cycle turbo trainer

Why use a turbo trainer and which indoor trainer to buy?

What is a turbo trainer?

Basically this is a device that allows you to attach your bike and ride indoors simulating riding on the road. The benefit of this is that it’s like riding on a very slight incline so there is no rest period hence why using a turbo is a great time-saving tool as an hour on the turbo can be worth at least 1.5hours on the road if done correctly.

A turbo trainer is a great tool for your training plans all year round not just in the winter. You cannot beat riding outside during a summers day however you will normally get a more intense workout using a turbo as long as you stick to a structured training session. If you are unsure then Zwift is a great start.

See my guide for some simple turbo sessions

The turbo trainer should be every cyclist’s friend and not seen as a chore. Its also a great option if raining or icy outside, why go out and get cold/wet where you are not going to be able to push yourself when you can get a better workout in a short time in the dry! It’s a no brainer.

Which turbo to buy?

With an entry trainer for as little as £100 then there is no excuse not to get started but as with most things, you get what you pay for and it may be worth looking around. As ever, there are plenty of offers and options available when buying a turbo trainer.

The noise of the turbo is a factor to bear in mind, some of the cheaper older turbo trainers can be very noisy,  the wind resistance units generally make the greatest racket. That noise is exaggerated if you use a heavily-treaded tyre, or if the turbo trainer is placed on a wooden floor.

You can take steps to keep the noise down. Special mats are available which help dampen vibrations before they reach the floor, and turbo-specific tyres are completely slick and are made from a special compound which is quieter and more durable.

A great option is to have a spare wheel to swap onto the bike with a turbo specific tyre on as this will save you changing the tyres over each time.

Entry-level

A big choice for those looking at the entry models is whether you want adjustable resistance which basically means there is a cord which links to a unit placed on the handlebars which are a good addition, not only can you use your gears you’ve got the added benefit of increasing this further rather than having to pre-set your chosen resistance before you start.

The type of resistance affects the feel of the ride, and the higher the specification the more natural it feels when pedalling.

Mid Range

The next price range up is smart turbos (around £300+) which measure your power and can be controlled wirelessly via an app, they will even automatically adjust the resistance while you are riding a famous climb/cycle event making them fully interactive! You can use the manufactures software or third-party options such as TrainerRoad and Zwift. These turbos are a great training aid to make sure you get the most out of your session and training in the correct zones.

My recommendation here is the Kickr Snap. This is still a great turbo for a wheel in option. Again less accurate/power and will ideally you will need a spare wheel with a trainer tire on it. The cost of this is £429

Best value for money

The Kickr Core is a direct drive trainer so you don’t have a rear wheel on your bike. This is the cheaper version of the Kickr but still does everything. It is just slightly less accurate and max power wattage is less but still does 1800w which is more than I can push! This will cost you around £699.99.

Top of the range 

The top of the range models (£1000+) offer the best in power and intelligence and are the quietest indoor trainers on the market. These work on a direct drive rather than magnetic so there are no physical transmissions thus meaning the road feel is simulated in a realistic manner.

My choice here would be the Kickr. This is the daddy of direct drive trainers, all singing all dancing and will set you back around £1k 

Money no object 

The Wattbike Atom is a great all in one option as is a static bike that is a built-in direct drive turbo trainer. This is not a cheap option and will set you back around £1899 but for me, it is worth the money. They are super accurate and in my opinion very stylish so will look better indoors than having your bike set up. Plus it takes up less space! 

To summarise

I personally think it’s worth trying to step up to a smart trainer that measures your power as this will be the most useful tool to help improve your cycling goals and is the cheapest option to start your journey into power.   You can also have on the bike methods to measure power and with these could then be used with any turbo.  I would recommend reading some reviews and try where possible to have a go on one as this is always the best test!

James Walsgrove

My cycling career started in 2005 when I purchased my first road bike and I was immediately hooked. Since then I have completed numerous cycling challenges including Ironman, Lands’ End to John O Groats, Mt Ventoux (all 3 ascents), London to Paris, the BBAR challenge which included a 12hour TimeTrial and more recently the Mallorca 312.

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