15 Mar 2016


There are three major designs of turbo trainer, and there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that every single one of them has the capacity to inflict severe pain and boredom. The good news is that they’re fantastic for keeping up fitness levels in cold, wet and dark winters. Pedaling against the resistance of rollers without going anywhere at all may seem a struggle, but it certainly beats dealing with ice, gusting winds and rain!

It gets better! 
In reality, turbo trainers are good for far more than dodging bad weather. They excel at really targeted training sessions, as there’s nothing – such as traffic, terrain or awkward road layouts – to interrupt the continuous timed efforts of intervals. They’re also great for warming up before an event.

For those with day jobs that aren’t cycling, turbos get the maximum from your available time. Half an hour on a turbo trainer is worth half an hour, as there are none of the extra, time-sapping demands of getting out in the real world (and cleaning it all up afterwards). All this is why pro riders tend to use them all year round. But what should you look for when buying?

Turbo trainers are available from a number of different manufacturers, and in three basic types, including fluid resistance

The designs
Firstly, take a look at the pros and cons of the various designs.

– Magnetic resistance
These are quiet, and many are also adjustable for resistance as you ride. That can be very useful to finely-tuned training sessions, but they need a power source.

– Fluid resistance
Oil-filled turbos are quiet, but tend to be more expensive than other types. Their resistance increases naturally the faster you spin them.

– Air resistance
Fans are loud, but they’re simple and cheap – if you can find one. Most manufacturers have turned to newer designs, as resistance adjustability is minimal.


Fan-based air resistance turbo trainers make some noise but are a popular and cost-effective training aid

Which is for you? 
If you just want to warm up or do the occasional session, a cheap, folding turbo with no power meter will be just the trick. However, if motivation is a problem, or you plan serious training, look for a ’smart’ turbo that works in conjunction with various apps.

These can simulate the strain of real climbs and descents, and generate a mass of useful data in real time. Online ‘multiplayer’ adds a competitive edge. Videos shot from a pro rider’s point of view (POV) and linked to your performance can spice up your time, too.

Most work via a roller driven by your rear tyre. Some, however, replace your rear wheel – you attach the bike to a cassette on the turbo itself. These have many benefits, including greater stability, a more realistic feel and very low noise, but they tend to be the most expensive.

The final option is a set of rollers, instead of a turbo trainer. These take practice and concentration to ride on, which helps keep interest up naturally.

Find your place 
Before committing, make sure you have room! You need a flat, smooth and solid floor to support the turbo, your bike and yourself – cement, tile or lino are ideal – and decent ventilation is a priority, as there’s no windblast to cool you down. The general sweatiness of it means carpeted areas are to be avoided.

Dirty bikes are to be avoided too, as sweat that drips on to the rear wheel is liable to paint a dirty, oily line up your walls.

Turbo trainers can make quite a racket, so if you’re in an upstairs flat or apartment, look for low-noise models and/or consider ways of soundproofing bare floors and insulating them from vibration.

If space is at a premium, go for folding designs, and if you’ve been banished to an unpowered outbuilding, avoid anything with built-in gadgetry…

One final tip: invest in a set of training wheels, such as these from Vision to keep your main tires and bearings in tip-top shape. They’ll pay off both on the roads and a turbo.

A perfect partner for your turbo trainer is a set of training wheels, such as the Trimax 35