Indoor Trainer – What is it?
In its basic form an Indoor Trainer is a bicycle stand that allows you to cycle, with a normal bicycle, in one place without moving forward. Professionals normally use them before races to get a good warmup before the start. They are also a great training aid to cycle indoors when conditions don’t allow you to cycle outdoors. Here is my current indoor trainer…
How do they work?
In their basic form Indoor Trainers consist of 4 parts: a frame, clamps to hold the bicycle, a roller that presses against your bicycle’s back wheel and some sort of resistance mechanism that tries to slow down this roller.
It is this last resistance mechanism that normally distinguishes the different types of trainers. The main types that you can currently find are:
- Wind – In Wind Trainers the roller turns some form of fan blades that then create air resistance.
- Magnetic – Magnetic Trainers use magnets passing by each other to provide resistance. These have the benefit that there is normally some sort of control unit that you can use to vary the amount of resistance given.
- Fluid – These trainers use a fluid in a sealed chamber to provide resistance as the roller tries to turn a fan blade.
- Virtual Reality – These are complete cycling simulators and use motorized rollers. Some also have steering sensors. These systems are linked to a computer that displays a virtual cycle and then adjusts the roller resistance depending on whether the cyclist is going either up a hill or down one.
What to consider when buying a trainer
- Decide on a budget. Indoor Trainers can cost anywhere from $50 or less to over $1000, so decide on a budget first.
- What type do you want. Wind Trainers are cheaper, but noisier. Magnetic Trainers are smooth and quiet and often reasonably priced. Fluid Trainers are slightly more expensive but provide lifelike resistance. Virtual Reality Trainers are the Rolls Royce of trainers and give you everything.
- Look at the trainer’s construction. Remember you want something that will hold both you and your bicycle here so make sure it is going to be stable. Rather go for a noisier but more stable model than the other way round.
- Control Unit. The various models come with differing units that control the roller resistance. This can vary from a simple knob that turns to increase the resistance right to an electronic unit that displays stats such as resistance, speed, power, cadence, heart rate and distance. The Virtual Reality trainers will even record this info for you.
- Must it fold? Some models fold up so that you can easily store it away in a cupboard when not in use, so consider this too.
- Knobbly Tires. If your bike has knobbly tires you might need to buy a slick tire for the rear wheel. While you can use knobbly tires these do produce a bit of noise and vibration against a roller.
- Sweat. Indoor Trainers make you sweat a lot so keep a towel close by to clean the sweat off you bicycle. You can also get sweat guards for your bicycle.