Thursday, November 5, 2009

How to Buy a Bike Trainer

Every now and then I come across someone on a forum asking about bike trainers and what they should buy. This can be a daunting purchase so I thought I’d give you my two cents worth of advice about what I know about trainers and how to purchase them. First of all let me say that I’m not totally fond of trainer rides but were I live they are a necessary evil in the winter if you want to do some serious riding in the spring and summer. I look at each trainer ride as an investment toward some epic summer adventures.

Wind Trainer
This was the first trainer that I ever owned and I completely wore it out after a couple of seasons. The advantages of a wind trainer are they are the cheapest of all trainers and the faster you ride the more resistance you get so I guess you could say it replicates real riding situations. Now for the disadvantages. Wind trainers are incredibly NOISEY! If you plan on riding while you watch TV don’t plan on listening to any sound unless you have a huge surround sound system and your neighbors don’t mind 120 decibels of Phil Liggett pumping out of your house. When I had a wind trainer I would turn on the closed caption while I rode. It wasn’t an optimal solution but it increased my speed reading skills. My advice: if you can afford a more expensive trainer bypass a wind trainer because of the sound and they normally aren’t built very well.

Fluid Trainer
We own one of these trainers and it works really well. The advantages are they are really quiet so you’ll be able to watch TV or talk to others without the being required to know sign language. Fluid trainers also give you a smooth ride that is the most comparable to real live outside riding. One the downside, fluid trainers are incredibly expensive ranging into the $300 arena. They are also prone to spring leaks which could make a huge permanent mess all over your carpet. If your significant other isn’t a cyclist this could get you a lifetime banishment to the garage for trainer rides. Not a good thing.

I don’t have much experience with rollers because I’m just not coordinated enough to stay up on them. I borrowed a set once and after a couple of attempts that was all for me. Every time I got on I envisioned myself sliding off of the rollers while still on my bike and hurling helplessly into the wall. Not my cup of tea but a lot of people say once you get the hang of rollers they are great for increasing your balancing skills. I also hear that rollers don’t provide much resistance so if you’re looking for some good resistance training rollers probably aren’t for you.

Mag Trainer
This is what I currently use and I like it a lot. Mag trainers are quiet and are in the mid range of the price spectrum. Most of them have a control which allows you to adjust the resistance which comes in really handy if you want to do some really hard interval type training. The only disadvantage of the mag trainer is that the resistance is constant no matter what speed you’re riding at. Personally, this isn’t a big deal to me so for my training purposes and budget a mag trainer suits me just fine.

In tomorrows post I’ll share some thoughts that I have about what to look for in a trainer once you’ve made up your mind on what type to buy.


DC said...

What do you think or know about running steps to train for climbing better in the spring?

When I saw the title of your Post, I thought you were going to trash my trainer!

Vertical on that hill is probably closer to 250' but length(I attributed the .3 mile from a different hill) is only .5 miles which is roughly 10%?

jeff said...

DC, I don't know what I'm talking about, but I've heard that pro cyclists don't even walk up stairs because that would build muscles they don't use. Lances apartment had an elevator between the 1st and 2nd floor.

Jenny-Jenny said...

Good background. I will just continue to let you be the brains in this whole thing and come along for the ride.

Jeff said...

I have a mag trainer (from Nashbar) and a wind trainer (bought second hand for $40). I've used the wind trainer once. It's so noisy you can't do anything on it to keep your mind off the fact that you're hot and sweaty and your butt is sore from going nowhere.