What turbo trainer? The beginners guide


What is a turbo trainer?

 It’s a gadget that allows you to turn your road bike into a stationery training tool.

Why use a turbo trainer?

It will always be better to train on the bike you ride on, you are used to that position, the gym bikes are never quite right, huge seats, pedals in the wrong place, different handle bars, etc. A turbo allows you to train, away from the elements, making cycling accessible when the weather is too bad. If you have family / time constraints, it makes cycling easier to fit in. It also allows you to work on technique like pedalling, in a safe environment, and allows you to exactly control the resistance, etc, without being governed by the contours of the road. It allows you to push yourself more, perhaps, but you must then be prepared to go out and transfer all these new skills on the real open road!

There are many turbo training DVD’s available to structure your training, and make the time pass quicker, as stationary riding can get boring! I use http://www.thesufferfest.com/ which I can download to iPod / iPhone, or DVD, and Robbie Ventura DVD’s like this one;

http://www.amazon.co.uk/CycleOps-realRides-Presents-Robbie-Ventura/dp/B001GB7OUQ/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=sports&qid=1290028798&sr=8-4 There are, of course many more. These are just my favourites.

Which turbo trainer should I get?

That depends on where you will put it. Some can be very noisy, so does that matter? Will it be in the living room, spare room, or will it be in the garage?

WIND turbo trainers:

  • This is good for entry level, indoor cyclists who want progressive resistance and don’t mind their turbo trainer being loud. The price tend to start here with this one. The one with the best reviews seems to be the Cycle Ops wind turbo trainer
  • Wind resistance bike trainers are the cheapest of the turbo trainers and are always at the bottom of the range as far as price is concerned. With wind resistance bike trainers your pedalling drives a small fan attached to the unit. The fan is designed so that the harder you cycle the higher the wind resistance is that the fan generates. Because the fan is a fixed size it is not possible to change the resistance curve on your turbo trainer. However these turbo trainers do have a realistic feel to them as the resistance rises in direct proportion to the speed you pedal at.
  • Wind resistance turbo trainers main downfalls are the fact that it is not possible to adapt the power curve and also that they are very loud. Due to the direct relation between the speed of the fan and the speed at which you cycle, when you get up to speed on a wind turbo trainer the noise can in some cases be extraordinary. This means that you cannot use a wind cycle trainer indoors or in any place where noise is a consideration.
  • The flip side of the fan is that wind bike trainers can produce a bit of a breeze which can help counteract the lack of wind that comes with stationary cycling.
  • Overall a wind turbo can be worth considering as a first turbo trainer if you can get your hands on a good brand cheaply. You will certainly get a good feel for what it is like to use a bike trainer, however for serious and regular cycle training you should opt for one of the other resistance types.

Pros: Good value, realistic feel, can provide cooling through the fan.
Cons: Loud, the resistance is limited.
Ideal if: You are new to indoor cycle turbo trainers or on a budget.

MAGNETIC turbo trainers

  • magnetic resistance trainer, with progressive resistance,
  • Magnetic resistance turbo trainers will usually have a number of single resistance settings.  These different settings achieve varying degrees of resistance by moving the magnets closer together or moving them further away from each other, therefore increasing or decreasing the force between the magnets.
  • Changing these resistance settings is a matter of either changing a dial on the turbo trainer itself or using a supplied handlebar lever which you can use to change the resistance setting without getting off your bike.
  • As far as noise levels are concerned, magnetic turbo trainers sit somewhere between loud wind trainers and almost silent fluid trainers. The noise produced by a magnetic turbo trainer is usually directly related to the price you pay for it, with top of the range models being as quiet as fluid trainers and some bottom of the range models being louder than wind trainers.
  • Getting a magnetic turbo trainer is usually a really solid choice and there is a wide variety of models on the market. They are ideal for training in a consistent manner and can be great for training your strength during high power workouts. Watch out however, if you really need a quiet turbo trainer and don’t have a huge budget, you may be better off going for a cheap fluid trainer rather than a cheap magnetic trainer.
  • recommended types seem to be Cyclops super magnetic pro, Elite Chrono mag elastogel, Tacx sirius soft gel

Pros: Large choice, resistance variable, high power training possible.
Cons: Can be fairly noisy, no natural resistance curve.
Ideal if: You are looking for a decent powerful turbo trainer and want variety in your indoor training.

FLUID turbo trainers

  • Fluid resistance turbo trainers work very similarly to wind turbo trainers. As with wind resistance bicycle trainers the roller is connected to a fan. The fan on a fluid resistance trainer is however not open to air as with the wind trainers. The fan on a fluid resistance turbo trainer is suspended in a thick fluid, hence the name fluid trainer.
  • It is best to imagine the fan in these trainers like small cups like the ones on wind vanes. As with the wind trainers the faster you cycle, the faster the fan turns. This in turn increases the resistance which the fluid exerts on the fan. This is the same effect that you experience when cycling outdoors. The faster you move the higher the resistance you generate while pushing against the surrounding air.
  • Because of this the resistance curves on fluid turbo trainers are as close to actually cycling as you can get and they feel very realistic to train on. In addition to this the fan is completely enclosed in the fluid which means it doesn’t generate any noise. This is a stark contrast to the noise generated by wind resistance trainers.
  • The fluid inside these turbo trainers can be different from model to model meaning that you can have different densities, allowing for different resistance curves. This is something that wind trainers can’t provide as the density of the air they use is always the same.
  • One of the downfalls of a purely fluid turbo trainer is that you can only have one single resistance curve. While you can adapt the resistance by using your bicycle gears the range is ultimately limited. A number of manufacturers have however created hybrid magnetic-fluid trainers which allow for the resistance curve of fluid trainers and the adjustable settings of a magnetic trainer allowing for a windier scope to your training.
  • recommended makes seem to be Cycleops Jet fluid and Elite Chrono fluid (I have the Elite chrono fluid) This is the kind of turbo trainer I have. I chose it because it was meant to be closeish to the ‘real ride’. I didn’t want dead cheap, but also didn’t want really expensive either! For resistance, I use my bikes gears.

Pros: Large choice, realistic resistance curve, good resistance levels.
Cons: Can be fairly expensive, not adjustable.
Ideal if: You are looking for a high quality turbo training experience with a realistic resistance curve

As you can see your choice will be largely driven by how noisy your turbo trainer can be, so decide this first!

There version of the turbo trainer (made my Tacx i think) that you can connect to your computer and ride virtual courses. Add the £££ though, so i havent mentioned this much, but if you have wonga to spare, do look it up!

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