Where do you even start when it comes to purchasing big ticket items such as a turbo trainer? There are so many individual factors, brands, and models to take into consideration that it can become an overwhelming task.

Not to worry though, we’ve gone out and done some research to make this whole process that little bit easier. Below you’ll find a bulk of information concerning turbos, some of the different types available, and some example models that may interest you.

What is a Turbo Trainer?

Before we get to the nitty gritty of turbo trainers, it’s worth saying that there are two options for indoor cycling training apparatus; rollers and trainers.

Rollers require you to ride on three cylinders (drums), which are joined to axels inside a frame. Two drums are situated at the back, with the third drums at the front. The rear wheel turns the back drums, which pulls a rubber belt that rotates the front drum. These take a little more finesse than trainers, as there is no form of clamping, and you are much more responsible for keeping the bike upright. However, this almost has the feel of being on the bike.

A turbo trainer keeps the bike stationary, as your rear wheel will be clamped to the frame. They provide resistance using a roller with a flywheel, this resistance is created using a few different methods

  • Magnetic
  • Fluid
  • Fan/ Air
  • Direct Drive

This article will be concerned with turbo trainers, but keep your eyes peeled for a separate piece covering rollers.

Why Use a Turbo Trainer?

Excluding BMXs, Turbos can be used with almost any kind of bike, even mountain bikes can be fitted by replacing the back tire with a slicker one. They allow you to ride in the comfort of your own home and are great for finding solace in cycling during the winter months, however there are a few other reasons you may want to use a turbo trainer:

– They’re an effective method of training; many professional cyclists implement them in their training regime
– It may be too dark when you’d like to ride
– You’re time constrained
– Great for warming up before a race!
– You can avoid busy roads

Tips for Setting Up a Turbo Trainer

Before you go putting the thing together, find somewhere sensible to set up. Ideally you want to be away from other people, as some trainers can get a little noisy. Also, you’ll want to be able to get in the zone. Secondly, the turbo needs to be on a flat surface. This is because you’re about to be doing a lot of moving, and the last thing you need is to topple over mid-session.

For a few more tips concerning the set up of your turbo trainer, see the below video from the beloved cycling channel GCN!

Tips for Using a Turbo Trainer

This follow up video from GCN has all the information you’ll need for training indoors:

Additionally to the tips you received from this video; as is the expectation for an indoor workout, it’s about to get very hot. You’ll want to keep some essentials near you to keep the whole session as stress free as possible:
– Water. A lot of water
– Some snacks, e.g. fruit/ flapjack
– A towel
– Music or TV (as cycling without moving can be a little boring)
– Stopwatch/ timer

Types of Turbo Trainers

As discussed in the introduction, there are a few different types of turbo trainers. This difference is usually denoted by the method through which resistance is created, although there are a few other types that are categorised by their technological prowess. Below you’ll find a list of these types, with a few recommendations for models you could consider.

Magnetic

A magnetic turbo trainer creates turning resistance on the back wheel through the force of a magnetic field. The resistance is usually controlled using a handlebar mounted manual lever. These Turbos are quieter than other variations but are limited in the levels of resistance they can provide.

Minoura B60-R

Minoura Turbo Trainer
Price: £149.99
Resistance: 7 Levels Adjustable through a handlebar mounted remote.
Wheel Sizes: 24”, 26”, 27”, and 700c
Frame: Steel
Weight: 5.5kg
Includes: Instructions Manual and Special Quick Release Skewer, 1 Year Warranty
Power Generated: 425w at 40kph/ 662w at 60kph

This is a great entry-level turbo trainer, at a comparatively low cost. The frame is a lightweight steel, that weighs around 5.5kg, and provides a wide and stable footprint. The resistance is controlled through the handlebar mounted trigger, through which you have access to 7 levels. The Turbo is basic compared to others on the market, but the B60-R is a grand improvement on the old Minoura B60-D.

Find on Amazon!

Fluid/ Liquid

These turbos use a propeller that spins inside a fluid chamber to create resistance. These provide a smoother resistance change than magnetic turbos and are controlled using the gear system on your bike.

