What Is The Deal With Turbo Trainers And Why Are They So Great?

Last Updated on April 7, 2021

Turbo Trainers And Why They’re Great

Turbo trainers have long been a favorite of cyclists and triathletes. The ability to get on your bike during the cold winter months without having to brave the rain, wind, and ice on the roads really is a Godsend.

Turbo trainers have the advantage over an exercise bike that they use your existing bike, meaning you can train as you race. They also take up a lot less space than an exercise bike, plus as a bonus, they’re much easier to pack away.

What Is A Turbo Trainer?

A turbo trainer is a device that attaches to the rear of your bike, clamping the frame in place and allowing you to ride your bike without it actually moving. It essentially turns your BMX, mountain bike, or road bike into a stationary exercise bike.

The more advanced direct drive turbo trainers replace the back wheel completely, letting you slot your bike frame into place and then ride it as normal. You’ll have to match the cassette on the turbo to those on your bike, though. Simpler turbo trainers will clamp onto the rear wheel skewer, putting the rear wheel onto a roller. As a word of advice, you may want to get a turbo tire, so you don’t wear out your road tires.

There are two primary types of turbo trainers; these are normal or smart, with the latter able to supply you with a lot of data about your training and being compatible with several virtual training services, such as Zwift.

Is It Worth Getting A Turbo Trainer?

Even the best turbo trainers have a bad rep in some circles for being tedious and boring, however, in our opinion, there’s no arguing with the fact that turbos are a great tool for targeted training and achieving fitness goals.

In wintertime especially, a turbo trainer can offer a more efficient and safer way to get your miles in. With the explosion of training software like Zwift and TrainerRoad, you can even train with others in a virtual world if you have a power meter on your bike.

Turbos are also a lifesaver for those short on time looking to get some quick exercise in, as just a 30-minute workout a few times a week can have a significant impact on your overall fitness level.

Now, in case you’re still not convinced here’s a list of some of the top reasons people love the turbo trainer:

Convenience

Turbo trainers offer the benefit of staying out of undesirable weather conditions. You’re going to stay safe and combat any unwanted illness from outside in the cold.

They also save time, rather than going out for a three-hour ride you can do some indoor training on a wahoo kickr or a tacx neo which are both popular turbo trainers that will deliver an unrivaled indoor cycling experience.

Time Efficient

Not only is the turbo trainer more convenient, but it’s also more time-efficient. Maximizing your training time, especially on those short winter days as it allows you to train effectively and get fit for summer, without leaving your home. What more could you want?

If like most riders, you don’t live the life of a pro cyclist instead having to tend to other matters such as work and family, the turbo is ideal for getting quality training in between or around these tasks.

Accuracy

One of the main reasons to use the turbo trainer in the winter and at any time of year for that matter is the ability to train with far more accuracy than you might otherwise be able to get outdoors.

By training on the turbo you can measure and plan your training more accurately as there are fewer variables on the turbo like adverse weather and traffic.

Types Of Turbo Trainer

Magnetic

A fairly smooth and quiet option, magnetic turbos work thanks to a metal plate situated inside the resistance unit, which creates a magnetic resistance. This is a great option if you’re looking for a really specific feel as it can usually be adjusted manually.

Direct drive

One of the more advanced turbo setups available, direct-drive turbo trainers come with a cassette mounted directly onto a resistance unit. Remove your rear wheel and attach your bike directly to the unit. This gives you a much more realistic and stable experience but you’ll have to consider the price as these don’t come cheap.

Fluid

A slightly pricier option, fluid turbo trainers provide a smooth and quiet ride. They generate resistance with an impeller that revolves in a thick, oil-like solution. This system provides a natural adjustment of resistance due to the fact that the effort to turn the impeller increases as you pedal harder.

Fan

The fan is more affordable than the two types mentioned above, fan turbos are pretty noisy and definitely less refined. A fan creates air resistance as you pedal and turn the roller, however, there is limited adjustability in resistance and only your gears can change how hard it is as you ride. This is a pretty outdated model so you’re likely only to see these being sold second-hand.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a smart turbo trainer?

You don’t need a smart trainer to ride on Zwift. A smart trainer transmits your max power data and can change the resistance so you can feel virtual hills, but you can alternatively use a supported classic trainer and a speed sensor instead.

Can you put any bike on a turbo trainer?

Pretty much yes. Nearly every road bike will fit on a turbo trainer as long as you use the provided skewer on the rear wheel. Most mountain bikes can also be used, providing you fit a slick tire to the back wheel. The only bikes you might struggle with are BMXs.

Do turbo trainers ruin tires?

Most turbo trainers, other than direct drive ones, have a roller that your rear tire sits on. As a result standard road bike tyres will quickly start to overheat and will then wear very quickly. Ome people have destroyed normal road cycling tyres within a few weeks when using them on a turbo trainer.

Summary

As most people prefer riding with their wheels leveled, you’ll likely want to buy a turbo block that will raise your front wheel three to four inches and level it off with the back.

Before you start your ride, you should also make sure to have a small towel on hand to mop up sweat and, if you don’t have a bike computer, a stopwatch or timer within reach to keep track of time and pace your efforts, that way you can customize your workout and rise more efficiently.

If you live in a flat and have hard floors, you may want to put down some kind of barrier to help minimize the noise otherwise you’re neighbors will soon start hearing and nobody wants a complaint.

Besides that though, make sure you enjoy it. If you want some quick recommendations for turbo trainers then we suggest the tacx neo 2t, the wahoo kickr snap, or the elite suito. So good luck with your search and of course…

Keep cycling!

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