Buyer Guide: How to Buy an Indoor Cycle Trainer

One cannot always go out and ride – due to traffic, unsafe roads at night, the weather or a pandemic that forces everyone in the world to lockdown!

The ideal way for a cyclist to stay fit at home is then, an indoor cycle trainer. You may even get addicted to it! Get help with choosing the right cycle trainer, as Cyclop experts break it down.

What to Consider when Buying an Indoor Cycle Trainer

An indoor cycle trainer is a big investment, in terms of passion and money. Consider these factors to help you make the right decision.

  • Price: Features of the trainer vary greatly with the price.
  • Noise: All trainers make some noise even if they claim to be “silent.” Look for their decibel level, which is often listed, at a particular speed or cadence. Direct drive trainers are the most silent.
  • Resistance: Levels of resistance, is the resistance changeable or not?
  • Stability & Vibration: The trainer should not rock back and forth with fast pedalling.
  • Durability: Make sure it lasts long and is an investment for a couple of years.
  • Compatibility: Would you need additional parts to mount your cycle on the trainer? Can you mount different cycles on the trainer?
  • Accuracy and range of data: For smart trainers, look at the accuracy of data you get matters, like power, cadence, maximum slope, maximum power, etc.
  • Range of motion and feel: Certain trainers give realistic on-road feel, while others do not.
  • Weight and portability: Do you need a lightweight trainer to carry to races for warm-up?
  • Space: How much space will the trainer occupy when set-up?
  • Warranty and customer support

The Budget Required for an Indoor Cycle Trainer in India

Indoor cycle trainers come from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1,30,000 in India. Good trainers come in the range of Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 50,000. 

The main features which make a difference in the price of a trainer are the ability to connect with the third-party apps and the types of resistance. Some of the top brands to consider are Elite, Kinetic, Minoura, Tacx and Wahoo.

Types of Cycle Trainers

The first thing to see is - You can get a trainer that holds your bike upright, or rollers in which you need to cycle while maintaining balance. Both have their pros and cons.

DIRECT DRIVE CYCLE TRAINERS - These are advanced indoor cycle trainers. You can take off the rear wheel of the cycle and attach the rest of the cycle to the trainer. This saves wear and tear on the rear tire. These are the top end trainers available in the market.

These are mostly smart trainers i.e. you can connect them to the third-party apps via Bluetooth or ANT+ and get data like power, cadence, speed, etc. Such trainers give more accurate data and make almost no noise.

TIRE DRIVE OR WHEEL-ON CYCLE TRAINERS - These are basic/beginner level trainers in which you don’t need to take off the rear wheel though. You can place mount entire cycle on the trainer. If you need to take the cycle on the road for a real ride, you can do so more easily than with a direct-drive trainer. The rear tire however does experience wear and tear. These types of trainers have slippage in power and make noise.

ROLLERS - In these you simply place the entire cycle on the rollers. The back wheel is not clamped at all. It is great for balance and quick to spin your legs, and thus used by pros, often pre-race for a warm-up.

They are incredibly simple in design but require greater concentration by the cyclist. You do not get the stability to just lean sideways and grab a bottle of water, as you can do on Direct Drive or Tire Drive trainers.

Types of Resistances in an Indoor Cycle Trainer

An indoor cycle trainer is primarily defined by the kind of resistance they use. Direct Drive and Tire Drive trainers use the following resistances:

WIND RESISTANCE: Cyclists use this kind of resistance till today, though not much. A fan within the unit creates wind resistance. The harder a cyclist pedals, the more resistance is created.

Pros: Durable, cost-effective
Cons: Noisy, lack of realistic feel, non-adjustable resistance

MAGNETIC RESISTANCE: In these trainers, opposing magnets provide resistance. A weighted flywheel with magnets spins past other magnets in a fixed position. As the magnets are engaged or disengaged, it creates drag/resistance on the flywheel.

Pros: Affordable and quieter than wind trainers
Cons: Limited to the maximum power output of around 900 watts

FLUID RESISTANCE: These give a highly realistic feel like a fluid in the unit mimics the resistance of the road. The fluid is usually turbine oil that deals well with heat. The faster you pedal, more viscous the liquid becomes, and this creates more resistance.

Cyclists considered this the best kind of trainer-resistance once, but with electronic indoor training becoming popular, they prefer magnetic trainers now.

Pros: Quieter than Magnetic, Offer progressive resistance, More road-like feel
Cons: More expensive than magnetic trainers, fluid inside gets very hot.

 Smart Trainers

Smart Trainers can be Direct Drive or Tire Drive Trainers. They can use any type of resistance (magnetic/fluid on tire drive cycle trainers and motor/belt drive on direct drive trainers). What makes them smart is that they can sync with external software and third-party applications.

This allows the cyclist to:

  • enjoy virtual group rides
  • compete with cyclists virtually over the world on particular segments
  • ride on Tour de France, Classic races routes and other famous routes with simulations

Smart trainers are highly variable. Some top points to consider are:

Connectivity: Smart trainers connect to external software using ANT+, Bluetooth or a combination of the two and send data such as heart rate, cadence, speed etc. If you already have an app in mind like Zwift, Peloton, Strava or Sufferfest, it is good to check if and how your trainers would sync to it.

Power and Power Accuracy: It is good to check up to how much power the trainer can record. Some can handle up to 2000 watts which is more than required. Then see the accuracy of recording  the data, can be +/- 10% to a greater accuracy of +/- 1%. However, take this information with a grain of salt.

Slope: Can your trainer change the slope or gradient on instructions by an app, to simulate a certain route or terrain, and by how much can it change the gradient? 10% maximum slope is good, upwards of 20% is more than what a cyclist generally needs.

Note: There is a difference between smart and interactive cycle trainers. You can connect both types to devices and get data. But interactive trainers can go a bit further in terms of immersive experience. The interactive trainers simulates the terrain, resistance, etc. automatically as per the ride’s profile online.

Trainer Accessories To Buy With Your Indoor Cycle Trainer

Here are some accessories to get with your indoor cycle trainer:

Cassette: You may need to buy one to install the rear wheel of you cycle on Direct Drive Trainers. The one that comes with the trainer, if any, may not be compatible with your cycle.

Front tire block/ring: This may even come with your tire drive trainer. It raises the front part of the cycle, since the back part of the cycle is raised when mounted on the trainer, and helps you get a level cycle. As the back part of the bike may get raised when placed on a trainer, this block raises the front part too. It keeps the bike level and stable. You can use two blocks in the front to simulate a hill climbing position.

Trainer mat: This absorbs the vibration of the cycle, and keeps it from transmitting to the floor. Also absorbs your sweat.

Sweat net or thong: This protects your bike frame from your sweat as you ride.

Tires: The rear tire of your cycle may wear out faster than usual due to the friction against the roller, so you can switch to a trainer tire or use a regular road slick tire.

Sensors: If you have a basic trainer and want cadence/speed data, you can purchase the cadence/speed sensor.

Now that you know all there is to know about trainers, go pick the one that suits your needs the best and start training!


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