You’d better know which indoor bike trainer will leak, which is too loud, and which is somewhere in between. That is…if you don’t want to waste money making the wrong choice.
Enter the bicycle trainer world.
Let’s start by breaking indoor bike trainers into 3 categories.
1). Fluid Bike Trainer- Is This The Best Indoor Bicycle Trainer?
Typically, the Fluid bike trainer is at the top of the food chain in the world of bicycle trainers. These are usually the ones providing the most realistic ride, are the quietest, and cost the most money.
They work by spinning an impeller through fluid. In the case of the Kurt Kinetic bike trainers (the Road Machine and the Rock and Roll), the fluid is medical-grade silicone…and for a very good reason.
Silicone is thermodynamically neutral. That means that in spite of the heat created by the friction in the unit, the fluid doesn’t get thinner (try that with maple syrup!). If the fluid were to get less viscous, the resistance would reduce.
Since spinning that impeller through a viscous fluid is how a fluid bike trainer maintains its high level of resistance, it’s imperative that the fluid doesn’t get thinner as the heat in the resistance chamber rises. A fluid bike trainer filled with silicone is one of best bike trainers for achieving a realistic ride. Three high quality fluid trainers are the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, the CycleOps Fluid 2, and the Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll.
Early fluid indoor bicycle trainers were notorious for leakage, and the leakage issue was what directed me away from most fluid bike trainers and into the lap of Kurt Kinetic. They’d conquered the leakage problem before everyone else, using patented brilliant engineering. I’ve included a video that demonstrates the uniqueness of the Kurt Kinetic design. I highly recommend you watch it!
It now appears that the major high-end fluid trainers have a handle on the leakage issue, but the problem’s enough of a consideration to keep a cyclist away from cheap fluid trainers; or older fluid bike trainer models.
Here are some of my individual reviews of fluid trainers, starting with the…
Kurt Kinetic Road Machine
I’ve also done an individual review of the very popular…
CycleOps Fluid 2 bicycle trainer
If you’re interested in the bike trainer ‘emperor’, read about the…
Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll trainer here
Here’s a review of the Road Machine bike trainer on steroids…
Kurt Kinetic Pro
2.) Magnetic Cycling Trainers- Suffering ‘Middle-Child’ Syndrome?
Caught between the fluid bike trainer and the wind bike trainer is the ‘mag’ trainer.
This class of bike trainer uses eddy current braking (‘eddy current brakes slow an object by creating eddy currents through electromagnetic induction, which creates resistance’…from Wikipedia) to supply the resistance factor. But unlike the exponential resistance curve in a fluid trainer, the resistance in a conventional magnetic bike trainer is at best linear.
I say ‘at best’ because it’s possible for the flywheel to suddenly ‘break free’ from the influence of the eddy current resistance if a macho cyclist stands up on his indoor mag bike trainer and simulates his last sprint to the finish line. This results in no pedal resistance whatsoever.
There is no victory when this happens…only a startling, ball-breaking disappointment as he crashes down onto his top bar.
The resistance curve in a mag trainer certainly doesn’t match that of the exponential increase in wind resistance that we experience outdoors on our bikes…and that’s why it’s sometimes relegated to ‘second class’ citizenship.
But, there are various ways in which mag trainer manufacturers seek to add resistance. One of the best that I’ve seen is the technology used in the CycleOps Magneto. In this model, centrifugal force in the flywheel changes the configuration of the magnets, which varies the resistive force. The CycleOps Magneto is the only mag indoor bicycle trainer I’ve discovered that provides progressive resistance.
Cheaper magnetic trainers address this problem of increasing resistance by requiring the cyclist to dismount and change a setting on the bike trainer itself…which changes the position of the magnets. Higher end mag bike trainers come equipped with a cable which is attached to the ‘cockpit’ (your handlebars) for remote changing of the settings.
Here’s my review of the…
CycleOps Magneto bike trainer
Read my review of the…
CycleOps Mag indoor bicycle trainer
3.) Wind Bicycle Trainers- Good Entry Level Trainer
The least expensive class of trainers is the wind bike trainer.
They’re also the simplest, and least likely to break down. Even though they’re simple, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t expect good workmanship in the frame, bearings, and the part of the bike trainer that attaches to the rear wheel. My advice is to stay with the top brands like CycleOps or Kurt Kinetic.
