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A quick intro to the different types of stationary bike trainers

We know that it can get a little confusing with all the different types of stationary bike stands out there; from fluid to mag, from virtual to rollers, just the different types can get you flustered – and then there’s the different models within each of those different types…oh boy, there’s a lot to know!

But the first thing you should try and understand is the type of trainer you’ll need for your training sessions (and that fits your budget, of course).

Are you just starting out with just a couple of rides per week planned? Are you trying to lose weight and checking out the option of a trainer? Or are you a fitness freak wanting something very professional to keep you in peek condition? These are some questions you’ll have to start with, and which the following sections will hopefully answer for you (we’ve been asked these questions countless times by friends, hence the guide below to the types of trainers you can spend your $$$ on).

Don’t miss our guide to the best bike trainers to consider buying in 2017! And if you’re on the hunt for a real bargain, check out our list of the three best trainers for well below $90!

Fluid Trainers

Fluid bike trainerFluid bike trainers are perhaps King of the Hood, for now at least. Some of the fluid models out there give a great ride for a very decent price, so we’ve reviewed a few of the leading models that we highly recommend you consider.

Fluid trainers generate resistance (the amount of pedaling power you’ll need to keep it turning) through a magnetic flywheel which combines with a fluid chamber inside the flywheel. As you pedal harder, the fluid in the chamber gets hotter, ensuring the trainer’s resistance becomes more challenging as you continue.

They are typically a bit more expensive than the standard magnetic trainers (see below), but considering the advanced technology in place, and the boost to your training sessions, these are the best option for the semi-serious of you with a little bit of a budget (for those of you looking for something even better, see our description of virtual trainers below). The quality you’ll typically get with a fluid trainer is also a step up and worth the extra few dollars, at least in our opinion. And forget those stories of leaky fluid chambers; most of today’s new crop of fluid trainers are well-built and guaranteed by the manufacturer.

Fluid trainers to watch out for: we can highly recommend the Cycleops 2 Fluid Trainer, which we reviewed here and have enjoyed a lot, especially their latest models released in 2014. Another great option is the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, one that gets a lot of online praise from happy buyers.

Magnetic Trainers

Next up, we have Magnetic bike stand trainers. These generate resistance with a magnetic flywheel, the adjustable magnetic resistance creating drag against the bike wheel.

The advantages of mag trainers: the big plus is that they are cheaper than fluid trainers. They can also give decent resistance, and are typically easy to setup and move around.

The disadvantages of mag trainers: there are limits to the resistance levels and sustained heavy use can cause some problems. You might also find that they create a little more noise than fluid trainers, a point those of you living in apartments may want to consider.

There are plenty of good magnetic trainers around, and we’ve targeted many of them for review and testing. A good example of a magnetic stationary stand is the Magnet Steel Indoor Stand, which we included in our review of the best indoor bike trainers for under $90.

>>> 3 of the BEST magnetic trainers

Pivot Trainers

A little more expensive than the best fluid trainers, pivot trainers definitely give a more realistic ride, as you can rock your bike sideways to simulate a real road ride. A lot more interactive than the fluid and mag trainers, pivot trainers have the swaying authenticity when training, that rocking to the sides motion as you climb.

The only option we can recommend is the Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer (there are no real other contenders out there at the moment, as the technology isn’t cheap to replicate). It’s a little pricey, coming in at nearly double it’s sister product, the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, but is perhaps the ultimate indoor ride (if you’re not going to go for a virtual trainer)! Check out our Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer review, it’s well worth a read if you’re looking for something to ramp up your training sessions.


Kreitler Kompact RollerAhhh, rollers. Some swear by them, others swear at them! These are entirely different to the standard indoor trainer where you attach your rear wheel to the trainer; rollers are typically three metal tubes that you balance your bike on and ride! Here’s a great guide to the best 5 rollers out there on the market (and there are quite a few today), while this great video shows just how tricky – and painful – rollers can be!

They basically require a lot of balance and concentration, so if you have those in good quantity, perhaps rollers are for you. They are also similarly priced to the decent trainer stands, so definitely an option to consider.

Virtual Reality Trainer

With a variety of virtual trainers now hitting the market, your training sessions really can take on a new, almost life-like dimension! These types of trainers typically cost a lot more than the others mentioned in this article, but if your budget can stretch to one, we’d highly recommend it.

Especially for those of you who consider yourselves to be addicts, a virtual trainer turns your ride into something a lot more pleasurable. We know that with models like the BKool Trainer, you can even train in the rain – while in the comfort of your own home of course!

The three main virtual trainers out there today are the Tacx iGenius Virtual Trainer, the BKool Pro Trainer, and the Wahoo KICKR. As we mentioned, none of them are cheap, but be prepared to be blown away!

And if you’re not willing to splash out on the extras for a virtual trainer, you could just try the amazing virtual training world of Zwift!

Wind Trainers

Don’t. Just don’t. We’re less than convinced by wind resistance trainers as they’re generally very noisy (resistance is applied to the rear wheel through a pedal driven fan) and probably no worth spending your money on, especially taking into consideration the other options we’ve mentioned. You won’t be able to hear the TV with these when working out, and to be honest, if you’re offered one, stay well away.

Some Recommended Manufacturers

Today the indoor cycling industry is full of names that can be trusted, including Kurt Kinetic, Blackburn, Bell, Cycleops, Jet Black, Giant, Overdrive, Schwinn, Outback, Elite, Tacx, Wahoo, Minoura, and Forza.

When purchasing any of the models offered by any of these manufacturers, you’re moreorless going to be guaranteed decent quality and good service, at least from our experience and those we know. Don’t forget to let us know if you experience anything other than good service!

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