You’re committed to riding, and now you want to bring it indoors for the winter. That’s awesome! But with so many choices in trainers, you’re unsure which one is right for you. Not a problem; let me help. The way I see it, all indoor training options can be organized into five categories: Solid & simple, those that don’t sell (and why), power-based units, rollers, and indoor cycles.
Solid & simple:
For 80% of riders, there are two excellent candidates for everyday use, year-in year-out: the CycleOps JetFluid Pro and the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine. Both are the best all-rounders, with collapsible legs, little noise, good resistance, and a good price-point. In comparison, the Road Machine has a more industrial, heavy duty build, whereas the JetFluid Pro is a bit quieter, and has a smoother roller. Neither have any knobs or dials, and are built off centrifugal force (ie. the harder you pedal, the more resistance). How do you decide between the two? It usually comes down to a popularity contest (ie. whatever your friends ride is what you’ll get).
Those that don’t sell (and why):
• Anything priced under ~$300 is lacking something, whether it’s not enough resistance, too noisy, or not a sturdy base. You don’t buy trainers every year, so it’s worth investing in something less compromising.
• Tacx Booster: It’s good for intervals, with its handlebar-mounted resistance dial (not centrifugal force), used in conjunction with your bike’s gears. It doesn’t sell because it’s a bit too pricey for what it offers.
• Lemond Revoltion: Its innovative design doesn’t require a rear wheel, so you avoid all that wear-and-tear. It doesn’t sell because it’s very loud. Unless you live in the woods, solo, someone will complain about excessive noise.
• Tacx Flow: Admittedly, this is a great trainer. It measures (but doesn’t record) power, speed, cadence, and heart rate, and it’s been in production, unchanged, for years. Because it’s caught in the middle of the ‘solid & simple’ and ‘power’ categories, it gets overlooked.
• Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll: It’s cool, but also kinda gimmicky. Its positive points are: your bike won’t flex torsionally, you can stand up on the pedals with a natural side-to-side sway, and you can engage your core muscles. However, other trainers don’t flex your bike much anyways, most people barely ride out of the saddle, and if you want to work your core muscles, you’re better off with rollers instead.
• CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro: This is the quietest trainer, with adjustable leg levels, four resistance settings, and centrifugal force. Because it’s priced a bit above the ‘solid & simple’ category, it too gets overlooked, but remains a ‘sleeper’ (just like the Flow).
If you’re very committed to indoor training (10+ hours/week), you’ll want to record your power, and you’ll want entertainment to help pass the time. In this case, the best option is the Tacx Genius. It records all important metrics, the Real Life Videos and GPS Rides replicate anything done outdoors, and the Multiplayer function lets you compete against friends remotely. There’s nothing quite like it on the market. In comparison across this category, the CycleOps PowerBeam Pro catches on fire, and the Tacx Flow doesn’t record power. Another option, which can be used on the open road, is to build a PowerTap wheel.
Riding rollers is mentally engaging. You have to focus on balance, fluidity, and leg speed, making you a better bike rider (not just stronger). Tacx’s Galaxia uses 4” concave drums, and the whole unit rocks forward-and-back, which is very forgiving to first-time users. An add-on resistance unit is not available, although you can still get a decent workout without it. The CycleOps Aluminum Rollers have smaller 3.25” drums (ie. harder) and have resistance settings built in.
These are the most heavy-duty trainers on the market. They can mimic your exact road position, are the quietest, and have a very solid feel. They also last forever. CycleOps is the only name in this game. There's even an option now to turn the 400 Pro model into a virtual trainer.
So there are your options. Get your mind geared up, set some goals for next spring, and stick to it!