You can't always get outside every time you want to go for a bike ride, be it due to weather or time constraints. But you don't need to buy and store a stationary bike if you already have a bike you're happy with. You can get anindoor bike trainerinstead. There are different kinds available on the market, but the best bike trainer options will accommodate your riding style, cycling experience and training goals.
The best indoor bicycle trainers can replicate the feel of the road with the realistic resistance, climbs and descent that come with it. They offer adjustable resistance that truly mirrors the best road machine. This is something you won't find with standard exercise or spin bikes, which offer progressive resistance, but not much else to make you feel like you're riding on the road.
Finding the best indoor bike trainer can be overwhelming since there are many different cycling trainer options to consider. There's the roller trainer, friction trainer, magnetic trainer, direct drive trainer and a simple stationary bike stand. And if you want to go a little more high-tech, there are also a bunch of smart bike trainer options. I've scoured the internet, reading cycle trainer reviews until my eyes start to cross and testing a variety of the top models to give you some guidance.
My goal was to end up with a list that included all types of indoor bike trainers for cyclists at different skill levels and with different budgets. I took several factors into consideration, looking for a quiet bike trainer that offers several levels of resistance. I compared all the options, found the best indoor bike trainers at several different prices. Then, I thoroughly tested them. Whether you're brand new to indoor cycling or a pro looking to upgrade your setup, you'll find something here that fits.
The Tacx Neo 2T Smart Trainer is not your grandmother's indoor bike trainer stand. OK, your grandmother probably didn't have a bike trainer, but my point is that this thing is intense -- in all of the best ways. Although you can use the Neo 2T as a standalone trainer, I focused on testing its smart training capabilities by connecting it to the Tacx Training app, which is free for basic functions, but requires a monthly subscription of $12 to $17 to access premium features.
With the app, which is similar to Zwift, you can connect your trainer via Bluetooth and choose from several different workouts or "movies" that take you through simulated roads and inclines of up to 25%. The result was almost eerily realistic and provided some serious road feel. If I closed my eyes, I would have thought I was riding up the slopes of theDolomites.
The trainer was super quiet, which is nice if you're an early riser who wants to get some training in without waking up the rest of your house. And while I don't personally have the leg power or stamina to get up to the Neo 2T's power cap of 2,200 watts, even at my personal high speeds, it stayed stable without any shaking at all.
There are some things you have to keep in mind with this trainer, though. The Neo 2T Smart trainer is the only one on this list that requires full removal of the back wheel and the cassette on your bike. And to do the job properly, you need specialized tools. Another thing to note is that while the Tacx Neo 2T does come with several spacers to make your bike fit, it's only compatible with certain cassette models. If you're thinking of buying the Neo 2T, which retails at around $1,400, make sure you check the specs first and you have a bike that's compatible -- or that you're also comfortable investing in a different bike that is.
While I had a positive experience with all of the indoor bike trainers on this list, if I had to pick just one, it would be the Wahoo Kickr Snap. The whole process was easy to follow. And as someone who doesn't have a lot of time to spare, an easy setup is always at the top of my list.
The trainer was ready to go right out the box, with no assembly required. You do have to set up your bike -- either with the included quick release skewer or an appropriate adapter if your bike has a thru-axle rear wheel -- but once you get the hang of it, it's done in a snap (super cheesy pun intended). I do wish there was an option to choose which skewer you'd like included with the trainer (even if it costs a little bit extra), but this isn't a knock on the Kickr Snap itself. It's a gripe with all of these types of indoor bike trainers, in general.
Once the bike is up and in place, you can connect the trainer to any third party training app -- there's a free 30-day trial of Zwift included with purchase, so that's the program I used to test the trainer. Once I got moving, I was immediately impressed. The 10.5-pound flywheel provided a smooth, quiet ride with a hyper-realistic road feel. When using Zwift, the resistance adjusted automatically and expertly mimicked actual road conditions and climbs of up to a 12% incline. As I picked up speed, the Kickr Snap stayed stable without any shaking and the front wheel riser block stayed firmly in place, even on a slippery-ish vinyl floor.
