How to Choose a Turbo Trainer? A Buying Guide

Elite Drivo Direct Drive FE-C Smart Trainer   Turbo Trainers

Turbo trainers are a fantastic way of keeping up your fitness level when you can’t get out to ride for any reason but if you’ve never used a turbo trainer before, choosing and using one can be a little daunting. This buying guide will help clarify and you will know how to choose a turbo trainer.

For Starters

First you’ll need a bike – pretty much any bike will do but turbo trainers are really made for road bikes. You’ll probably want some accessories – a mat to reduce any noise and stop your sweat from dripping on the floor and a wheel riser to lift your front wheel so your bike is level. Read more on other items you might find useful when training here:

Which Style of Turbo Trainer?

There are two ways you can connect your bike to a turbo trainer, according to style.

  1. There’s a ‘wheel-on’ trainer – these are generally the cheapest and most straightforward as, with this type of trainer, you simply click the rear of your bike into it and you’re ready to pedal.
  2. The other style of trainer is ‘direct drive’ – it’s called direct drive because you remove the rear bike wheel and connect using a standard cassette.

Wheel-on trainers are lighter and therefore more portable but direct drive models have a few advantages over them. You don’t actually have to calibrate these trainers as most come with built in meters so they’re more accurate at recording your power output and can mimic a real ride. They’re also much quieter than wheel-on trainers. Overall, direct drive trainers are considered the more professional option but that does come with a higher price.

Go Basic or Go Smart?

Zwift App Virtual World

The other major choice is deciding whether you want to go for a basic trainer or a smart trainer. A smart trainer measures your power and connects you to cycling apps for a fully synchronised and simulated cycling experience, automatically adjusting your resistance as you ride. With a basic trainer you have to do this manually.

A smart trainer is more expensive so it really depends on what you want to use your trainer for. A quick bit of exercise now and then? You could choose basic. On the other hand, if you want to get serious about your cycling or think you would prefer an incentive to enjoy an interactive experience, go smart. A smart trainer can easily connect to apps such as the very popular Zwift to take over the resistance of your turbo and give you a real-world feel, for example becoming harder as you go up those virtual hills. You simply set up your trainer in front of a TV, connect the app via a PC or Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV or Android smartphone or tablet. You can then pedal your way through a choice of online worlds or join with others or take part in races and events. Indoor cycling apps also measure things like your heart rate and power so that you can monitor your progress. Basically, apps like Zwift make cycling indoors so much more fun and motivating.

N.B. It is possible to use indoor cycling apps with some basic wheel-on trainers but it’s quite likely that you’d have to buy and fit a couple of supported accessories that include sensors to transmit power and speed. Not ideal nor cheap!

So that’s a brief tour of turbo trainers which should help in your choice.

Browse our full range from top UK online retailers and you’ll find what you need at the best price! All Turbo Trainers.