Many people started their biking journey this year and want to continue it through the colder months. What if riding outside in subzero temperatures isn’t for you? Thankfully, we have options! Indoor bike trainers can sound intimidating, but there are options for cyclists of all skill levels. We have a few simple steps to determine what setup is best for you.
Before we discuss the different types of trainers and how to use them, let’s look at some of the biggest benefits of using a bike trainer:
So, how do you get into riding your bike on a bike trainer? First, pick out the best indoor biking setup for you and your bike, then create a habit of it. Remember, even though it’s just like riding your bike, it’s also a totally new activity that your mind and body will need to adjust to. Just keep riding and improvising to make the experience what you want it to be. You will be in top riding form come spring and summer!
Ready to add indoor biking to your list of bad-weather hobbies? Keep reading to learn more about each type of bike trainer to determine which one will give you the best experience for your biking goals. You can also view our Indoor Bike Trainer Buying Guide.
Before we cover the main categories of indoor trainers, we want to answer some of the common questions that people starting out on an indoor trainer may have. Once we cover some of the common questions, we will discuss the different types of indoor bike trainers to help you decide what is best for you.
Yes, for most trainers, you can simply attach your bike to the trainer. Most of the bike trainers listed below will be used with a standard bike that you would use outside with the exception of the bike simulator.
The way these bikes connect will vary depending on the type of trainer you select. Some will need the rear wheel removed and some will attach without any adjustment to the bike. There is also the difference between a quick release and a thru-axle. As shown in the picture below, a quick-release axle is very simply loosened by pulling the lever and unscrewing. A thru-axle generally requires a hex wrench to loosen and tighten. All trainers will offer instructions on how to perform the task and once you learn how it will become quick and easy!
Some trainers have the added feature of being “smart”. This gives the trainer the ability to wirelessly connect to the world of trainer apps. Classic trainers do not have this wireless connect option. Sensors on smart trainers also provide the capability of changing resistance to make rides feel more real. Lastly, they provide fitness tracking to get better input on your workout.
The first step in deciding on the best indoor bike trainer for you is to know the different types of trainers. We will highlight the differences so you will have an easier time determining which direction to go.
Wheel-on bike trainers are very popular because they are easy to set up and have a lower price point than some of the other options. They also work with virtually any bike out there.
Direct-drive trainers often look similar to wheel-on trainers and operate somewhat similarly. However, for these trainers, you will remove your rear wheel and connect your bike’s chain to a cassette attached to the trainer. These trainers are often at higher price points than wheel-on trainers, but often provide a smoother and more stable ride. These will also work with most bikes.
Bike simulators are often at the highest price point and provide an amazing real-world cycling feel. They are also easily adjustable for different riders. Another benefit is keeping your outdoor bike available to grab and go.
Bike rollers are going to be at the lowest price point and also require the most technique and probably the most room. These are rollers that will sit under your wheels and ride your bike over. It basically operates like a treadmill does for runners.
There are many different apps that can help you track your workouts and make them more entertaining and enjoyable. This is especially true with a smart trainer. There are some amazing subscription-based apps that have completely reimagined the indoor bike trainer. A few top examples are Zwift, Wahoo SYSTM, and TrainerRoad. There are many others that you can find and some trainers will recommend their own. You can do some research and explore which apps work best for your training.
There are a variety of bike trainer accessories that make indoor biking much more enjoyable. Some can make your indoor biking more realistic by mimicking wind and hills. Other items can provide safety to you and floor services like a mat to put underneath the trainer to keep it from sliding or scratching the floor.