simply connect your back wheel to the trainer and your good to go. Finding the best trainer to meet your needs, though, is no easy task.
That’s where we come in. We have gone deep inside the bike trainer market to bring you the best of the best. In this article we reveal not only the best bike trainer on the current market, but also the top smart and non-smart trainers. We’ve also got a comprehensive bicycle trainer FAQ to get you up to speed.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Here Are The Best Indoor Bike Trainers You Can Buy
- 2 Best Overall: Saris CycleOps Fluid2
- 3 Best Quiet Trainer: Tacx NEO 2T
- 4 Best Direct Drive: Elite Direto 2 Interactive
- 5 Best Smart Trainer: Elite Drivo II
- 6 Best Budget Trainer: Blackburn Fluid
- 7 Best Budget Smart Trainer: Tacx Satori
- 8 Buyer’s Guide
- 9 Frequently Asked Questions
- 10 Conclusion
Why trust us? Our fitness professionals have spent over 40 hours analysing, reviewing and studying the best bike trainers on the current market. We’ve considered the key buying parameters, including potential resistance, noise factor, durability and versatility. Our in-depth analysis has left no stone unturned as we strive to give you the best, most up to date bicycle training guide available online.
Best Overall: Saris CycleOps Fluid2
Editor’s Choice: We love the CycleOps 2 due to its powerful flywheel system that delivers the most realistic ride of any of the trainers we reviewed. It’s also amazingly quiet, comes with a unique quick load cam lever, provides you with a lifetime warranty and delivers more resistance than you’ll ever need – what’s not to love?
The new version of the CycleOps trainer has a larger flywheel than its previous model. It provides you with a 2.75 pound individually precision balanced flywheel. Because each flywheel is individually balanced, this turbo trainer delivers much better balance than most competing trainers.
The powerful flywheels on this trainer allow for a more realistic riding experience and fluid resistance. That’s because you have to overcome the inertia of the twin flywheels, just as riding on the street requires you to overcome the inertia of the weight of your bicycle.
The CycleOps 2 provides a very quiet cycling operation. That’s a big plus, especially when you’re working out in the same room as someone who is trying to watch Netflix on the TV! The noiseless operation is thanks to adjustment in the positioning of the sealed cartridge bearing on the CycleOps 2.
Lots Of Resistance
The CycleOps 2 provides you with a greater range of fluid resistance than the previous version of this unit. This is thanks to its power band technology, which features adjusted silicone fluid levels. You’ll be able to push your ride to 25 miles per hour, which is enough to give even the fittest among us a decent workout! In fact, the CycleOps2 provides you with an almost infinite number of resistance levels.
Your purchase of the CycleOps2 comes with the assurance that if anything goes wrong, you are covered for life. That shows how much confidence Saris have in this product and gives you complete peace of mind when it comes to forking out the money for this training device!
Quick Load Cam Lever
The unique Quick Cam Load Lever on this turbo trainer makes it quick and easy to connect your bike to the trainer. Another cool related feature is that you will be get straight back to the same resistance level that you were using on your previous session. Both of these features can save a lot of time and hassle.
Best Quiet Trainer: Tacx NEO 2T
Editor’s 2nd Choice: The NEO Tacx 2T is a sleek, streamlined trainer that delivers a very smooth ride. It’s quiet, foldable and very stable – and it comes in at a sharp price point!
The Tacx Neo 2T provides a completely redesigned motor over the previous version of this trainer. It is now considerably more powerful to give you a more realistic riding experience. It also has significantly less vibration than the version one model.
The changes made to the motor have allowed the version two of this cycle trainer to be much less noisy than the original unit. That means that, even when you are pedaling all out at full tilt, you will not get much more than 50 decibels of noise out of the machine.
That is music to the ears of your fellow home dwellers!
The Neo 2T does have quite a decent footprint. However, it is foldable so that it can be conveniently stored away when not in use. It is also very easy to set up and fold away. On the downside, this unit does not come with a carry handle arrangement. This can make it a little difficult to carry the unit around. The Neo 2T is lighter than the original model. However, at 21 kg, it is still a relatively heavy unit.
Due to its wide footprint, the Neo 2T provides a very stable platform from which to ride. That allows you to push your cycle to its limit, without having to worry about instability. There is also a degree of flexibility built into the main drive unit. This further enhances the natural, smooth feel of the cycling experience.
Best Direct Drive: Elite Direto 2 Interactive
The Elite Direto 2 Interactive is a Smart interactive cycle trainer. This means that it is able to connect wirelessly with third party workout apps such as Zwift. It also delivers your key training diagnostics to your app for later analysis.
This Smart technology allows you to train virtually. For instance, when you come to a hill, the trainer will automatically increase the resistance level.
