How to choose an Indoor Bike Trainer - Part 1


As the snow begins to fall in this part of the world, many cyclists are reluctantly storing their bikes and already looking forward to hitting the road next spring. To keep your cycling legs strong and your endurance up, we recommend a cycle trainer. Using a trainer is great a great way to keep fit for riders of all levels during the winter months. Although they will never compare to Outdoor cycling, the world of Indoor Cycle Trainers has changed a lot in the last 10 years. There are many model from basic roller-type trainers to more advanced “smart” trainers that talk to training programs or allow you to ride or race in a virtual environment.


There are four basic types of Trainers:

Tacx Galaxia Training Roller

Tacx Galaxia Training Roller

Rollers: the oldest of the indoor trainer styles where the bike sits freely on three rollers, which turn as you pedal. Resistance is be provided by shifting gears and very little by the rollers themselves. There is nothing to hold your bike vertical, so balance is key.

+ Least expensive trainer, provide a more realistic “road feel”. Elite cyclists swear by them for some workouts, and they’re great for improving your form.‌
- Resistance range isn’t great, and they take some practice to get used to (balance), they are designed only for road and flat, touring style tires.


CycleOps, Wind, Training Base

CycleOps, Wind, Training Base

Wind Trainers: this is another one of the original trainer models, where pedalling powers a fan which provides resistance.

+ Low price point, simple and durable, less likely to break

- Very noisy, resistance level is non-adjustable, and they provide a relatively low road-like ride.


Magnetic Trainers: in place of a fan, this trainer functions with the use of a magnetic flywheel on the back of the device to provide resistance. Although there are now electromagnetic versions of this type of trainer, the basic concept remains the same.

 +Many affordable options, resistance is adjustable, nearly silent (great for watching your favorite show while working out), wide variety of options,  new electromagnetic versions are fully featured.

  - Resistance range is limited, not as durable.


CycleOps, Jetfluid Pro, trainer

CycleOps, Jetfluid Pro, trainer

Fluid Trainers: a type of magnetic trainer (based on a magnetic flywheel), but adds chambers of viscous fluid to further tune the resistance options. This is the most common type of stationary trainer available today. The major benefit of a fluid bike trainer is that as you begin to pedal faster and faster, the resistance to the rear wheel begins to progressively increase.

+ The best “road feel” of any style of trainer; fluid offers a wide range of resistance adjustment (electronically controlled on the nicer models); they're very quiet; and they have a wide variety of features and options (like power and connectivity)‌
 - Fluid trainers improve on durability every year, but they’re susceptible to  overheating and cooking the fluid.


So which version is right for you? Even within these four broad categories, there’s a wide range of choice. Magnetic and fluid trainers in particular go from fairly simple models with a handlebar-mounted remote to vary the resistance, all the way up to versions that pair to your computer, track power, and offer downloadable workouts.

·      If you just need a basic model for pre-race warmups
Consider: a wind trainer or simple magnetic model with folding legs for easy portability

·      If you want to work on your pedal stroke
Consider: rollers—there’s no better tool to smooth out a clunky cadence

·      If you need to do structured workouts
Consider: a fluid trainer that tracks power output, or a smart trainer that pairs to your computer head unit

·      If you get bored easily (who doesn’t when riding inside?)
Consider: a smart trainer that can interface with independent training programs like TrainerRoad or Zwift.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article, where we will look at attachments available for trainers, and using different apps as part of your indoor workout. 

Julie Brunelle

Co-owner of new startup, Heritage Bikes and Rentals, offering Trek Bike Sales, Bontrager accessories, Bike Rentals, Guided and Self-Guided Tours of Perth ON and Lanark county.