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Finding The Right Bike Trainer For You

By Ron Fritzke -

The holidays have come and gone, and it’s time to knuckle down and get regular with your exercise program again. But if you’re not living in the Sunbelt states, getting out for a run or bike ride may be quite a hurdle. The weather’s been unseasonably cold in much of the country and running or biking on sheets of ice isn’t doable. The right indoor bike trainer can provide a lot of advantages in your quest to remain fit even when the seasons aren’t cooperating. Bicycle trainers are broken down into three basic categories. Wind trainers are the simplest, fluid trainers occupy the upper rungs of the bicycle trainer ladder, and magnetic (mag) trainers are somewhere in between.

Wind Trainers For Loud, Easy Workouts

There aren’t too many fitness machines simpler than wind trainers. The rear tire of your bike turns a roller which is on the same shaft as an impeller. The amount of air the impeller moves dictates just how strenuous your ride’s going to be. That pretty much sums up the advantages of a wind trainer; simple, fool-proof...and did I say least expensive? The downside to a wind trainer is essentially twofold. 1). Wind trainers are often too noisy for many cyclists, especially when the workout really gets rolling. Some riders complain of near hurricane sound levels, although their experience with hurricanes may be limited to their own imaginations. 2). The other gripe with wind trainers is that they don’t generate sufficient resistance to provide a decent workout for a seasoned rider. This is especially relevant if the cyclist intends to do an interval-style, rather than a steady state workout.

Mag Trainers No Longer Find Themselves In The Junkyard

Most of the current mag trainers weathered and triumphed over their predecessors…the majority of which produced high frustration levels in their owners. Early generation mag trainers were known for failure, but that’s no longer the case when the selection is limited to some of the high end models, like the CycleOps Magneto. Mag trainers provide resistance by spinning resisting magnets past each other. The level of resistance can be changed by altering the position of the magnets. In the simplest of trainers, the rider has to dismount and change the settings manually. The next level of complexity involves a cable and lever from the trainer unit to the handlebars of the bike. With this system the resistance level can be changed ‘on the fly’. The system in the previously mentioned Cycleops Magneto is the first and only unit to offer progressive resistance in a mag trainer. Using centrifugal force, the configuration of the magnets is determined by how fast the roller’s spinning and nothing’s required of the rider to get stronger resistance.

Fluid Trainers Are Quiet And Strong

Top of the line bike trainers are usually fluid trainers. The quietest of the three styles, they also provide a type of resistance that’s conducive to even the hardest of workouts. The level of resistance in fluid trainers increases exponentially. The harder these trainers are pushed, the harder they push back. I don’t mean linearly, either. If you look at a fluid bicycle trainer ‘speed’ versus ‘resistance’ graph, you’ll see an ever increasing slope. The slope on the left side of the graph may be at a sane angle while the slope corresponding to the highest speeds on the right can approach near vertical. In layman’s terms, it’s a lot easier to increase your speed from ten (10) mph to twelve (12) mph than it is to increase from twenty (20) mph to twenty two (22) mph on a fluid bike trainer. The downside of fluid trainers is that they’re the most costly, and they previously were plagued with problems of leakage. But leaking problems are largely an issue of the past. One of the most significant improvements regarding leaks was the proprietary design by Kurt Kinetic, which is currently showcased in their Kurt Kinetic Road Machine. By separating the roller from the fluid filled chamber and then linking them with a powerful magnetic bond the company was able to eliminate any breach of the fluid containment chamber. The fluid’s securely contained, with no O-rings to fail.

A Trainer For Everyone

With a whole boatload of good trainers on the current market, you should be able to find a bike trainer that’ll keep you fit through the dark months of winter. For casual bikers a relatively inexpensive wind trainer may be sufficient. More intense riders will gravitate toward $300.00 fluid trainers. Lastly, just as in the story of the Three Bears, some cyclists will find mag trainers to be ‘just right’. About the author: Ron Fritzke is a cycling product reviewer with a passion for 'all things cycling'. A former 2:17 marathoner, he now directs his competitive efforts toward racing his bike and looking for quality cycling gear.

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