There are two characteristics of the wind bicycle trainer that are almost universally reported…excessive noise, and limited resistance.
Although the noise and ‘weakness’ traits make this style of bike trainer unsuitable for many cyclists, they may be acceptable for riders who aren’t sufficiently in shape to go ‘head to head’ with a fluid bike trainer, or who live somewhere (not in an apartment?) where bicycle trainer noise doesn’t matter a whole lot.
I’ve pictured the CycleOps Wind Bike Trainer because it comes equipped with what CycleOps is calling ‘Vortex blade design’…and I wanted you to see it. The claim is that the vortex blades provide increased resistance without increasing the noise level. In addition, the added mass of the die cast zinc fan blades acts as a flywheel, adding to the realism of the ride. With that in mind, CycleOps would argue that they’re making the best wind bike trainer on the market.
Well, CycleOps is certainly addressing the wind trainer’s weaknesses head on, but I suspect that the noise level is relative…as is the resistance level.
Relative to a nice fluid bike trainer, there’s no comparison.
But compared to a creaky, cheap wind trainer the CycleOps Wind Trainer is solid and dependable.
If you have the desire to ‘break wind’, the wind indoor bicycle trainer may be the one for you. And with the money you save by not buying an expensive fluid bike trainer you’ll be able to buy more burritos.
Summarizing: The wind bike trainer is the least expensive but the noisiest and weakest of the three varieties.
Read my review of the…
CycleOps Wind Trainer
A review on the…
Kinetic Cyclone Wind Trainer
Read my very comprehensive review of the…
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A Summary Of Indoor Bicycle Trainers
How many times have you watched a police detective show and heard them say, ‘follow the money’.
I suppose that snippet of wisdom could be applied to indoor bike trainers too.
The most expensive trainer is the fluid bike trainer, which is the quietest and provides the most realistic ride. The earlier problems of failure due to leakage seem to have been licked by the higher-end fluid bike trainer manufacturers. And leakage is just about impossible in the Kurt Kinetic series (I hope you watched the video).
The money trail leads us next to the magnetic bike trainer. Once again, the higher-end mag trainers don’t suffer from the breakdowns and noise that early-model mag bicycle trainers were known for. And CycleOps has been innovative enough with their Magneto model to provide progressive resistance. You really ought to check out my Magneto review to see what this is ‘progressive resistance’ idea is all about.
And finally, just as the money trail is getting pretty thin, you arrive at the wind bike trainer. They’re noisier and aren’t able to provide leg-burning resistance, but you know what?…there are plenty of recreational riders who’d benefit from what a wind bike trainer has to offer when poor weather or seasonal darkness keep a cyclist indoors.
Before you leave, let me say that I think you’ll benefit from taking a look at the indoor bicycle trainer deals at Amazon here. I was shocked at all the cycling gear they offer…and at discounted prices.
|About the reviewer: Ron Fritzke is a cycling product reviewer with a passion for ‘all things cycling’. A former 2:17 marathoner, he now directs his competitive efforts toward racing his bike…and looking for good cycling products.|
The People’s Top 5 Choices In Bike Trainers- Find Out Why!
|Kinetic Road Machine Fluid Trainer|
Versatile indoor bicycle trainer with leak-proof magnetic drive system and automatic resistance changes.
Save: $88.63 (23%)
|Cycleops Fluid 2 Bike Trainer|
The infinite resistance curve ensures increased wattage as you increase speed for realistic statistical analysis. The Fluid 2 is surprisingly quiet, and the self-cooling mechanisms--including a patented fan design--keep the unit performing better, longer.
Save: $60.00 (18%)
|Cycleops Magneto Trainer|
Easy-to-set-up, easy-to-use CycleOps Magneto Trainer power band technology provides a progressive, natural workout with varying resistance.
Save: $56.00 (20%)
|Cycleops Mag Trainer|
The Mag is our bread-and-butter trainer. An integrated flywheel within an enclosed unit gives you a quiet, smooth ride. You get variable external resistance to make the ride easy for rest days, and tough for the hard ones.
Save: $19.00 (10%)
|CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro|
The Flexible Power Curve Technology offers four distinctly different power curves by changing the location of the four resistance magnets
Save: $64.00 (16%)
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