Whether you’re riding inside because it’s winter or you want to escape the blazing heat of summer, an indoor trainer or exercise bike is your best friend. But which trainer or bike will help you get the biggest boost to your fitness?
These cycling trainers and exercise bikes will give you the best indoor workouts possible. They come at a premium price, but they’ll give you premium results!
Wahoo Fitness KICKR
The Fitness KICKR remains at the top of the rankings—it still gives you accurate power measurement up to 2,000 watts, highly advanced resistance tuning, and bombproof construction. But the latest version also includes an 11-speed cassette, quieter operation, and more device connectivity.
You won’t wear out a rear tire training inside, because you attach your rear dropout directly to the trainer, and your chain to the cassette. This adds to the great road feel of the trainer, and gives you more control over the resistance. You can also simulate hills of up to 20°, so you can prepare for those mountaintop climbs when you’re not out on the road.
The downside to the Fitness KICKR, as you might expect, is its price. You could get an entire bike for the price of this thing. But if you’re serious about training year-round without having to fight through Rocky Mountain winters, it can’t be beat.
Buy the Wahoo Fitness KICKR from REI ($1,200)
(If you’re looking for a more traditional trainer that offers power measurement, check out Wahoo’s KICKR SNAP, which weighs in at half the price.)
Kinetic Road Machine 2.0
The Road Machine has long been the industry standard for bike trainers, which is why it’s near the top of the list for the second time. The large flywheel and fluid chamber give you smooth riding with progressive resistance. Although the resistance isn’t adjustable, you’ll definitely feel it ramping up as you increase speed.
Large fins on the fluid chamber keep it from reaching the temperature of the sun, and the rubber feet keep you from sliding around even when you’re hammering hard.
Most people will find this price tag much more reasonable (though $300+ is certainly a sizable investment). Fortunately, the Road Machine is nearly indestructible and will last a very long time.
Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart
Rollers usually give a more road-accurate feel than trainers, but Kinetic wasn’t going to just accept that. Instead, they made the Rock and Roll, which uses a pivot system to mimic the back-and-forth motion of a bike on the road.
It won’t challenge you as much as a set of rollers, but if you want your muscles to remember what it’s like to ride on the road through a long winter of indoor riding, the Rock and Roll is a solid choice.
As part of the Smart line of Kinetic’s trainers, the Rock and Roll also measures power, heart rate, cadence, speed, distance, and other factors. You can monitor your ride right from your phone. You’ll pay a premium for all of this awesome functionality, but you’ll also get an unbeatable workout.
Tacx Vortex Smart
Tacx might not be the biggest name in indoor trainers, but the Vortex smart trainer is a solid choice nonetheless. It offers many of the features that other smart trainers do; speed and power measurement, adjustable resistance that connects with your phone or tablet, and up to 950 watts of resistance.
But it also includes downhill simulation, 750 watts of sprint power for up to one minute, and it comes with a front wheel support (which not all trainers do). And, let’s face it, the design is much nicer than almost any other trainer out there. Should that matter? Probably not. But does it? Absolutely.
The price is similar to other trainers at this level, but if you want an extremely well-designed trainer that offers a lot of features in a sleek package, you can’t go wrong with the Vortex.
Feedback Sports Omnium
Let’s address this right away. Yes, the Omnium looks really weird. But hear me out. Trainers can be a pain to travel with. They’re heavy and unwieldy. Even if you have a sleeker one like the Road Machine or Vortex, it’s not really meant for travel. But the Omnium is. It folds up, mounts to your fork, and gives you a standard trainer feel.
It even comes with a padded travel bag to make moving it around easier.
If you’re looking for an all-the-time trainer, this might not be it. But if you want a trainer for race warmups or travel, it’s a great way to go.
This is the absolute top end of at-home spinning bikes. It’s super-sleek, features 24 gears of magnetic resistance (instead of the manual flywheel resistance adjustment), and is likely the quietest spin bike you’ve ever heard.
