The Best Bike Trainers For 2018 – A Complete Buying Guide

After thoroughly reviewing dozens of different bike trainers available today, we think the CycleOps Fluit 2 Winter Training Kit is the best option available today.

How do you get a good cycling workout in when the weather is foul?

You can hop on an archaic stationary bike and pedal away on a device that feels nothing like your regular ride. Or, you can turn your bicycle into an excellent indoor trainer using one of the best indoor bike trainers.

It can get incredibly stressful trying to determine which bike trainer is right for your purposes. With the many magnetic, electronic, roller, fluid, and wind trainers to choose from, it is easy to get overwhelmed by your options.

Fortunately, we have put together a comprehensive guide on bike trainers and detail some of the best value indoor bike trainers available.

Whether you enjoy mountain biking or prefer to hit the roads, there is a bike trainer that will keep you in peak shape all winter long.

Our Recommendations

You should be able to choose a new bike trainer with confidence now that we have given you extensive information on these devices.

If you are unsure of where to start in your search for the ideal product for your need, you can start with our recommendations below.

These are our favorite options. You may want to add them to your shopping cart depending on your preferences:

Best Fluid Bike Trainer

If you are looking for a unit that is quiet, provides a broad range of resistance options, and has the best road feel of any style, then the fluid bike trainer is for you.

Different models come with a wide array of options and features. This is the most popular type of stationary trainer on the market.

Here are a few of our top picks for fluid bike trainers:

Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Bike Trainer

When you choose the Rock and Roll Smart Bike Trainer from Kinetic, you get the only side-to-side free-moving fluid model in the world. The “smart” part of the name means you get app-based, intuitive power training.

Riders can connect with a long list of training possibilities thanks to the Bluetooth sensor technology featured in this device.

If you have a Bluetooth-connected tablet, laptop, or tablet, you can use apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, and Kinetic Fit to ramp up your workout. You don’t need any other add-ons.

The patented frame design of the Rock and Roll offers a comfortable stationary ride because it provides a cycling-specific core workout and provides less wear on the rider by allowing the bike to move as it would on the road.

Kinetic’s patented fluid resistance unit offers smooth, progressive, quiet resistance. And, the device with compatible with just about every bike type, including 24”, 700c, and 29” mob wheels.

We love the Rock and Roll Smart Bike Trainer because it so closely mimics the feeling of really riding on the road. You can stand up while riding it and feel the back and forth swaying motions you would make outdoors. Also, it is easy to pop your bike on and be on your way in under a minute.

We recommend using a training tire when riding this because the roller tends to get incredibly hot and could melt a regular tire. But, overall it is worth the relatively high price tag. Plus, the frame comes with a lifetime warranty, and the inRide sensor has a two-year warranty.

TOP PICK: CycleOps Fluid 2 Winter Training Kit

The Fluid 2 Winter Training Kit from CycleOps supplies everything you need to get the most out of your hours of training indoors during the winter months.

The Fluid 2 Trainer is the main attraction in the kit. It has a broad resistance range of 20 watts to as high as 725 watts. This means the trainer can serve you well for short, hard interval workouts as well as recovery spins. And, this model gives more resistance as you up your pedaling speed.

This CycleOps bike trainer has a wide, two-inch roller which translates to less tire wear and a smoother ride than units with smaller rollers. This device has sound stability thanks to a wide base. And, your bike stays firmly in place with the secure locking system that allows you to jump off your seat to sprint.

The entire kit comes with the trainer, a mat to protect your floor, a sweat guard to protect your bike, and two climbing blocks. And, the Fluid 2 accommodates tires between 26” and 29” with rear spacing of 120, 130, and 135 millimeters.

We are fans of the CycleOps Fluid 2 Winter Trainer because of how quiet it is, even at high speeds. Also, it is easy to put together and store. We also like that it is made in the United States (in Madison, Wisconsin) and comes with a lifetime warranty.

