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Indoor Trainers Reviewed

Going nowhere

Winter in Europe and North America is arriving and as bad weather and darkness sets in, what better way to keep fit than riding indoors? To help readers I’ve decided to review every indoor / turbo trainer on the market.

It didn’t take me long to reach a conclusion. They are all crap. Yes, every single indoor trainer is rubbish. They have to be: by definition they prevent you from riding.

Why do you ride?
Perhaps you like to escape daily life? You could be someone who likes to race others, to see rivals crack on a climb or to pass them in a sprint. Maybe it’s for the feeling of speed as you carve though some hairpins. Perhaps it’s for the social side, the ride to a café with some friends?

Thanks to the indoor trainer you lose all of this. There’s no contact with nature when you retreat indoors. It’s a solo activity, you never go beyond your spare room, garage or balcony.

An indoor trainer offers almost no joyful moments. I even find the pedalling motion is different and artificial, partly because the flywheel doesn’t replicate the feeling and also thanks to the way the bike is anchored to ensure no lateral movement happens. Some in the road cycling world have been laughing these hipsters:


…only road cyclists are prone to indoor riding too, this time with their bike locked into an A-frame. At least the guys in the video above are actually moving, catching some wind in the hair.

In defence of the turbo
Now before you leave enraged comments I know that these turbo trainers can have their uses. Those who work long hours find them invaluable and in places where the weather is very bad then you can keep up some fitness, especially using them for more intense work. You can also use them for quasi-lab tests at home.

But if the sun was shining and you had time to ride, would you ride a stationary bike?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anonymous Monday, 15 November 2010, 6:29 pm

    Know what you mean. I tryed simple ones and expensive virtual reality but it was never what I was hoping.

    Last winter I purchased lights and winter clothing and it worked better.

  • Mia Monday, 15 November 2010, 6:31 pm

    The perfect way to keep fit during winter is going xc-skiing ! (or spinning indoors if to bad weather..)

  • Duncan Monday, 15 November 2010, 6:35 pm

    Haha, I know what you mean. These machines are boring but have the ability to make me feel guilty for not using them. I keep meaning to ride mine but it's always for tomorrow.

  • yeyo Monday, 15 November 2010, 6:41 pm

    This machines are very funny! virtual leagues are very adictives and in winter are perfect for fitness maintenance

  • TheInnerRing Monday, 15 November 2010, 6:56 pm

    Anonymous: good solution.
    Mia: yes, but you need snow. But I know quite a few US riders do this, plus those near the Alps.
    Duncan: I know what you mean, they don't inspire me either.
    Yeyo: the social element is good and I suspect this is the way forward. But is it still a poor substitute for the road?

  • Anonymous Monday, 15 November 2010, 7:33 pm

    When I ride outside, I usually try to ride for at least two hours, even if it's just an easy spin.

    The unnatural feel of a trainer means that I only get comfortable when I'm riding flat out. I embrace this for the winter and make it part of a routine. Every night, I drag myself over to the trainer and effectively do a 1 hour TT. **I also second Yeyo. Virtual leagues help with motivation.

    Come spring, I have to get some base miles, but I'm not lacking in power.

  • Anonymous Monday, 15 November 2010, 8:50 pm

    I have briefly used a trainer before. I stopped because of the reasons above, and the fact they're so damn noisy. I'd probably get kicked out of my flat if I kept it up…

    Anyway, I found these videos helped when I was using the trainer:

  • Anonymous Wednesday, 17 November 2010, 1:54 am

    A necessary evil in New England where for 4 months each year the roads are covered in snow and ice or are narrowed to unsafe levels by the snow banks. I wish I could build a Red Bull VDrome but alas no space. I skate ski when the snow is deep enough.

  • roomservicetaco Wednesday, 17 November 2010, 7:54 am

    Rollers FTW! (with a resistance unit)

    There is nothing like the road, but the best thing about a trainer is that you can get pretty pitted in a relatively short amount of time. On the road, especially if you live in an urban environment, lights and traffic may keep you from riding as hard as you need to get a work out.