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Training & Nutrition

How to: Choose a turbo trainer

You don’t need to be a hardcore roady or in training for a sportive to benefit from a turbo trainer. Cathy Bussey explores. 

Cathy on her trusty turbo trainer

Essentially a unit that allows you to use your bicycle indoors, a turbo trainer converts your normal everyday bike into an exercise bike, meaning you can cycle day or night, whatever the weather, whatever your circumstances.

Turbo training has many benefits. It can improve your everyday or competitive cycling. Being in an indoor environment means you can control every single aspect of your workout – impossible when you are out in the elements. It can keep you fit, keep you cycling and keep you motivated when it’s dark, freezing and raining or snowing outside, as it has been for 99.9 per cent of 2013.

Turbo trainers also have some very female-specific credentials. Turbo training is perfect for pregnant cyclists who don’t want to give up their wheeled workouts but have concerns about safety when cycling for two – plus it comes without the inherent falling risk of rollers. It’s ideal for mothers of young children who may be missing the freedom to cycle whenever they want. Setting up the turbo whilst Junior is napping is a great way to lose the baby weight and keep pedalling through the fog of new motherhood.

My foray into turbo training has been prompted by two of the above factors – being pregnant and having a one-year-old at foot. I do still cycle with my toddler, as readers of Mums’ Corner will be aware, but not nearly as much as I would like thanks to the somewhat Arctic start to 2013. Turbo training is the ideal solution.

What kind of turbo you choose will largely be governed by what you want to achieve from your training, and your budget. The more you pay, the more sophisticated a trainer you will get, some complete with resistance settings and a control unit that may double up as a computer measuring heart rate, power and speed. The pricier turbos are also smoother – although not necessarily quieter! Bear in mind your gears will also work on your trainer so resistance levels are not always essential.

The cheapest models will set you back around £50, and expect to pay upwards of £120 for a decent quality entry-level model with resistance levels. If money is tight, shop around on second-hand sites and you could find a bargain.

You want: A good quality entry-level turbo that will let you train indoors through all seasons.

Try: CycleOps Mag Trainer, from £134.99

CycleOps Mag Trainer

Quick and easy to set up, this hugely popular and sturdy steel-framed trainer has five resistance levels allowing you to vary your workout.  It’s fairly noisy, so if you have wooden floors you might want to think about using a mat underneath to keep the decibels down.

You want: As above, but with an emphasis on easy storage and portability.

Try: Minoura B60 Remote Trainer, from £134.99

Minoura B60 Remote Trainer

This entry-level trainer is completely foldable and stores beautifully, perfect if you haven’t got a great deal of space. It has seven resistance levels, is quick and easy to set up and feels sturdy and effective.

You want: A basic turbo trainer on a budget.

Try: Jet Black Sport Trainer, from £76.49

Jet Black Sport Trainer

This simple magnetic trainer has a fixed resistance mode but you can vary resistance using your gears. Folds away neatly and easy to store, making it ideal if space is at a premium. Bear in mind it is noisy, and the ride isn’t the smoothest you’ll ever experience, but for a budget, entry-level trainer this is hard to beat.

You want: A high-quality trainer that offers a technology fix and serious potential.

Try: Tacx Flow Ergotrainer, from £324.99

Tacx Flow Ergotrainer

Easy and instant to set up, this programmable trainer can be upgraded to race stages of the Tour de France using a computer. It displays your heart-rate, speed, power and pedalling frequency on a handle-bar mounted computer, allowing you to get the most from your workout. High quality and you get what you pay for.

You want: The works – money is no object!

Try: Elite RealPower CT Wireless Conconi Internet ElastoGel Turbo Trainer, from £899.99

Elite RealPower CT Wireless Conconi Internet ElastoGel Turbo Trainer

Push everything to the limit with this impressively-titled trainer, which comes with a full suite of training software from video courses to internet racing and fully customised workouts. The trainer has improved grip which reduces tyre wear and vibrations and crucially, keeps the noise down. A trainer for those who take their training very seriously.

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