Types of Indoor Bike Trainers: How to Choose Right One?

Although nothing can match the thrill of outdoor biking, you can still have the same, engaging, and adventurous experience by mimicking outdoor biking with indoor bike trainers. If you are starting your indoor cycling experience, you must have a lot of curiosity in your mind. How do bike trainers work, what type of indoor bike trainers are there, if the right trainers are affordable, and what do you have to look for when purchasing the bike trainers?

Included in this article are all of the details and information on everything related to indoor trainers, including types of indoor bike trainers so you can have the best possible riding experience. Although trainers have been in use for decades, bike trainers have rapidly grown in the last 5 to 10 years.

Bike Trainers have now become more premium, innovative, and better in performance. I will elaborate here on the details of three widely used types of indoor bike trainers so you can opt for the best bike trainer according to your needs.

Types of Indoor Bike Trainers

Types Of Indoor Bike Trainers
Featured Image: Types of Bike Trainers

Three basic types of indoor bike trainers include wheel-on trainers, direct-drive trainers, and bike simulators. Then there are the intelligent trainers, one of the latest and more premium trainers often used by making wireless connections with trainer apps. I will be discussing all four of these here in the details below.

1. Wheel-on Trainers – Basic Stationary Trainers

Wheel-on trainers (commonly known as “rollers”) are the most basic trainers used for exercising, biking, and training at home. They are comparatively very affordable, small, and compact. They are easy to store and typically come with foldability features.

Wheel-on trainers work by creating resistance against the roller that is adjusted on the rear wheel of the trainer. Most wheel-on trainers come with different resistance levels to give you the real-life feeling of cycling. This enables you to feel that you are cycling on different terrains and paths. Plus, some of the higher-end models of wheel-on trainers come with app connectivity ensuring you can operate the trainers via a wireless connection.

Wheel-on Indoor Bike Trainer

Furthermore, being lightweight and affordable, these essential trainers come with numerous settings and adjustability, ensuring you can make various settings according to your needs. Similarly, these wheel-on trainers, because of being essential stationery trainers, are ideal for beginners.

Advantages of Wheel On Trainers

  • Inexpensive
  • Effortless to use
  • Ideal for beginners
  • Easy to mount on every type of bike
  • It comes with foldability options
  • Portable
  • Some of the models come with app connectivity
  • Offers different resistance level
  • Compact in size
  • Space saving

Disadvantages of Wheel On Trainers

  • Sometimes the essential stationery trainers are noisy
  • These trainers have limited features as compared to others
  • Offers the least realistic biking feel comparatively to the other trainers

2. Direct Drive Indoor Bike Trainer

Direct drive trainers are the second most abundantly occurring trainer options that function after the removal of the rear wheel of your bike and then attaching the bike to the drivetrain of the device.

Direct Drive Indoor Bike Trainer

These trainers are comparatively more expensive than rollers but they can be rather affordable as well. You should make sure that you are getting the most for your money though so I would recommend that you double-check that the trainer you are looking at is compatible with your bike and the training apps that you are planning on using.

Although they come with a better, smooth, and more realistic riding experience, you still need to do your research before making a purchase. Most of the models of direct drive trainers offer app connections, that tend to improve your training experience.

One major disadvantage to this type of indoor bike trainer that is worth mentioning is the fact that you have to remove your rear wheel to use it, and then reconnect it when you are ready to ride outside again. This may require some tuning as well because the gearing on the indoor trainer may not be a perfect match to the gearing on your bike.

Advantages of Direct Drive Trainer

  • Offers greater resistance control
  • Better transference of power
  • It gives you a real-life biking experience
  • Almost all bikes offer wireless connections
  • Easy to operate
  • Highly powerful
  • Better overall functioning
  • You don’t have to worry about the wheel slippage
  • They are ideal for more sporty riders

Disadvantages of Direct Drive Trainer

  • Comparatively very expensive
  • Tough to assemble
  • Settings are comparatively more complex and complicated
  • You cannot move your direct drive trainer in and out easily and quickly
  • They are tricky to handle
  • They are limited in connectivity
  • Requires tuning

3. Bike Simulator – Stand Alone Stationary Bike Trainer

Bike simulators are stand-alone stationary trainers that are the most premium and pro-level trainers you can purchase. They have the potential to offer the most real-world cycling feel, ensuring you can have the best cycling experience while staying indoors.

Simulator Bike Trainer

Bike Simulators are highly stable and do not create any kind of wear and tear on your bike because you aren’t using it! Although they are the most expensive, they are worth spending money on because of their features, specifications, and convenience!

Some modern versions of stationary bike trainers are highly innovative and have various next-level features, ultimately offering more comprehensive adjustability options and better functioning. You can adjust the height of the seat and can change the handlebar positions to make the stationary bikes more useful for you.

Some bikes, like the Wahoo Kickr even adjust the grade of the bike to simulate the feel of going up an actual hill (this means the angle of the bike is moving relative to the added difficulty of pedaling).

Similarly, if you are looking for a trainer to do strenuous workouts, going with the stationary bike is the top recommended choice that most professional cyclists use. These bikes can be simpler than other types of indoor trainers because you don’t have to worry about wear and tear or tuning your bike.

They are expensive but innovative and more beneficial, stationary bikes are one of the most reliable types of indoor bike trainers that most trainers prefer going with if they are within your budget.

