You have to keep riding in winter if you want to consolidate your summer fitness gains. Riding outdoors can be treacherous when it's dark and icy, which is why indoor trainers are a boon to cyclists, especially those who want to use their own bikes rather than go to a gym.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of indoor trainers: turbo trainers and rollers.
Today, turbo trainers can be divided into traditional and 'smart' trainers.If you're interested in big data, or want to ride against other riders online in the Zwift universe, check out our round-up of the best smart trainers.
Rollers consist of a frame and three plastic drums attached by a band that you put your bike on, with no form of clamping. Riding rollers takes more skill than a turbo, but it can also be more fun, as well as getting closer to the actual feel of riding a bike – you can’t beat them for their skill-sharpening factor. Just don’t use them on carpet until you’re really confident or you might burn a hole!
Best turbo trainers
CycleOps Fluid 2 turbo trainer
£285 / US$349.99 / AU$399.95
Buy now from: Evans Cycles
It's not flashy but in terms of pure performance the evolved Fluid 2 is in a class of its own. Get it spinning in a big gear and it'll deliver 1000 watts plus of pure leg blending pain. Its overall action makes it as close to enjoyable as you'll get for sprints or extended spin sessions.
£149.99 / US$199.99 / AU$239.95
Minoura's entry-level remote resistance unit is smooth, quiet and torquey enough for any training session, making it a cracking cost-effective choice. The main things you’ll notice are the impressive smoothness and low noise levels, perfect for beasting yourself in a bedsit.
£949 / US$1,099 / AU$1,399.99
There are a few big "ifs" with this trainer — if you have the latest Mac technology, if you have this much money to spend on a trainer — but if those apply, then you will love the Wahoo Kickr. With Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ connectivity, you can control the resistance on the Wahoo in a number of ways, from the lab-like ergo setting that dials in the exact wattage, to third-party software like TrainerRoad that controls the resistance as you ride preset workouts or courses. Unlike some systems that lock you in to a given company's software, Wahoo's open platform design means the training options will just get better. The road feel is outstanding, and the unit folds up nicely for storage.
Also worth considering
- Kinetic Rock and Roll 2 (£465 / US$519 / AU$899 )
- Kinetic Rock and Roll (£449.99 / US$579 / AU$899 )
- Wattbike Trainer (£2,250 / US$3,500 / AU$3,399 )
- Kinetic Magnetic (£249.99 / US$299.99 / AU$N/A)
- Minoura Gyro V270 (£229.99 / US$361.61 / AU$449.95)
- CycleOps Classic Mag Trainer (£160 / US$219 / AU$239.95)
- Giant Cyclotron Mag II (£165 / US$180 / AU$N/A)
- Minoura V150 (£219.99 / US$299.99 / AU$399.95 )
- Tacx Booster (£259.99 / US$389.99 / AU$529)
- JetBlack Mag Pro (£182.99 / US$369.99 / AU$279.99 )
- BKOOL Turbo Trainer (£429.99 / US$499.99 / AU$750)
- Elite Power Fluid Ritmo trainer (£N/A / US$399.99 / £N/A )
Kreitler Kompact Hot Dog 3.0
£349.99 / US$445.99 / AU$N/A
The Kreitler Kompact Hot Dog 3.0 rollers are an all-round cool piece of kit. The build quality is excellent and the bearings roll nicely, while still providing enough resistance for a decent aerobic workout. The rollers fold in half for storage.
Feedback Omnium trainer
£340 / $430 / AU$570
The Omnium stationary trainer is the first foray into the training market for Feedback – a brand best known for its top quality workstands. The Omnium is a hybrid of a turbo trainer and set of rollers with an emphasis on portability for riders looking for a neat bit of kit for warming up before time trials, track races or cyclocross events.
SportsCrafters OverDrive Pro rollers
£299.99 / $399 / AU$399
Smooth riding and repeatable resistance in a package that will keep rolling for a lifetime.
Elite Arion Mag Parabolic rollers
£299.99 / US$399.99 / AU$499.95
If you're planning a range of specific power workouts over winter then these rollers with resistance offer the best of both world.
CycleOps alloy rollers
£260 / US$389.99 / AU$389.95
How to get the most out of your trainer
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on setting up so that your bike doesn’t move and your tyre doesn’t slip. If your budget allows, get a big, powerful fan to keep yourself cool, otherwise your power will drop as the workout progresses and your core temperature rises. It may feel harder as a result but you won’t be getting the full training benefit. Go into each session with a specific plan; just spinning along listlessly is a sure-fire recipe for boredom. For long sessions, look at setting up in front of the TV/DVD player, or at least have some motivational music in your ears.
- Do ride through winter
- Do vary your workouts
- Do start each session with a specific plan
- Do keep your tyres pumped
- Do consider investing in training software, DVDs or coaching
- Don’t use your best race tyres
- Don’t be afraid of riding rollers
- Don’t annoy the neighbours/partner/others
Key components of a turbo trainer
- Clamp and QR: The bike attaches to the trainer via a clamp, which screws over the rear wheel quick-release skewer with a couple of locknuts to keep it in place. Most turbos come with their own skewers, which you should use both for safety reasons and so as not to ruin your own.
- Stand: These normally fold out to give a turbo stability. In theory, the wider the legs, the more stable it'll be. Some have independent height adjustment for uneven surfaces, some lock into place, others just fold out. The feet are typically rubber tipped.
- Resistance unit: Wind, magnetic or fluid: these are the main types of resistance. How they ride depends on how well they're made and the quality of the flywheel, rather than the form of resistance. Wind trainers are generally loud, while magnetic and fluid units are quieter.
- Flywheel: A heavy, well balanced flywheel is generally a good thing in a turbo. It helps smooth out the ride so you don't feel you have to stomp on the pedals just to keep them going, giving you more of a sensation of riding on the road while you're stuck indoors.