Bike trainers are the least-expensive solution for indoor cycling. They’re simple pieces of equipment which turn your normal, outdoor bike into an indoor fitness machine. Much like air rowers, the amount of resistance increases with an increase in speed. The faster you go, the harder it’ll get. Because it’s the same bike you’d use outdoors, you’ll be getting the most realistic training experience possible in an indoor setting. That means your training will translate directly to your road performance.
Trainers are great for ardent cyclists because they provide a realistic, familiar, and portable cycling experience. They can also be a low-cost solution for people who already have a bike and want to exercise indoors. They come in all sorts of varieties, so we’ve compiled a list of three best bicycle trainer reviews based on value, quality, and buyer popularity.
First, take a quick look at our current most popular recommendations:
Magnet Steel Bike Bicycle Indoor Exercise Trainer Stand
Best Bicycle Trainer Reviews
Magnet Steel Trainer
A solidly made budget model. It’s suitable for most casual riders who want to ride indoors but don’t want to pay for an exercise machine.
It combines two types of resistance. The magnetic system is adjustable, and has 5 settings. The resistance is also responsive to how fast you pedal, so in that way it works like a fluid trainer. That means you have more specific control over the intensity of your workout, and won’t need to shift as much as you ride. And you can adjust the resistance right from the handlebars, using the included toggle.
It’s a sturdy design, with a metal frame and plastic feet. Previous buyers, even some who weighed around 250 pounds, said it felt completely stable and didn’t move much as they rode.
Most users found it simple to use, and said that mounting their bikes was easy. It includes an adjustment knob to fit your tires more precisely. You’ll also be able to get the bike fitted without a skewer in most cases.
The included instructions were hard to follow for some users. While the process was intuitive and fairly simple to figure out, reviewers were disappointed by how unhelpful the paperwork was.
It doesn’t come with a quick-release skewer, and you’ll have to buy a front wheel block separately.
Wheel sizes above 28” won’t work as well with this one. Reviewers with bikes using 29” wheels and above had difficulty keeping their bikes secure.
It’s a very popular model, but not for the more athletically inclined. Previous buyers said that if you’re looking for something to handle casual exercise, especially during the winter, this was a more than adequate choice. While it works fine for people on a budget, though, it’s probably not going to hold up for long under serious training. For people looking for an inexpensive solution, it’s a solid choice.
Kinetic Road Machine Fluid Trainer 2.0
A fluid trainer which automatically responds to your pedaling action. Built from solid metal, it’s designed and guaranteed to last. You won’t do better than this in the quality department. Previous buyers said it’s incredibly well-made, and feels just like riding on a newly paved road.
The design is sturdy and designed to last. It comes with a lifetime warranty. We couldn’t find any reviews that mentioned damage or deterioration that didn’t result from the shipping process.
The fluid resistance system provides a realistic road experience. Depending on how you shift your gears, and how strongly you pedal, the trainer responds to challenge you appropriate. It’s much more adaptibe and realistic than trainers with set resistance levels.
It fits almost any bike. Previous buyers said that they were surprised how easily their bikes fit into the machine with the provided skewer system. They said that while they figured mountain bike tires wouldn’t ride smoothly on this trainer, they worked perfectly well, and didn’t wear much over the course of riding the mountain tires indoors.
It’s costly. However, most customers found that the quality was worth the added cost. And with a lifetime warranty, you’ll never need to buy one again.
The riser for the front wheel is sold separately, and adds about $25-40 to the cost of the setup.
The Road Machine doesn’t come with any additional equipment, although Kinetic do make a Inride Heartrate/Watt monitor system which is designed to be used with it. It’ll cost around $130.
An expensive but extremely durable and reliable option. A great choice for lifelong cyclists, it’s probably not necessary for the casual rider.
Conquer Indoor Bike Trainer
A magnetic trainer with manually-adjustable resistance. It’s simple to set up, and breaks down easily for storage. Previous buyers said they thought it provided great value for money, and excellent versatility for their workouts.
This model is designed for convenience. It’s made to work with new quick-release back wheels, and includes the front wheel riser block, so you don’t have to buy that separately. Unlike most models, this one folds up for easier storage.
The resistance is manually adjustable, so you can control how difficult your workout will be.
Reviewers praised the sturdiness of the metal design, saying that even riding hands-free, it stayed rock solid. That’s great for tougher, more challenging rides when you might need to come out of the saddle.
Everything’s included. In addition to the trainer and the front wheel block, this model comes with a wheel skewer (for bikes that don’t have a quick-release wheel) and a tire stabilizer. Lots of reviewers gave this model high marks for including accessories that more expensive models don’t come with.
