So, you've decided that you're obsessive enough about cycling that you need to be able to do it inside. Awesome. Turbo trainers are a fantastic way to maintain your fitness over the winter, warm up before a big race, or just keep you stoked on cycling whatever the weather.
The decisions you have to make in regards to purchasing a turbo trainer are quite simple, but it helps if you have a little knowledge of how they work.
Turbo trainers fix to the quick release of your rear wheel, coming with a model-specific skewer to replace your bike's standard one. Then two cones clamp around the skewer via cam levers. And that's just the beginning. Read on for an insight in how turbo trainers work, and what you need to consider.
What do you want from your turbo trainer? If you are planning on using it to warm up before a time trail event, you're going to need it to be portable. It's important to consider how space efficient the turbo trainer is, and whether it can fold up flat. The Minoura B60 Remote Trainer is a good entry-level product that folds up nicely.
But most people will want their trainer to sit in the garage or spare room, and therefore sturdiness is preferable to portability. You want the frame of the trainer, usually made of steel, to be as stable as possible with a wide frame stance. After all, you're going to be doing some high-intensity stints and you'll need your trainer to be able to deal with your weight and breath-taking power!
Turbo trainers are not sociable machines. Your neighbours are likely to hate you if you wake them up every morning with the sound of yours. That's why it's worth looking for any indication of how loud the turbo trainer is going to be – although to get things proper silent, you'll have to pay upwards of £400.
There's also plenty of turbo trainer mats on the market, designed to dampen the noise from the machine. They also soak up your sweat, so you don't slip comedically on your own perspiration after a hard session.
There are also trainer-specific tyres available for further noise-dampening, but these can prove time-consuming unless you have multiple bikes and don't mind using one exclusively for indoor training over the course of the winter. There's also a bit of disagreement over whether they actually make turbo training quieter or not (but they're useful for other reasons).
Type of Resistance
You'll now be wondering how turbo trainers provide the resistance needed to mimic road-conditions. There's a few systems available that you'll have to choose between, but your choice will probably be governed by budget. Here they are in order of strain on your finances:
Nice and simple to get your head around: a plastic fan generates wind resistance. They aren't very in vogue because they are the noisiest things ever. We wouldn't recommend them unless you're getting a very good deal on one.
As you will have learnt during your GCSEs, magnets are magical and created by wizards. These wizards then implant them into turbo trainers that use magnetic fields to create resistance on your rear wheel. This is the most popular form of turbo training resistance on low to mid-end models. There's usually the ability to vary the level of resistance too, by controlling the force of the magnetic field using a trigger switch.
A propeller spins inside a fluid-filled chamber (usually oil), to create resistance. These tend to be a bit pricer than both of the options above because they should be smoother, quieter and steadier.
For the fiscally masochistic among you, there's also electromagnetic turbo trainers. They are from the future. A computer tells the turbo how much resistance to create, and then you have the added bonus of being able to see your efforts on a screen. You can watch a fake road to give you a virtual reality vibe, or whatever data you fancy via a Strava-eque information screen.
Extras to consider
Will a turbo trainer work with multiple bikes? It should do, yes. Almost all road bikes with all wheels can be used with almost all turbo trainers: just don't be daft and purchase one without reading the details. But the likelihood is that everything is going to work fine. You should even be able to get your mountain bike on it if you're a multi-disciplinary lady.
Consider a riser block – like this Elite one, for example. You can do without one, but you will feel like you're constantly on a downhill. The company who make your turbo trainer should sell these separately.
Making the choice
Like lots of indoor training equipment, there are many forsaken turbo trainers in garages and spare rooms across the country.
Remember that if you don't plan on doing extensive training during the colder months, a cheaper model will probably suffice for your needs. But if you're going to spend hours on the thing, then the level up to a fluid resistance model could be worth your money. You should get better stability and have more control over your resistance levels with a more expensive turbo trainer.
Need some solid options to peruse? Head over to How to: Choose a Turbo Trainer.
And remember, there's always rollers too.