What to Look for When Buying a Bike Trainer

What to Look for When Buying a Bike Trainer

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If you are looking to buy a bike trainer then you will find out before long you’ll be overwhelmed with options. There are hundreds of bike trainers available on the market and most of them are similar in their looks as well as their price. Some have these radical names like the MAG XL 2000 + Turbo, so what does the MAG XL mean? How about the 2000? Why is there a plus sign after 2000…and for the love of all things green- what makes it turbo!?

The above product “MAG XL 2000 +” is not a real bike trainer, but if you have begun searching for bike trainers you will notice quickly that gimmicky names are everywhere. Some sound pretty awesome and others sound cheesy and cliched. What do you buy? They all have specs you may never have heard of before. By the end of this bike trainer buying guide you should have a good idea of what you want and why you want it. A good price. And a good brand to look for. Before we begin going over the different types of bike trainers ask yourself this. What are your goals with this bike trainer?

To lose weight? To train for a race? To keep your stamina in top shape during the winter months? Perhaps a cheaper alternative to an exercise bike? Once you reveal to yourself the reasons you want a trainer it will then be easier to pinpoint the exact one to fit your personal needs. Now let’s take a look at a few of the different types of trainers available.

Types of Bike Trainers Available

Magnetic Resistance Bike Trainer:

Perhaps the most common type of bike trainer is the magnetic resistance trainers. These trainers are usually the cheapest you find, but often run in the same price range as fluid resistance trainers (see below). The magnet can feel lumpy and doesn’t feel natural, but it does provide a good workout for the cost. These are great for beginners and can be picked up for around $100 and up making them affordable to practically everyone.

If you are looking to spend less money, build up some stamina, lose weight, or even substitute a trainer for an exercise bike then a magnetic resistance trainer may be a great choice. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • The best magnetic trainers are the ones that attach to the tire, not the rim. If they attach to the rim they have no inertia and sport an unrealistic feel.
  • Magnetic resistance bicycle trainers are often called “mag trainers”. If you see “mag” you can bet it’s magnetic.
  • Try to buy a mag trainer with a resistance setting. This will help with maxing them out.
  • In terms of noise a magnetic trainer is about in the middle of the pack. Read reviews about the noise if this is a concern of yours.

Fluid Resistance Bike Trainers:

If we are going to put ranges on these bike trainers then the fluid resistance trainers would be the mid-range. These are affordable for most people and run anywhere from $200-$500 depending on brand and perks. Fluid resistance bicycle trainers are near impossible to max out unlike the magnetic trainers giving them the best road feel aside from wind trainers.

It is almost always better to get a fluid resistance trainer over a magnetic. They can run $200 more than a magnetic and it’s true that money doesn’t grow on trees. If you just don’t want to put the money down on a fluid trainer then a magnetic can help you achieve a lot of your goals. There are some things to understand about fluid trainers.

  • Fluid resistance cycle trainers are the quietest of all trainers. You could watch TV while doing your training/exercise.
  • Some models have been known to have leaking issues. Read professional reviews and educate yourself.
  • Fluid beats mag trainers hands down, but usually cost more than double on average.
  • As fluid inside the trainer begins to heat up it gets sticky – increasing resistance

Wind Resistance Bike Trainers:

Are you wanting the most natural feel with your bike trainer? Then a wind resistance bike trainer may be right up your alley. This will give you a true outdoor feeling if you are stuck inside due to weather. Check out some stuff you may want to know if you’re in the market for a wind resistance trainer.

  • The loudest of all the other resistance trainers, so if you are wanting to watch TV or use while someone is sleeping then it might not be for you.
  • It’s resistance levels are limited when you hit the upper limits. If you are a competitive cyclist then you may not receive enough resistance.
  • Real outdoor cycling feel and great for generally all basic cyclist who are not competitive.
  • Cost effective. Falls roughly around the same price as fluid trainers in the $200+ range.

Other Bike Trainers

The above three types of trainers are the most popular on the market. We suggest you pick from them. But if you are a hardcore competitive cyclist looking for the most expensive and best then consider these.

Centrifugal Force Trainers – Uses BB’s that move back and forth, creating centrifugal force sending the BB’s back toward the center, creating resistance. These types of trainers are fairly new and can be harder to find. In our opinion fluid trainers are just as good and cheaper.

Electronic Trainers – If you have a larger budget and are an electronics geek then you can consider an electronic bike trainer. They connect to your PC and allow you to experience changes in road conditions, weather, and feel changes in elevation as you tour various parts of the world…virtually of course. While it will help you train and provide exercise like other trainers, it still is mostly for the virtual aspect. Really for only the hardcore.

Some other things to consider when buying an indoor bike trainer.

  • How your bike attaches to the trainer – Make sure it’s easy to attach your bike. A trainer with a quick release skewer on the rear-axle may be something you would want.
  • Portability – Are you going to need to move your bike trainer? Carry it to races? Fold it up and store it under your bed? Many trainers fold up and are light enough to carry.
  • Leveling your trainer – Does the trainer have leveling screws to adjust the stability on uneven surfaces?
  • Resistance rollers – Smaller rollers will wear out your tires much quicker than large.
  • Shifting Gears – Shifting gears on your bike will usually make resistance adjustments for you. So your type of bike matters.
  • Noise – Using smooth tires will decrease noise. While using knobby or tread tires will increase it. Also to decrease noise you can use a rubber mat or try using it on carpet. Using on concrete or a hardwood floor will increase the noise.
  • Training, exercise, or recreation – Make sure you buy the right bike for you! If you want to train then a fluid trainer or high end magnetic resistance trainer would be best. If you want to exercise then fluid, magnetic, and wind resistance are all options. Wind resistance is best for recreational due to its nice natural feel.


In quick summary a fluid resistance trainer is best overall, but not necessarily the best for “you”. Take into consideration all the factors listed above and make an informed decision. Read professional reviews of products and make sure they are not falling apart. Check out our link for more information on some of the best bike trainers you can currently buy.


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