The Elite Direto 2 Interactive Smart trainer is a direct drive cycle trainer. This means that the rear wheel of your bike is removed so that the bike’s drive train is mounted directly to the trainer. This removes the need to calibrate the meter whenever you mount the bike to the trainer. The power meter measurement accuracy is also increased because the connection is more direct. The direct drive system also removes the problem of tire slippage, while also preventing wear and tear on the rear tire of your cycle.
The Elite Direto 2 Interactive Smart trainer comes with a 4.2kg flywheel. That provides you with plenty of grunt to power your workouts. It also provides a very natural cycling experience with greater inertia levels that ramp up the resistance as you pedal harder.
The Smart features of the Elite Direto 2 Interactive allow you to calibrate the trainer via the Elite MYET training app. However, this app is not as user friendly as such prominent apps as Zwift and TrainingRoad.
Optical Torque Sensor
The Elite Direto 2 Interactive Smart trainer is fitted with an Optical Torque Sensor (OTS). This provides it with a very powerful power meter that has an accuracy level of +/- 2% accuracy. With this technology, the entire pedaling movement is measured, with 12-point settings that determine how much effort you put into your pedaling motion.
Best Smart Trainer: Elite Drivo II
The Elite Drivo ii is the latest incarnation of the Elite Drivo cycle Smart trainers. A cool new feature on this model is its status lights, located on the reverse of the unit to allow you to get a quick visual of the connectivity and performance of the trainer. There are individual lights for power, ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart. The latter two lights will let you know if another device is actively connected to the trainer.
The Elite Drivo ii turbo trainer has beefed up the power potential in the resistance unit over the original version of this unit. This is 3,600 watts at 60 miles per hour. That is more resistance power than even the most elite among us will ever need – overkill at its finest! This trainer also provides a very accurate power recording.
ANT+, FE-C and Bluetooth
The Elite Drivo ii is a Smart trainer. It connects will ANT+, FE-C and Bluetooth. This allows you to connect the trainer to all device types, including android, OsX, Windows and iOS. You can also connect the trainer with apps like Zwift, Garmin, Trainer, Wahoo and Bolt.
The Elite Drivo ii does a great job of providing you with accurate power and training information. The accuracy rate of 0.5% is better than any other Smart trainers on the market right now. This trainer operates in both SIM and ERG modes. SIM mode accommodates for the changes in terrain that you get with training apps. It is capable of imitating an incline of 24%. ERG mode will handle your workouts.
This new improved version of the Elite Drivo is quieter than the original. The max decibel rating of this device is 70 decibels. This is pretty good, but there are other smart trainers that are down as low as 50 decibels. Still, it will allow you to train in the same room as someone else, without driving them crazy!
Best Budget Trainer: Blackburn Fluid
The Blackburn Fluid trainer is a friction turbo trainer that comes with an easy to use snap-on system via the unique Blackburn Fastcrank system. It is simply a matter of putting the included wheel block under the front wheel of your indoor bike and starting to pedal. The Blackburn Fluid indoor training device is also impressively quiet, allowing multiple people to be in the room while you are training, without inconvenience.
There is no need to set the roller tension on the back wheel as your body weight does that via the arms, which hinge at the base to push the wheel down on the roller.
The base of the Blackburn Fluid is wide to provide a good level of stability. For a low-cost trainer, this is very impressive. Even when you stand in the saddle and go all out during your training session, your bike will remain stable under you. You should be aware, however, that if you are doing HIIT type workouts, the rear wheel may slip. This is a folding product that can be easily stored away when not in use.
The Blackburn Fluid trainer allows for more bicycle movement that you would get on a magnetic or wind resistance trainer. This provides you with a more natural cycling motion than those other units. When you are doing an extended workout, you will also enjoy not being locked into a rigid cycling position.
The Blackburn Fluid has a very attractive price point. This may cause buyers a measure of concern regarding its durability. The lifetime warranty that comes with the product should put our minds at ease. It speaks to the confidence of the manufacturer in the durability of the product.
Best Budget Smart Trainer: Tacx Satori
Lightweight & Foldable
The Tacx Satori is lightweight and it folds flat for easy storage and transport. That means you can easily store it in your training bag and take it with you anywhere. The legs on this unit will provide you with a stable, secure hold on virtually any type of surface. Your unit will arrive semi-assembled, with the balance of assembly being very user-friendly and quick.
Quick Release Skewer And Front Wheel Riser
The Tacx Satori Smart trainer provides you with a quick-release skewer to make the set-up process more user-friendly. It also helps you to get just the right fit. The wheel riser that comes with the unit enhances the comfort of your ride. It also helps to keep the bike stable and secure as you ride. You can also use this trainer with a range of wheel sizes. With many trainers, you need to purchase the riser separately.
What Are The 3 Different Types Of Bike Trainer?
There are three types of indoor bike trainer on the current market. These are magnetic, fluid and wind.
Magnetic turbo trainers provide pedaling resistance by way of a magnetic flywheel, which sits at the base of the unit. The magnetic pull of the flywheel turbo puts resistance on the rear wheel. Adjustment can be made to this resistance to increase or decrease the resistance level.
