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 2018 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!