What kind of Indoor Bike Trainer should I get?

I like to do indoor interval training in the morning before work, unfortunately, living in Iowa, biking outside is a bit cold in the winter time.

Bike intervals are essential to my weight lifting program, as I need that extra cardio to burn fat and increase blood flow to actually recover faster.  May sound counter intuitive, train more to recover faster, but it is true.  Getting the blood cycled through your muscles and circulating will help your weight lifting gains.

For indoor bike training, there are a few different options that you can use.  Which option is best for you, depends on your situation.  With Amazon and craigslist, you can often find stationary bikes that are just as cheap if not cheaper than the bike trainers where you use your own bike, so I chose to include them as well.

What is an indoor bike trainer?

Indoor bike trainers put your back wheel into the air so you can’t move forward.  Since you cannot move forward, there is no resistance on the front wheel and it is allowed to move freely.  So, to add resistance a force is added to simulate riding outside.  The best part about indoor bike trainers is that you can use your own bicycle so you can get used to it during the off-season or on rainy days.

The three different types of indoor bike trainers are:

  • Fluid
  • Magnetic
  • Wind

Fluid Bike Trainer

– Fluid Bike Trainers use hydraulic fluid that gets thicker as it heats up.  Essentially, the faster you pedal and the more friction that is generated from the tire, the more resistance you get from the fluid.  At first, fluid bike trainers had difficulties with leakage, but most major brand names do not have any issue with hydraulic leakage anymore.  Fluid trainers are the quietest and most realistic form of bike trainer that you can currently get, but you will pay a premium for their high quality.  Expect to pay between 150-$400 for a hydraulic fluid bike trainer.  One brand that I recommend is the Cyclops Fluid 2 Indoor Bike Trainer and it typically runs for about $300 new on Amazon.

Magnetic bike trainer

– Magnetic bicycle trainers are a suitable alternative to the more expensive fluid trainers.  Mag trainers use adjustable magnetic resistance to create drag.  There is a flywheel which has rotating magnets that you either adjust by getting off of your bike (typically a cheaper version) or one that has adjustable cables near the handle bar.  Mag bike trainers are typically louder than the fluid bike trainers.  One thing to note about the Magnetic trainer, is that it is possible to beat the magnets–you can outgrow your trainer which limits your potential.  However, for most cyclists and for people looking to log some miles, the mag trainer will do just fine and save you a few bucks.  The Schwinn Magnetic Bike Trainer is available on Amazon for roughly $100.

Wind bike trainer

– The wind bike trainers are a similar price point to the Mag trainers.  Unlike, the mag trainers, you can’t overcome the wind resistance.  But similarly to the fluid trainers, you will get increasing resistance the faster you pedal.  Another thing to mention is that you can shift gears with the wind bike trainer in order to get more resistance.  The problem with the wind bicycle trainers is that they are loud.  If you’re more worried about intervals and going hard for short periods of time, the wind resistance is a good choice as you may overcome a mag trainer.

Stationary bikes

– Stationary Bikes are the typical bikes that you see at the fitness gym.  They are pretty much exactly what the names describes… a bike that you pedal but stays in one spot.  They typically weigh between 50-100 lbs so it is best to put them in a permanent location.  Often times, they have customizable workout programs and heart monitors.


With the customizable workout programs, you don’t have to worry about manually changing the resistance.  For example, you may start your workout on the easiest level (level 1), and then 30 seconds later it adds more resistance to level 5, then 30 seconds later to lvl 10, and then back down to level 1.  Stationary bikes are a perfectly fine option and are often overlooked.  Don’t get duped by some of these fitness companies-Some of the fitness bikes on the market are extremely overpriced and not worth the cost.

On Amazon, you can find a perfectly nice stationary bike for between $150 and $400.  I recommend the Schwinn 120 (cheaper) or the Schwinn 150.  They have just about every feature you could ask for and is a nice addition to your home gym.

So, all that information, and now you probably have even less of an idea of what to pick up for your home gym.. I get it, you just want to get a little cardio done at home.  Heres a summarized recap that may help you make your decision:

Fluid

Pros – Best real world feel, increasing and “unbeatable” resistance, fairly quiet, great for intervals

Cons – Must own bicycle (added cost), most expensive trainer, previous versions have had hydraulic fluid leaks

Magnetic

Pros – Value (significantly cheaper than fluid), sufficient for cyclists just looking for cardio
Cons – Must own bicycle (added cost), maximum resistance limitations, may have to get off bike to change resistance

Wind

Pros – Value (significantly cheaper than fluid), better real world feel than mag trainers (shift gears), increasing and “unbeatable” resistance, great for intervals
Cons – Must own bicycle (added cost), loud

Stationary

pros – Heart rate monitor, distance tracker, adjustable resistance and customizable workouts, great for intervals or long steady rides, cheaper than others (bike cost included)

cons – maximum resistance limitations, no other use (can’t take bike for a ride), technology breaks over time, worst real-world feel

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Comments

  1. they’re called trairens, and they’re designed to lift the rear wheel. trairens always provide some form of resistance to simulate the pedalling force required to move a bike forward. less expensive ones use a fan, but they tend to be a little noisy and lack resistance adjustability. more expensive ones use other means like fluid- or magnetic-resistance, and often you can adjust the resistance of those units (and they’re usually quieter).some quick tips, once you get one:use an old book and put it under your front wheel, so overall, your bike stays level. otherwise, you’ll be tilted forward.if you have a mountain bike with knobby tires, you might want to swap the back one for a smooth treaded tire so it doesn’t feel bumpy. a cheap tire should run $ 15-20.use a fan too. if you bike for real, your forward motion thru air cools you off. but on a trainer, you overheat quickly.happy spinning!

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