The only complaint we’ve found is that the mat that it comes with tends to get holes easily when you walk on it with your shoe clips.

Travel Trac Comp Fluid Bicycle Trainer

If you are just starting out and don’t have a lot to spend, then the Travel Trac Comp Fluid Bicycle Trainer is the best bike trainer for the money. Using progressive fluid resistance, this affordable device increases its resistance the faster you pedal to create a true road-like feel.

For quiet, inexpensive, and smooth performance, the internal disc of the Travel Trac bike trainer spins in a fluid. And, the external flywheel allows for efficient and smooth pedaling action.

This device comes with a rear quick release skewer for proper bike fit whether you are training on a mountain or road bike.

When you are putting in the extra effort for interval training, the wide, stable base keeps you in place. This model comes completely assembled so set up is easy. And, when you are done using it for the day, it folds up compactly for transport or storage.

We like this fluid trainer because it is durable and stable. The unit folds up for easy storage in case you live in a small apartment. We also love the skewer for the rear wheel. And, the noise level allows you to watch television or listen to podcasts while riding.

The only downside with choosing the Travel Trac Comp Fluid Bicycle Trainer is that it doesn’t come with a riser block for the front wheel, but you can find decent riser blocks online for under $10. For its price, you would have a hard time finding a better fluid unit than this Travel Trac model.

Best Magnetic Bike Trainer

If you are looking for a device that has adjustable resistance, runs quieter than the wind trainers, and that doesn’t break the bank, then magnetic trainers may be the best alternative for you. Plus, newer electromagnetic models come with a large array of options and features.

Here are a couple of our top picks for magnetic bike trainers:

Magnetic 8 Levels Resistance Turbo Trainer from Health Line Products

The best bike trainer under $100 is the Magnetic 8 Levels Resistance Turbo Trainer. It has eight resistance levels that are adjustable by cable control.

It is designed to fit almost every bike, including mountain bikes, hybrids, and road bikes. A knob is used to adjust the height for fitting wheel sizes of 700C and 26” to 28”.

The manufacturer recommends using a smooth training tire with this device for a quieter and smoother riding experience. The frame is made of steel and comes in three colors: black, silver, and red. Overall, the Health Line Products magnetic trainer can hold 330 pounds, including your bike’s weight.

In addition to the bike trainer, the kit comes with a quick release skewer and a front wheel block so you can be sure that you are cycling on even ground. The rubber foot pad can also be adjusted to different heights.

We love the Magnetic 8 Levels Resistance Turbo Trainer because it is affordable, stable, durable, and Health Line Products provides superior customer service if you ever have a problem.

There are a couple negative reviews out there that seem to focus on how loud this unit is. As stated above, the manufacturer recommends that you use this trainer with a smooth training tire. This will significantly cut down on the noise.

Another complaint was that the resistance does not get extreme enough if you are an elite cyclist trying to engage in intense interval training. Overall, though, this trainer provides good value for its price.

Conquer Indoor Bike Trainer Portable Exercise Bicycle Magnetic Stand

The Conquer Indoor Magnetic Bike Trainer is the best budget bike trainer featured in this buying guide, and it may also have the biggest fans. When it arrives, it requires very little assembly, and you don’t need to use tools.

The extra wide frame is made of durable hi-ten steel and provides maximum stability. When you are done or want to transport your trainer, it folds up effortlessly. This model works with 26-inch, 27-inch, and 700c bikes that have quick release rear wheels.

The unit comes with a 7.5” long rear wheel skewer. This skewer and trainer may not work for you if your bike has over ten gears on the rear cassette or if your bike’s skewer is longer than 7.5”.

The Conquer Indoor Bike Trainer also comes with a front wheel riser block that helps keep the front wheel stable and levels the bike. Though this model is made to last, there does not appear to be a warranty associated with the device.

We love this option because the wide base provides excellent stability. Since it is a magnetic model, it produces some sound, but it isn’t as loud as a wind trainer or some of the other magnetic alternatives on the market.

