Whether you’re staying inside because of the coronavirus pandemic or just avoiding the weather, a trainer is an invaluable tool for your cycling fitness. We’ve rounded up the best bike trainers around to show you what your options are. Take a look below, and be sure to share your favorites in the comments!
Here’s our favorite bike trainers for home:
Best Bike Trainers
Buying a magnetic trainer used to be a compromise—they were always a step down from fluid trainers. But the Tacx Booster is one of the mag trainers that’s closing the gap. One of the biggest ways it’s doing that is by providing over 1,000 watts of resistance.
The included remote lets you change the resistance on the flywheel to 10 different levels, and the highest level puts out 1,050 watts of resistance. Combined with a 4.5-pound flywheel, that’s a lot of power you’ll need to keep it moving, even at low speeds (which is great for simulating climbing).
The Booster also comes with a front wheel block to keep you level, and you can use it with the Tacx speed and cadence sensors for virtual power-based training. If you have those sensors, you can also use it with Zwift and other virtual training systems. Fluid will always be a nicer means of resistance, but this is a no-compromise mag trainer for serious riders.
If you think riding on a trainer is boring, but you have to find a way to train inside, rollers might be your best bet. They’ll keep your mind engaged as you balance throughout your entire ride. Don’t worry, once you get used to it, it’s pretty easy—but if your concentration or stability lapses, you’ll get wobbly fast.
The Tacx Antares is one of the best rollers out there because it includes a lot of little features that make a big difference. For example, the rollers are tapered so it’s a bit easier to keep your wheels in the middle. It compacts down for easier storage. The bearings are quiet.
The small cord you see in the image above keeps your front wheel spinning at the same speed as your rear wheel, which improves stability. It’s really difficult for the first few days. But after that, you’ll be building a huge amount of strength and endurance with a much more road-like feel than a regular trainer.
In an effort to combine the real-world feel of rollers with the power and resistance of a trainer, Kurt built the Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Control. The pivoting base means you can rock back and forth like you would on the road—but you can’t fall off of it like you can a set of rollers.
It’s more realistic without being any more dangerous. The Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer is one of the strongest trainers out there, too—at 30 mph, you’ll be facing a whopping 1,800 watts of resistance. That’s a huge amount of power.
And it’s a smart trainer. You can control the resistance via the Kurt app or sync it with Zwift, TrainerRoad, or other virtual training apps to automatically simulate resistance and slope. The electromagnetic resistance requires being plugged into the wall, but for this price and all the features you get, that’s a small price (and you’ll have to pay it with almost any other smart trainer anyway).
The Wahoo KICKR SNAP still has its place on our “previous best picks for 2019 bike trainers” list, and it’s a fantastic trainer. But if you don’t want to pay as much for your trainer as you might a new bike, the SNAP is a better alternative.
It still gives you power readings and lets you adjust the electromagnetic resistance from your phone. But instead of locking your frame onto the trainer, you use it like any trainer you’re used to: just snap your axle in and go. A 10-pound flywheel makes for a realistic and challenging ride.
As with most power trainers, you can use this for services like Zwift and TrainerRoad. At $500, this is still a significant investment. But if you want to train with power indoors, there may be no option that provides as much value.
Want a trainer for the absolute lowest price? BalanceFrom’s magnetic trainer is solidly less than a hundred bucks. Even finding a used trainer on Craigslist will probably cost you more. Of course, you get what you pay for—but if you haven’t bought a trainer in a few years, you might be surprised what you can get for $70.
This is a mag trainer with eight levels of resistance, controlled by a bar-mounted remote. It has no special features, but you’ll be able to pop your road bike on here and go. It’s possible to use a mountain bike, but only if you have wheels smaller than 29″. You may also find that it’s significantly louder with knobbies.
All in all, though, if you’re looking for the cheapest bike trainer you can find to get through the winter (or our current coronavirus lockdown), you could do worse than this one.
Saris has been making top-of-the-line trainers for a long time (under the CycleOps name for a while), and they’ve distilled a lot of that knowledge into their latest mag trainer. Five levels of magnetic resistance let you tailor your ride, though you don’t get a remote on the Saris Mag Trainer like you do with some other mag trainers.
Without power or other special features, you’re just getting a basic trainer. But Saris’s trainers are made in Wisconsin and held to the highest quality.
You can also get the Saris speed sensor if you want to use the mag trainer with apps like Zwift or Rouvy (you get a free one-month subscription to Rouvy when you buy the trainer, too).
For another $60, you can upgrade from Saris’s mag trainer to their fluid model. The Saris Fluide Trainer provides a more road-like feel, quieter operation, and smoother rolling. The progressive resistance of a fluid trainer means it gets harder the faster you ride—so you’re really only limited by your fitness.
Like the mag trainer, you’re not getting anything fancy here. Just a high-quality, American-made trainer. With a speed sensor, you can set it up to work with virtual training apps. This trainer will last forever, and you’ll never outride it.
What more do you need to know?
Like Saris’s fluid trainer, the Blackburn doesn’t come with bells and whistles. Just a solid base and a fluid chamber that provides up to 1,000 watts of resistance at 40 mph. If that’s not enough for you, you should probably be spending the winter at a pro training camp.
One of the great things about higher-end trainers like this one is that there’s no assembly required. Just get the box shipped to you, open it up, unfold the trainer, and you’re ready to ride.
Blackburn also specifically calls out that this trainer will work with wheels up to 29″ in diameter and tires up to 2.3″ wide. So you can throw a slick on your mountain bike and ride all winter with a Blackburn Fluid Bike Trainer.
The GO is a smart trainer that works with cycling apps to automatically adjust resistance based on the terrain that you’re riding (or even if you’re drafting, which is pretty cool). It may not include lots of other features that you’ll find on other smart trainers, but you absolutely can’t beat this price if you want to use Zwift.
The BKOOL Smart Trainer provides up to 800 watts of resistance and simulates grade of up to 8% (though BKOOL’s marketing photos show a rider with no front block, which means they’d always be riding downhill—a marketing oversight?).
If you’re not sure about virtual training, this is a great way to try it out. The trainer comes with a free three-month subscription to BKOOL’s simulator software so you can try virtual road rides, track races, and spin classes. (Though it’s important to note that this is a friction trainer, so it’ll be louder than the other options on the list.)