A few things to note: The trainer only comes with a quick-release skewer, so if you need an adapter for a thru-axle bike, you'll have to buy it separately. The trainer is also the only one on this list that requires an external power source, meaning you have to plug it into an electrical outlet in the wall. While this wasn't a dealbreaker, it is a potential downside since it limits the trainer's portability. There's also no on-off switch -- you turn the trainer on and off by plugging it in or unplugging it. Again, not a big deal since I like to unplug all of my electronics when I'm not using them anyway, but it's still worth noting.
Alpcour isn't as well-known as Wahoo or Saris in cycling circles, so when I saw that it had mostly 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon and you could snag it for under $300, I had to test it out to see if it could stand against the bigger guys. Unlike other similar models on this list, it doesn't have smart training capabilities so you can't use it with any training apps. But as far as basic performance goes, I was impressed.
Fluid bike trainers provide a stable, but outdoor-like ride and the Alpcour didn't disappoint. The trainer was sturdy and held the bike firmly in place, even as I picked up speed. The resistance and friction automatically changed with fluctuations in my pedaling speed, so it really felt like an outdoor ride. The front wheel riser block did tend to slip a little while I rode, which wasn't a major deal, but could get a little annoying. In all fairness, I had the trainer set up on vinyl flooring, which can get slippery. If it bothers you too much, you can easily rectify this by placing a thin rubber exercise mat underneath the bike trainer.
The Alpcour Fluid Bike Trainer was a little louder than the other similar trainers on this list, but it didn't create enough noise for me to take any real points away from it. The noise also depends on the type of bike you use. When I used my Schwinn road bike with smooth wheels, it was barely audible. But when I tested it with my niece's mountain bike that has thick, treaded tires, it was considerably louder.
While the trainer is compatible with most 26- to 29-inch bikes and 700c wheels, like with the Wahoo, you have to make sure you have the right skewer to properly attach your bike. Also like the Wahoo, it comes with a standard quick release skewer, but if you have a bike with a thru-axle, you'll have to buy one separately.
I want to preface this by saying that the rollers may look the least technical on this list, but don't judge a book by its cover. Compared to all of the other models, the Saris Aluminum Rollers, which feature a 16-inch wheel base that fits most bike sizes and three 3.25-inch aluminum roller drums, were the hardest to get used to.
That's partly a reflection on me as a rider (if you've already had lots of experience with indoor bike trainers or outdoor cycling, you'll likely take to it right away) and partly due to the fact that roller trainers require more deliberate focus than other models. If you lose concentration and your mind starts to wander, you can easily fall right over -- a situation I found myself in more times than I'd like to admit.
But roller trainers are made to help improve balance and control and after just a few days of practice and some serious frustration, I noticed a vast improvement in my performance, which is a testament to how well the trainer does its job. And since you have to pedal the whole time you're using the trainer to keep the bike upright, you get a killer workout. Once I got the hang of the rollers and actually got moving, I was surprised at how quiet the rollers were and how firmly the rubber foot pads held the trainer in place, even as I picked up speed.
Another plus is that the rollers were practically ready to go right out of the box. All I had to do was unfold them and adjust the front roller so that it properly lined up with my bike and I was ready to ride (or fall over several times before I actually rode).
Recommended, but not yet tested
Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer
I haven't had the chance to personally test the Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer yet, but I included it on the list for several reasons. As its name implies, the Rock and Roll Trainer was designed to allow for a side-to-side rocking motion that mimics the natural sway of riding outdoors.
At 12 pounds, its flywheel is also larger than any other trainer in the category. According to Kinetic, this allows for automatic app-controlled resistance, whisper-quiet operation, a wider range of bike compatibility and improved inertia, which provides more of a road-like feel. While the max slope is slightly lower than the Wahoo Kickr Snap -- 10% versus 12% -- it goes up to a max resistance of 1,800 watts at 30 mph.
