We review the latest turbo trainers for optimising your training regime
What to look for
A stable, secure frame is crucial to safe training, especially for big watts. There’s a big difference in designs from simple, easy to store A frames to spring loaded frames intended to mimic road movement, and an increasing range of rear wheel removal, direct mount trainers.
The frame is only as secure as the clamp that holds your bike, but an awkward, slow set up can be enough to keep you on the couch if you’re already less than excited about the idea of going into the garage to train.
The roller is the vital link between bike and trainer. That means it has to cope with a lot of power and heat without slipping, growling, juddering or killing your tyre prematurely. Urethane rollers are generally quieter at lower speeds and easier on your tyres but don’t last as long as metal and can get rowdy when you’re flat out.
There are loads of ways to provide resistance to the roller. The simplest trainers use a noisy wind fan. Magnetic resistance trainers basically work like an electric motor in reverse and are easy to change resistance on with a remote lever. Fluid trainers spin a paddle in oil and are designed to give a smoother more natural feel, but actual results vary.
The bigger the flywheel the harder it is to accelerate the trainer, but the smoother it will feel once you’re actually training, helping you to maintain pedaling rhythm and morale.
Obviously you can change pedalling load by changing gears in the same turbo setting, but being able to change the resistance level of your trainer
separately can be useful for intervals or if you share your turbo with other riders.
Smart trainers range from add on sensors that pair with an app for speed and distance feedback to fully immersive virtual training worlds. The most advanced also include leg strength analysis and the latest training and testing protocols.
1 Giant Cyclotron Mag II
Giant’s entry-level trainer gets off to a solid footing literally, with a heavy-duty frame, including curved front and rear crosspieces for the feet, so you’ll really have to be going some to get it rocking. The clamping hardware, including the lock rings, is all-metal too and so is the clamp for the bar remote. It’s not exactly pretty, but it’ll handle a tough life in the garage without complaining. The roller and broad flywheel give it a reasonably smooth feel at low to medium revs.
However, things do get noisy and there’s noticeable vibration at higher speeds. The remote control lever is the only cheap plastic part but it gives a massive spread of brake resistance from barely noticeable to enough for an average athlete to replicate sprint intervals.
Verdict: Slightly rowdy but solidly built and surefooted with a wide range of brake adjustment.
2 Tacx Blue Twist
Tacx’s Blue Twist provides the bare minimum of training features but what you get looks good and works well. The big flared main legs and broad rubber footed front legs of the frame create a more stable base than the Minoura but are a lot lighter to heave about than the Giant if you’re using it for warm-ups. Once you’ve adjusted the driveside axle tension, the quick cam offside clamp and roller-engaging footplate make it easy to set up. It’s still secure even if you decide to get out of the saddle and give it some welly. Getting the adjustment on the metal-banded urethane roller is crucial to stop slippage and some tyres will squeak until they warm up. The small flywheel can be a bit choppy too, but there’s enough brake range adjustment from the foot-operated switch to cope with recovery spins or proper sweat sessions.
Verdict: Slightly choppy and no remote but a stylishly executed “essentials only” trainer at an excellent price.
3 Minoura B60R
Minoura’s B60 is a well-proven budget trainer that ticks all the boxes for basic home training as long as you’re smooth. The simple U-bend and flick out front legs frame with pressed steel brake mount hardly looks high class, but a DIY set up is pretty simple. The single-sided winding handle axle clamp is quick and easy to use too. The plastic remote lever operates a surprisingly powerful brake unit that’ll allow most riders to mimic serious hills at a relatively low speed/ cadence. The narrow rear stance however, can make the Minoura start walking if you really give it full gas in an interval sprint, and it’s choppy and quick to slow down despite a relatively big internal flywheel. It’s well priced for a remote control unit though and Minoura
reliability is generally excellent.
Verdict: Simple, effective, reliable and affordable trainer for smoother pedalling riders.
4 Jet Black Z1 Mag Pro
If you’re short on storage space the Jet Black is the flattest folding trainer here. Set up is quick thanks to a pre-assembled brake unit with fast adjusting axle clamps and a neat flush fit cam arm, and it comes with a full lifetime warranty. Five different positions of the distinctive leaf style remote lever allow very subtle resistance changes, however, maximum braking force won’t be strenuous enough for serious powerhouse riders.
