indoor bike trainers
We’ve been in love with our CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer for at least a couple of years, and it’s been on our list of bestselling stationary bike stands for some time now. But it’s always interesting to see the latest innovations and designs coming to fruition, especially from market leaders like CycleOps.
Take a look at the video below for a peek at the new generation – the CycleOps Hammer trainer! It looks like it could redefine training as we know it, whether you’re a weekend warrior or a podium-seeking pro…and yes, we’re hoping to test this direct drive beast out real soon!
It’s currently priced at around $1200 – but watch out for some specials over Black Friday and in the Christmas runup…
OK, we’re all after a good deal, and especially on Black Friday (and Cyber Monday), when the world seems to go just that little bit crazier for a few hours!
But hey, if the craziness means we can save some serious dollars, then so be it…anyway, we’ve come up with some deals you should definitely take advantage of if you’re shopping online for a bike trainer stand or accessories on Black Friday!
The deals below are subject to change, as we have no control over the final prices charged, but we have done our best to find you the BIGGEST reductions out there in Black Friday week…and if you can’t wait to get your eyes on some of the best online Black Friday deals out there, just click the image immediately below!
This bike trainer from the Kurt Kinetic product line is currently on sale with a bit of a nice discount, pulling it well under the $300 level! This one is one of the best in the business and at this price is pretty hard to beat. Not sure we can find a better deal than this online…and take a look at the average rating on Amazon – 4.8!
Current rating on Amazon: 4.8
69% OFF!!! The RAD Portable Indoor Trainer
Another bike trainer from the RAD product line, this one has been around for awhile, and has proved to be one of those value trainers that many have splashed the cash on. It made our comparison table, if you want to see how it lines up against other trainers. Also priced at under $80, it looks like it this one has a slightly better online standing than other RAD trainers out there…read more here.
Current rating on Amazon: 4.0
Your savings: Almost $160!
40% OFF!!! The Ascent Fluid Indoor Trainer
This is a very decent fluid trainer, one we reviewed a while back but which has been one of those trainers that people have been snapping up on the quiet. Ranked very highly on Amazon (4.8 on average!), this one doesn’t disappoint, especially now it’s well under $150! If fluid is your game, the Ascent could very well be your game this winter season!
Current rating on Amazon: 4.8
Your savings: $60!
Save over $100!!! The Conquer Indoor Bike Trainer
The Conquer Indoor Trainer is one of those trainers that has found its own little niche in the “best value trainer” corner. Rated highly on Amazon, and with plenty of happy customers, this trainer also made our list of (go read!) best value trainers under $80. Not sure you’re saving a heck of a lot this Black Friday, but it’s still one of the best value options out there.
Current rating on Amazon: 4.3
56% OFF!!! The CycleTEK Momentum Fluid Trainer
This one is a fairly new model and one that we’ve yet to get our hands on. But it does look like the classiest option on this list of Black Friday bargains (OK, the Kurt Kinetic above probably just beats it). For starters, you’ve got a big flywheel and a fluid chamber, ensuring a quiet ride, and which definitely makes it the quietest trainer on this list. It might well give the Kurt Kinetic and other top fluid trainers a run for their money, so well worth watching in the near future. Read more here.
Current rating on Amazon: 4.3
Your savings: $280!
Ever since I first tested the CycleOps Silencer Direct Drive indoor trainer, my other stationary bike stands been gathering dust, lying in the cupboard, unloved and unused. This trainer has been touted as the very best all-round performer in the CycleOps pantheon – an impressive achievement, considering the array of top-end products this esteemed company has put out in the past few years (we’ve been big fans of the Fluid 2 for a looong time).
And yes, I would have to agree with that contention – smooth, sleek and silent, the CycleOps Silencer is as close to the complete package as an indoor trainer can possibly get.>>>Check out the latest reviews and discounts for the CycleOps Silencer
So, what’s so special about the CycleOps Silencer?
First up, that sleek, sexy design…
Although style might be less important with an indoor trainer than it is with your bicycle (after all, most people will never lay eyes on your indoor trainer), it’s worth noting just how good the Cycleops Silencer looks. Clad in sleek, matte black alloy, and boasting clean lines in a very modern-looking chassis, this must be one of the classiest cycle trainers on the market.