The M3i comes with Keiser’s Bluetooth display, which can connect to a receiver or another Bluetooth device for better visibility. It keeps you updated on your speed, RPM, power, distance, and heart rate so you can perfect your indoor workout.
Equal parts spin bike and installation art, the M3i doesn’t come cheap. You could find a carbon road bike for less than this. But it’s the ultimate at-home workout machine, and will keep you in top shape all winter long.
If you don’t want to take out a loan to buy a Keiser, Schwinn’s IC3 is a great choice. Schwinn, despite losing credibility in the bike game, is well-respected in the spinning world. The IC3 is a mid-range model, and includes everything you need and most of what you want, too.
The 40 lb. flywheel is a beast, and provides a great deal of resistance (though is probably better suited to stronger cyclists). The integrated monitor displays your speed, RPM, heart rate, and power.
One of the nice things about the IC3 that you might not think about is that it comes with a saddle that’s more like one you’d find on a road bike. Many home spin bikes come with the giant squishy saddles you find on old-school exercise bikes. This is a big upgrade.
Past winners below by Jake Walnuts
If you want your indoor cycling sessions to take your outdoor performance to new levels, then you need a high-quality exercise bike (or indoor bike trainer) specifically designed to emulate the outdoor cycling experience without a hitch. But, as you likely know, there are a lot of different options available. We’ve done the grunt work and selected four of the best exercise bikes/bike trainers you can buy.
For those that want the best indoor training experience possible while still using their regular outdoor bike, the Wahoo Fitness KICKR 10-Speed Bike Trainer is hard to match. The universal fit accommodates nearly any bike, no matter type or size. It is compatible with a number of different virtual training apps for tightly-controlled power-based workouts.
Like many indoor bike trainers, the KICKR 10-Speed replaces your back wheel to best simulate realistic outdoor cycling. This makes for a smoother ride and consistently accurate power measurement (it also reduces wear on your bike’s parts). A built-in power meter allows you to both monitor and control your efforts. A number of settings (level, resistance, erg, and simulation) allow you to select the best workout for your goals. Finally, the trainer is very sturdy and relatively quiet. The only drawback is its weight. At 44lbs, the KICKR 10-Speed Bike Trainer is not the best choice for pre-race warm ups. Wahoo Fitness KICKR Bike Trainer – REI $1,200
When you demand an exercise bike that is literally second to none, there is no better choice than the CycleOps Phantom 5 Indoor Cycle. Created to mimic the experience of riding outdoors as closely as possible, every inch of this bike is fine tuned and built for professional athletes. Yet its adjustability and versatility make it easily adaptable for riders of all skill levels. It’s stiffness and stability simply cannot be beat by any other indoor cycle.
So what’s so great about the Phantom 5? It boils down to four points of micro-adjustment, a controlled resistance unit, and a frame suited for Tour de France stage-ending sprints. The indoor cycle is also designed to seamlessly integrate with an iPad or Android device running the CycleOps Virtual Training app. Adjust target power, slope, and gearing from the app while riding virtual routes. The routes are synced with resistance and video to create an impressive real-world training experience. CycleOps Phantom 5 – REI $2,600
JetBlack Cycling Trainer
When the weather outside gets gnarly, bring your outdoor cycle indoors and train on the JetBlack Cycling S1 Sports Magnetic Bike Trainer, one of the best budget trainers around. Though simple, the single-geared magnetic resistance trainer provides a solid overall workout with a reasonably realistic ride.
To be honest, the JetBlack S1 gets the job done, but it’s not for avid cyclists. It makes for a slightly choppy/rough ride though the frame is remarkably stable at the price point. It’s a good choice for those on a serious budget or those that live in an area with year-round good weather that just want backup for the occasional rainy day. With that said, the S1 comes with a free training app, fits most outdoor bicycles, and is pre-assembled and ready to ride straight out of the box. When it’s all you can afford, you can rest assured this bike trainer will get you sweating. JetBlack Cycling S1 Sport Magnetic – REI $135