This device tends to be nice and quiet until you engage the resistance, then it can get quite loud, especially if you have mountain bike tires. For the most part, you can neutralize the noise by using special smooth training tires and riding on an exercise mat.

What Is a Bike Trainer?

Basically, a bike trainer turns your road bike into a stationary bike.

This device achieves this goal by clamping onto the rear axle and pressing a resistance roller against your rear tire so you can ride without going anywhere.

Bike Trainer Parts

There are essentially four parts to a bike trainer:

  • The Frame – Bike trainer frames are generally made of rugged steel.
  • The Clamp – This keeps the bike securely in place. You may need a special skewer to clamp into the frame.
  • The Roller(s) – Roller bike trainers have multiple rollers, but most other styles have one roller that presses up against the rear wheel.
  • Resistance – When the pedals are turned, there needs to be a mechanism for providing resistance. This mechanism is different for different styles of trainers. Many models have a broad range of adjustable resistance settings.

​There are plenty of additional features that any bike trainer could come with. For instance, a popular add-on is a front-wheel riser that keeps your bike level while you ride.

Types of Bike Trainers

Bike trainers fall into one of four categories: magnetic, fluid, rollers, and wind.

Magnet, fluid, and wind trainers all get their names from the type of resistance they use. On the other hand, rollers use an entirely different system. Here is a more in-depth description of each type:

Magnetic

On the back of magnetic bicycle trainers, there is a magnetic flywheel.

This device creates a magnetic pull that causes resistance on the rear wheel of your bicycle. You can make the bike more difficult or easier to ride by adjusting the resistance.

Magetic Type of Bike Trainer

If you plan on riding your bike while making phone calls or watching television, then the magnetic trainer is perfect for you since it is practically silent to operate. The downfall of this option is that the trainer is prone to break when you add too much resistance.

Fluid

Of the many styles of virtual bike trainers, the fluid models are the most complex.

Due to their complexity, they tend to break a lot more often than the other options we list. The fluid bike trainer is like the magnetic trainers in some ways, except that it uses liquid resistance chambers to create friction.

best fluid bike trainer

One of the biggest pros to using a fluid trainer is that the resistance to the rear wheel increases progressively as you start to pedal faster and faster. Many cyclists using a bike trainer want it to feel like they are on the road, and fluid trainers are probably the closest to achieving that.

The biggest con of the fluid trainer is that over long periods of time they start to expand as they get hot from friction, and this can lead to the fluid leaking.

Rollers

Of the trainer styles listed, rollers are the oldest.

With this style, the bike freely sits inside a frame on three precisions drums that turn as you pedal.

roller bike trainer

Resistance comes from fluid, wind, or magnetic add-on elements. Or, it can come from the rollers themselves. For instance, more resistance comes from smaller diameter drums.

The biggest drawback of rollers is that they take some practice getting used to. At first, you may slide off. Also, the range of resistance is not the best. On the plus side, rollers are great for improving your form, and for some workouts, elite cyclists swear by them.

Wind

The wind bike trainer is typically the best affordable bike trainer. The resistance of these devices is created by the cyclist powering a fan that blows air onto the rear wheel.

Wind bicycle trainers are less likely to break than some of the more complex trainers, they offer a relatively road-like ride, and they are cost-effective because they are fairly primitive in their design.

There are two main drawbacks to using wind trainers. The resistance of this style of trainer is not as high as many hardcore cyclists would like because the wheel’s resistance is only created by wind. Also, this device tends to be incredibly noisy.

How to Use a Bike Trainer

When first learning how to use a bike trainer, it may look intimidating. However, with a little practice, you can pop your bike on quickly.

All you have to do is replace the rear axle skewer of your bicycle with the one provided when you choose a magnetic, fluid, or wind model. Then, lift the bike into place. Clamp the flywheel against the tire after you have turned the clamp tight against the skewer.