The Silencer Direct Drive’s good looks, however, do not come at the expense of ruggedness or build quality. Weighing in at 12 pounds, with three reinforced rubber feet arranged in a wide stance, this cycle trainer is built for a stable ride.
The most striking thing about this Cycleops design, however, is probably the wheel-off design, which is still a relatively novel innovation in the indoor trainer market. Essentially, the bike’s cassette can be directly attached to the flywheel once the rear wheel is removed. This generates massive cost savings since training tires don’t come cheap and most indoor trainers are extremely tough on tires (especially MTB tires).
It also does wonders for the cycling experience (but more on that in a bit). Notably, it’s possible to purchase the CycleOps The Silencer Direct Drive with a 10-speed Shimano/SRAM compatible cassette (this review relates to that model – you can read about the cassette-less version here), which is definitely the cheaper and more convenient option (especially since most other wheels-off trainers don’t come with cassettes) and the one I fell for.
The only caveat is that if you intend to use a Campag cassette, you should opt for the package without the CycleOps cassette for reasons of cost and practicality, since the default cassette will not fit Campag gear anyway. It’s also worth noting that your bike frame must have a rear fork of width between 130 mm to 135 mm to fit in this indoor trainer, which is hardly a problem for most racing bikes.
The riding experience…
The combination of the wheels-off design and the weighted flywheel makes for an extremely enjoyable ride that accurately simulates road cycling.
I’ve always found wheels-on trainers to be a little jerky (particularly with oddly-shaped tires), which takes away from the illusion of coasting on tarmac. With the CycleOps Silencer, resistance changes were incredibly smooth thanks to the high-end 5-position magnetic driver design, and were easy to employ via the handlebar-mounted resistance lever.
This latter feature deserves mention since it mitigates the complaint that cassette-mounted trainers lack resistance due to the lack of tire rub. At the highest magnetic resistance level, it was a real challenge to pedal at 50 rpm for more than half a minute, which in my books is more than enough resistance for a satisfying workout. I still missed cycling outdoors, of course, but the road cycling simulation was realistic enough to give me confidence that the Silencer will preserve my road cycling skills in the off-season, so I can come back raring and ready to go next year.
The other major selling point of this CycleOps trainer is the “silencer” feature, which eliminates wind noise by using a magnetic driver design. I wouldn’t say the CycleOps Silencer Direct Drive is completely noiseless, but it’s definitely quiet enough that you’ll have to strain to hear it. Even with thin walls and light sleepers in the house, I was able to get in my early-morning workouts within a single complaint from my family or neighbors.
Some impressive tech specs…
- The noise level at 20 mph is a very quiet 59-64 decibels
- Dimensions L*W*H: 24″x18.5″x19.5″ (612x465x493 mm)
- Has a wide, stable base for boosted stability
- Weighs 39 lbs (17.6 kg)
- Direct drive design features a fixed rear wheel mode
- Fits frames with rear fork widths of 130mm and 135mm
- Fits road bikes and mountain bikes with wheel diameters of 700c and 29 inches
- Adjustable magnetic resistance, via an easy to use 5-level handlebar adjuster allows for true road-like feel
- 220 lb (100kg) maximum load — excluding bicycle.
- SHIMANO and SRAM 8/9/10/11 speed compatible.
Things to consider…
In my opinion, the only downside to the Silencer is the lack of portability. The machine doesn’t fold down and it’s pretty heavy, so lugging it anywhere, even between rooms, is a bit of a chore. However, indoor trainers don’t generally offer much in the way of portability because there’s simply no demand for it – after all, there’s no point carrying a heavy cycle trainer outdoors if you can simply cycle outdoors – and so this comment probably comes as no surprise.
If you’re not too skilled with a wrench, setting up the Silencer can also be a little challenging. This is partly due to its weight, which makes it difficult to thread the bolts in, and partly due to the issues I had attaching the resistance knobs to my base bar (though they fit just fine on my mountain handlebars). But still, 10 minutes and most of you will have this up and ready to go…
In summary: why you NEED the CycleOps Silencer Direct Drive trainer
As you’ll probably have noticed, neither of the drawbacks mentioned above relate to the key indicators of a good indoor trainer – speed, silence and durability. In all the departments that matter most, the CycleOps The Silencer Direct Drive trainer is a top performer, earning it my unequivocal recommendation.
