Why Ride Indoors?
Having access to an indoor bicycle trainer is a great way to maintain your fitness through winter while catching up on your favorite show or audiobook. Why wait until spring to get into decent riding shape? Instead, ride in comfort through the rainy months and be ready for some great adventures early next year. Here's some info that will help you pick the indoor bike trainer that best fits you.
Stationary bike trainers come in four basic types, ignoring the fancy computer controlled models.
The basic magnetic resistance line. These trainers are cheap, ranging from $100 to $200 new. You can find a high quality magnetic resistance trainer, however the bulk of them are cheap and fairly disposable. They offer a flat resistance curve, so unlike a real road ride, the effort required does not increase as you increase speed. These units can be quiet, but are very unsatisfactory to the seasoned rider looking for a realistic feel.
The basic wind resistance models, from $100 to $300. These are decent entry level trainers, designed for a smaller budget. They don't offer as realistic of a resistance curve as a fluid filled, however they do have more progressive resistance compared to the magnetic style. Additionally, they tend to be noisy as they are nothing but a fan, so they aren't a great fit if you share common space with other people. If you are budget conscious and don't know if you'll fully commit to the indoor trainer, this is a good place to start, however we recommend stepping up to the fluid filled.
Fluid filled trainers are a bit more expensive than the wind resistance models, from $200 to $600, but you get a more realistic resistance curve that feels like an actual ride. Additionally, they tend to be more quiet than the wind resistance models. These trainers are ideal if you want to be courteous to your house mates. With that being said, they are by no means silent, so living room rides at 6am might still annoy your cohabitants. One important note: only buy a fluid filled trainer that is well reviewed, has a strong warranty, and preferably comes from one of the recognized brands. We recommend Cycleops or Kurt Kinetic. The reason is that cheaper fluid filled trainers can leak, ruining your floors. The more expensive models from the before mentioned brands have 100% sealed units with no chance of leaks, due to an innovative magnetic coupling design. The actual resistance unit is 100% sealed, and the force is transferred from the roller to the resistance unit using strong magnets, leaving no shaft seal to leak.
Finally, for the committed or adventurous rider you can't beat the fun of rollers. Bike rollers are a much larger investment, not necessarily financially but in time and commitment. Unlike the stationary types listed above, where you actually clamp your bike into place and can sit on it without it falling over, the rollers have no support. Instead, you only have a set of front and rear rollers which your wheels rest on, and you rely on the gyroscopic forces of the bike's rear spinning wheel to maintain your balance. Believe it or not, you don't have to actually have any forward velocity to maintain your balance when riding your bike. As long as the rear wheel is spinning, you will stay upright. Of course, this is all fine on paper, but reality is drastically different. Getting used to riding on rollers takes time, concentration and commitment. It's definitely not compatible with the "catch up on your TV show" mindset of the regular stationary trainer. Instead, the rollers invite you to stay connected with your ride, work on your form, pedal stroke and balance. Regularly riding a set of rollers over the winter means you'll jump into the spring riding season able to maintain perfect form without blinking an eye.
Now that you have a basic understanding of various indoor trainer types, I'd like to recommend you check out the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine. It's the trainer of choice here at RWGPS, and we and have put thousands of trouble free miles on them. Another great quality trainer is the CycleOps Fluid2. You can't go wrong with either as both are well respected fluid filled designs with excellent warranties. You can find either for $250-$350 depending on the time of year and the location. Of course craigslist is the place to find cheap, hardly used trainers, so definitely give it a scan before heading down to your local shop.
We would love to hear from you about your trainer and why you love it. So please leave comments below, and if you want to be able to view your stationary rides on Ride With GPS and aren’t a Premium Member yet, Upgrade Your Account!
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