Introduction to Indoor Cycling

Cold winters, shorter days, and busy lives don’t have to mean an end to your riding and training season. Riding indoors, whether on a trainer, rollers, or indoor cycle, allows a rider to stay on the bike year round. This guide will help you learn about the different products available and help you pick what’s right for you.

What is a trainer?

Trainers hold the bike by its rear axle allowing the rider to use their own bike that they know and love indoors. Resistance is provided by magnets, fluid, or wind. The rear wheel either runs over a drum that turns the resistance unit or the trainer uses a direct-drive system which attaches directly to your bike’s drivetrain.

Why are trainers the best indoor cycling experience?

  • You train on your bike that you know and that fits you. You don’t need to make any adjustments to the fit between riding indoors and outdoors, but you do have the opportunity to refine your bikes fit and comfort.

  • Since you’re using your bike, the comfort, feel, and familiarity you develop are directly transferable to riding outside.

  • You already own the bike, all you need to buy is the trainer.

  • It’s easy to move and store. You can even bring it with you on the road or to train with friends!

What are the different types of trainers?

Smart Trainers

Smart trainers take indoor riding to entirely different levels of ride realism, quality of training, and entertainment. Smart trainers allow third-party apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, and many others to control the resistance of the trainer. This allows the trainer to replicate real-world routes or amazing created worlds like you’ll find on Zwift. When you come to a hill on your route, the trainer makes it harder to pedal. Or if you’re doing a structured workout, it will adjust the resistance for you. In some apps, it will even make it easier when you’re drafting in a group!

Most smart trainers use cycling’s common wireless ANT+ technology and Bluetooth, which most phones, laptops, and tablets use. To use a smart trainer, you’ll need to have a phone, computer, or tablet to control the trainer.

In addition to the smart trainer, there are some other amazing smart accessories to make your indoor ride even more like riding outside. The Wahoo KICKR CLIMB raises and lowers the front of your bike to simulate climbs up to a 20% grade and descents of up to 10%. When paired with a compatible KICKR smart trainer, the CLIMB adjusts automatically to match your simulated ride, making your indoor cycling experience more realistic, dynamic, and engaging.

Learn more about how an entire smart ecosystem can let you train indoors just like you train outdoors.

Classic Trainers

Classic, or standard, trainers were just that, the standard, for many years. They don’t use any electronics to control their resistance, but depending on the resistance unit they do have some adjustability. Classic trainers are an excellent option for the person that wants something they can use anywhere. They’re especially great for warming up before races.

Fluid Trainers

Before the advent of smart trainers, fluid trainers were the pinnacle. Fluid trainers use an impeller that spins in a fluid-filled chamber to create its resistance. This resistance is progressive, which means that the faster you go, the harder it gets. This gives the trainer a more road-like feel. Fluid trainers are very quiet and a great option for someone that wants to push themselves hard on the trainer.

Magnetic

Magnetic trainers, often referred to as mag trainers, use magnets to provide their resistance. Most mag trainers have multiple resistance levels that can be manually adjusted, but some higher-end models provide progressive resistance (the faster you go, the harder it gets). Magnetic trainers are relatively quiet and offer a moderate amount of resistance, but for people looking to push hard on a trainer, smart or fluid trainers are better options.

Wind

Another type of classic trainer is the wind trainer. Wind trainers use fan blades moving through the air to provide their resistance. Like fluid trainers (since air is a fluid) they have progressive resistance (the faster you go, the harder it gets) and a road-like feel. And while wind trainers feel great and are economical, the downside is that they are very loud, to the point that you can’t really listen to music or hold a conversation when using one.

What are rollers? Why would I want them?

Unlike a trainer, rollers do not attach to the bike in any way. They consist of a long frame with two drums in the rear and a single drum up front to support the bike. A band connects the front and rear allowing the wheels to spin as you pedal. You can almost think of them as a treadmill for your bike, only you power it. With nothing but your own balance to hold the bike up, rollers are a great way to improve your pedaling technique and your fitness. Resistance is varied by shifting through your gears.

There are a few accessories that can be added to rollers. First, some models allow for a resistance unit to be attached if you find that shifting through your gears doesn’t provide enough of a workout. Second, some models can accommodate a fork stand to hold the bike in place. This is an excellent option if you aren’t quite confident enough on rollers or just want a workout where you’re not worried about balance.

What is an indoor cycle?

Indoor cycles, also known as spin bikes, come in a variety of versions with different features. They consist of a frame with a weighted flywheel that simulates the feel of riding on the road. The contact points are adjustable to ensure proper fit. Indoor cycles don’t have multiple gears, but the resistance can be adjusted manually while higher-end models allow for computer or app-based adjustments to get precise workouts.

What is an Indoor Smart Bike?

Just like a Smart Trainer, Indoor Smart Bikes are able to connect to sensors and training apps, expanding the possibilities while training inside. These Indoor Smart Bikes are adjustable to mimic your riding position on your outside bike. They feature resistance units that can be connected to training apps to provide realistic resistance based on a structured workout or even a simulated bike ride outside and with others, online, all while you are in the comfort and safety of your home!

What types of accessories might I want?

A trainer mat is a great accessory no matter what type of trainer or rollers you have as they do several things for you. First, they protect your floors from sweat and and scuffing. They also provide an anti-slip function so when you’re riding hard the trainer stays in place. And finally, they help reduce noise by absorbing sound.

Not only do you want to protect your floors, but you want to protect your bike as well. A sweat guard will help keep your sweat from dripping onto your frame and drivetrain, keeping things cleaner and lasting longer. Some even include handy cellphone holders.

If you use a trainer that requires you leave your rear wheel on your bike, it will raise the rear of your bike. To level the bike out, a riser block is needed. This will allow you to be in a more natural and comfortable position, rather than feeling like you’re riding downhill. The riser block will also help hold the front wheel in a stable position. And some riser blocks even have multiple positions or can be stacked to simulate a climbing position.

Another key accessory if you use a wheel-on trainer is a trainer tire. Trainer tires use much more durable compounds that will hold up longer to the stresses a trainer puts on them. Since weight and ride quality aren’t concerns in their design, they can be made much stiffer and thicker. Their design also helps to make them quieter.

If you’re using a smart trainer, or just want to keep your tablet or laptop close by, there are great products designed to hold them safely. The Wahoo Fitness Desk and Delta Tablet Holder are two great options to keep your devices close at hand and held securely.

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