Because it's a smart trainer, the Rock and Roll trainer works with Kinetic's own training app or third-party apps, like Zwift or TrainerRoad. The Kinetic trainer is compatible with almost any bike, but, like other similar styles on this list, if your bike has a rear thru-axle, you'll need an adapter that will cost you an additional $49.
This all sounds good, but when I get the chance to test the trainer on my own, I'll report back with my personal experience.
Bike trainer FAQs
Is a trainer bad for your bike?
Follow the specific user guides for your bike and bike trainer to make sure everything is installed correctly. A bike trainer isn't necessarily bad for your bike, but it can put pressure on the components that come in contact with the trainer.
If you're concerned about wear and tear, consider using an older or spare bike on the trainer and reserving your road bike for the road.
Is it worth it to get a bike trainer?
Whether or not it's worth it to get a bike trainer really depends on your cycling goals, the environment you live in and your budget. Do you want to train frequently and need to be able to fit in that training whenever is convenient? Do you live in a climate with weather that keeps you off the road or trail for long stretches of time? Do you have the extra cash to devote to a trainer?
Those are all factors to consider before you buy. Weigh how often you think you'd use a bike trainer with their average price and decide if the value is there for you.
What is the best bike trainer for beginners?
We like the Wahoo Kickr Snap trainer best for beginners. The setup is easy, it works with third-party apps (including a free month-long trial of Zwift) and it has a quiet ride that closely mirrors riding on the road.
Read more details about the Wahoo Kickr Snap in the best bike trainer for beginners section above.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
Most indoor bike trainers are compatible with several different bike styles and tire sizes, but it's important to check. You'll need to know what type of bike you have (mountain or road), the wheel size and whether it has a thru-axle or a quick-release skewer.Which trainer is best? ›
- Wahoo Kickr smart turbo trainer. Best for all-round performance. ...
- Tacx Neo 2 Smart turbo trainer. Best for realism. ...
- Saris H3. ...
- Elite Direto XR-T smart turbo trainer. ...
- Elite Drivo II smart turbo trainer. ...
- Tacx Flux Smart turbo trainer. ...
- Elite Suito smart turbo trainer. ...
- Tacx Flow Smart Turbo Trainer.
The Core may be mid-priced but doesn't skimp on features and uses much of the same technology as the Kickr, but one difference is the size of the belt-driven flywheel. These are measured by weight, and the 5.4kg flywheel on the Core isn't as burly as the 7.3kg flywheel on the Kickr.Are indoor trainers worth it? ›
An indoor trainer makes it easier to be very specific about your training compared to riding outside, allowing you to spend more time in key heart rate or power zones, with no time lost to stopping at junctions or freewheeling down the hills.Are fluid or magnetic trainers better? ›
Sensations: Fluid trainers are generally considered to be superior to magnetic trainers because they allow for the most realistic riding feeling. The resistance will feel the most similar to the resistance of the road and the flywheel will enable you to coast without feeling an abrupt stop.Is it OK to leave bike in trainer? ›
It will have no negative affect on your bicycle to leave the bike in a trainer for long periods, assuming you have the trainer properly adjusted for the width of your rear axle, and that you do release the roller from the tire as you noted.Do bike trainers work with all bikes? ›
Bike fit: Trainers can fit a wide range of bikes, but you need to double-check trainer and bike specs to be sure.What is a smart bike trainer? ›
A smart trainer is a tool you mount your bike on that offers resistance like a normal trainer, but with the added benefit of allowing the resistance to be controlled by cycling apps such as Zwift. Best indoor cycling apps.What is the latest Wahoo Kickr? ›
Wahoo has just announced their latest generation KICKR, now in its 5th iteration. This new unit adds compressing feet to reduce vibrations on hard floors as well as slightly increase motion.Do bike trainers work with disc brakes? ›
If your bike has disc brakes, you'll want to look into purchasing a thru axle for your rear wheel so it connects easily to the trainer. If your bike has rim brakes, you'll likely need a trainer skewer to get your bike set up.
