Now that the weather is turning colder and daylight hours are diminishing, many triathletes are taking their training indoors.
For many cyclists, a bike trainer is a necessary training tool for winter months. It’s often safer than riding on messy roads and depending on where you live, it’s much nicer to be in a climate controlled room than battling the cold and wind.
There are two main kinds of trainers: a “dumb” trainer and a “smart” trainer. Don’t let the name fool you, a “dumb” trainer is a smart idea for a cyclist who wants an inexpensive and basic set up. A “smart” trainer connects (via bluetooth or Ant+ technology) to other technology, like a Garmin, Zwift, Trainer Road and more. Some trainers require you to take your back wheel off and some do not.
It’s important to remember that even if you can find an inexpensive bike trainer on the internet, it might not be sturdy enough or powerful enough for your workouts. Be wary of “cheap” trainers on the market. As the old saying goes: You get what you pay for.
So what kind of trainer is right for you and your budget?
Here are our top picks from brands we trust.
The Best Bike Trainers For Your Budget
The Best ‘Dumb’ Trainer
Saris Mag Trainer ($) This trainer has five levels of resistance and is billed as “no fancy gizmos. No wires. No fuss.” If you want to connect to technology, you just have to buy a speed sensor to go along with it.
The Best Entry Level Smart Trainers
Kinetic Road Smart 2 Fluid Power ($)– This affordable trainer uses power sensor technology to connect to apps such as Zwift and Trainer Road. This trainer requires that you leave your back wheel on. We recommend buying a trainer tire to use instead of your regular wheel.
Wahoo Kickr Snap ($) You leave your back tire on with this trainer (again, we recommend getting a trainer tire). This trainer connects to programs like Zwift and Trainer Road. The Wahoo Kicks Snap is one of the most popular indoor trainers because of its reliable design and price.
The Best Mid-Level Smart Trainer
Tacx FLUX S smart trainer ($$) You take your back tire off for this smart trainer, which connects to all the programs out there. It’s got a heavy flywheel, which helps give you a realistic ride and it’s sturdy. This is a Garmin product. As a result, of that this bike trainer will easily connects to their technology.
The Best High-End Smart Trainers
Saris H3 Direct Drive Smart Trainer Bundle ($$) This trainer comes with an 11 speed cassette, is sturdy and quiet, and connects with all apps and programs. Full disclosure: I (the author of this article) own this one and my husband and I have been abusing it for over two years and it runs perfectly!)
Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer ($$) If you are looking for a realistic ride and a sturdy trainer that can handle the most serious cyclist, this is it. Plus, the newer version has “kickr axis” which mimics the side-to-side movement of riding outdoors.
Finding the best bike trainers for your budget can be difficult. Take your time and find the right trainer because there is a trainer out there for most budgets. Find the one that is right for you and start indoor riding!