Several users found this model quite loud, especially when used with mountain bike tires. They said that if you’re planning on using this one with a mountain frame, you’ll have to pop on a wheel with a smooth tire.
The resistance isn’t as difficult as some reviewers expected. Experienced riders found that it didn’t provide enough of a workout, and wished it could give them a bit more of a challenge. And users who had smaller wheels (26in) had trouble getting the resistance up to a reasonable level. It’s definitely not for the most serious riders.
The Conquer model is a great choice for beginner or casual cyclists who want a convenient indoor option. It doesn’t offer intense resistance for more athletic types, but users who fully inflated their tires and had bikes with wheels in the middle of the recommended margin seemed to have better experiences. It’s simple to set up and use, and is very affordable. A great budget model, but make sure to check your wheel size before buying.
Most users will do very well with the Conquer Indoor trainer or the Magnet Steel model. They’re both solidly built, and have a reasonable amount of resistance. If you’re a serious cyclist, and plan on riding hard and frequently. You’ll want to consider a fluid trainer like the Kinetic. It’s a lot of money up front, but you’ll be well-covered by warranty and most buyers had no problems whatsoever.
If you’re interested in other indoor cycling options, check out our guides to the Best Recumbent, Upright and Other Exercise Bikes.
Things to think about
Bike trainers are the best option for serious cyclists. They use the same equipment you’d use on the road, and they’re used by many athletes for that reason. The sensation of realism also comes from the ability to shift gears, as opposed to pressing a button to turn up the level of difficulty. Your experience in the home gym will immediately translate to your level of ability outside on the road. You’ll be able to stand up in the saddle for the full cardio drive. If you’re training for races, you’ll be able to work with your actual racing bike all year round. If you’re a casual cyclist, you might be more comfortable on a spinning bike or recumbent machine.
When you’re shopping, you’ll want to make sure the trainer you buy is going to fit your bike safely and securely. You’ll also want to make sure you either find one that’s compatible with your fitness monitors or includes its own package. The perfect trainer shouldn’t feel like anything–it should feel just like your bike normally does.
Because bike trainers use an actual road or mountain bike, they’ll only be as comfortable as the bike itself. The actual trainer won’t make a great deal of difference in terms of comfort. While you won’t have to worry about potholes in your living room, the seat won’t be as cushy as you’d find on a full machine. You may find that the hunched position may aggravate pre-existing problems for your lower back. If comfort is already an issue on a normal bike, you may want to think about a recumbent model.
Trainers are limited in terms of their electronic equipment. Most come with a basic monitor, but you won’t get as elaborate or as developed a readout as you would on a real machine. While you can certainly outfit a trainer with added extras, most basic models won’t come with much in the way of gear. You’ll be using gear that you’d be using out on the road. So, in that way, it’s more familiar–but also suited to people who already cycle seriously and have equipment. Rather than looking for a trainer that comes with equipment, try shopping for equipment separately. Find something compatible with both riding situations, so you can use the same equipment indoors and out on the road.
Trainers come in two types: magnetic and fluid. Magnetic resistance systems are generally louder, but are often adjustable. Fluid trainers are designed to mimic road biking, so the resistance increases based on how fast you ride. While some magnetic systems try to achieve the same effect, most people find that fluid trainers are more realistic and less jerky.
Trainers are very portable. You can fit your trainer setup anywhere that can fit your bike. It’ll also be a lot easier to move than a bulky machine. With that said, make sure your trainer is suitable for the sort of floor you’ll be using it on. You don’t want to damage flooring, and you don’t want to be sliding around on your bike. Look for a model with rubber footing, or think about getting a mat. You may also need to buy a support for the front wheel. Some models include one.
Trainers shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, but they should match your bike in quality. They range from $50-500 in cost. If you’ve got a really nice road bike, you don’t want to compromise its mechanical integrity or affect the pleasure of the experience by putting it on a cheap trainer. More expensive models will have smoother rides, better stability, and longer warranty periods.
There are as many types of trainers as there are types of bikes. You’ll want to check on a few details to make sure your bike and your trainer will work well together. Most trainers have a recommended wheel size range, generally about 26” to 28.” That should work for most bikes, but some less-expensive trainers won’t be able to give you a precise fit. Look for models with adjustable features. Most trainers provide you with a skewer, which goes through your back wheel to keep it rolling parallel with the trainer’s roller. If you’ve got a bike with a quick-release wheel, that’ll require a different type of skewer. Some trainers work differently, and have features that simply hold the sides of your wheel instead of requiring you to use a skewer.