Making sure that your cycling performance doesn’t dip is possible even if you don’t have time to go out to train and ride.
You can do it even at the comfort of your own home. You can do that with the help of some tools, namely a turbo trainer.
There was a time when the turbo trainer was only resorted to in the worst of the winter or for pre-race warm-ups. Today though, people choose to ignore the increasing temperature and improved weather in favour of riding in the virtual world of Zwift or because they think that real-world intervals just don’t cut it anymore.
That’s why a turbo trainer has become many a rider’s companion all year round. With that in mind, here are the five best turbo trainers for indoor training.
Tacx Vortex Smart
First on the list is the Tacx Vortex Smart Turbo Trainer. This is one of the best turbo trainers on the market today.
The Tacx Vortex Smart turbo trainer combines interactive smart technology and the convenience of a fold-down trainer.
Plus, it is set at a very good price. It’s very easy to set up and use, and has a steady feel and instant changes in virtual gradient resistance.
Pros and Cons
- Easy to fold up and down
- Easy to setup
- Consistent power measurement
- Cheap compared to direct-drive units
- User friendly software
- Can cause Tyre slip at high resistance
- Ride feel is not as smooth as direct drive
- Electronics are not as sophisticated as direct-drive trainers
The Tacx Vortex Smart is designed so that it can be easily set up. Once you have adjusted the axle clamp for your bike’s width, then everything will be a breeze.
From there, all you have to do is just flip the blue lever open and shut to get your bike in and out. You can do the same with the blue paddle for the tire roller.
You can connect it wirelessly pretty easily too. You can connect it to apps such as Zwift and TrainerRoad using ANT+ or Bluetooth.
The Tacx app can also be used for training, but it is recommended that you use it only for calibration and then use your favourite app.
The Vortex Smart has a good feel even though this wheel-on smart trainer is a relatively light flywheel (1.6 kg). It also responds quickly and smoothly to resistance changes.
Plus, the fold-out legs are as stable as any turbo trainer with a comparable design.
What makes this turbo trainer great is it has an electro-magnetic brake and a downloadable app that you can use to link the trainer with your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
As mentioned above, you can connect it to a computer via Bluetooth or ANT+, which will bring with it a host of features that can spice up your indoor training.
The free app is fairly in-depth. In order to fully use the trainer’s features though, you need to use an iPad 3 or 4 with up-to-date software, rather than a smartphone, which only has access to limited features.
The app also comes with one pre-installed training video that you can watch when using an iPad and there are others in-app purchases and downloads.
The Tacx Vortex Smart has a host of excellent interactive features. Best of all, it is available at a competitive price which, relatively speaking, isn’t going to break the bank.
The added features and interactive elements of the Vortex Smart are also likely to encourage more frequent, structured training sessions. So, it will leave you with no excuses for not being on form come race season and for a turbo trainer, that’s all you really want.
Another great smart turbo trainer is the Wahoo Kickr.
Here’s why it is considered one of the best in the market today.
Although the Wahoo Kickr is one of the most expensive bike trainers on the market, the price is well justified. The Wahoo KICKR is a direct drive trainer.
That means this indoor turbo trainer works differently from other types of indoor bike trainers. You will need to connect the chain of your bike directly to the direct drive unit so that all of the energy you create while pedaling goes straight into your workout and won’t get lost in the friction between a tire and a cylinder.
This unit will also not wear on your rear tire because you have to remove your tire in order to use it. The KICKR can also broadcast data to your smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+, but you have to plug it in with the included power cord in order to access its smart capabilities.
Pros and Cons
- Open platform
- Easy to use
- Supports both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ connection
- Noise levels are comparable to other trainers
- Have a wide variety of great apps that are compatible with it
- You have to remove rear wheel from bike
- Pretty heavy
- Some functionalities require 3rd party apps
- Wireless interference can be an issue
- Some users have seen accuracy issues on units (older units)
The Wahoo Kickr is designed to provide incredibly smooth power output when used on erg mode.