The Wahoo KICKR Core is one amazing smart trainer that you should have in your house. Setup is easy, using the bike is easy, you can even customize the speed settings without any kind of problems. The Climb add-on is very impressive and urge you to try it.Which is best Wahoo KICKR? ›
Wahoo Kickr V5 (2020)
The Kickr is Wahoo's top-of-the-range model. It offers a fantastic ride feel, thanks to its relatively large 7.25kg flywheel, and it's also wonderfully quiet.
It made our list of best turbo trainers and there's basically no discussion of indoor cycling that's complete without mentioning it. Wahoo has become synonymous with indoor training over the years and the Kickr Core represents the brand's least expensive option for a wheel-off smart trainer.How long should I be on a bike trainer? ›
Allow 4 or 5 rides at 20 to 40 minutes of low intensity to adjust to being inside. Once you are comfortable with riding indoors, use the following phases to guide your plan: Always: Do a 10-15 minute warm-up, a 1 X 5 at LT and at 95-100 cadence followed by a 5 minute recovery.Can you lose weight by cycling indoors? ›
Besides helping to burn 400 to 600 calories in a 45-minute class, indoor cycling also helps rev up your metabolism (your body's calorie-burning engine). It offers the opportunity to tone and strengthen all of the muscles in your legs, glutes, and core.How long should I ride my bike trainer? ›
A good baseline to aim for is three 30 to 40-minute focused sessions a week, with some longer rides outside on the weekend or your days off work.Are fluid bike trainers better? ›
Magnetic vs. Fluid Bicycle Trainers - YouTubeAre magnetic bike trainers loud? ›
Magnetic- These can be loud. The resistance unit, not just the tires, can give you a real ruckus. Still not a loud option, precisely and regarded as a much quieter one than the final type.How loud is a fluid bike trainer? ›
The fluid resistance unit gives a great, quiet ride, with noise levels measured at 20 mph at 64-68 decibels. One of the industry's biggest flywheels, which allows an improved road-like feel.Can bike trainer damage your bike? ›
While the “riding on a trainer will damage your carbon frame” myth has been officially busted, indoor riding can still pose a threat to your bike in two ways: wheel strain and sweat corrosion.
You want the roller/tire contact point to be tight enough so that the tire does not slip as you pedal, but not so tight that it significantly increases the resistance provided by the trainer mechanism itself. Note that your rear tire will wear out significantly during your indoor training season.Can you do a spin class on a bike trainer? ›
To increase intensity you just shift to a harder gear; the experience is similar to riding a spin bike. But you can use a trainer stand to take an online or video spin class; when the instructor says dial up more resistance, just shift to a harder gear.What is the quietest smart trainer? ›
1. Tacx Neo Smart Direct Driver Trainer. When owning a bicycle trainer that operates quietly is a necessity, the Tacx Neo Smart Trainer is worthy of some serious consideration. With many impressive features, operational silence is paramount.What is a magnetic bike trainer? ›
Magnetic Bike Trainers
A magnetic bike trainer; also known as, a “mag” trainer uses a magnetic flywheel to provide resistance. A flywheel is the wheel the back tire spins on. The magnetic flywheel has rotating magnets that create a set amount of resistance as they're engaged or disengaged.
Magnetic or 'mag' trainers work by creating resistance using a magnetic flywheel and magnets. Resistance can be adjusted manually, usually via a handlebar-mounted cable attached to the handlebar that moves the magnets closer or further away from the flywheel.Can you use a bike trainer on carpet? ›
Protect your Floor from Damage and Wear
Sure, carpet will work, but protecting your floor from pools of sweat will be even more important. A yoga mat (or two) will do the trick, but a trainer or workout-specific mat with a little more substance will give you the added benefit of noise and vibration reduction.
