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Indoor Trainer: Interactive Or Basic?

Poor light, horrible weather, bad traffic and limited time can take away the enjoyment and benefit of training outside. An indoor trainer makes it easy, maximizes your time and training, helps in maintaining consistency and keeps you progressing. Indoor trainers can either be interactive or basic, wheel-on or direct drive in design, and generally speaking either one is going to get you fit.

Wheel-on trainer the rear wheel of your bike stays on and this is set up against a roller.

Direct drive trainer the rear wheel is removed and the trainer takes its place. The bike attaches directly to the trainer at the rear dropouts and the bike’s chain drives a cassette that is connected to the trainer.

Below is a guide to help you decide on which type of indoor trainer you should get...

What is an Interactive Indoor Trainer?

These are big investments, uses electronics to adjust the trainer resistance in real-time, typically provide power data, and are capable of connecting to computers, tablets and smartphones to help you get the most of your workout.

Ergo Mode - A Key Feature

ERG mode, short for Ergometer, is when the interactive trainer automatically sets the resistance while you concentrate on executing the workout. When riding in ERG mode, the interactive trainer will make small adjustments to reach the target power/s that you set either manually with your bike computer or with a structured ERG workout or cycling app.

Interactive trainers such as Elite, Magene, Wahoo, Saris, and Tacx include power measurement and the ability to automatically control resistance during a workout making the interactive trainer an excellent option. However if you do not have power meter on your bicycle you are limited to training with power indoors only and won’t be able to translate all of those power numbers and all of those zones that you learned indoors when training outdoors.

Buy an interactive trainer if you're looking for indoor riding motivation, guided training and want a full-on cycling simulator.

What is Basic Indoor Trainer?

These provide resistance for you to pedal against via magnets, air or fluid, and to get more force out of it you shift into a harder gear or to get less force out of it you shift into a lighter gear.

Magnetic Resistance

Magnetic trainers work by creating resistance using a magnetic flywheel and magnets. Resistance can be adjusted manually, usually via a handlebar-mounted cable attached to the handlebar that moves the magnets closer to create more resistance or further away from the flywheel to create less resistance.

Air Resistance

Air, wind trainer or fan-powered resistance - the original ‘turbo’ and the noisiest of all indoor trainers. These generate resistance by spinning a bladed disk or fan through the air, and the faster the fan and connected flywheel turn, the harder it is to pedal.

Fluid Resistance

Fluid trainers are quiet and smoother, and provide a more realistic feel. These have an impeller – an internal propeller inside a sealed casing filled with fluid. The rear wheel drives the internal propeller, and the faster the wheel spins, the harder it gets.

Buy a basic trainer if you are on a tight budget. Spending more money is not going to make you a better cyclist, the fancy interactive indoor trainer won’t make you fit and fast – being consistent with your training will.

Even if you can afford the interactive trainer, but don’t have a power meter on your bicycle purchase a basic indoor trainer and a power meter instead. Having a power meter and training by power indoors and outdoors will make your training more effective.


That is it. Thank you for reading. I hope you found it to be a useful resource.


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