Since the trainer keeps your rear tire from touching the floor, your bike will be at an unnatural angle. For many elite cyclists, this is unacceptable. Fortunately, there are riser blocks you can use to level out the bike by lifting your front wheel off the ground as well.

The process is even simpler when you choose a roller bike trainer. You simply place your bike’s wheels on the appropriate drum, hop on your bike, and pedal away. It will take a little time to get used to the rollers.

No matter the model you choose, the entire process should take less than a minute to complete once you have done it a few times. Of course, you should be sure to read the owner’s manual for instructions specific to your trainer.

Why Should You Choose Your Bike Trainer Carefully

There are many reasons why you need to carefully pick your bike trainer.

First of all, the best stationary bike trainers each have their own pros and cons. For instance, wind trainers might be inexpensive, but they are a lot louder than magnetic and fluid trainers. This will not due in a small apartment.

Another reason you need to be careful as you are shopping for the best virtual bike trainer for your needs is that trainers do not always fit all bike types and sizes. Most trainers were designed to handle a wide selection of wheel sizes, but make sure your bike will fit the trainers you are looking at.

Your trainer has the potential to last you for the remainder of your indoor riding life. Certain brands are celebrated for their durability. Others might get you through one season. If you would like something that will last you far into the future, make sure you choose a model with a lifetime warranty.

Not all manufacturers are there for you after the sale. Sure, they may offer a short-term limited warranty, but when you try to get in touch with their customer service for any questions, you can’t get anyone on the line. Make sure the manufacturer has a strong track record.

Indoor Trainers

We already mentioned that noise is a concern when you live in a small apartment, but you also need to pay attention to space concerns. Many units fold up to take up relatively little room. If this is important to you, look for this feature when choosing the best bike resistance trainer.

Smart features are all the rage with today’s best rated indoor bike trainers. But, for many beginners, it doesn’t make sense to fork out the extra cash for features you are not going to use.

The last reason why you need to choose your stationary bike trainer stand carefully is that different trainers have different feels. If you would like your trainer to mimic the feel of the road as closely as possible, then you may want to pay extra for one of the high-end models.

What to Pay Attention to When Choosing Your Bike Trainer

Since there is so much variability in the different types of bike trainers, you should not just go out and buy any old model. Instead, there are several important aspects you should consider when choosing your bike trainer:

Compatibility

Check whether the trainer you are interested in offers different attachment options since axle attachment widths and standards seem to change on an almost yearly basis. There are often different freehub alternatives for direct-attachment trainers, or you might find thru-axle adaptors.

Stability

Though rollers have a bit of a learning curve and are more prone to crashes, it is relatively rare for you to crash on your trainer. But, when you are going cross-eyed trying to achieve a new personal record, you are more susceptible to crashing.

Stability for Bike Trainers

For the most part, you will be more stable when you choose a trainer with a wide base. There are several models that have bases of up to three-feet wide or more. If you plan on going hard for intense workouts, you might consider a trainer with a base that expands for maximum stability.

Another part of stability is keeping your bike level. Some trainers have a leveling feature for uneven surfaces. Other models simply come with a front-wheel riser that keeps your bike approximately level.

Adjustability

As you pedal on trails or roads, the resistance rarely remains constant. As such, you may want a trainer that also features adjustable resistance. This is achieved in a variety of ways depending on the style and model of the trainer.

Fluid trainers automatically ramp up the resistance as you increase the speed of your pedaling. On the other hand, you can manually adjust the resistance on magnetic trainers on the unit itself or by using a shifter that is attached to the device by a cord.

Ride Performance

Do you want your workout to feel just like you are out on the road or trails? Well, trainers are not able to mimic the wind in your face or the bumps on a trail, but some styles of trainers come incredibly close to achieving the same resistance feel.

If this is important to you, then your best option will probably be a fluid trainer since the fluid inside of the flywheel of these trainers gets thicker and provides more resistance as you go faster and heat up the fluid.