Kinetic Smart New Rock and Roll Turbo Trainer 2

Kinetic Turbo Trainer
Price: £329.99
Resistance: Progressive Fluid Resistance
Wheel Sizes: 22” to 29”
Frame: Powdercoated Steel with Aluminium Parts
Weight: 19kg
Interface: Bluetooth Smart
Includes: Kinetic InRide Hardware, Kinetic Skewer, FREE 1-month subscription for Kinetic Fit Power-Training app, Unconditional Lifetime Warranty
Power Generated: Up to 3000+w

So, we’ve been a bit cheeky with listing this under fluid trainers. It does indeed use fluid to create resistance, but this is technically also a smart trainer. These are defined by their use of technology to collect data and stats on your workouts.
The Kinetic Rock and Roll Turbo Trainer 2 takes full advantage of this new tech and can connect via Bluetooth to smart phones, tablets, and laptops to work with apps such as Kinetic Fit, Zwift, and TrainerRoad.

This turbo is also the only free moving fluid trainer in the world, giving you a more realistic indoor training experience through tilts and shifts, and one hell of a core workout. It’s a little heavier than other turbos out there, but the frame is foldable for easy storage and portability. If that’s not enough for you; it also comes fully assembled.

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Air/ Fan/ Wind

Resistance is created through a fan/ blades spinning in the air for these types of turbo trainers. These have a reputation for creating a lot of noise, and so have become least popular amongst cyclists, but the price makes up for it.

CycleOps Wind Trainer

CycleOps Turbo Trainer
Price: £125.99
Resistance: Progressive Wind Resistance
Wheel Sizes: 650b, 700c, 26”, 27”, and 29” (up to 2.0 tyre)
Includes: FREE Race Day DVD (Race/ Training Tips), Life Time Manufacturer’s Warranty, Quick Release Skewer

As with any turbo that creates resistance using a fan, this is a noisy bit of kit. However, the CycleOps Wind Trainer boasts a wide range of resistance levels and a ‘road-like’ feel. The frame is foldable and can be adjusted for uneven surfaces.

It is designed to fit common road and mountain bike frames, but the use of a trainer tyre is recommended. If you aren’t bothered by the noise, the price of this equipment and the experience it gives you really does make this a fantastic beginner’s turbo trainer.

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Virtual Reality

These trainers are some of the most expensive, this is because they link up with your computer for you to be able to race virtual routes with other cyclists from around the globe. The resistance in these models is controlled through your computer, according to the course you choose to ride. They are some of the most advanced and realistic trainers on the market.

Elite Realpower CT Reality Turbo Trainer

Elite Turbo Trainer
Price: £1047.99 – 1499.99
Resistance: Electromagnetic
Frame: Steel
Interface: Bluetooth Smart
Includes: Handlebar Mountable Computer Console, USB Dongle, Gel Block Front Wheel Riser
Power Generated: 500w at 15kph

Yes, this is an expensive turbo trainer. But what do you expect when it comes to virtual integration? The resistance is computer controlled and depends on the virtual course you wish to ride on. 18 courses can be accessed across a few DVDs, which are included with the turbo. Although, it’s not just the technological features that make it. The electromagnetic breaking system uses an advanced magnetic power that varies in viscosity according to the electrical current passed through it. The provides resistance to the blades being rotated as you pedal.

The handlebar mounted computer console allows you to control the software without leaving your saddle and is connected to your device using a USB dongle. Your time, distance, gradient, cadence, wattage, and heart rate are all displayed in real-time on your device, allowing for a much more strategic training session. You are also able to create your own courses, download GPS routes, and even race against yourself. The possibilities with this piece of kit are seemingly endless.

There have been a few grievances concerning the models size (a full effort can cause the turbo to move), and the feet sliding during all out training, but this are incomparable to the whole world of opportunities this turbo provides.

