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What is a Bike Trainer?

By Micki Elizabeth
Updated May 23, 2024
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A bike trainer is a piece of fitness equipment that allows a cyclist to ride his bike indoors. An athlete may simply place the rear wheel of his bike into the trainer’s sturdy frame, thus turning his road bike into a stationary bike. Wind, magnet, and fluid technology may be employed to help riders continue to train during cold, dark winter months.

Serious cyclists often train outdoors on road bikes to stay in shape. Inclement weather could present dangerous riding conditions, however, leaving cyclists unable to train outside. In these situations, many professionals turn to the potential benefits of a bike trainer.

Bike trainers are fairly short, triangular frames with wide bases. When the rear tire is inserted into the trainer, the bike should stay upright and immobile, even as an athlete pumps the pedals and causes the tires spin. Most models involve some type of resistance mechanism to make the indoor ride as similar as possible to an outdoor training session.

A bike trainer allows cyclists to practice different types of workouts. From simulating uphill sprints to long endurance rides, athletes can keep in shape in their own homes. Many people admit that a stationary ride can never precisely mimic an outdoor ride. These frames do, however, allow one to train on his personal racing bike rather than on a typical stationary bike found in most gyms.

There are three common types of resistance one can choose from, each with its own pros and cons. The most popular type of bike trainer may be that which uses fluid resistance. Although this model is generally the most expensive, many professionals and enthusiasts maintain the price is worth getting an accurate ride. A fluid trainer is able to increase the resistance placed on the rear tire the faster a cyclist pedals, and it remains fairly quiet.

A magnetic or “mag” bike trainer uses magnets of opposing forces that move in opposite directions around the rear tire. These models tend to be cheaper than fluid trainers, but may also be less effective. Mag trainers usually offer different resistance settings, yet they must be changed manually, possibly disrupting a ride.

The cheapest and generally least accurate type of trainer uses a fan, powered by the cyclist, to create resistance. Sometimes, these wind trainers emit a lot of noise. Serious athletes rarely use these models because they are the least similar to a genuine outdoor training ride.

If a cyclist is planning on purchasing a bike trainer, it may be a good idea to try out a few different models in a sporting goods store if possible. Many athletes who use trainers regularly point out that they can wear down a rear bike tire quickly. Road tires do work with a bike trainer, although thicker training tires may be a good option.

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