It’s truly perfect for the cyclist with a small apartment – and who really wants to pump out some high intensity cycling work! It’s just so quiet compared to anything else that I’ve worked hard on, and seriously, is one of the very best indoor training solutions you can get!
If you need a quick look at the Silencer user manual, just to get an idea of how easy it is to get up and running, click here.
Another direct drive trainer to consider in the similar price range: the awesome Lemond Revolution 1.1.
Getting ready for an indoor training session is always about the preparation (heck, even getting yourself motivated!). There are always things you need to do before starting – but what about the things you shouldn’t do? The things that might just screw up your training session completely…?
Well, here are FIVE things we feel you should NEVER do before a training session if you really want to get something out of it…
Eat high-fiber and fatty foods
It might seem like a good idea, but high-fiber or fatty foods before a training session aren’t going to do you any good. They are less easily broken down by your digestive system, so will likely be sitting in your stomach when you start training. Something that will probably make you feel a little sick after a few minutes. A better alternative is to go for carbs or proteins, which will help your muscles gain a bit more energy.
Making sure your bike is in peak condition, whether you’re taking it outdoors or indoors, is always a must. Of course, the potential for disaster on an indoor route is much less obvious, but the need for a pre-ride checkup is still paramount. Nothing can be more annoying than starting out on a session and finding your gear changes are all over the place because somebody (ahem…) didn’t apply some oil…
Drink a LOT of water
If you haven’t had a drink of water prior to starting your session, it’s often tempting to glug down a glass or two, especially if your heating is on full blast (or the summer heat has already got you sweating). Just don’t do it. Your stomach and liver can only process so much water at once, so they will struggle to get rid of that excess water, resulting in untimely bathroom breaks. While riding, we’d recommend something like a few sips every 15 minutes or so.
DO NOT have a beer prior to starting your session. OK, we did mention that carbs are a preferred choice of pre-ride nutrients, but the complete lack of nutrients in a beer will leave your liver working overtime, struggling to convert glucose into glycogen, which is the energy source your muscles need. And if you’re like us, we like a nice cold beer after a particularly hard session, just go easy on the cold ones and have something to eat before you drink.
Perform too many warm-up stretches
If you thought that stretching and limbering up before a session was a good thing, think again. Stretching might not a terrible thing, and we’d recommend 3 or 4 quick stretches to get the blood flowing to those less-used joints, but do not overdo it. Instead, start your ride with a 10 minute warm-up session. You don’t have to push too hard, just get those legs moving and the blood pumping and you’ll be good to go.
If you’re the owner of a spanking new 29er bike and feeling a little frustrated at the apparent lack of 29er bike trainer options for your bike, fret not! We’ve been asked this question a few times recently, so came up with this little guide so you too can enjoy your indoor riding!
There are actually a number of options for those of you with 29er wheels looking for a decent bike trainer:
- You purchase a bike trainer that supports 29er wheel sizes (there are a number of options available, see below)
- OR you go for the option of fitting a training slick to your rear wheel, instead of that knobbly MTB tread (more on that a little bit later, see below)
- OR you replace your 29er wheel with something like a 26er, just for indoor training sessions
- OR you go with a roller trainer or direct drive trainer
Trainers that support 29er wheels
First up, we’ll point you in the direction of the FOUR stationary trainers that we know of that fully support 29er wheels.
Kurt Kinetic Road Machine: one of the very best trainers around, this fluid trainer has all you need, whether you’re a pro or a beginner. It’s not cheap, but it’s seriously one of the best your money can buy, and one of the Best 5 Trainers we highly recommend. Full review here.
Minoura RDA 2429R Rim Drive Trainer: an awesome trainer branded as the world’s only road and MTB trainer (we beg to differ, but it’s still a great trainer). The trainer actually works on the rim of the wheel, NOT the tire, meaning you can save some serious $$$ if you’re an intensive cyclist. Full review here.
CycleOps Powerbeam Pro: we rank this as one of the very best 3 trainers out there, find out why here.