If it becomes too easy to pedal, then shift to a harder gear so that you maintain that efficient, 90 RPM cadence. Changing gears on your trainer works whether you are using a wheel-on trainer or a direct drive trainer. It also works whether you are on a classic trainer or a smart trainer. You can still change gears.Is it safe to use carbon bike on trainer? ›
Based on current manufacturer warranties, though, it is clear those challenges have been overcome and carbon frames are safe to ride on indoor trainers, provided out of the saddle efforts utilize the proper “up-down” technique.What is the best bike simulator? ›
- Tacx Neo 2T Smart Trainer. Best Direct Drive bike trainer. ...
- Wahoo Kickr Snap. Best bike trainer for beginners. ...
- Alpcour Fluid Bike Trainer. Best budget bike trainer. ...
- Saris Aluminum Rollers. Best rollers. ...
- Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer. $749 at Amazon.
If your bike has disc brakes, you'll want to look into purchasing a thru axle for your rear wheel so it connects easily to the trainer. If your bike has rim brakes, you'll likely need a trainer skewer to get your bike set up.
What is a turbo trainer? Turbo trainers are static devices that provide a form of resistance that replicates the feeling of the road. You hook your bike up to the turbo either by resting the rear wheel on a platform or connecting the chain to a drive unit.What is a direct drive bike trainer? ›
With a direct drive trainer the rear wheel is removed and the trainer takes its place. The bike attaches directly to the trainer at the rear dropouts and the bike's chain drives a cassette that is connected to the trainer. With this design style, direct drive turbos are often bigger units and heavy.What is a smart bike trainer? ›
A smart trainer is a tool you mount your bike on that offers resistance like a normal trainer, but with the added benefit of allowing the resistance to be controlled by cycling apps such as Zwift. Best indoor cycling apps.Can you use Zwift for free? ›
How much does Zwift cost? Initially, it's free; though long term, sadly not. You can get a free seven-day trial if you register for a Zwift account online, but after your trial period ends it costs £12.99 / $14.99 per month to continue using it.What bike trainers work with peloton? ›
|App / Program||Recommended Compatible Trainer||Display Method|
|Peloton||Peloton Bike||Integrated screen on bike|
|Tacx||Saris H3, Wahoo Kickr, Tacx Neo Smart (see our reviews of each)||Apple or Android app on tablet or phone|
Mounting a Bicycle on an Indoor Trainer (Indoor Cycling HOW TO)How do I set up my bike trainer? ›
How to setup your cycling trainer for indoor biking - YouTubeHow do you mount a bike on a smart trainer? ›
How To Fit A Road Bike Onto A Turbo Trainer - YouTubeDo pro cyclists use rollers? ›
Rollers Or Turbo Trainer? Ask GCN Anything About Cycling - YouTubeHow do I choose a smart trainer? ›
- Plenty of space for a comfortable ride,
- 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,
In particular, high-cadence workouts on rollers are a perfect platform to develop a smooth pedalling technique, and many pro riders will spend the winter on rollers working on just this. Rollers are also excellent for improving your balance and bike handling skills.What is the quietest smart trainer? ›
1. Tacx Neo Smart Direct Driver Trainer. When owning a bicycle trainer that operates quietly is a necessity, the Tacx Neo Smart Trainer is worthy of some serious consideration. With many impressive features, operational silence is paramount.Can Wahoo Kickr be used without power? ›
You can ride it without power but you obviously can't control the resistance or connect it to your favourite app. While the Kickr transmits power via Bluetooth or ANT+, it does not transmit cadence. For that data, you'll need to use the supplied Wahoo RPM2 pod that is easily attached to the cranks of your bike.Is Zwift worth subscription? ›
If you have a bike (or don't mind investing in a new one — nothing fancy is needed for Zwift), want an on-demand workout, like to be challenged, want to race other people, or just want to casually spin when the weather's bad or it's the off season, Zwift is absolutely worth it.