A bike trainer is essentially an indoor bike that offers all of the same resistances, exercise benefits, and muscle movements without moving anywhere, acting as a completely stationary bike that you can use to exercise without actually moving from one spot. They might seem strange at first, but a good bike trainer can be an incredibly useful tool for staying fit and healthy if you're not able to leave the house often. Even better, most bike trainer designs can be adjusted and modified to suit the user, giving you full control over how they feel and what sort of performance levels of resistances you want to be moving against.
Here are ten of the highest-quality and most effective bike trainer models on the market, as well as some extra details about what they offer their users.
10 Best Bike Trainers in 2021
- Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Bike Trainer
- Tacx NEO 2 Smart Indoor Trainer
- unisky Bike Trainer Stand Bicycle Indoor Exercise
- Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 Trainer
- Minoura LR760 Bicycle Trainer
- URSTAR Fluid Bike Trainer
- Elite Direto 2 Interactive Smart Trainer
- Feedback Sports Omnium Portable Trainer
- CycleOps Magneto Trainer
- ProRide Bike Trainer
Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Bike Trainer
- Compatible with a range of bike types.
- Designed for fluid and natural resistance.
- Works with cycling apps.
- Heavily customization.
- Durable and built to last.
This simple indoor bike trainer frame lets you easily mount your own bike up and start cycling straight away, giving you fluid resistance for a more natural, progressive style of riding as opposed to having very rigid resistance levels. The 16-gauge steel frame is able to support a heavy weight, making it great for larger bikes and riders, and the stable design is perfect for keeping yourself steady on most surfaces. Not only that, but the frame uses adjustable footpads to let you customize how your ride feels. It's also fully compatible with a range of cycling performance apps and exercise tracker tools.
Tacx NEO 2 Smart Indoor Trainer
- Easy to use.
- Focused on maximum resistance efficiency.
- Can be paired up with apps easily.
- Simulates slopes indoors.
- Reliable direct-drive trainers system.
This indoor smart trainer can be controlled with a range of apps to give you a much faster way of adjusting the resistance you're feeling. The built-in motor can create a level of resistance up to 2200 W and simulates slopes of up to 25%, meaning that you aren't just stuck with a smooth, flat ride. When paired with apps, you can use regular Bluetooth and ANT+ connections to link the devices directly. Not only that the true direct drive system ensures that there's no loss of efficiency or power in the mechanism, using all of the motor's strength to give you a high level of riding resistance.
unisky Bike Trainer Stand Bicycle Indoor Exercise
- Works with multiple bike styles.
- Easy to carry around and store.
- Durable, sturdy, and supportive design.
- Anti-slip feet for improved safety.
- Uses magnetics to replicate high resistances.
This magnetic bike training stand uses an extra-wide steel frame and non-slip rubber feet to keep you safe and stable on a larger range of surfaces, as well as quick-release handle to make adding and removing a bike extremely simple. The folding pieces let you quickly compact the bike down into a more portable for easy transport or storage, and setting it back up takes barely any time at all! Unlike many trainers, it can work on a range of both road bike and mountain bike models without issue, and simulates the conditions of an outdoor bike ride without generating any loud noises.
Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 Trainer
- Easy to set up.
- Compact but stable construction.
- Works with most training apps.
- Designed for realistic riding.
- Offers fluid resistance levels.
This smart trainer machine provides fluid, progressive resistance to give you a much more realistic riding experience, simulating real outdoor conditions with very little hassle or setup time. The low weight of the trainer means that it's very easy to move around and set up when you need it, rather than leaving it up permanently, and you can easily link up various apps or devices to track your resistance levels and get accurate power readings of how fast you're going. Buying this trainer also gives you a 1-month subscription to Kinetic's Kinetic Fit training app, which is designed to work alongside this type of trainer specifically.
Minoura LR760 Bicycle Trainer
- Extremely good performance.
- Allows for quiet and smooth movement.
- Uses well-designed pieces.
- Suits a large range of bike types.
- Fits multiple wheel sizes.
The built-in dual neodymium magnets in this bike trainer give you thirteen different resistance settings to try, which can be altered with a remote system that doesn't take much effort to use. The components of the trainer are designed to be both quiet and extremely smooth, giving you excellent performance in terms of both noise and physical movements. Most of the parts, including the flywheel, have been precision machined to fit the exact spots they're supposed to, so there's no chance of pieces rubbing against one another or wearing down easily. This also lets the trainer work effectively with a larger range of bike types.
URSTAR Fluid Bike Trainer
- Uses fluid resistance levels.