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Smart Trainers

These turbos are defined by their ability to connect wirelessly to smartphones, tablets, and computers using Bluetooth. You can do a quick search of your preferred application store to find free and paid apps that are designed to control the resistance and record data.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr Snap

Wahoo Turbo Trainer
Price: £515.00
Frame: High Strength Steel
Resistance: Electromagnetic
Wheel Sizes: 650c RD, 26” MTB, 700c RD, 650b MTB, 29” MTB
Weight: 20kg
Interface: Bluetooth Smart, ANT+ and ANT+FE-C
Includes: Front Wheel Riser Block, Power Cord, Power Brick, Quick Release Skewer, Quickstart Guide

This is a relatively low-priced turbo, considering the amount of tech involved. Some users have said that the model is noisy, but this doesn’t seem a likely story, as electromagnetic turbos are usually among the quietest. The feet are adjustable for uneven surfaces, and the legs fold away so the trainer can be nicely stored. There may be a slight lag in virtual races, as the power is measured behind the flywheel in this turbo’s case. However, it should still record data to a high standard. Plus, not many other companies include the riser block with the trainer.

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Direct Drive

This type of trainer removes the rear wheel from the equation. The cassette on your bike connects directly onto the turbo and avoids the wear and tear on tyres that other models exacerbate. Your session will also be a lot quieter, as less friction is created in the process.

Tacx Flux Direct Drive Smart Trainer

Tacx Turbo Trainer
Price: £617.95
Resistance: Electromagnetic
Weight: 24kg
Interface: Bluetooth Smart, ANT+ and ANT+FE-C
Includes: Front Wheel Riser Block, Power Cord, Power Brick, Quick Release Skewer, Quickstart Guide
Suitable Cassettes: Various Shimano, SRAM & Campagnolo
Compatible with: Tacx Utility, Zwift, Kinomap, Skuga, Trainer road, FulGaz, The Sufferfest, Cycleops Virtual Training, BKOOL indoor, Golden Cheetah, Maximum Trainer, Perfpro & VeloReality

If what you really need from a turbo trainer is silence, then this is the one for you. Direct Drives are incredibly quiet compared to the alternatives, and this is coupled with an electromagnetic breaking system (which also happen to be very quiet). There is also the added benefit that they don’t slowly destroy all your tyres.

It also happens that this trainer has the capability to connect to your laptops, smart phones, and tablets wirelessly to collect your training data. This data includes speed, cadence, and power readouts. You are also able to use this trainer with several cycling ‘virtual reality’ programs out there, but make sure the graphics card on your computer can handle that sort of thing.

Find on Amazon!

How do you decide which turbo trainer is best for you?

There are a few factors to take into consideration when making a buying decision such as this one:

Budget
Turbo trainers are an expensive piece of kit, and constantly improving features and technology are driving up prices all over the place. So, it’s important to manage your expectations when it comes to choosing a model.

Usage
To help you determine which brand/ model is best for you, try and think of what you actually need from the trainer. If you’re a beginner to intermediate cyclist, you won’t need to choose one with all the bells and whistles. But if you’re looking to optimize your training sessions through the analysis of quantitative data, you may need to fork out a few more bucks for a smart trainer.

Noise
If you live with your family, or your walls and particularly thin, then the noise a trainer produces is definitely a factor to consider. Although, this won’t affect the price of your purchase too much, as it’s easy to find relatively low cost magnetic turbos.

Portability
Believe it or not, not all trainers are made to be portable. Some of the larger, more complicated, options are made to stay where you set them up. If you need to take your trainer everywhere you go (which makes us greatly appreciate your commitment to the sport), then it’s best to do your research beforehand.

Frame Design and Mounting System
It’s very likely that any turbo trainer you set your eyes on will be able to work with your bike. However, it never does any harm to check the product websites for a full spec on what is and isn’t compatible.

That’s probably enough chat about turbo trainers for now, although you should keep your eyes peeled for upcoming articles concerning Virtual Reality Games for trainers, and rollers!!! In the mean time, check out our list of inspirational cycling quotes to get you motivated for the coming year!

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