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.
Due to the unprecedented demand for indoor trainers, the below selection might not be available.
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.