Indoor Cycling Turbo Trainers
Your basic turbo trainer consists of a metal frame which clamps onto the rear of your bicycle with a roller that presses onto the rear wheel to provide resistance.
There are three main types of turbo trainer:
- Fan – In the early days a fan was used to create wind resistance but modern day ones use either a fluid or magnetic system.
- Fluid systems offer a smoother feel than magnetic varieties which can feel rather jerky.
- Direct Drive – these have appeared during the last couple of years. They work by removing the rear wheel so you don’t have to worry about wearing out a tyre and also allow more accurate power measurement.
Altering resistance to make it harder or easier
At the more basic end of the market are models with just a resistance mechanism and the cyclist changes the amount of resistance by using the gears on the bike. Many cyclists find this too limited so more advanced models provide a means of adjusting the amount of resistance with a small lever which attaches to the handlebars.
In search of reality in a virtual world
Recent developments in technology have led to many advancements in the design turbo trainers and there are some very sophisticated models available which attempt to make the turbo trainer feel more like riding a bike on the road. There are now several models on the market that connect up to a desk/laptop and will show you how hard you are working via a screen littered with numbers showing your heart-rate, power output, cadence etc.. Some models enable you to use dvds so you can enter a virtual world and ride some of the famous climbs of the Alps such as Alpe d’Huez. Even more recent models allow you to connect up to websites such as Strava and Google Maps and you can ride your own routes.
NB: You must be aware that clamping a bike onto a turbo trainer will subject the bike to important forces the a bike frame may not have been designed to handle. A light bike designed to be ridden on the road may not be designed to have its rear wheel clamped into a rigid frame and damage may be caused to the bottom bracket area. Some manufacturers have been known not to guarantee a frame that has been used on a turbo trainer. It might be worthwhile using an old bike which has more flex and that you don’t mind getting covered in salty sweat.
Ergometers are actual cycling machines and are more commonly referred to as indoor bicycles or spinning bikes. These are what you will find in most gyms and fitness centres in nicely organised rows. They’re good if you have a permanent space for your indoor cycling as you can hop on and off with minimum time wasting. One detail that you must look out for is some spinning bikes have a fix flywheel meaning that you can’t just stop pedalling like you can on a geared bike.
Rollers can take a while to get used to. However, they are good for developing balance, bike handling skills and pedalling technique. One downside is that you cannot adjust the resistance, although Tacx and Elite have released models in 2014 where this can be done.
Here’s a useful video about choosing a turbo trainer