How to choose a turbo trainer
Laugh in the face of wind, rain and snow, and keep training through winter with a turbo
The turbo trainer strikes fear into the heart of some, but for the keen cyclist faced with awful outdoor weather, the turbo can be a close training friend through the worst part of the year.
While it’s obviously no substitute for the open road, the sad reality is that ice, rain and snow can make outdoor riding unpleasant and dangerous. The last thing we want is for a bad-weather-related injury to stop us riding altogether, especially when training for an early-season race or event. With this in mind, it’s time to turn to the turbo and put in some serious indoor miles.
A good turbo isn’t just for Christmas, it can be a great training tool all year round – use them for warm-ups, cool-downs, and to polish areas of your riding without road obstacles getting in the way. Shopping for new indoor training gear can be confusing, so here’s a helpful guide…
Turbo training: the facts
Turbo trainers are quite simple pieces of equipment designed to enable you to ride your bike in a stationary position – the rear wheel of your bike is suspended in an A-frame via the quick-release skewer; your tyre sits on a roller, and a resistance unit then applies your chosen level of resistance to the tyre.
Depending on your budget, you will find different resistance technologies available – air, fluid or magnetic.
Air resistance offers limited adjustment options – a fan generates wind resistance and you use the gears on your bike to make some level of adjustment. Being at the lower end of the price range, air resistance turbos can be noisy and may not offer the best ride, so if you’re going to be doing a lot of indoor training it’s worth spending more on better technology.
Magnetic resistance offers more flexibility, particularly if you go for an electro-magnetic unit. A metal plate spins inside the unit, generating a magnetic field of resistance. They’re much quieter than air resistance trainers, and offer a better quality ride.
At the higher end of the market we find fluid resistance turbo trainers – these are the quietest and smoothest, so if you train indoors year-round they are worth the investment. An impeller revolves in an oil-like solution to create the resistance. Adjustments can usually be made via handlebar-mounted levers.
Another alternative – one which eliminates wear on your rear tyre – is a direct drive trainer. A cassette is attached to the resistance unit, and your bike is mounted onto the frame by removing the rear tyre and fixing the drive train directly to the cassette on the turbo.
More advanced turbos come with better control units, tracking capabilities, and connection options so you can monitor your sessions or immerse yourself in virtual rides, videos and games.
Click here to continue reading our guide to buying a turbo trainer