Thursday, November 17, 2016

What to look for when getting a bike trainer.

It is that time of year when the weather is shifting and many people are looking at how they will stay fit over the winter.  One option, if you have a bike, is to get a bicycle trainer.  There are so many options that you can get, but what is the right type of trainer for you?  First you should look at what each type of trainer offers and the benefits of each type.  The prices that I list are for more well-known models that will last a while.  There are cheaper and more expensive models depending on what you are looking for.

Wind Trainers (Cost: around $150)
The back wheel of your bike spins a fan that provides resistance.  This is the least expensive type of trainer and is usually light weight and portable.  The harder you pedal, the more the resistance progressively increases.  The down side is that fans tend to be loud.  Unlike other types of trainers, there aren’t any adjustments and if you pedal really hard, you can max out the resistance.

Magnetic Trainers (Cost: around $150)
These types of trainers have a magnetic flywheel with a fixed resistance.  You get the same resistance regardless of how hard you pedal.  Magnetic trainers do allow you to adjust the resistance by either shifting gears on your bike or using the trainer’s remote control (or other mechanism, varies by brand).  Magnetic trainers are fairly quiet and can be less expensive than some other types of trainers.  Some people like that you can change the resistance to simulate riding up hills or doing intervals.  The down side is that you have to manually adjust the resistance and some modes require you to get off your bike to make those changes.

Fluid Trainers (Cost: around $200)
Fluid trainers have a fluid filled compartment which is what creates the resistance.  The fluid is generally silicon, but the quality of the silicon varies depending on the company.  Fluid trainers increase resistance as you pedal faster and tend to have a more realistic road-like feel than wind and magnetic trainers. They also provide a more accurate power and you can simulate situations like riding on hills and sprints.  One of the biggest pros is that you can go from hill training to sprinting without needing to make any adjustments.  Fluid trainers are also extremely quiet and are probably the most popular trainers.  On the negative side, they tend to be more expensive than wind and magnetic trainers and can have a shorter lifespan due to heat buildup and fluid breakdown.  They will last quite a while if you get a good fluid trainer though.

Rollers (Cost: around $200)
If you want to go old school or want a more challenging option, give bike rollers a try.  You balance your bike on three cylinders.  There are two for your back wheel and one for your front. 

The most likely people to use these type of rollers are professional riders and serious athletes who like to live on the wild side (in my opinion).  The benefits are that it provides a realistic road riding experience and allows you to work on your pedal stroke better than other trainers.  They tend to be cheaper than some of the other options.  On the down side, it requires good balance and a smooth pedaling cadence.  It does have a learning curve and could result in inexperienced riders to fall off until they get the hang of it.  Below is a video that shows how difficult riding on rollers can be.

Interactive Trainers (Cost: depends on features)
Over the past few years, there have been additions to trainers that make them smarter.  You can use interactive features to make your training more beneficial.  There are trainers that allow you to utilize Bluetooth or ANT+ to capture and share your workout data.  It can monitor your heart rate, power, cadence and more.  Some devices even allow you to pretend you are riding a specific course.  You can conquer the Tour de France or ride other user’s favorite courses that they have uploaded.  It will adjust the resistance to simulate hills on the course while watching a video on your phone, tablet, or laptop.  These features do come at an extra cost but can make the extended time on a trainer more enjoyable.  

Direct-to-Frame Trainers (Cost: around $900)
These trainers are more expensive than most trainers out there.  They don’t use a rear wheel.  You simply take off your back wheel and attach it to the trainer, which has a cassette already attached.  You have a cleaner, more efficient connection between your bike and the trainer.  Just make sure the trainer you want will work with your bike setup (group type, i.e. SRAM 10 speed), but they are very stable and can allow for more control over your riding experience.  

Trainer Accessories
Some items that can be useful when purchasing a trainer include:
Front Tire Riser A riser lets you level your bike for a more neutral position, which can be more comfortable.  Not using a raiser can make the handlebars lower and add extra pressure on your butt and wrists.  Adding additional risers (2 or more, stacked) can simulate a climbing position.
Trainer Mat Trainer mats go under your bike to catch sweat as you ride.  They also can help dampen vibrations and reduce sound levels.  They have some thin versions and others that are more padded like yoga mats.
Sweat Thong/Net This is a triangular shaped piece of fabric sometimes made of terry cloth that catches sweat before it lands on your expensive bike.  Sweat can ruin the paint on your bike or make huge puddles on the ground.  The Sweat Thong helps reduce that.  It connects to your handle bars and seat post.
Trainer Tires Trainers tend to wear your tires much faster than road riding because of the heat buildup.  They can also shoot rubber all over your floor.  Buying a specific bike trainer tire helps because they are typically slick and are made to last longer on a trainer.  Trainer tires will help reduce noise and last longer than normal tires.  Most trainer tires will also reduce or eliminate the rubber being thrown around.
Spare Wheel and Hub/Cassette Having a spare wheel for your bike trainer tire makes switching from road riding to your trainer easy.  Otherwise you will have to take your tire off the wheel each time you switch from the road to the trainer.

There are different types of trainers depending on your budget and the features you want.  Shop around and see what type of trainer will meet your needs.  I will be reviewing the Elite Tuno Power Fluid Trainer in the next few days and let you know what my thoughts are.  Please share your favorite trainer and why it’s your favorite in the comments below so other readers can get the most out of this post. 

Note: I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I mentioned at your own risk.

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