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Best Indoor Bike Trainers Review

The best indoor bike trainers are an invaluable tool for serious cyclists going nowhere fast. But all jokes aside, for those unfamiliar, the indoor bike trainer is a piece of equipment which allows cyclists to ride fast while the bicycle remains stationary. Bike trainers, whether used for warming up before a race, or taken indoors when riding conditions are poor, this equipment is a must.

The explosion of all things smart in exercise equipment has come to indoor bike trainers as well, bringing along with it numerous training apps and online communities. The basic types of bike trainers include the direct drive trainer, which attaches to the rear dropouts and substitutes for the wheel using a cassette, while providing a direct connection to the resistance piece. Friction trainers utilize a small roller which goes up against the rear wheel and incorporates either magnetic or fluid resistance. Rollers are the simplest of the trainers and essentially perch the bike on top of three rollers. A smart trainer differs from the others in that it can communicate wirelessly with an app, device, or virtual world like Zwift.

With virtual training platforms like TrainerRoad and Zwift being such a prominent phenomenon, compatibility with the app of the user’s choice is probably as important as the other dimensions. Zwift is undoubtedly among the leaders of bike trainer fans, but for those seeking a machine just for race-day warm-ups, units such as the Feedback Sports Omnium Over-Drive Portable Trainer are out there. Not among our top five selections due to its lack of virtual connections, it’s among the market leaders for those seeking just that.

Qualitative issues to consider along with price include the resistance type, stability offered, and compatibility with online apps. Check below our review of the five best indoor bike trainers on the market today and get to burning tread.

 

Best Overall

CycleOps H3 Smart Trainer

Rating: 93%

Best Bike Trainers

Model

Rating

Resistance Type

Noise Level

Dimensions

Pricing

Reviews

Best Overall
CycleOps H3 Smart Trainer
93%

Magnetic

59 Decibels At 20 Mph

31" X 18.5" X 19.5"

Best Direct Drive Trainer
Wahoo KICKR
91%

Magnetic

67 Decibels At 80 Rpm

20" X 23" X 19"

Best Roller Trainer
CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer
89%

Fluid

64-68 Decibels At 20 Mph

28" X 21.5" X 15.7"

Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Trainer
87%

Fluid

78 Decibels At 200w

24" X 25.5" X 27"

Elite Tuno Power Fluid Pack
85%

Fluid

59 Decibels At 20 Mph

29" X 24" X 12"

exercise-bike-vs-cycling-outdoors-blue-shirt-guy-riding-bike-on-the-road

Why Indoor Bike Trainers?

For cycling enthusiasts, the feel of their own ride can be quite addictive. Competitive riders need to keep their programming regular, and yet, Mother Nature can be quite uncooperative. The best bike trainers allow riders to train year-round in any climate simply by hooking their bicycle up to one indoors. And, instead of the relatively limited usage of a true indoor bike, these can help one get the best bang for their bicycling buck. Racers are often seen using them to warm up before the start.

The biggest questions for consumers often center around price, but keep in mind the growth in technology available by way of these units today. As one check the prices, which range between hundreds and thousands of dollars, they’ll also see a big difference in features. Just like bicycles themselves, shoppers for trainers can get as intense as they’d like here in this field.

Additional Resources

1. CycleOps H3 Smart Trainer

The newest addition to the CycleOps family of bike trainers, the H3 brings many of the same benefits of the H2 along with new improvements. This new model sports a 20-pound flywheel capable of handling 2,000 watts and replicating a 20% climbing grade. This unit can accommodate an array of axel sizes through quick release.

One of the big advances offered in this model is it’s five-times quieter than the H2, with just 59 decibels at 20 mph. This noise level is comparable to an air conditioner or normal conversation and shouldn’t be heard more than a foot away.

Resistance is generated by an electromagnetic system for quick changes. Meanwhile, the stats and output are delivered via PowerTap power meter internals. The unit offers seamless integration with indoor cycling apps via dual-band ANT+ and Bluetooth. The machine is also Zwift Certified and has an internal cooling mechanism.