No matter how we adjusted the small diameter orange urethane roller against the tyre it still created a lot of noise too, and the small flywheel means it’s got a choppy, rather than flowing ride feel. The free Jet Black app works with your own bike sensors rather than anything on the trainer too so don’t expect speed and power data without investing extra.
Verdict: Lifetime warranty and easy storage but surprisingly noisy and limited brake adjustment.
5 Tacx Satori Smart
This new trainer from Tacx makes smart feedback as easy and affordable as possible. There’s a bit of DIY required to bolt the brake onto the big alloy frame then you just need to unfold the wide stance U-shaped legs and adjust the cam action axle clamp so it centres the tyre on the metal sleeve of the urethane roller. The Smart couldn’t be easier either as the brake is battery, not mains operated. Just download the free app, press the pairing button
on the brake and it’ll start feeding cadence, power, speed, elapsed time, distance and related max and average data to your phone/ tablet by Bluetooth immediately. You can configure the display for various priorities and preferences and changing the resistance on the 10-step handlebar lever syncs with the wattage rating on the app.
Verdict: Simple wireless smart data collection and display on a sorted trainer makes this a techno bargain.
6 Elite Qubo Power Fluid
Italian turbo specialists Elite do a huge range of trainers including the creamy smooth, minimal hassle Qubo Fluid. A couple of bolts tighten the brake onto the vibration killing plastic base, then it’s just a case of setting the single-sided axle spacing, throwing the monster tightening cam closed and letting the weight of the bike sit onto the roller. The big Elastogel roller gives a very smooth and quiet wheel feel, and the fluid brake is judged really well in terms of creating a natural road feel appropriate to the choice of gears.
A 900 watt max means powerful riders might be maxing their gears when interval sprinting and it can slip on the rollers if you’re wrestling the gears round out of the saddle, but that all adds up to a very natural and user friendly ride experience.
Verdict: Smart looking, smoothly realistic fluid trainer delivering a reasonable workout at a good price.
7 Cycleops Super Magneto
This is one serious workout partner. For a start it comes fully assembled so you don’t waste training time. Just unfold the super-wide stance, locking-pin secured legs from the matt black frame and adjust the left hand hoof to dial out any wobble. Wind the single-sided axle clamp shut, tighten the big alloy roller onto the tyre until it double clicks to show the right torque, and your bike will basically feel like its set in concrete however hard you sprint.
The magnetic brake comes in four settings from recovery to properly leg crushing, including a particularly clever “interval” mode with boosted speed sensitivity so you can sprint flat out then spin without having to think about anything but the pain. There’s a bit of growl at high speeds, but speed sustain is epic and CycleOps trainers are legendarily tough.
Verdict: Superbly built, rock solid training investment for serious athletes wanting serious workouts.
8 Kinetic Rock N Roll 2
Kinetic’s Rock n Roll offers a genuinely unique training experience thanks to a big rubber sandwich that allows the upper section of the trainer (and you) to move in 3D for a much more realistic ride feel, particularly out of the saddle. The big, curved stabilising arms it needs add weight and means it requires more space than most others on test but once positioned the double-sided clamping system is very secure – there’s a quick release latch for fast entry and exit though.
The fluid brake is impressively smooth, quiet and controlled, becoming progressively harder to work against as you move up through the gears. It also holds speed well if you back off, just as it would on the road. An InRide wattage meter is also available as an add-on. It is expensive though (especially if you include the recommended £44.99 twist ring for the front wheel).
Verdict: Unique 3D ride experience with an accurate road recreating hydraulic brake, but it comes at a cost.
9 Bkool Connect Pro
BKool’s Pro is a big improvement over their debut model and that’s good news for everyone. The plastic arm with it’s simple pop out pin connection to the brake segment looks worryingly flimsy, but it actually works really well, killing the buzz of the ribbed roller enough to make it unnoticeable on all but the firmest bikes and saddles. The telescopic extensions on the front leg bar add useful stability so you can properly get a hustle on as long as you don’t bounce the bike off the roller. The brake is also a lot quieter and smoother with decent speed sustain too. BKool’s software and app are very polished, practical and comprehensive too, with a vast range of trainer synced on-screen workouts, videos, routes or specific training sessions to go at in wattage altering 3D once you plug in the ANT+ dongle and subscribe.
Verdict: Impressively user-friendly turbo that syncs easily to a vast virtual training world for subscribers.