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Indoor Cycling Trainers - A Primer

Posted Mar 08 2011 5:22pm
Those of you who know me know that I have been a cycling enthusiast for many years. Unfortunately, my vestibular problems makes it difficult for me to bike outdoors these days.

Rather than have my bike sit and collect dust, I'm heading in to purchase mode and considering an indoor bicycle trainer. I reached out to my blogging friend, and cycling enthusiast, Ron Fritzke for advice.

Lot's of good information and Ron has agreed to summarize it all for posting here on CFB.

To my fellow cycling enthusiasts, enjoy!

Which Bike Trainer Works For Your Style?

Although winter is winding down and it won't be long before we can resume exercising outside, we shouldn't forget a lesson that Old Man Winter teaches us every year ... staying fit from November until March presents a challenge.

For me, the proper use of an indoor bike trainer has been critical to maintaining enough conditioning to enable me to hit the ground running once the sun starts to prevail over the winter gloom.

But which type of trainer should you be looking for ... and what kinds of workouts are best suited for each type?

Fluid Trainers For Interval Workouts

Susan has written an excellent article on the benefits of interval training . Interval training has always been a mainstay in the competitive worlds of cycling and running, but as Susan points out, it's now being touted as an excellent way in which to shed extra pounds without putting in extra time exercising.

Interval training is defined by alternating intense bursts of activity with time periods of more moderate efforts.

The type of bike trainer that's most suitable for this valuable for of exercise is the fluid trainer. Of the three styles of trainers (mag trainers and wind trainers being the other two types), fluid trainers are the smoothest, the quietest and, most importantly, the 'strongest'.

A fluid trainer such as the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine can easily resist against 2000 watts of energy. For most sane people this 2000 watt figure is meaningless, but for rabid cycling fans it translates to the kind of power that the top sprinters are putting out at the end of Tour de France races.

And for you that means that a good fluid trainer is more than adequate for any hardcore workout you may have planned for yourself. That cannot be said for a wind trainer.

Here is what the lower end wind trainers are noted for ... inexpensive, simple, noisy, and weak.

We're all in favor of inexpensive and simple, but the noisiness and weakness make these trainers suitable for only mild to moderate 'steady-state' workouts. If you push them too much, they won't be able to 'grab' enough air to resist against your hard efforts, and they'll sound as unnerving as the roar of a hurricane.

They're fine for tooling along at a moderate pace (provided you don't live in close quarters, with noise sensitive people), but aren't adequate for a high intensity interval workout.

Mag (Magnetic) Trainers May Work

Falling somewhere between fluid trainers and wind trainers are mag trainers. This style can generate enough resistance for most cyclists, even when they're doing hard intervals.

However, there are a few reports of over-enthusiastic guys who've risen out of their saddles during a simulated sprint only to have the magnetic bonds in the power unit 'break free from each other'. When this occurs the rider suddenly has nothing to push against ... and the most inappropriate of their body parts crash down on the top bar of the bike.

This is good for a submission to "America's Funniest Home Video's", but has few other benefits.

Fluid Trainers For Universal Satisfaction

If you'd like to get a bike trainer that will be good for any application, go with a quality fluid trainer like the Cycleops Fluid 2 . It will do anything you want it to do, but this type of trainer costs about $300.

You can save about a hundred dollars and purchase a CycleOps mag trainer for just under $200. For most riders, this style will fit the bill; just don't stand out of your saddle and sprint for all you're worth, or the value of your family jewels may depreciate (note from Susan: obviously, this doesn't pertain to all of us!).

For those who want to reduce their costs an additional $100, you can buy a wind trainer for a smidgen over $100. This style will enable you to tool along in front of your TV smartly, except that you'll have the volume of the tele at full throttle.

You can see where this decreasing increments of $100 is going. For those of you who don't want to spend anything at all on a bike trainer, you can dust off your bicycle in the Spring and go for a lovely ride in the type of weather that's suitable for cycling. But don't complain about getting left behind by those who have been exercising all Winter.

About The Author

Ron Fritzke is a cycling product reviewer with a passion for 'all things cycling'. A former 2:17 marathoner, he now directs his competitive efforts toward racing his bike ... and looking for good cycling products.

I want to point out that there is a wealth of additional information on both the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine and Cycleops Fluid 2 that can be found on Ron's site, . If you're in the market for an indoor trainer, do the research up front so there's no buyers remorse down the road.

I'm a big fan in regards to purchasing quality equipment, as I do firmly believe you get what you pay for. With that said, at 125 lbs, my feeling is that the Kurt Kenetic Road Machine may be too much trainer for my particular needs, so I was initially leaning towards the Cycleops Fluid 2.

However, the Cycleops Fluid 2 is retailing right now for about $30 less than the Kurt Kenetic Road Machine, so it may be worth spending the extra $30 for the quieter ride.

Do your research and you're bound to end up with the right purchase for you.

If any CFB readers are currently using an indoor trainer, I would love the hear about it. Feel free to chime in with comments to this blog posting!

Train hard; stay strong.



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