It is able to achieve this by taking acceleration out of the power equation, so that means two things: first, you’ll get unnaturally smooth reported power, which can be rewarding to look at in real time and on post-ride analysis graphs.
Second is its super smooth power lines. Kickr can achieve this by ignoring short-term changes to speed in the flywheel.
In terms of hardware, the Kickr is able to adjust quickly to preset heights for road, 650c and 29-inch bikes, and the hub spacing can flip between 130mm and 135mm for road and mountain spacing.
Plus, you don’t need any front wheel block since the rear hub height matches that of the selected wheel. The sturdy arms also fold in nicely for relatively compact storage.
This turbo trainer comes with a quick-release skewer and a reversible axle spacer so that it can be used with most mountain bikes and road bikes. And since the frame of the tire isn’t lifted up in the back, you don’t need a front wheel riser block to steady your bike.
This feature is what makes this turbo trainer very unique.
The Wahoo Kickr is an excellent turbo trainer, albeit a bit expensive. Its lab-like ability to dial in exact wattage resistance is an excellent training asset, and the controlled power output can be very rewarding, especially if you’re the type to follow your intervals to the Tee.
This is where you get your money’s worth. When this turbo trainer is paired with a structured workout software such as TrainerRoad, it brings indoor solo training to a new level.
And if you use it with Zwift, indoor riding can actually be engaging, since the resistance automatically adjusts to the virtual climbs, flats, big-group drafts and descents.
That’s why it’s priced a bit higher than other turbo trainers.
Elite Novo Force
If it’s your first time using a turbo trainer, you can never go wrong with the Elite Novo Force. Highly considered as one of the go-to beginner turbo trainers today, the Elite Novo Force is another solid choice for indoor training.
The Novo Force is an entry level magnetic trainer from Elite.
It has five resistance settings that can operated from the handlebar. It’s also a fairly quiet trainer in terms of turbo standards, although you will hear a high-pitched whine rather than the sound of a jumbo taking off in your living room.
This unit offers increased resistance and 700 gram heavier flywheel for a smoother ride.
Pros and Cons
- Very durable
- Very comfortable
- Excellent resistance settings for an entry level trainer
- The instructions for setup can be difficult to understand
The Novo Force frame is designed to move the resistance unit to the rear of the wheel, which will allow the bike to be positioned closer to the ground, thereby increasing stability and removing the need for a riser block.
The specific properties of the material used, specifically the elastogel roller, provides a better grip of the tire, and also reduces frictional losses and noise generation.
The maximum stability at maximum effort is what makes this entry level turbo trainer very appealing. The two quick-release clamps for easy fixing of the back wheel also allows for easier use.
And lastly, the magnetic resistance flywheel gives a realistic road feel that you can’t get from other entry level turbo trainers on the market today.
Although the Novo Force takes some setting up, but once it is assembled, the plastic fairings covering the frame will give it a premium look and sturdy feel, while also keeping it light enough so you can move it around the house with ease.
The Elasto-Gel roller is also a great feature that will provide a smooth ride feel. It is also one of the quietest turbo trainer on the market today.
So if you are looking for your first turbo trainer, the Elite Novo Force is an excellent start.
Kinetic Rock and Roll Turbo Trainer
If you are looking for something unique, then the Kinetic Rock and Roll turbo trainer is your best bet. Read on to find out why.
The Kinetic Rock and Roll turbo trainer is unique mainly because it has the ability to sway from side to side. This motion mimics the feeling of riding a bike out of the saddle.
Aside from this feature, the Rock and Roll turbo trainer also has an impressive fluid resistance, which is able to cope with a wide range of power outputs.
This turbo trainer’s upgrade-dependent, wobble-while-you-work trainer isn’t for everyone, but as you can see, it offers a uniquely 3D-realistic, luxurious feeling ride.
So if you’ve got the extra space and money, you will be able to appreciate what this turbo trainer brings to the table.