- Progressive adjustment system.
- Tough, stable frame.
- Folds up for more convenient storage.
- Very easy to set up and use.
This fluid trainer offers a combination of low noise, great progressive resistance, and the ability to adjust the settings to your own personal pedal speeds, letting you simulate the kind of environment you want with almost no effort. The stand of the trainer is made with durable stainless steel, giving it a much sturdier and more heavy-duty feel: it also uses a front wheel riser and rubber padding to stop scraping or unexpected movements, and the high load capacity lets it hold heavier bikes and/or riders without risk of it breaking. When not in use, it can quickly fold up for storage or transport purposes, and you can unfold it again for another training session at any time!
Elite Direto 2 Interactive Smart Trainer
- Great for long-term training comparisons.
- Tracks each leg individually.
- Very easy to store when not in use.
- Stable construction.
- Full of smart technology.
This smart trainer uses an entirely electronic resistance system to give you full control over how tough your simulated route is, as well as boasting a folding design that's perfect for quickly and easily storing or transporting the trainer from place to place. This electronic equipment inside works with a range of operating systems: everything from mobile platforms like iOS and Android to desktop devices running Windows and macOS. This means that all of the useful features, like the Optical Torque Sensor and E-Training software, can be used to get accurate power details of your ride and check how much you've improved.
Feedback Sports Omnium Portable Trainer
- Easy to adjust and customize.
- Made with heavy-duty materials.
- Minimal noise production.
- Easy to use fork mounting.
- Barely ever needs maintenance.
This straightforward bike trainer accepts a range of bike styles and wheel sizes, requiring almost no maintenance and locking your rear wheel in place but taking up hardly any floor space. The fork mounting system and adjustable wheel base mean that you can adjust how high they're placed for a more customizable feel, making it much easier to simulate a natural riding position. Since the bearings are fully greased and sealed already, they don't need to be constantly re-greased to work effectively and silently. The trainer also comes with its own tote bag for convenient carrying, made with heavy-duty materials to prevent damage during transport.
CycleOps Magneto Trainer
- Straightforward adjustment system.
- Well-designed components.
- Stable, sturdy frame.
- Great for all skill levels.
- Easy resistance customization.
This magnetic resistance trainer uses a precision-engineered design made with a variety of materials, including a well-made zinc alloy flywheel and a strong metal frame. The design is supposed to stay sturdy and secure while letting you simulate a wide range of bike ride types, and the reduced noise levels mean that the machine only produces around 66 decibels at 20mph. Its frictionless and progressive resistance system gives you more control over how it feels and how much effort you have to put into each movement compared to other trainers, as well as letting you quickly change the way the resistance unit fits with a simple adjustment knob.
ProRide Bike Trainer
- Comes with six pre-chosen resistance settings.
- Heavy duty construction.
- Uses protective matt lacquer paint.
- Can fold up for storage.
- Includes non-slip rubber feet.
The six different resistance settings on this indoor bike training tool let you quickly swap between difficulty levels, letting you simulate a range of conditions with ease. The heavy-duty materials used in the design, as well as the stable shape of the body itself, gives you much more support and control on all surfaces - the rubber feet also prevent slipping or damage to the floor while you're cycling. Unlike a lot of indoor bike trainers, this one uses a paint that boosts it's durability as well as its visual style, protecting it from wear and tear while deployed or folded up for transport.
Bike Trainers Buyer's Guide
An indoor bike trainer without good resistance is almost worthless. Resistance of any kind is the most important feature you can possibly have in indoor bike trainers, so you need to be sure that the trainers you're looking at offer the best resistance possible. It isn't just a case of looking at the rear tire and seeing hoe restricted it is, or checking how many customization options the trainer has: all trainers will have unique resistance levels and multiple types of resistance, so understanding what you're dealing with makes a massive difference when you actually buy one of the trainers for yourself.
Remember that each trainer design is going to be unique in some way, so no two models will have the exact same resistance levels even if they look almost identical. Most bike trainers are only built with one type of resistance in mind, even smart trainers, so you don't usually get the option to change them later.
Magnetic resistance uses magnets to make indoor bike trainers struggle against the force being applied to them (usually through the rear wheel). The closer the magnets are, the more resistance they put on the trainers, but adjusting them can be hard if they're not built into an automated system. In a lot of cases, you'll have to dismount and adjust the magnets yourself, which can be a shortfall you'll even see in some smart trainers.
The amount of power used can change how effective the magnets are: for example, a trainer might have more resistance above 200 watts compared to a trainer below 200 watts. This is just a generic example since it's different for every design.