Magnetic resistance is the quietest of the three types of resistance. However, it is not able to handle as high an amount of resistance as the fluid type.
Fluid bike trainers use a combination of a magnetic system and a liquid resistance chamber. This type of trainer increases the resistance as you pedal faster. The result is a more natural cycling action than what you get with a magnetic trainer. However, fluid cycle trainers are more likely to heat up, expand and, potentially, leak out their liquid. They are also the most expensive of the three types of bike trainer.
Wind turbo trainers come with a small fan that is powered when you pedal. The air is directed to the rear wheel. This places varying resistance on the wheel. This is a similar system to the fan air exercycle system. The major drawback with this system is that it is very noisy. In addition, the amount of resistance that is able to be generated is not as great as what you can get with a magnetic or fluid trainer.
Things To Consider When Choosing Your Indoor Bike Trainer
Progressive Resistance Level
The resistance is the amount of power in the form of wattage that your bike can generate. A cycle trainer that is able to provide 1000 watts of power will be suitable for most people. However, advanced trainers may require a higher threshold of progressive resistance than that. Trainers with 200 watts or less will not give you enough power.
With an indoor piece of exercise equipment such as a bike trainer, the noise generated is an important consideration. After all, you don’t want to drive your house mates crazy! Wind trainers are by far the noisiest, followed by fluid trainers. Many trainers will be advertised with a decibel rating, so be sure to check this before you buy.
In recent times, what was for many years a pretty basic piece of equipment has evolved into a ‘Smart’ piece of technology. Smart turbo trainers are now available with a built-in power meter, Saswha2004, as well as Ant and Bluetooth. Integration with online apps is also possible to provide you with a range of training programs. Smart trainers are roughly twice the price of conventional trainers.
You need to ensure that the trainer fits a wide range of different bikes’ wheel sizes. Most trainers are compatible with the majority of road, training, and mountain bikes on the market.
Direct-Drive Trainers attach directly to the resistance unit on your bike. You need to remove the back wheel for this. The advantage of direct-drive trainers is that they provide a more realistic and accurate road feel and power output. A direct drive trainer will also prevent damage to your wheel.
Another consideration is to get a set of bike rollers rather than a bike trainer. Bike rollers help you to work your core more because they require you to balance while pedaling, while a bike trainer is secure and stable. If you want to find out more, check out our bike roller reviews. Alternatively, if you have the space and want more stability, check out of best exercise bike reviews.
Frequently Asked Questions
After diligent testing and study, we have come to the conclusion that the best indoor cycle trainer is the Saris Cycle Ops Fluid2 Trainer. This is a rather expensive trainer, but the very realistic training experience that you get from the fluid resistance mechanism makes that a price well paid. It works well with both cycle and mountain bikes. It comes with adjustable foot pads, a very solid frame, hydraulic fluid and a training mat.
A trainer may be bad for your bike, depending on how you use it. The major consideration here is that you do not over tighten the connection on the rear hub. Always test it by spinning the wheel after connecting it. If it does not spin freely, then it is too tight. This will put undue stress and compression on the hub bearings, which will lead to long-term damage.
A trainer may also cause excess wear and tear on the rear bicycle wheel. Lastly, you may tend to sweat more when using an indoor trainer than if you were cycling on the street. This may cause corrosion to your bike, unless you promptly clean it off after your workout is over.
If you are using your bike trainer to replace a scheduled outdoor ride, then you should do it for the planned time. If, on the other hand, you are regularly using the trainer to create an indoor cycle for workouts, the length of time will depend on your training goal. If your main objective is fat loss, you should train for 20-30 minutes. If you are a cyclist who is training for longer rides, you may cycle for up to an hour each session.
No, you do not need a special tire for indoor bike trainers. However, it can be a good idea to invest in a special bike trainer tire. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, a specialty tire will be less noisy than a conventional tire. This will be the case whether you are using wind, magnetic or fluid trainers. Specialty bike tires are also more durable than conventional tires. That is because they are constructed from a special rubber blend.
Of course, the hassle of switching your tire over every time you use your indoor cycle trainer needs to be weighed against these two benefits.
Yes, a bike trainer is good exercise. It will provide you with all of the benefits that you would get from a cycling road feel, apart from the fresh air that courses through your lungs when exercising outdoors. It provides a good anaerobic workout for your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. At the same time, it provides an excellent workout for your cardiovascular system. Using training software apps, like Zwift, allow for virtual training features, which you don’t get from riding outdoors.
The best indoor cycle trainer on the market today is the Saris Cycle Ops Fluid2 Trainer. The best budget Smart indoor bike trainer is the Tacx Satori, which does everything the expensive Smart trainer does, except for auto resistance change, for around a quarter of the price.
Finally, the best budget non-Smart indoor bike trainer on the market, currently, is the Blackburn Fluid friction trainer.