Noise

Unlike your outdoor cycling rides where you can sometimes chat with people along the way or you can silently take in the beautiful scenery, indoor biking is generally less appealing and more boring due to its stationary nature.

Most indoor cyclists turn to their stereo or television to keep their mind occupied. If the noise level of your trainer is too high, you will have difficulty hearing anything. Therefore, if you want to keep the noise down, it makes sense to splurge on a stand that is quieter, such as a fluid trainer.

You can also ensure your ride is quieter by installing a special smooth training wheel.

Storage

As mentioned above, if you have a small living space, you will want a trainer with a small footprint. Look for models that fold in half or that have legs that fold in. Also, since you will likely be moving your trainer around a lot to put it in storage, you may want a lightweight, aluminum model.

The easy-to-store models tend to cost more than the larger alternatives. So, if you have plenty of room, then there is no need to pay extra for the foldable feature.

Ease of use

Before buying your indoor bike trainer, you must consider how easy it will be to mount and remove the bike from the trainer. If it takes a lot of muscle and jimmying to get your bike loose, you’ll likely lose your patience quickly. Plus, you could damage your wheel’s spokes.

Reviews can tell you if this is a known issue or not.

Magnetic vs Fluid Bike Trainer

Wind and roller-style bike trainers have their benefits, but magnetic and fluid bike trainers are much more popular because of their ability to mimic the natural riding experience and their many features.

However, they do have plenty of differences that will guide your decision on which style to go with.

With magnetic trainers, drag is achieved on the bike wheel using adjustable magnetic resistance. A flywheel serves as the drive mechanism of this type of trainer. The flywheel has rotating magnets that create a set amount of resistance when engaged.

You must either change the resistance via a handlebar-mounted cable attached to the trainer or get off the bike to select the new level directly on the trainer. You generally get a smoother ride from the mid- to high-priced magnetic models.

On the other hand, the flywheel mechanism of fluid bike trainers creates resistance through an impeller spinning inside a fluid located in the flywheel. As the temperature of the fluid increases, it gets thicker. Therefore, when you pedal faster, you get more resistance.

Fluid Type of Bike Trainer

One of the early problems with fluid trainers was that the seals of the flywheel would break and fluids would leak out. But, this problem has been addressed by newer models, such as the ones we list ​above.

Magnetic units are slightly more dependable and simpler than their fluid counterparts. They are also cheaper. If you are a beginner who just wants to log miles, the magnetic models should be good enough.

On the other hand, fluid devices are the best quiet bike trainers. Also, thanks to their progressive resistance, they come closer to capturing the road-like feel. And, as you increase your fitness level, it becomes tougher for you to overpower the unit thanks to the progressive resistance.

Conclusion

If you’ve read our entire guide, you know that we can’t make a blanket statement about what is the best bike trainer

It all depends on your situation, but we can confidently say that the models mentioned above are of the highest quality.

For the most part, when it comes to bike trainers, you get what you pay for. If you are relatively new to trainers, you might consider starting with a more affordable option, and as you become more of a buff, you can upgrade to one of the better, more expensive models.

If you have tried a trainer and have not enjoyed the experience, you probably have not found the right one for you. When you choose a model, take the time to do the research on it, and ensure it meets your needs.

Happy cycling!

This post was last updated on December 5th, 2017 at 05:31 pm

About the Author Max Shumpert

Over the last few years, I’ve taken my love of the outdoors, hiking, skiing, trekking and exploring to the next level by starting this site. I started a bike shop in Denver, CO, and have seen amazing growth over the last few years. Getting paid to do what I love has been a dream come true for me. That’s also what led me to start BikesReviewed.com. In my shop, I spend a large amount of time helping people find the perfect bike for them and the style of biking they’re going to be doing. It only made sense that I expanded my reach and got online, making it possible for me to help people all over the world. If biking and staying fit is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.

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