How To Choose: Turbo Trainer

Cycling is a fun way to stay fit, but sometimes the outdoors just won’t cooperate. Rain, wind, traffic, there are plenty of things that can get in the way when you just want to push some pedals. If you want to continue training seriously, a turbo trainer is a great choice!

Types of Turbo Trainer

There are three types of turbo trainer:

Air systems: quite noisy and little or no resistance when pedalling. Resistance allows you to simulate various levels of steepness. With air systems, you therefore can’t control the level of resistance, but you will still have your bike’s gears for making adjustments.

Magnetic systems: less noisy, typically good value for money. They offer a bit more resistance, somewhere between air systems and fluid systems.

Fluid systems: the quietest and smoothest. Fluid models are the most realistic and allow you to pedal against high resistances, simulating fairly steep climbs.


There are also various different sorts of roller (the part in direct contact with the tyre):

  • Plastic: cheaper, faster tyre wearing, limited grip.
  • Metal: better grip because metal is rougher.
  • Gel: good grip, spares the tyres and less noisy.

Turbo Trainer Selection Criteria

Stability: turbo trainers will have different levels of stability depending on how many places they are in contact with the ground. For intensive use, make sure the model doesn’t move at all during a training session.

Level of resistance: very important, low-end models have very little resistance. If you want an effective workout (MAP, strength, etc.), go for a model with good resistance.

Tracking your workout: some cyclometers don’t have any controls at all, while others have a simple resistance adjustment wheel, and certain electronic models give you all sorts of stats (speed, distance, power, pace, etc.). Make sure you choose according to your level and needs!

Rear wheel mounting system: a quick release system is the most practical, especially if you are training regularly. It isn’t always easy to motivate yourself, especially if setting up your bike is already a hassle…

Virtual Partner: a high-end turbo trainer makes training more fun with a “video game” style interface that shows an uphill slope or an imaginary race on the screen. You can even compare yourself with other cyclists on the internet. Find out all about what your model offers before you buy it, and bear in mind that certain extras will have an additional cost.


Tips for a Great Turbo Trainer Workout

Exercising can quickly become boring, so give yourself something to do such as listening to music, watching a film or TV – anything to make the time go faster!

Water and sweating: on a turbo trainer there is no wind to cool you down, so you risk sweating out litres more water! Have a bottle of water with you and sip from it regularly. Also make sure you have a towel for drying yourself off as well as protecting your bike, as sweat is very acidic and, over time, can damage certain materials.

Front wheel stand: when your bike is on your turbo trainer, the rear wheel is lifted. This position can be a bit odd, and you will feel more comfortable if you also raise your front wheel.

Tyre wear: turbo trainers wear out rear tyres faster than roads, so use a special tyre if possible so that your real tyre won’t wear out prematurely…

MTB: you should also note that mountain bike tyres are not suitable for use on turbo trainers. Instead, use slick tyres if you are using a mountain bike. Also be aware that not all models of turbo trainer are suitable for all mountain bikes.

Choosing your turbo trainer should first and foremost depend on the intensity of your use, how frequently you train, and also the type of workout you want. So now all that remains is to make your decision!


Indoor Cycling: A Possible Alternative

Indoor cycling uses an exercise bike for sports training. These exercise bikes are a similar shape to a road bike and can be adjusted in all sorts of ways to find the best position for you.

Indoor cycling is a good alternative to the turbo trainer, allowing you to train in the same way. The advantage is that cyclists don’t have to mount their road bike on the turbo trainer for each session, as the exercise bike is ready to be used wherever it lives in the house. The disadvantage is that the position will never be exactly the same as on your road bike, and so getting back into outdoor cycling will feel slightly different.


One thought on “How To Choose: Turbo Trainer

  1. Worth mentioning rollers too, as an alternative.

    Some people find them tricky to begin with, but the motion of the bike on the rollers replicates a normal bike ride. It’s impossible to train with the same resistance compared to the turbo, but does a great job of refining pedalling technique and gently works your core too.

    I use rollers all winter, and find them the most engaging option.


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