Bell Motivator Mag Indoor Bicycle Trainer: an old classic that typically comes in at under $100 and does the job very nicely thank you, complete with a mighty 5 year warranty. Full review here.
Fitting a training slick to your 29er
As road bikes are also 29 inch in size (but 700cc), change your MTB tires to a road slick or trainer specific tire, and then you should be able to fit most trainers. AND you’ll save your normal tires from wear and tear and be a lot less noisy (those knobbly MTB tires make a ton of noise!). Once you have that trainer/road slick on, your big 29er tires will be like any other 700cc road tire, the fact it’s a 29er won’t make a difference.
Replace your 29er wheel with a 26er
This is another option for those of you with 29ers and struggling to get it to fit your trainer. Simply switch it over to a 26er for indoor training purposes only (obviously not for outdoor use!). Don’t forget that with an indoor trainer you don’t need any brakes, so there’s no need to bother with disc specific wheels, etc.
Buy a roller trainer or direct drive trainer
Rollers can make things very interesting, and some serious cyclists swear by them. But they do take some getting used to, and need a certain level of skill and concentration (otherwise you’ll end up like this).
They’re also quiet(er) and you don’t have to worry about burning through your tires or being locked into a trainer. We highly recommend these rollers to get started with.
Direct drive trainers are fairly new to the scene of indoor trainers, but offer a great alternative. They enable you to remove your entire back wheel and slot your chain right onto the trainer. As most bikes now come with a quick release, this is typically a job that takes a matter of seconds. Some excellent direct drive options to consider here are the CycleOps Silencer and the Lemond Revolution 1.1.
The Lemond Revolution 1.1 is seriously all about the cycling experience. One of the pioneers of the “wheel-off” direct drive design, this celebrated indoor cycle trainer delivers the most realistic road cycling simulation in its price category (we’re talking a reasonable $600-ish – and yes, it out-rivals the road-like experience of the Kinetic RocknRoller).
If you’re willing to overlook the noise (and this is easier now that the noise output levels have been dampened compared to the very first Revolution, the 1.0), the affordable price tag and brilliant design make this a very solid purchase for serious cyclists looking to maintain fitness in the off-season.
What’s to like about the Lemond Revolution 1.1?
The Lemond Revolution is practically ready to use right out of the box since there’s very little assembly required.
You will, however, need to purchase a cassette if you haven’t already, and if you are thinking of using a Campag cassette I would definitely recommend purchasing a crossover version as Lemond has built the Revolution primarily for cycles using Shimano gears. This is part and parcel of the direct drive trainer experience – but no worries, the benefits of this design far outweigh such a minor inconvenience.
Traditional indoor trainers can be far more expensive than you originally start out thinking, mainly because they wear out your rear tires so quickly. I’ve used some truly hard-wearing tires for indoor training in my time, and even the most robust of these eventually succumbed to frays and tears after sustained indoor use. The Lemond Revolution 1.1 avoids these problems. To use it, I simply had to remove my rear wheel and mount the bike directly to the Lemond via my Shimano cassette.
But durability and cutting tire costs isn’t the only advantage of this design – resistance changes are also incredibly smooth, since taking the rear wheel out of the equation significantly improves the efficiency of energy transfer between the drivetrain and the trainer.
As I mentioned above, the primary draw of the Lemond Revolution has to be its road-like ride.
The design has barely changed since the product’s first inception, yet it remains capable of beating all-comers in its price range. The combination of a big flywheel and a highly efficient fan makes for a slick ride, particularly at cruising speeds, and the simulation of wind drag is extremely realistic, ensuring you won’t be off your game when the new cycling season begins.
In terms of real-world results, no indoor trainer (not even the top-end fluid trainers like the Cascade Pro or Fluid 2 from CycleOps) will deliver as effectively and quickly as a turbo-driven product. And with up to 700-watt load capacity, interval training sessions will be punishing enough to satisfy even the most masochistic of cyclists – I’ve certainly been driven to breaking point more than once on this machine.
The video below will give you a bit more of a taste of what the ride is really like…
The Lemond Revolution is also rightly famed for its solid construction, weighing in at just under 15 kg. This makes it a little too hefty to heave around the house, but that’s more than compensated for by the extreme stability of this product.
