Whether that’s due to less daylight, less time, bad weather, or simply a desire to ride bikes year-round (even if that means spending time in the proverbial pain cave), many of us will need to set-up indoor training stations. But riding indoors and staying motivated is easier said than done. Sometimes the room with the rollers or trainer feels more like a torture chamber than a work-out sanctuary. That’s why it helps to have one of the best bike trainers.
Indeed, the good news is that manufacturers of trainers and rollers understand the plight of the indoor cyclist. They know not everyone has the luxury of taking a lunch ride or getting outside before work. Indeed, the most efficient training rides can happen at your house on a trainer or rollers, maximizing your ride time and minimizing junk miles. To that end, Mtbr has scoured the land for the best bike trainers. Here’s what we found.
Related: The Best Indoor Trainer Accessories
Best Smart Trainers of 2020
Smart trainers are taking the indoor cycling world by storm, helping recreate some of the challenging conditions of riding outside without the cars, smog, or lousy weather. These trainers are seriously smart, they can tell you wattage, replicate hills, and even execute workout programming.
CycleOps H3 Smart Trainer
Taking cues from the CycleOps Hammer Trainer, the new H3 can replicate real-world inertia and give riders real-time data feedback. This comes from the 20-pound flywheel built to handle 2000 watts and replicates a 20% climbing grade. All stats and output arrive via PowerTap power meter internals. The resistance is supplied via an electromagnetic resistance system for quick resistance changes while cruising in virtual training environments such as Zwift. The H3 also calculates cadence, speed, and power and is equipped with internal cooling (because all those watts can heat up.) The H3 even has “over-the-air” firmware updates, dual-band ANT+, and Bluetooth compatibility, making it easy to pair with many head units. The CycleOps H3 can fit an array of axel sizes both thru and quick release. Plus, clocking in at 59 decibels at 20 mph, the H3 is library-level quiet – nearly 5x more quite than the predecessor the H2. Meaning you can be in the pain cave and not wake up the baby.
Wahoo KICKR Core
Wahoo burst onto the scene with the KICKR and set a high benchmark for indoor direct-drive smart trainers. The new Wahoo KICKR Core has nearly all the same features as its KICKR brethren, but with a price that is easier to handle. The KICKR Core supplies electronically calculated resistance and can simulate up to a 16% climb. It has a super sturdy base that is perfect for max out efforts. Pair that with the new KICKR Climb and you can take your training to a virtual reality-level experience. The KICKR Core integrates with all Wahoo accessories, creating a true outdoors experience. It’s also easy to setup and breakdown. Power, cadence, and all essential metrics are standard and it’s very durable. The KICKR Core works with QR, 12×142, and 12x148mm dropout spacing so all bikes in your stable should work just fine.
1Up USA eSmart
While 1Up USA is best known for its best-in-class hitch racks, they also make a solid alloy trainer. The eSmart is a roller style trainer that can accommodate just about every wheel size and drop-out configuration. R0sistance is applied via a 3000-watt commercial-grade electromagnetic brake with temperature compensation and ±3% accuracy. The roller creates a solid road feel throughout every pedal stroke, and the servo-controlled resistance (at 1000 times per second) mimics accurate air, road, and momentum feel for an awesome indoor training experience. The eSmart is compatible with all online training programs such as Zwift, Trainer Road, and SufferFest. And at only 35 pounds, it’s the lightest smart trainer on Mtbr’s best bike trainers list.
More Info: www.1up-usa.com
Best Roller Trainers
Cost-effective, the classic roller trainer is what most of us think of talking indoor riding. Long gone are the days of jet engine-level noise, with today’s roller trainers offering progressive (and quiet) resistance. Roller trainers are also typically easy to transport and less expensive than their smart trainer cousins.
CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer
A consistent performer that’s easy to transport to races and/or hotels, the CycleOps Fluid 2 has been my go-to trainer for years. The resistance is progressive via the large flywheel and it customizes resistance by merely shifting gears just as you would when riding outside. With a noise level that’s just 64-68 decibels at 20mph, it’s no wonder the Fluid 2 is among the top-selling units in the U.S. The Fluid 2 is compatible with most thru-axles and all quick release set-up and integrates with Zwift and other online training apps.
Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart
Let the good times roll with natural side-to-side motion while riding indoors. The Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll trainer was the first to incorporate this rocking feature that lessens the static feel of riding indoors — and adds some excitement to your max efforts. The Rock and Roll offer progressive resistance via a 6.25-pound flywheel for superior ride feel and fluid resistance when not under app control. That’s right, the Rock and Roll Smart works with Zwift, Trainer Road, and Kinetic’s own app among others. The Rock and Roll Smart is a great way to get the benefits of a smart trainer without the huge price tag.
Elite Tuno Power Fluid Pack
If you are looking for a quiet and packable trainer, the Elite Tuno Power Fluid could be the right answer. It’s compatible with Elite’s My E-Training App as well as Zwift, Trainer Road, and others. The Tuno Power Fluid Pack includes a training mat, riser block, and 6 months access to Elite’s E-Training app.
For those who subscribe to the notion that the key to a great pedal stroke is “souplesse,” rollers are the way to go. Sure riding in place can be fun with the help of technology, but for many cyclists, nothing beats the lessons learned and balanced gained from riding rollers. Plus they are a great way to mix up your training. Just remember to keep your eyes forward and put down some padding just in case you take a tumble.
Kreitler Challenger Rollers
The Kreitler Challenger series offers top-shelf performance and longevity with a lower cost than their flagship all-alloy systems. Ride quality is just as good as more expensive models, and they offer the silent roller experience Kreitler is known for.
Tacx Antares Rollers
The best packable rollers that I’ve ever used, Tacx Antares Rollers are great for training at home or getting ready for a race. Tacx prides itself on having a natural feel by incorporating the conical roller system that allows the rider to stay on even if they get distracted. A staple at pro-level races across the world, there is no doubt that the Tacx Antares rollers will sharpen your mind and open up your legs. Weighing just 17 pounds and folding up to the size of a book bag, the Tacx Antares is an easy-to-transport piece of race day gear.
Price: $220-$370 (depending on features)
CycleOps Aluminum Rollers
This classic roller set-up features quiet 3.25″ aluminum roller drums and a sturdy steel frame. Perfect for the training dojo or to keep in the car for warm-ups at races, the CycleOps Aluminum Rollers are a dependable training partner. And if you really love rollers, be sure to check out the Resistance Roller, which features 5-levels of adjustable resistance.
Indoor Bike Trainers
Stages SC3 Indoor Bike
Normally indoor bikes such as the Stages SC3 would only be found in spin studios and health clubs. But more and more, riders are looking for a dedicated indoor bike to complement their “outdoor” steeds. The Stages SC3 is what happens when passionate riders build indoor bikes. Ergonomically engineered for simplicity and function, the SC3 seamlessly and wirelessly connects to your technology via Bluetooth and ANT+. And the SC3 is the only indoor studio bike that comes standard with a Stages Power meter and self-generating EcoSCRN display. Indeed, Stages has taken the guesswork out of training, both on the road and in the studio. Many elite outdoor cycling teams and individuals choose Stages Power because when using the most accurate measure of performance, they can develop and adhere much more precisely to their fitness goals. Plus because it’s easily adjustable, everyone in the house can use it without the hassle of swapping bikes in and out.
Wahoo KICKR Bike
KICKR BIKE offers unprecedented innovations for a stationary bike; such as integrated grade changes, customizable gearing, and simulated shifting to create the most powerful, personalized, and realistic indoor training experience. Choose from either using professional bike fit measurements, taking a photo to measure your bike or entering body measurements to personalize the fit to the exact geometry of your outdoor bike. The KICKR BIKE can also be customized with your own handlebars, pedals, and saddle. The virtual shifting technology of the KICKR BIKE is programmable to match the exact gear ratios, a number of speeds, cassette tooth count, and groupset from the leading manufacturers – SRAM, Shimano, and Campagnolo. A digital display clearly communicates both gearing and grade so you always know where you are during every stage of the ride. So now you can keep your outside bike ready to roll and your inside bike can take the abuse.
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