For those of you looking to purchase a stationary bike stand (or indoor bike trainer), we know it can be confusing as to which type of stand you need to splash out on. We touched on it previously in this great introductory video (and here are three factors you have to consider when buying a trainer), but after receiving a number of emails, decided to give a quick guide to the various types available.
If you’re looking for the most authentic ride, one that imitates a real bike ride, then try a Fluid stand trainer. These types of stand generate resistance (resistance is what you’ll need if you really want to feel you’re working out) through a magnetic flywheel which combines with a fluid chamber inside the flywheel. As you pedal harder, the fluid in the chamber gets hotter, which means that the trainer’s resistance becomes more challenging as you continue.
Certainly more pricey (and technologically advanced) than most other types, these are perfect for the serious cyclist with a budget. They ooze quality and in our opinion are worth the extra you pay. The downside may be the cost factor, at least for some. Stories of leakage also abound, particularly with older models, but today’s current crop of fluid trainers should mostly be leak-proof.
One of our favorite fluid bike stands we can highly recommend is the Cycleops 2 Fluid Trainer, which we reviewed here. And, of course, there’s always the magnificent Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, perhaps the very best option out there.
Next up, there are Magnetic bike stand trainers, which generate resistance with a magnetic flywheel, the adjustable magnetic resistance creating drag against the bike wheel. The pros and cons: well, on the plus side, magnetic trainers are fairly inexpensive, can give good resistance, and are generally easy to setup and move around. On the downside, there are limits to the resistance levels and sustained heavy use can cause some problems. You might also find that they create a little more noise than fluid trainers, a point those of you living in apartments may want to consider.
A good example of a magnetic stationary stand is the Magnet Steel Indoor Stand, which we included in our review of the best stationary bike stands for under $80.
Certainly a more expensive option, these types of trainers give a very realistic ride, as you can rock your bike sideways to simulate a real road ride. These almost feel like Rollers (see below), with a natural swaying adding authenticity to your ride, including when you climb hills.
The only real Pivot trainer you should consider at this time (and it is still early days in this corner of the stationary bike stand world) is the Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer. It’s not cheap, coming in at nearly twice the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, but is perhaps the ultimate indoor ride! Check out Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer review, it’s well worth a read if you’re looking for the ultimate ride indoors.
Another type of stationary bike trainer you’ll come across is the Roller. However, instead of attaching your bike to the trainer, as in the above models, you ride your bike on the rollers themselves. Not easy at first, you may well need some practicing in balancing! Definitely an option, and not overly expensive for good models.
The option you see on the right is from Nashbar and is highly regarded as a good value option, coming in at around $130. Check out our Top 5 bike rollers post for a guide to the very best rollers out there.
One of the “new kids on the block”, direct drive trainers are a great option for serious cyclists looking to save some costs on replacing tires (those of you that spend a lot of time on your trainer will know that tires get eaten up). These trainers enable you to remove your entire back wheel and slot your chain right onto the trainer. It might mean a bit of extra work, but most bikes now come with a quick release, so is really only a matter of seconds. Some excellent options to consider here are the CycleOps Silencer and the Lemond Revolution 1.1.
Smart/Virtual Reality Trainer
If money is no object and you’re a serious cycling junkie, how about a virtual trainer or smart trainer, which practically turns you into a living PlayStation/XBox! They may make a serious dent in your wallet, but there’s no beating them. For an example of what we’re talking about, check out this video of the Tacx iGenius Virtual Trainer, it might just blow you away! You can find this amazing trainer on Amazon, but be prepared to part with upwards of $1000. Alternatively, we’ve recently come across the Bkool Pro Trainer, which is MUCH cheaper and to be honest, all you’ll need in a trainer – don’t miss our review! And if you’re wondering if you really need a smart indoor trainer, this is a must-read.
To be honest, these are noisy (resistance is applied to the rear wheel using a pedal driven fan) and not worth the trouble! You won’t be able to hear the TV with these when working out, and frankly, if you’re offered one, steer clear!
Some Recommended Manufacturers
There are a number of established manufacturers in the stationary bike trainer world, including Kinetic, Blackburn, Bell, Cycleops, Jet Black, Giant, Overdrive, Schwinn, Outback, Elite, Tacx, Minoura, and Forza.
If you purchase from any of these, you’re moreorless guaranteed quality and good service, at least from our experience and those we know. If you ever experience anything other than good service, let us know!