The H3 is compatible with 8-11 speed Shimano and SRAM cassettes. Thru-axle compatibility for the rear hub is for widths of 142mm or 148mm, and those with fixed levers might require a Thru Axle Adapter. The quick-release is compatible for rear hub widths of 130mm and 135mm. XD/XDR freehubs are sold separately.

Overview

High-tech
Affordable

Pros

Compatible with numerous apps
Great price

Cons

Reviews suggest the Saris app has issues
Requires a cassette

2. Wahoo KICKR

The new Wahoo KICKR Core represents the latest in that brand’s offerings by way of direct drive bike trainers. The power, cadence, and other metrics are all fairly standard, and the KICKR Core works with QR, 12 x 142mm, and 121 x 48mm dropout spacing, which means its compatible with most bikes in the stable. This is in addition to the 130/135mm quick release.

The unit is compatible with 11-speed cassettes and comes with one installed. Axle adapters are in the back and can be used for threading whether a quick release or thru-axle.

A more compact model, this unit features a 12-pound flywheel and uses electromagnetic resistance. The KICKR Core can simulate up to a 16% climb and integrates with all Wahoo apps, as well as Zwift, Trainer Road, and numerous others.

Overview

High-tech

Pros

Compatible with numerous apps
Great support

Cons

Can be a bit noisier
Pricier

3. CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer

One of the best-selling bike trainers in the U.S.A., the CycleOps Fluid 2 is easy to transport. Sporting a 2.75-pound flywheel, the unit customizes resistance by shifting gears, same as outside. As a fluid resistance model, the unit uses a rotor in a side tube filled with silicon to create resistance. This style provides a consistent ride and one of the widest ranges of resistance around.

The unit’s resistance unit roller allows for 650b, 700c, 26″ and 29″ wheel sizes, up to a 2.0 tire. Designed for common road and mountain bike frames with an included steel quick release skewer, it has three settings for rear dropout spacing at 120mm, 130mm, and 135mm, and offers a universal fit. Recommendations are for a 10-11 speed Shimano and SRAM cassette.

Compatible with Zwift and most other online apps, there’s no question it’s among most affordably priced bike trainers of quality around.

Overview

Affordability
Convenience

Pros

Priced right
Easy to transport

Cons

Compatible with lots of apps
A little noisier

4. Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Trainer

A smart trainer which works with its own app, Zwift, Trainer Road, and others, the Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer can be utilized in conjunct with the AI controlling movement. Purchase comes with a free one-month Kinetic Fit app subscription.

With a 6.25-pound flywheel, this trainer features a natural side-to-side motion while riding. Marketed as the only side-to-side trainer of it’s kind, it provides a rocking feel much like the road. Progressive resistance is generated by way of the flywheel when using an app, and fluid resistance when not.

The trainer is built to be compatible with nearly any bike on the market, from 24″ to 700c to 29″ MTB wheels. Purchase comes with an 11-speed cassette. Bikes with a rear thru-axle will require a Kinetic Traxle thru-axle adapter.

Wi-Fi compatible, the trainer measures power, speed, cadence, and distance, and carries a lifetime warranty on the frame, with two years guaranteed on the inRide sensor.

 

Pros

Unique rock and roll movement
Reasonably priced
Lifetime warranty

Cons

A little noisier

5. Elite Tuno Power Fluid Pack

Among the quieter units on the market, the Elite Tuno Power Fluid Pack comes ready with the Elite My E-Training App, and is also compatible with other top programs. Purchase includes a training mat, riser block, and six months access to the app.

Built to offer an authentic, road-like feel, the foldable unit sports an elastogel roller to help reduce both noise and tire wear. The new wider frame augments stability and accommodate wheels from 24″ to 29″ well. The unit is compatible requires an adapter for bikes with a thru-axle. Purchase comes with a Shimano CS-5700 105 10-speed cassette.

Using fluid resistance, the trainer features a fast-fixing mechanism for quick and accurate mounting and removal. An AutomaticTension Plate helps maintain correct pressure between the unit, roller, and tire through the ride.

Pros

Purchase includes app trial period
Near-silent

Cons

Other features pretty low-tech
Few bells and whistles
 
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