Roller bike trainer

Five Things to Know Before Buying a Bike Trainer

Bike trainers allows you to train safely in all weather conditions, giving you the convenience of being able to train regardless of the circumstance.

If you want to buy an indoor bike trainer, you will find yourself faced with lots of choices. Obviously, for those who have no experience, this can be overwhelming. In this article, we want to give you some tips to help you understand the main differences between bike trainers and what are the most important aspects to consider.

1. Types of bike trainers and mechanics

Wheel on Trainers

First of all, it is necessary to identify which type of bike trainer is the most suitable for your needs. There are three types of indoor bike trainers that differ in mechanics and how they are used:

With a wheel-on trainer, the bike is locked on a stand and the rear wheel rests on a roller.

Wheel on bike trainer


This traditional type of bike trainer has three cylinders on which the bike rests. With this type of bike trainer, the cyclist has to balance while pedaling, just like when they are on the road.

roller bike trainer

Direct-drive trainer

The direct-driver trainer functions without a rear wheel, which provides more accuracy and often more power. 

direct drive bike rollers

Each of these trainers has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Wheel-onThe initial setup is very fast.A little noisier, especially when compared to a direct-drive trainer.
Roller (Traditional)The bike is free to move sideways just like on the road.Some initial difficulty in use.
Direct-driveThis bike is silent, has better pedaling sensation and greater power.Requires removal of the rear wheel.

2. Receiving data, sending data and interactivity

Another fundamental factor for choosing bike trainers is the ability of the trainer to send and receive data and being able to change the resistance automatically. Therefore, we can divide the trainers into 3 categories:

If you are looking for training data to get more out of your workouts, a smart trainer could be the answer. With smart trainers, you can combine speed and cadence sensors to unlock metrics such as rotations per minute (rpm), distance, and speed.   

Smart trainers can also be used in combination with the various simulation programs by displaying your training data on the screen. Unfortunately, these programs, apps, and peripherals can’t control the trainer brake. Therefore, it is the cyclist who increases or decreases endurance and speed with a smart trainer.

The category that allows greater involvement and makes training more enjoyable is an interactive trainer. As you know, indoor training is rather monotonous, but pedaling indoors can be fun with the right bike trainer. The interactive trainer allow you to reproduce race and training courses and compete with yourself or with others, thanks to virtual simulations.

In fact, there are many simulation programs, apps, and peripherals on the market that provide a virtual experience for cyclists. Most of them, however, perform best only if connected with an interactive trainer. Thanks to being able to control the electric brake, the programs can simulate a route and develop training programs in a much more complete way.

The interactive trainer are also compatible with the Garmin Edge wireless bike computers that have BLUETOOTH or ANT + connectivity. You can use your Edge in parallel with your favorite simulation app to download the indoor activity on Garmin Connect to make your ride feel like a real road trip, with a drop in altitude and data recorded by the sensors.

Obviously, for those who are not interested in the data, there is traditional trainer. These are trainers that easily allow indoor pedaling sessions, but they do not measure and or send data. For this reason, the use of these reels is more tedious, although it is always possible to get distracted by listening to music or watching television.

Unfortunately, to date, it is not possible to convert a traditional trainer into an interactive one. It is something to keep in mind before making a purchase.

3. Maximum simulated slope on the bike trainer

When choosing a bike trainer, it is important to also consider the type of training that you want to do. If you plan to do maintenance training or agile work, then the bike trainer does not need to have a high breaking capacity. If you want to do SFR (climb, strength and endurance), then it is ideal for the trainer to be able to create sufficient resistance.  

A simple indication of the power that a bike trainer can develop is given by the maximum simulated slope. This parameter easily gives us a measure of how much it can brake. For example, a bike trainer that can simulate up to 14% manages to create much more strength than a trainer that simulates only up to 6%. This can be important if you want to develop high potencies.

4. Roundness of pedaling and flywheel

Another aspect to keep in mind for truly satisfying user experience is the pedaling roundness. Normally the bike trainers can recreate a pedal stroke as close as possible to a road ride. A larger and heavier flywheel allows better simulation, particularly important when wanting high power.

In fact, in the case of high power, a small flywheel makes pedaling from “not natural” to “very unpleasant.” For this reason, the flywheel is a very important aspect and almost always goes together with the maximum simulated slope.

5. Budget

In light of the above, although the price is certainly a very important variable, it should not be the only parameter to consider. Remember that prices must be considered within the same bike trainer category. Comparing the bike trainer prices of different categories can be misleading. For example, it is not good to compare the prices of a classic bike trainer with a direct-drive. Direct-drive trainers have more realistic characteristics than a trainer even if they are more expensive on average.