After months and months of research into the world of indoor bike trainers, I've learned a thing or two about what a perspective buyer should be looking for. Having done a lot of indoor bike trainer reviews, I’ve discovered that the best bike trainers share some important commonalities. Let me tell you about them.
We'll Start From The Ground Level
Of course the 'foundation' of any product is important. In the case of bike trainers, we're talking about the frame. The better bike trainers like the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine and the CycleOps Fluid 2 certainly have a solid frame, but the folks at Blackburn would beg to differ. They've developed a frame that's twice as stiff as the rest of the market. If you're a strong heavy rider, increased rack stiffness may be worthy of consideration.
Whisper Quiet Please
In the world of indoor bike trainers , quietness is queen (or king). If we were to develop a noise hierarchy, fluid bike trainers would be at the top of the heap (that is to say they're the quietest), wind trainers would occupy the lowest rung on the ladder (they can sound like a roaring locomotive if you’re pedaling all out), and magnetic (mag) trainers are somewhere in between. If the cyclist lives in an apartment, the use of a wind trainer can become awkward, with invitations to social events beginning to wane the longer the rider torments his neighbors with his cycling workouts.
How Does It Create Resistance?
This is where the 'rubber meets the roller'. In short, the three categories of trainers are named for their method of resistance. The simplest are wind trainers, which get the rider huffing and puffing by pushing air around. One of the companies, CycleOps, has a wind trainer that has impellers in a 'Vortex' design. This is said to be quieter and develop more resistance than standard wind trainer designs. With wind trainers there’s no provision for increasing the resistance level other than pedaling faster.
Mag trainers develop resistance by rotating magnets past each other. The repulsion of the magnets as they come into each other's 'force field' is what creates the workout. Some models, like the CycleOps Magneto, have what's called Progressive Resistance. With the use of centrifugal force, the magnets move to the outside of the spinning rotor, which increases the resistance. You can 'switch gears' on other mag trainers by manually changing the configuration of the magnets, either by getting off the bike or by using a control lever that's mounted to the handlebars.
Fluid bike trainers work by rotating an impeller through a fluid. Kurt Kinetic uses silicone, which has the added advantage of getting thicker as it heats up (and the heat generated from a strong workout can be substantial). This thickening of the fluid, in addition to the basic physics of fluid dynamics, is what makes fluid trainer resistance increase exponentially. You can be assured that you’ll never get strong enough to exceed your fluid trainer’s ability to dish out punishment. Traditionally, fluid bike trainers could be counted on to begin leaking over time. However due to new designs and better parts, leakage on the best quality bike trainers has been minimized.
There at least three important considerations in the buying of an indoor bike trainer.
- The integrity and stiffness of the frame should be considered.
- The amount of noise that the trainer's expected to produce can be important, particularly if the rider lives in close quarters.
- The way in which the trainer develops resistance can be as simple and foolproof as loudly moving air with a wind trainer. Alternatively, creating resistance may involve moving parts with potential for something to go wrong, as in a mag trainer. Lastly, it can be as smooth as an impeller moving through silicone fluid...but with the potential to leak.
This short primer should get you started on your quest to find the best bike trainer for your needs, with additional information as close away as a Google search for the 'best bike trainer'.
About the author:
Ron Fritzke is a cycling product reviewer with a passion for ‘all things cycling’. A former 2:17 marathoner, he now directs his competitive efforts toward racing his bike…and looking for good cycling products.