Even when you’re pedaling out of the saddle and sprinting like your life depends on it, you’ll find the bike stays level, firmly anchored and stable, addressing any safety concerns you might have. I felt confident enough about the Revolution to let my eight-year old have a go, and this is a kid who’s managed to send a massive oak wardrobe tumbling to the ground. Besides the heavy-duty frame, credit must also go to the adjustable feet (which can be handy on carpets or other flooring materials prone to creating uneven surfaces) coated with anti-skid material.
To get the most from your Revolution 1.1, I would definitely recommend installing a Power Pilot. Although it’s an expensive investment, it’s worthwhile for the superb data-tracking capabilities. By examining my cadence and speed statistics, I was able to correct my sprint technique in the off-season and come bursting right off the start line in my first spring outdoor session. Lack of ANT+ support is a bit of a bummer, but Lemond has promised that this will come in time (and appears to be just about here, in the form of the Watt Box), and the USB compatibility ensures that all that data can still be put to good use.
What we didn’t like…
As with any other turbo trainer, noise levels are significantly higher than with a fluid trainer. However, Lemond has taken note of noise complaints, and the 1.1 definitely improves on its predecessor in this regard. It’s only a problem at very high speeds, and with earphones in I could barely hear the flywheel whirring away. At cruising speeds, the noise wasn’t much of a bother.
Why you’re going to have to purchase the Lemond Revolution 1.1
In summary the Lemond Revolution delivers where it really matters – the riding experience. I used to hate the off-season because I missed cycling outdoors. Of course, no cycle trainer will be able to recreate the crisp smell of fresh air or the sensation of warm sunshine, but in terms of replicating the feeling of cycling on tarmac, the Lemond Revolution is hard to beat.
If you’re after a direct drive trainer, this is definitely one of the top 3 you’ll have to consider – it certainly gives the likes of the awesome CycleOps Silencer a run for its money!
We’re big fans of the higher end indoor trainers, such as the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine or the CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro, but if you really want to improve your training and take it to the next level, you’ll want to get your hands on one of the three bike trainers listed below.
None of them are going to come cheap, but if your budget is big, then you can be rest assured that the technology and features that come bundled with each of the trainers (we’re talking venturing into the world of virtual training!) are also going to be BIG (and worth every dime).
Let’s have a quick review of the three very best bike trainers your dollars can buy…
Your addiction to indoor virtual training starts here: the CycleOps PowerBeam Pro (ANT+)
The CycleOps PowerBeam Pro will keep you in great shape over the winter months, of that there’s no question!
You’ll be up and running in no time with this baby, as it comes pre-assembled – all you need to do is unfold the legs of the unit, adjust the leg adjuster (only if your floor is a little on the wonky side), and attach the one-sided skewer clamp dial adjustment, with the included steel quick release skewer slotted through your bike’s rear axle.
The big bonus with this trainer is that it uses ANT+, meaning it displays performance data on ANT+ cycling computers for real-time analysis as you ride. Perfect for learning just where you can tweak and enhance your cycling performance. Note that there is a Bluetooth Smart version of this trainer, but we’ve heard that compatibility with 3rd party devices is a little problematic, so, for now at least, would recommend going with this ANT+ version.
An integrated PowerTap power meter gives you some awesome metrics, including power in watts, power zones, peak power, caloric expenditure in kilojoules, cadence, heart rate, and much more. In addition, the Mini ANT+ USB stick (included with the trainer) lets you control the resistance from your computer (this means you can also use CycleOps’ Virtual Training app for auto-syncing sessions with virtual training routes)! We’re heading down the road of virtual training ourselves this winter, so this excites us a lot!
And if you were worried about this baby making too much noise – because let’s face it, some trainers do have an annoying hum – CycleOps states that this trainer maintains a reasonable 69-70 decibels when you’re riding at 20mph, meaning your partner or neighbors won’t be driven insane by an intrusive hummmmm.
You should be able to attach most road and mountain bike frames, and it supports 650b, 700c, 26 inch, 27 inch, and even 29 inch wheel sizes, with tires up to 2.25 inches wide. Just be aware that it doesn’t support the 120mm rear dropouts found on track bikes.
