Turbo trainers are fantastic training tools, turning your existing bicycle into a perfectly fitted exercise bike. The trainer is essentially a static resistance platform where the rear wheel of your bike is attached to the unit and the roller at the back replicates the feel and resistance of cycling outside. This means you never have to endure poor weather conditions that can interrupt your training schedule. You benefit from a cycle ride within the confines of your own living room, garage, garden or shed which is apparently where Sir Wiggins prefers to use his!
Turbo trainers are also good to use for fitness training if you are low on time as you don't need to leave the house.
The resistance of a turbo trainer gives the 'feel' so you can copy the increasing and decreasing resistance you feel in the real world cycling, e.g. going up a big hill.
Brands like TACX and Cycleops offer some great trainers covering all price points and connectivity requirements.
Roller training has been around for years; Eddy Merckx was a huge fan. The benefit of rollers is that you may receive more of a full body work out as you must concentrate to keep the bike stable and upright. Rollers simulate more of a flatter ride although you can obviously change gear. Some newer rollers now have resistance units on them making them tougher and can be a super work out. Some models from brands like ELITE have a parabolic motion enabling the rider to stand up and sprint on the roller system.
The main types of turbo trainers are:
- Magnetic – Use the force of magnetic field to create the resistance. These trainers have levers on the unit to manually adjust the resistance or a have a lever mounted remotely on the handlebars.
- Fluid – The resistance is caused by a propeller in a fluid chamber and the casing often has cooling fins they are deemed to offer a steadier resistance than magnetic systems and the ability to change resistance comes from you actually changing gears on your bike.
- Air – Blades spin in the air on the unit to create resistance, as with the fluid trainers these are often controlled by you changing gears on the bike. Air turbo trainers can be noisier than the other types.
- Direct Drive – The rear wheel is removed and the bicycle clamped to the system, where a cassette is used to change gear.
- Virtual reality – Such trainers allow you to link up to a computer and race virtual course or other people online! The resistance is controlled by the computer so the resistance matches the profile of the route you are completing on the computer. ANT+ and Bluetooth connection give you full training STATS with a Garmin or Watt meter.
In respect of compatibility all turbo trainers are adjustable so all road bikes will fit as will most mountain bike wheel sizes. You just need to ensure you have a slick tyre and good pressure in the rear tyre and you are away! BMX wheels and kids' bikes will not fit.
There are many accessories available:
- Riser blocks – place under your front wheel to bring the bike up to the same height as the rear wheel which will be elevated slightly once installed to the turbo trainer. These blocks also provide stability.
- Training mat – these ensure that your sweat does not drop onto interior floors or carpets and also make the system quieter – ideal if you live in a flat for example.
- Sweat catcher – these are great as they catch the sweat before it hits your bike and protects the finish of your frame. It also helps to protect carpets or floors underneath the turbo trainer.
- Trainer tyres – these are thicker and more hardwearing and are designed to reduce the wear on more expensive road tyres that you may have installed for normal use. They also are designed to reduce the heat build-up generated by the roller on the back wheel thus reducing heat build-up, friction and slowing wear.
- Media - turbo training can be boring and a lot of cyclists now buy training DVDs which offer structured workouts for the best use of your time.
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