How To: Pick the right indoor trainer for you

Breakdown of four major trainer types: wind, magnetic, fluid, rollers

Gear How To Winter Guide

Editor’s Note: This article is part of the Mtbr Ultimate Guide to winter mountain biking. We are taking a deep dive into all manner of cold weather mountain bike gear, with round-ups and reviews of fat bikes, tires, wheels, apparel, trainers, lights and more. To see all the articles, head over to our Winter Guide Hub Page.

Whether you live in a cold climate or just want to squeeze in a quick workout, sometimes the best option is an indoor trainer. There are number of different options on the market. Prices generally start around $150 for entry level models and head all the way into the thousands for higher end options.

Once you’ve determined your budget, the next step is deciding what type of trainer is best for your needs. For instance, if you live in an apartment, you might put a premium on space. If you’re training for the Rio Olympics, however, you’ll be more interested in a trainer that can meticulously track workout data. Currently, trainer technology can be divided into three basic categories. Here’s a rundown of each.

Learn about eight of the best trainers on the market today.

Wind trainers offer great ride quality at an affordable cost, but they’re obnoxiously loud.

Wind trainers offer great ride quality at an affordable price, but can be obnoxiously loud (click to enlarge).

Wind Trainers

This is the most affordable type of trainer. As you pedal, your back wheel spins a fan which causes resistance. The harder you pedal, the harder it gets, although it is possible to max out the resistance under hard efforts. The major downside is noise. You can usually buy one new for around $100-$150.

Magnetic trainers are quieter than wind trainers, but resistance must be manually adjusted.

Magnetic trainers are quieter than wind trainers, but resistance must be manually adjusted (click to enlarge).

Magnetic Trainers

The magnetic trainer replaces the fan in your basic wind trainer with a magnetic flywheel that offers a fixed resistance. Resistance can usually be adjusted manually, but more affordable models will require you to dismount to make adjustments. We like that they’re virtually silent and very affordable.

Fluid trainers like the CycleOps Fluid 2 deliver the realistic resistance of a wind trainer without the deafening noise.

Fluid trainers like the CycleOps Fluid 2 deliver the realistic resistance of a wind trainer without the noise (click to enlarge).

Fluid Trainers

Fluid trainers combine a magnetic freewheel and fluid to generate variable resistance. They’re extremely quiet but can get very hot, which occasionally causes them to overheat and leak. This type of trainer is popular because it combines the best features of both wind and magnetic trainers. The downside is that they tend to be heavier and more expensive. Most retail for $400 and up.

Rollers have a steep learning curve but are arguably more interesting to ride.

Rollers have a steep learning curve but are arguably more interesting to ride (click to enlarge).

Rollers

Rollers are more difficult to use than a regular trainer because you’re forced to hold a straight line while balancing in a small area, but the rewards are tremendous. Once you get past the initial learning curve, you’ll find that riding rollers helps improve balance and offers a more realistic ride experience.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of trainer and your specific needs will help you narrow down your choices. As you begin your search, keep in mind how frequently you will need to get your bike on an off the trainer, whether or not you’ll be folding it up for storage or transportation, and how important the adjustability of the resistance is to your workout plans.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

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