Selecting the Perfect Smart Trainer for Your Bicycle
We talked a bit earlier about what a smart trainer is but there’s more to it than the basics. Most trainers are going to be a stand that is used to hold your bike at the read wheel which includes a resistance unit that is also driven by the tire in the back. To make the trainer smart, that means there are electronics involved which provide a transmission of your speed to ANT+ capable devices like phone sand tables. Many of the trainers available also have power meters and more.
Types of Smart Turbo Trainers
You may have noticed that there are numerous types of smart turbo trainers mentioned throughout this article. The major types include fluid trainers, magnetic trainers, and direct drive trainers. Understanding the different options and what advantages and disadvantages you can expect from them is the appropriate place to start when you are considering the purchase of a smart trainer.
Many of the less expensive smart trainers on the market use magnetic resistance. This is done to offer the feel of riding your bicycle on an actual road. They are inexpensive due to their simplicity, but when it’s a smart version, it brings a bit more to the table than you might expect. In most cases, you will find that these come with a resistance changer. They may not have the features needed to mimic a specific power resistance or gradient. However, this is a fantastic choice for anyone who is on a budget or for beginners to training indoors.
Next up is the fluid trainer, which is generally a bit better quality than the magnetic option. These are going to be much quieter and will offer a resistance build up. Basically, that means when you start to go harder or faster, the trainer will immediately begin to increase the level of resistance to ensure you train hard. These trainers are also usually affordable but will have a greater range of features than the magnetic type of trainer.
The final type is the direct drive trainer and they work a bit differently than the other two. There is no need to attach the wheel of your bike to this trainer. Instead, it attaches to the drive train of the bike, instead. That’s where the name comes, as you probably already guessed. The vast majority of these trainers have to be plugged in to provide their capabilities. However, that also means there are much more options for programming them to work with smart devices. In addition, these are the most capable of offering the feel of an actual road. You also will never need to replace tires based on using this type of smart trainer since it doesn’t use the tires to begin with. That said, these are going to be the most expensive option and best suited to experienced users.
Full Smart Trainers
The highest quality smart trainers will be capable of being controlled entirely online through a tablet, phone, or laptop. The app you use will control the amount of resistance you deal with, so you don’t have to continually change thing up on your own. You’ll also find that these trainers help you measure the amount of power you output. This means that training to a certain target is easier than it ever has been before.
Partially Smart Trainers
Other trainers are partially smart in that they measure your power and send data to your devices. However, these trainers do not have the ability to control your resistance via software.
Looking at the Durability
You want to be sure that the smart trainer you choose is sturdy and long-lasting. If there’s a lot of plastic involved in its construction, that probably isn’t the case. Having a sturdy frame means your trainer is likely to be in good shape years down the road. While it’s possible you will need to service the electronics as some point, the components will stick around and offer you training for years to come. So take a look at how the trainer is made and whether it seems like it will last.
Think About the Attach Point
You want to think about how the trainer attaches to your bicycle. Some have a skewer available, so you don’t have to deal with removing and replacing the wheel. If you choose one of these, make sure it has a quick release which will lock everything in place. Otherwise, you could end up in a situation where you spend a lot of time spinning levers each time you use the trainer. For the trainers that don’t attach directly, you want to be sure it is compatible with your bike’s frame. In most cases, that won’t be an issue, but it never hurts to be sure.
Considering the Stability of the Platform
When you have a base that is quite small, that means it can more easily tip over. That can result in damage to the trainer, your bicycle, or even yourself. It’s rare for that to happen but when it does, it’s typically because of an inexpensive, small base. If the wheel is also mounted rather high, this can add additional problems. Consider the size of the base and don’t go with one that seems too good to be true.
Connectivity Needs and Options
If you want the best option in terms of smart trainers’ connectivity, you will want to look for both FE-C and ANT+ capabilities. ANT+ is the communication protocol used to wirelessly share your data for use with heart rate monitors, speed sensors, and similar items. FE-C is an assortment of commands that are sent over ANT+ which can control certain sorts of fitness equipment. That means you can use your data stream from the trainer to use systems that let you compete with others and have a more interactive training session.
Automatic Resistance Options
The fully smart trainers also include ERG mode, which is an advantage over the other options. Basically, the software will let your trainer know how much resistance you should have at any one time and it provides it to you. This can be a nice feature since you can simply focus on pedaling rather than worrying about your bike’s gear or what power target you want to be hitting. It may be somewhat mindless, but it is also a relaxing way to enjoy a training session.
Considering Your Needed Features
You want to make sure that the smart trainer you choose has all the features you expect from a traditional trainer. One of those needs is a resistance unit that can provide you with a simulated feel of riding on the road. You’ll also want to search for a smart trainer that has a sturdy frame to support both you and your bicycle. You may also be interested in determining which machines are the quietest, as loud noise from the smart trainer can make a workout more frustrating. It can also disturb the other people in your household, so consider that in your search.
While there is no need to buy a ton of extras for your smart trainer, there are some accessories that you may be interested in. Some people appreciate the presence of a front riser block, which will ensure your bike is level rather than pointing downwards. A trainer mat is also an excellent idea since it can drop the noise level of the machine and catch any sweat while you exercise or train. We also recommend considering a training tire, which will prevent you from wearing out your bike’s real tires from constantly pressing it against a roller.
Smart trainers are huge right now and that is only going to accelerate as more people try them out for their homes. When you aren’t able to head outside for a training session, a smart trainer gives you the next best thing. There are trainers available at all sorts of price points and for all skill levels, so you’ll find one that fits your needs on this list. Everyone ends up in a situation where training inside is the best option on occasion and having a way to do so easily and with the aid of helpful apps is the best option out there. So, think about your needs and what your budget is and get going. You’ll be glad you did.