Electronic resistance is similar to magnetic resistance, but is usually controlled with a remote rather than being moved physically. They're also much quieter and can often have other useful features that other trainers don't, so many of them will be a smart trainer.
Wind trainers are one of the cheapest, using a built-in fan to push air towards the user. They're the least realistic and aren't adjustable, but they're the cheapest trainers on the market in most places. Wind trainers get more difficult to ride on you pedal faster.
Fluid trainers are trainers that use containers of fluid to simulate the weight and movement, an odd design that's said to be one of the most realistic simulation methods of trainers you can get. The harder you pedal, the more these trainers produce resistance, just like wind trainers.
In most cases, people who use bike trainers are going to be using apps alongside them. The best way to use an indoor bike trainer as part of a virtual training routine is to have the right training software, so the inclusion of apps (or the ability of the trainer to work with trainer apps) can make them much more useful. Most smart trainer designs are already going to have some kind of connection to apps like Zwift, but that doesn't mean that every trainer will. On the other hand, some people prefer their trainers without any app functionality, relying entirely on the natural resistance and their own riding experience to know how much exercise they've done.
Apps need devices to work with them, and most of the time you'll be connecting the devices by either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Whether you're using a basic smart trainer or a high-tech smart turbo trainer with a massive range of smart features, the idea behind the apps is usually the same: you mostly use apps like Zwift to track your progress and performance, since they usually give you updates on everything from the speed of the rear wheel to the amount of power you're putting into every second of pedaling. More advanced smart trainers might even have options to let you see things like your long-term performance stats, how your legs compare to one another, and what kind of riding style you might have.
There's another big reason that apps are so useful: many smart trainers also use them as a control panel, letting you adjust the riding experience at the press of a button. You might have the option of making some indoor bike trainers swap to a new resistance level by tapping a button, and some might even let you change the simulated angle of the resistance unit so that you're going up a larger or smaller slope. Others might even have an option to randomly adjust the resistance, turning your smart trainer into an unpredictable workout that keeps you on your toes instead of letting you settle into a single speed.
Almost all smart trainers track the power of your movements, so having some kind of power meter can be useful. The average power meter will give you data about how fast you've pedaled, how much force you could put onto the pedals, how consistent you were, and what the average amount of power you were creating was. More advanced power trackers might also show you a general diagram of where your high and low points were, especially if they're connected to an app that can log that data and compare it with previous sessions.
Some trainers, especially smart turbo trainers, will some with these features as standard. However, you might need to purchase one separately if they don't, since they're sometimes considered to be training apps and can be linked up to a trainer like a mobile device would be. If you're able to get a power tracking tool set up, it's worth it, since it can be one of the best ways to tell how your indoor training is going and build up a consistent workout schedule or plan.
Buyer's Guide Questions
Are Trainers Bad for your Bike?
Indoor bike trainers don't directly harm your bike, but overusing trainers or using them incorrectly can definitely cause problems. Too much resist strength might harm the rear tire, and some bike trainers can be attached too tightly to the wheel. Direct-drive trainers require you to remove the rear wheel entirely and connect it to the design, which can lead to damage if you use these direct-drive trainers poorly too. Smart trainer designs are some of the best for this, since they're adjustable and can usually be altered to avoid causing harm during your ride.
Are Smart Bike Trainers Worth It?
A smart trainer (counting regular trainers and direct-drive trainers) is one of the best ways to ride your bike indoors and get the best possible results out of the exercise. These trainers are also perfect for use in smaller spaces, since they have some of the best compatibility features with apps or other devices. The price is higher, but a smart trainer is generally going to be worth it in the long run.
The best trainers are usually going to be ones that give you all of the best features, and that usually means that you'll end up with smart features whether you expected them or not. Because of this, a smart trainer can be the best way to get what you need and skip any awkward steps of only having some smart tools, giving you the full range of smart trainer features right away.
Which Bike Trainer is Best?
Choosing the best indoor bike trainer for your personal needs or exercise styles might not seem that easy, but it really just depends on what you're looking for. The riding experience can change based on even the smallest features, and certain brands or makes are going to offer entirely different things. For example, you might like the Tacx NEO 2T, but it could be completely different from another trainer that you like the idea of – some people will prefer the NEO 2T, but other people won't, and it usually comes down to one or two small feature.
The best trainer for any situation is the trainer that you're most comfortable with and get the best performance out of. Balancing the performance and comfort of your trainer is the most important part of the buying process, because you need a good amount of both to stay safe, healthy and motivated when it's time for another bike ride workout.