Today, the whirr of a hard-working turbo trainer, also referred to as a bike trainer, is a common sound in the homes of cyclists across the world. If you’re new to this realm of training, or you want to know more about different types of turbo trainer, read our best turbo trainer buying guide.
Six top reasons to use a turbo trainer
If you’re jumping into the world of indoor training and need a few incentives to get involved, here are our top six:
- It allows you to build your base fitness when the weather’s rubbish, or you can’t get out to ride
- With modern interactive software, it’s actually fun!
- You can get the miles in quickly and easily when you’re time-strapped
- It’ll save you wearing out expensive parts on your bike outdoors in the grime and wet
- You don’t have to clean and lube your bike like you would be doing outdoors
- Structured plans allow you to prepare in a controlled setting for your outdoor rides
What do I need to start turbo training?
Providing you have a road or mountain bike, all you need to start turbo training is one of the many turbo trainers available plus any accessories that’ll make the whole experience more enjoyable.
Other things to consider include:
- Space to fit the bike and turbo trainer
- Electricity power if your turbo needs it
- A Wi-Fi connection if you’re going to use a smart trainer
- A towel to wipe away the sweat (there’ll be sweat!)
- A fan to cool you down
- A tablet/laptop/phone to connect to online training software
Which turbo trainer is best for me?
To get the most out of your turbo training sessions, we’d always recommend getting the best turbo trainer you can afford. The different types of trainer include:
- Magnetic turbo trainers – among the most popular and prolific entry-level units
- Fluid resistance trainers – generally quieter than magnetic turbo trainers and offer a realistic experience, with the fluid moving to simulate the behaviour of your bike on the road
- Direct drive turbo trainers – unlike most magnetic and fluid turbo trainers, where your rear wheel is in contact with the turbo trainer, with direct drive your bike is directly mounted to the trainer
- Roller turbo trainers – roller trainers use cylindrical drums connected by a belt drive, which are spun by your bike wheels
- Smart turbo trainers – offer internet connectivity, allowing you to participate in online cycling races using platforms like Zwift, TrainerRoad, and many more
- Non-smart turbo trainers – you’ll need a speed and cadence sensor or a power meter to connect to Zwift etc if you’re using this type of trainer.
A smart turbo trainer is the most immersive and fun way to experience an indoor ride, seamlessly connecting to online platforms like Zwift and reacting instantly to your virtual world. If your budget won’t stretch to a smart trainer and you’re dipping your toes into the turbo training world then an entry level magnetic turbo trainer or mid-range fluid turbo trainer may be better.
6 of the best smart turbo trainers in 2020
These are some of the best smart turbo options available. Packed with the technology to replicate real world racing and training as faithfully as possible, they are built to handle the power of competitive riders. Their possibilities are limited only by the software which continues to improve by the day.
1] Tacx Neo 2 Interactive Smart Trainer
Probably the best smart turbo on the market, the Tacx Neo 2 simulates road feel in a highly realistic manner, with no loss of power. Just like other Smart trainers, the Neo communicates using ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart, allowing it to be connected quickly and easily with Tacx apps and other training software.
2] Wahoo KICKR Smart Turbo Trainer – UK ONLY
This high-end Wahoo KICKR Smart Turbo Trainer features smooth and controlled resistance, increased durability. The go-to turbo for many professional cyclists, including the entire Team Sky squad, the Wahoo KICKR can handle power output up to 2000W and simulate gradients up to a maximum of 20%.
3] LifeLine Xplova NOZA S Smart Trainer
Whether you’re trying to challenge yourself to beat a personal best or keep up with your performance, the LifeLine Xplova NOZA S Smart Trainer ensures a smooth, stable and quiet experience.
4] Elite Drivo Trainer
Smooth and quiet with unparalleled interaction, the Elite Drivo Direct Drive Smart Trainer is the ultimate training companion. Get all the metrics you need delivered with pinpoint accuracy to help you reach your ultimate goal.
5] Tacx Flux S Direct Drive Smart Trainer
A wallet-friendly version of the top-end Neo, the Flux is stable, quiet, offers a realistic ride feel and is easy to connect to online training software. It doesn’t fold down, so not ideal if floor space is a premium.
6] Kinetic R1 Direct-Drive Trainer T-7000
Giving as real a feel as possible to every indoor ride, the innovative R1 lets your bike move naturally for the ultimate training experience.
The best budget turbo trainers in 2020
Turbo training is for everyone and with quality smart-enabled trainers for less than £300, even you can get involved with the online racing world right now. You’ll need a speed and cadence sensor or a power meter to connect to Zwift if you’re using this type of trainer. Note that the Zwift iOS app only communicates with your iOS device via Bluetooth, not Ant+.
LifeLine TT-02 Fluid Trainer
The robust Lifeline TT-02 is supported by Zwift who have configured its power curve to provide accurate feedback when combined with a speed and cadence sensor and ANT+ stick, giving you an incredible online experience.
Elite Qubo Power Fluid ElastoGel
A great turbo trainer with a large flywheel completely immersed in oil, which enables high-resistance levels to be obtained even at low speed.
Elite Crono Mag Speed Alu Trainer
Perfect for warming up for the race, the Elite Crono Mag Speed offers a superb trainer at a value price.
LifeLine TT-01 Turbo Trainer (Magnetic)
Offering you a smooth, realistic indoor training experience at outstanding value, the TT-01 magnetic bike turbo trainer will help you to maintain your fitness levels when poor weather prevents outdoor riding.
Essential turbo trainer accessories
LifeLine Trainer Table
The LifeLine Trainer Table is height adjustable and will comfortably support your training device, refreshments and nutrition as you tackle your stationary workout.
Tacx USB ANT+ Antenna For PC
This USB dongle connects wirelessly to Android devices and PCs, relaying all the data from your speed, cadence, and power sensors to your training platform.
Tacx Sweat Cover
The sweat cover protects your smartphone from falling perspiration while giving you full access while on the bike.
LifeLine Speed and Cadence Sensor
Data is the key to improvement and your gateway to online training. LifelLine’s Speed and Cadence Sensor is compatible with ANT+ receivers and mounts discretely on your chainstay, cranks, and spokes.
A very short history of the turbo trainer
The first stationary cycling trainers date back to the late 1800s, and even recognisable wooden rollers were used in the early to mid 1900s. Training on these ungainly contraptions was almost as bad as facing the howling winds and rain on the other side of the wall.
Antique bicycle on antique rollers in US Bicycling Hall of Fame, dating from around the 1930s (Wikicommons).
But over time, the turbo has been developed and perfected, with a range of inventive mechanisms created to give riders a real-world response under their feet. The smart trainer, meanwhile, has breathed new life into those long stationary miles, attracting a range of new riders to keep up the mileage on off days.
This is good news for the sport, raising the bar of competitive advantage and allowing modern cyclists to set new standards of what can be achieved.