About the author: Ron Fritzke is a cycling product reviewer who generally writes reviews for his site, Cycling-review.com. A former 2:17 marathoner, he now stays fit riding his bike.
We all know that there’s a time and place for everything. At times, the opposite holds true, too.
Take riding a bike for example. Riding one of my four different bikes as much as possible is the heart and soul of my fitness routine. But the times when I have to try to balance my two bicycle wheels on sheets of ice just aren’t the time or place for bike riding. The same can be said for riding in areas of the city with a lot of dangerous traffic.
That’s when a bike trainer saves the day. I’m not talking about a stationary bike…although they have an important place in the fitness world. I’m referring to those small stationary bike stands with resistance units that you attach to the rear wheel of your bike.
By using a bike trainer, you won’t be burdened with another large piece of equipment sitting around the house, and you’ll be allowing your bike to do ‘double duty’.
Different Bike Trainer Strokes For Different Folks
There are some very nice bike trainers on the market today. A couple of top-notch companies, Kinetic by Kurt and CycleOps put out quality trainers that’ll no doubt outlive any cyclists legs.
The question becomes which style of trainer is most appropriate for different riding styles.
Wind trainers are the simplest, and least expensive.
Mag (magnetic) trainers will be sufficient for most riders.
Fluid trainers are the choice of the USA cycling team because they are the top of the line.
Wind Trainers Make A Lot Of Noise
Wind trainers are pretty simple devices. The rear wheel of the bike is clamped to a roller on the trainer which spins an impeller. I say ‘impeller’ rather than ‘propeller’ because the blades are protected within the rotating flywheel instead of on the outside where they could get damaged…or do a lot of damage.
The air resistance is what provides the workload. But there are limitations.
First off, these babies can make a lot of noise. There is talk of neighbors in apartment complexes getting ticked off at cyclists riding their wind trainers next door. Other riders report not being able to turn up the volume on the TV high enough to ‘out-shout’ a wind trainer cooking along at top speed.
Additionally, there’s only so much air for the impellers to grab for resistance. Strong riders doing ‘interval style’ workouts will most likely overpower a wind trainer.
But on the other hand, casual riders who are satisfied to pedal along at a mild to moderate level of intensity will get a decent workout from a wind trainer.
Mag Trainers Suffer From ‘Middle Child’ Syndrome
Up until recently, I wouldn’t have even recommended considering a mag trainer. There were horror stories being told of frustrated riders heaving their trainers across the room, and tales of their trainers ‘listing’ to one side when riders were trying to get in a workout.
Mag trainers have come of age. Companies that adhere to high standards now produce some quality mag trainers, and for everyone except the most serious of riders this style should suffice.
Mag trainers supply resistance via a concept called ‘eddy current braking’. Essentially, this entails moving a metal that conducts electricity (the flywheel) through the magnetic fields supplied by the magnets in the mag trainer. If you’re wondering how all of this works, you can look up ‘eddy current’ in Wikipedia.
The level of resistance in old style mag trainers could be changed, but the rider had to dismount and manually change the level back at the trainer itself. The deluxe units had a cable that ran up to the handlebars so that that the workload could be changed ‘remotely’.
Happily, the CycleOps Magneto now features a design that offers ‘progressive resistance’. By using the centrifugal force of the spinning flywheel, the magnet positioning alters itself enough to change the workload ‘automatically’.
Fluid Trainer Reigned Supreme, Except For…
The big gripe about fluid trainers was that they eventually started leaking.
However, Kurt Kinetic came up with an innovative design that eliminated leakage by completely sealing the fluid chamber and linking it to the spinning roller via a powerful magnetic link.
This design is so successful that they’ve moved to the top of the fluid trainer food chain, with their Road Machine and the Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll fluid trainers.
Fluid trainers are favored by hardcore cyclists because they can provide a near limitless amount of resistance, so even the most difficult workouts are possible. This style of trainer can provide up to 3000 watts of resistance, whereas a sprinting pro cyclist may only be able to produce 2000 watts of power.
Fluid trainers are also the quietest of the three varieties.
No Matter The Style, A Bike Trainer May What You Need
When it comes to getting in regular exercise we all have our roadblocks to push through. Sometimes it’s weather that is too hot or too cold. Sometimes it’s the difficulty of finding safe places to ride. Other times it’s the inconvenience of going back and forth to the gym…the travel time wasted or the social stigma of showing up not wearing the ‘right’ workout clothes.
And what about those of you who aren’t anywhere near where you want to be with your weight-loss goals? Are you sure you want to be seen next to the guy pumping iron who seems to live at the gym, and who should really consider getting a ‘real’ job?
For some of you, a bike trainer may just be the ticket to a heightened fitness level and now that you know a little bit about the different styles of trainers, you can go shopping for the type that best suits your fitness needs.