The ultimate accessory to train all year long: how to select the perfect home trainer?
In this Article
Published on April 20, 2023
Looking to train effectively but have limited time or live in an area with bad weather during the winter? There is a high chance that a smart trainer would be a great solution as most of us don’t have the luxury of living in the south of Spain, the reality is that if you want to ride during the winter its going to be cold, wet and muddy. Coupled with dark winter nights there is not a lot of time to ride before or after work unlike in the summer.
Indoor training can be a great solution, maximising every second you spend on the bike means you can complete an effective session in just 45 minutes. Although you might want to open the window and turn on the fan, its going to get hot!
A home trainer is a great gift idea. For more gift ideas for cyclists, read this article.
Luckily for us in 2023 there are lots of great options, and more affordable than just a few years ago. Furthermore, there are lots of indoor cycling apps which can turn riding indoors into a lot of fun and rather social, for example, riding or racing with friends on Zwift. In this article we will run through the positives and negatives of indoor training, which home trainer might be best for you and where you can buy any of these trainers.
Which home trainer is best for you?
There are 3 major types, each has pros and cons so read down below to help you understand what to look out for. (There is a table below for quicker reading)
This is a great budget option for someone just getting started with prices starting around 150 euros, they most commonly have adjustable resistance. Your wheel makes contact to a flywheel, unfortunately due to this your tyre can become worn out over time however, specific more durable tyres are available, though it may be frustrating having to change the tyre between indoor and outdoor rides, this can be fixed if you have a dedicated wheel for indoor riding.
If you want to use Zwift, a speed sensor on the rear wheel is required which has compatible connexion with your smart phone or laptop. If you’re interested in buying a power meter, find out more information here for everything there is to know. Some of these home trainers are available with power but are not as accurate as a direct mounted trainer or having a power meter on your bike. These can be used on all wheel types; some are compatible with mountain bikes such as the Kinetic listed below. Looking at getting into mountain biking? Check out this article on what to look for when buying a second-hand MTB. Lastly, this system can be quite noisy which may be something to consider.
Good options are Tacx Bost (150 euros), Elite Tuo (271 euros), Kinetic Rock and Roll Control T-6500 (500 euros).
Looking for more precision? Maybe a direct mount home trainer is more suited for your needs. Removing your rear wheel and attaching your bike to the cassette and axel of the trainer offers a lot more stability, especially when sprinting (very important for the end of a Zwift race!). They often come with in-built power meters and when riding on an application like Zwift you will feel the effect in resistance when going up a virtual hill or drafting in a peloton etc, this may not sound like a lot but can make riding indoors a lot more enjoyable as well as making it great for hard training sessions. A lot of different models are compatible with both mountain bikes and road bike with both rim and or disc brakes.
Although you won’t need a specific tyre or spare wheel some trainers don’t come with a cassette so that may be a small extra cost to consider. The price point is a little higher than the wheel on trainers, starting around 480 euros and be carful of your back as they can be surprisingly heavy. This is also a great option if you want a quiet trainer, usually the higher the price the quieter it is.
The most popular options are the new Zwift Hub (500 euros), the Elite Turno (480 euros), the Wahoo Kickr Core (600 euros), the Wahoo Kickr V6 (1100 euros),
Last up we have a slightly more challenging option, rollers. They may look very simple but don’t be fooled. I would recommend when using them for the first time that you place them in a doorway to offer support on both sides. With nothing to hold the bike in place it requires you to engage your core and use your balance. Requiring more concentration and having a naturel feel compared to the last 2 options helps the time fly faster. Another benefit is that it can help to improve your pedalling efficiently as pedalling smoothly will make staying on the rollers a lot easier. They fold up to save space although a slightly more awkward shape than the last two types of indoor trainers. The length can be adjusted making it perfect for all bikes, road, mountain, gravel etc. There are models available with changeable resistance as well as power. With a price starting around 132 euros they are very competitive, but for the in-built power and resistance the price rises significantly. To finish, they can be noisy which might not make them the best option for you.