The CycleOps PowerBeam Pro will set you back around $1000 (although we’ve seen this on Amazon for as little as $700!), but is up there with the very best of them (it obviously makes our 2017 bestseller list), and can be seen as a true investment in your winter training (if you need to convince the wife or partner…). And to top it off, don’t forget that lifetime warranty from CycleOps!
Here’s a quick taster from YouTube…
The virtually awesome BKool Pro Turbo Trainer!
We took a good look at the BKool Pro trainer a while ago, and were just as impressed then as we are today!
The fun you’re likely to have with this trainer and its awesome FREE simulator make this an excellent option to consider. The ability to connect up with your tablet or laptop and enjoy a whole ton of videos and sessions, solo or with your friends, is pretty darned hard to beat (there are over 50,000 riders worldwide on the BKool system)! Best of all, the simulator is free to download from the Bkool website and is suitable for both Windows and Mac computers, as well as iPad and Android tablets.
This Pro trainer from BKool is actually an improvement on their Classic model, which means you get a quieter more stable trainer, but also a in-built cadence system that eliminates the need for an external device. And the electromagnetic braking system is a definite winner in our eyes, as it ensures the Bkool software controls your resistance, which can be especially useful when climbing hills.
Setting up is a doddle; you replace the rear skewer in your wheel (as per any decent trainer these days), and then pop it on the trainer (which also comes with a front wheel support). You’ll then need to register on the Bkool website, download the simulator, plug in the trainer and connect with your supplied ANT and USB.
The Bkool software and trainer wirelessly communicate with each other via your included USB; this ensures your ride data (your cadence and power) is tracked and used to gauge just how much the resistance levels need to be adjusted according to the route you selected. Clever stuff!
It’s also a powerful beast, with the ability to power up 1200W of energy on a progressive curve. That power, and the awesome resistance control, makes it feel like you really are out on the road. There are also over 500 video routes in the BKool system, with more apparently added daily – by the way, the recently added free video editor software lets users create their own route!
You’re not going to get much change from $700, but for value, this has to be one of the best options out there, especially if you’re looking to get your hands on a virtual training system. There is a basic subscription plan available once you sign up (for free), or you can pay for a Premium plan, which gives you some impressive options.
Here’s a quick taster from YouTube…
The Elite Real Axiom Trainer
The Elite Real Axiom trainer has been around for a few years now, but has been gaining a seriously good reputation with some seriously good upgrades over the years!
Another trainer that specializes in smart communications with your computer, the Elite Real Axiom enables you to get a glimpse into some serious real-world conditions on a variety of courses, mainly thanks to its computer controlled resistance (which adjusts per course and rider input). Race against a real human cyclist on your LAN, or alternatively try racing against a virtual competitor if you can’t find anybody online.
You can choose from 14 preset courses while there’s also a 4-week training program – you can also create your own custom courses! You also get to view personal ride stats, including speed, distance, ride time, cadence, heart rate and power output, and you can store them for your own training history, making those indoor sessions a lot more fun, which is what we think it should really be about.
The trainer comes with 2 DVDs; one of the Limoges climb from the 2004 Tour de France and the 2004 Verona World Championship course, both of which are synched with the resistance you create on the trainer to make it feel as if you’re really cycling the route. In addition, it comes with the My RealVideo app, which lets you record your own routes, and upload them to share and compete with other riders!
One thing we have to note about the Elite Real Axiom is that it is Italian made, and although support is good, there might be the odd language barrier problem to face, if you ever have any issues with your trainer. What is also a little disappointing is the lack of online guides and forums.
However, if you can get past that, this trainer is probably the best value of all the virtual trainers we’ve come across – typically selling at around $650 – and should probably be your preferred choice for kick-starting your virtual cycling career!
Here’s a quick taster of what to expect from the Elite Real Axiom trainer on YouTube…
If you’re looking to enhance your winter training, any one of the three trainers above will take your training to the next level.
If it’s a question of price, I would have to go with the Elite Real Axiom, but if money isn’t an issue and you’re looking for something top-notch, go for the CycleOps PowerBeam Pro.
Oh boy, are you going to start enjoying those training sessions!