Advantages of Bike Simulators

  • They offer highly stable performance
  • Gives you the most realistic riding experience
  • Highly durable
  • Comes with numerous adjustability options
  • High-end construction
  • Ideal for hard workouts
  • Wireless connectivity options
  • Various innovative technologies
  • Longer lasting than other trainers
  • Compatible with both wired and wireless connectivity
  • More popular and highly suggested by professional gym owners

Disadvantages of Bike Simulators

  • They are big and very large
  • They are complicated to deal with
  • Bike simulators are highly priced
  • They are heavy to shift and move

4. Smart Indoor Bike Trainers

Then comes the smart trainers. Smart trainers are not a separate category for indoor trainers but are one of the innovative features that ensure you can connect wirelessly with training apps. They are mentioned here because their compatibility with various apps makes them notably distinctive from others.

These types of bike trainers ultimately improve efficiency and are more proficient and productive than other trainers. This makes your workouts and exercise routine more addicting, fun, and adventurous while staying home.

Apps For Indoor Bike Trainers

Several apps are nowadays available to help you with your indoor bike training. The apps come with great workout routines and videos to give you control and proper feedback on your workout like power output, heart rate, speed, cadence, and the distance you have traveled.

Some of the apps are more innovative than others and have better features like mutual training options, video ride simulations, route sharing, and other competitive classes. Some of the most popular, reliable, and subscription-based apps are mentioned below, so if you want you can select any of them from this list.

1. Zwift

2. TrainerRoad

3. The Sufferfest

4. Rouvy

All of these apps are highly reliable and are professionally suggested. These are said to be the favorite apps for professional trainers. Moreover, one more thing that I want to mention here is that some of the bikes come with specific apps from their brands. These are only compatible with the bike of the same brand and can be used for a better and more productive workout.

Tips for Choosing the Best Indoor Bike Trainer

As for now we have looked at the three basic types of indoor trainers as well as latest smart trainers and the apps that you can use for training. Now we will look at the important features that you should consider before deciding which trainer would be adequate for you.

Tips for Choosing the Best Indoor Bike Trainer

Bike Trainer Price

Price is one of the most important things that you have to look for when purchasing the best trainer. Not every type of trainer comes with the same price. Some of them are finer and save you more money as compared to others.

Whereas some are expensive bikes but do not give you innovative features and better performance like others. Keeping that in mind you have to make sure that the one you are purchasing is the one saving you money, in addition to providing you with premium features and specifications.

Connectivity of a Bike Trainer

Connectivity is another important thing that you have to make sure of. Those training bikes that come with wireless or wired connectivity with Wi-Fi, BlueTooth, and training apps are the game changers for fitness freaks.

They offer you better functionality and better performance ultimately enhancing your overall benefits and productivity. They provide you with real-time workout feedback and offer great virtual and social riding features that are only possible with wireless connectivity options.

Bike Fitting

Look for trainers that offer wide compatibility with most bikes. If their compatibility is limited to a few bikes they are not worthy of spending money so you have to make sure that the trainer you’re purchasing is compatible with versatile and variable bike fittings.

Keeping this in mind you have to double-check the specifications of the trainer and should match it to the bike, to be sure whether the trainer you’re purchasing is compatible with the bike or not.

Quiet Functioning

Some of the trainers come with quieter operations as compared to other trainers. Those that offer you quiet functioning and silent working are more reliable as compared to the ones that produce irritated and annoying sounds.

Moreover, those bike trainers that create noise are not only disturbing but also affect your overall functioning. Keeping that in mind, you have to make sure that the trainer you are purchasing is quiet in working and does not create any unnecessary sounds.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of maintenance does my bike trainer need?

Because the bike trainer is an expensive investment, you have to make sure that you are maintaining it after a while to make it consistently excellent in functioning. For this, you have to use a cleaner that should have alcohol in it and should clean the rollers of the trainer. Now use the clothes and rub the cleaner gently on the parts of the trainer. Now go with drip chain lubricant and apply the lubricant on the bolts and rods of both sides, located at the rear bike wheel.

Is there a free app for stationary bikes?

Yes, there is a free app that you can use for stationary bikes. There is this ” Vingo” app that is free of cost and is compatible with a wide range of indoor bikes. It makes it easy, effortless, and convenient for you to start your training exercises. Moreover, this app is specifically for cyclists of all skill levels. It allows you to customize the difficulty of the route so that you can target your goals and can achieve them simply by a personalized setting.

Is the direct drive a good trainer?

Yes, direct drive is one of the best trainers ensuring you don’t have to worry about wheel slippage and noise. They are comparatively silent in functioning, are more powerful, and more accurate ensuring give you the best real-life road biking experience. Moreover, in the presence of direct drive trainers, you can have the best possible experience with resistance to somewhere around 1500 to 2000 watts.

Final Thoughts about Indoor Bike Trainers

Hopefully, you have gone through the article that teaches you about three of the basic types of indoor trainers. It also includes details about trainers apps that you can make connections with your bike trainers and the shopping tips that you have to keep in mind before finalizing the trainer for you. Although all of these types of trainers are reliable and suggested by most professional cyclists, they all have differences in their specifications, capabilities, pros, and cons.

The most basic type of trainer is the wheel-on trainer which is also called a “roller” by many people. They are affordable and relatively easy to use. Similarly, direct drive trainers are better in their functioning and offer greater resistance control. Whereas, bike simulators are the stand-alone stationary trainers that are the most expensive ones offering the most real-life cycling feel.

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