Examples: Tacx Libre Antares T1000 (132 euros), Zcycle Trainer Zroller (200 euros), Elite Nero (580 euros).
Home trainer comparison chart
We have decided to judge each type of home trainer from 1-5, 5 being the best and 1 being the worst, here are the four factors we are judging.
- Price – A very important thing to consider but remember to think about the small extra costs e.g., Specific tyres or cassette etc.
- Training effectiveness – If you’re planning on training regularly throughout the cold winter months then it may be good to look at more stable home trainers with accurate power meters.
- Noise - Depending on your living arrangements this may be an important factor; you don’t want to annoy the neighbours!
- User friendliness – If your have been riding for a while maybe you want a challenge like rollers however these aren’t the best option for someone starting out (it’s not fun falling off, which we’ve all done). When interval training it’s nice to have a solid base!
|Wheel on||Direct Mount||Rollers|
The over score may not be important if you’re looking for something specific. Use all the information to work out which option best suits your demands.
Where to buy the perfect home trainer and a list of popular brands
Your local bike shop is always a good place to start! If they don’t have any in stock, they would happily advise and order something in for you, you can of course look online. There are plenty of second-hand options which could mean you get a great price. Here is a list of the popular brands.
I’ve been lucky enough to use a few different brands (Wahoo, Saris and multiple rollers). Never having a specific problem with any of them I would say all large brands would be a great option. There are some really good budget direct mount options which are worth the investment over the wheel on trainers. Being able to use all of Zwift’s features really makes riding indoors a lot more fun.
Some examples of Home Trainer sessions according to your level
- Level 1: For people who are new to cycling and do not cycle regularly. The idea would be to do 1 to 3 times 10 minutes with 5 minutes recovery between the 10 minutes to build up endurance as a basis for work.
- Level 2: For intermediate cyclists, a little more experienced, an idea of a session could be 3x(5*30 seconds / 30 seconds) recovery 3 minutes. This session aims to increase VO2max and PMA.
- Level 3: for experienced cyclists: 3*(10 seconds / 15 seconds / 20 seconds) pace: max, start every 5 minutes. Here the aim is to work on explosiveness and restarts to simulate the behaviour of a bunch race and a final sprint.
For all levels, it is also important to work on pedalling technique and cadence. For pedalling technique it is very simple to work on: 30 seconds with one leg, 30 seconds with another leg, 30 seconds normal and repeat this several times.
To work on cadence for those who have power sensors, cadence can be varied by doing force (around 60-70 rpm), hypervelocity (100-110 rpm).
How to make indoor riding pass quicker
Not long-ago indoor riding was seen as a last resort. However, in 2023 there are so many applications and accessories to help you create your perfect set up! Here are some of the popular apps used for training inside; Zwift, MyWoosh and Rouvey. If you don’t have access to one of these apps listen to a podcast, watch Netflix or YouTube videos. It’s best to keep your mind busy while riding but just make sure any screen you are using is in the right position as looking too high or too low it could be bad for your neck.
Accessories such as the Kickr Grade Simulator, Kickr Headwind Fan and Saris NP1 NFINITY Turbo Trainer Platform are very popular. It’s also important to have a mat which can help protect your floor from any dirt or sweat. Having 2 towels, one on your handlebars to stop sweat getting into your headset bearings and another to help wipe sweat from your body are important. Remember to drink plenty of fluid!
Overall, a home trainer would be great if you’re looking for extra miles during the winter or just fit some around a busy schedule. If you’re new to cycling it may be a good idea to start out with a lower end home trainer, there is nothing like riding outside and it’s not for everyone. However, if you’re New Year’s resolution was to ride more during the winter maybes it’s the right investment for you. For some ideas of other New Year’s resolutions check out this blog on our website. There are plenty of different options and it’s important to get one which suit you best, I hope the information in this article has helped!