Pros and Cons
- Good ride sensation
- Sustained 3d realism with smart upgrade capability
- Easy to control resistance
- Limited usefulness of moving turbo
- Very heavy and bulky
- A bit Expensive
The design of this trainer takes up more space than any other popular trainer. It does have the ‘quick release’ latch, but you still have to do a lot of turning of the two tone rubber ‘turtle’ knobs to get your bike secure in the clamps.
It has a very tall ride height which means a mounting block will make it easier to flop off after an intense workout.
The big roller on Kinetic’s fluid brake will provide less tire deformation and drag once it is mounted. This is a great design feature because conventional items will last longer if you don’t shell out for Kinetic’s specific heavy-duty rubber.
The trainer also has less buzz and vibration at full chat than with a smaller roller. The feel of the fluid brake is outstandingly smooth, with tailwind-style speed sustain between sprints to boost your morale while riding.
Aside from the 3D realistic feel that this trainer provides, the Kinetic Test Flight or Fit controller/data collector apps are also what makes this unit special.
It syncs easily to display comprehensive workout information and a range of preloaded training sessions. Plus, it hooks up to third-party PC/Mac software well.
Since the resistance is fixed, it can’t automatically change to match any virtual gradients in the software, but your avatar will still ‘ride’ at an appropriate speed for the wattage.
You can also add an In-Ride Bluetooth pod that will let you connect to either see the wattage and other data.
As we’ve mentioned above, this trainer isn’t for those that are short on space. That said, the Rock and Roll is an unusual and useful training aid and Kinetic should be applauded for its unique approach to indoor training.
So if you’ve got the money, the space and are looking for a unique turbo trainer, this is an excellent choice.
JetBlack M5 Pro Mag
Last on our list is the JetBlack M5 Pro Mag. It is certainly not the least. This turbo trainer has been making waves since its release.
The Jetblack M5 Pro Mag has five magnetic resistance settings to accurately recreate a range of different life-like situations.
It has a hydrogel roller that provides a super-smooth tire contact. It is eye catching because of its colour. Its build quality backs-up its unusually appearance, plus the ride feel is particularly smooth and progressive.
It has an ergonomically shaped adjuster dial, that will give you plenty of resistance options, which makes the Pro Mag great for every type of session.
Its only downside is it emits a very distinctive, loud sound even when pedalling normally and increases as you put down more power.
Pros and Cons
- Provides a smooth ride
- Provides plenty of resistance choices
- Ergonomic design
- Reduces tire wear
- Very noisy
By design, the Jet Black trainer comes pre-assembled, so it is very easy to set up and is pretty much ready right out of the box.
This turbo trainer comes with a quick release skewer that fits nicely into the trainer.
It has a good, wide base and has a very solid construction. This ensures that it doesn’t flex or bend and makes it sturdy and secure. Even if you are doing seated sprints, it will only wobble slightly.
You do have to make a conscious effort to chuck your weight around and make it move. The frame is also designed so that it can be easily folded or unfolded for storage and transport.
All you have to do is simply adjust a nut on each side.
What makes this trainer special is its Hydrogel roller, which gives it a nice, natural ride feel. Plus, it claims to reduce tire wear.
You will absolutely agree with this claim after you put in several hours of work on this baby.
The resistance unit is also clamped onto the rear wheel by twisting a molded plastic handle. There are five resistance settings (as mentioned above) which can be controlled by a handlebar mounted lever that slides through the different settings with ease.
Another thing that makes this trainer special is it only takes just a few seconds from once the trainer is set up to fix the supplied skewer in the back wheel of your bike, thereby making it a very easy to use turbo trainer.
If you are okay with the noise that this trainer generates (as well as your neighbours), then this can be an excellent turbo trainer for you.
It gives a great ride feel and excellent resistance settings.
You won’t blow your knees, but you can ride and be satisfied at the same time, with the resistance settings it offers.
So there you go. Whether your goal is to use long, steady sessions to protect your base fitness or build top-end power through intense intervals, a cycling turbo trainer can provide a simple, low-maintenance solution to keep you competitive or at least even mildly fit.
Any of the five mentioned above are choices you can’t go wrong with. Just make sure that before you choose one, it fits your needs and your budget.