A guide for choosing the best stationary bike stand
If you recover from injury, or wither it is cold and yucky outside, using a stationary bike stand would allow you to convert your own bike to stationary bike and train inside. Stationary bike stands are more often called trainers. They come with variable features and designs and, accordingly, in a range of prices. If you are a beginner that is trying to get in shape, or if you are an expert cycler, that would like to keep in shape during the winter months, you are surely to find a design that would work for you.
Reasons for using a stationary bike stand
- Weather does not permit riding outside
- Recovery from an injury
- You’d like to keep training but save the gym membership fee
- Training for a race
- Starting with an exercise regime
- Warming up before cycling outside
Main features to consider when shopping for a bike trainer
Different models of bike stands differ in –
- Resistance level they provide and the way it is provided
- Trainer design
- Noise level
- Stability, size, and weight of the trainer
- Trainer installation
- Ease of mounting and removing bike from the trainer
- Fit to a specific type of bikes
- Core muscle training
- Additional feature such as a computer or virtual reality features
Resistance – can be controlled by different methods. Some bike trainers come with a resistance unit that can be adjusted to a certain level, in other models the resistance is determined progressively, which means that the faster you pedal, the harder it gets. Yet, a third and common way to change the resistance for your training is using your bike gears.
Mechanisms of resistance –
- Magnetic resistance unit is probably the most common mechanism. Trainers with a magnetic mechanism may come with a few, often, 5 or 7 set levels of resistance, but some models come with only a single level, which you can affect only by shifting your bike gears. Depending on your own fitness, the available resistance levels may feel too easy or too hard for you. It is best if you can test the trainer in the store, or at least read customer reviews before choosing a trainer with the right resistance for you. Most mag trainers will not provide enough resistance for highly trained individuals, and will be more suitable for beginners.
- Fluid resistance – these units combine a strong magnet with fluid, to allow a progressively changing resistance. The resistance is determined by the speed in which you pedal and your bike gear. The higher the cadence (pedaling speed), the harder it would be to pedal. Fluid trainers are often the choice of trained riders as they often offer more resistance than magnetic ones. Leaks may be an issue with some models. Fluid trainers are often significantly less noisy than magnetic trainer.
- Wind resistance units contain a fan that increases the resistance progressively. Wind units are not very common at the moment, because they are significantly noisier than other types of trainers and are less desirable.
- Other ways to control resistance – some specialized bike stand models have unique resistance units. A magnet is normally an important part of the resistance unit, but in addition to the magnet, units may also have an electronic controlled motor, or other ways of resistance.
Trainer design – bike stands and trainers differ in the way the bikes are mounted on the trainer. In the great majority of trainers the rear wheel tire comes in contact with the resistance unit. This provides the resistance. However, the friction of the tire with the roller causes tire erosion. To solve this problem, some brands offer rim trainers.
Noise level is another important feature to consider when considering cycling at home. If you want to watch TV or listen to music while training, or if you train in a small apartment, noise level may be an issue. The two main factors that affect how noisy your trainer would be are the resistance mechanism and the tires you are using. Trainers differ in the level of noise they produce, with the wind trainers the loudest and fluid trainers almost silent. The mag trainers normally produce some audible noise, but are normally not extremely loud. In addition to these generalizations, models with a similar resistance unit may contain additional mechanisms to reduce noise, so it is a good idea to check the model you are going to use. The type of tires you have on your bike would also affect the noise level, with knobby tires being fairly loud, and special slick tires being significantly quieter. If possible, use older smoother tires when using the trainer, to prevent erosion of your good road tire and reduce noise.
Trainers differ in stability of the unit. With some cheaper models, the unit itself may be shaky, or you may feel some vibrations when cycling at high speed. The weight of the unit may be an issue if you need to move it around between rooms, and some units are light weight and fold for easy storage.
Trainer installation is presumably a one-time event, but may take time with some trainers. Some bike stands come pre-installed, and take very little to set up, fit to the specific bike you are using, and start training. Some installation may be required for other trainers, and the quality of the instructions that comes with the trainer also varies. YouTube is a good resource, if you get stuck with the installation process.
Mounting and dismounting your bike – many models have an easy release lever for quickly installing your bike. With these mechanisms, it may take less than a minute to get the bike in or out of the trainer. The process may require more work with other models. Having an easy release rear wheel for your bike may be required for a quick installation of your bike on the stand. Installation of a bike with a fixed rear tire may be more complicated and may take longer. An additional axle (skewer) is often provided, to fit your bike to the trainer, but is not always necessary.
Bike fit – Trainers vary in their fit to different types and sizes of bike tires. Only very few trainers can take knobby tires. You may want to consider special slick tires for your cycling on the trainer, as the tire may erode faster when they come in contact with the trainer’s roller. Slick tires will also reduce noise level. Additionally, the normal wheel range that would fit on most trainers is 26” to 28”, but some trainers take smaller or larger wheels. As mentioned above, having a fast release rear wheel may help with a quick and convenient bike installation.
Core muscle training – riding a bike on a trainer is different than riding on the road. Less balance is normally needed if you are using a stationary bike stand. In order to improve balance and strengthen core muscle, some trainers also allow movement from side to side. These trainers are called pivot trainers. Rollers also require balance, because the bike can move along the width of the roller, and your goal is to keep the bike in the middle. Rollers and pivot trainers are not for everybody and need more skill and concentration to operate. They do, however, guarantee a more interesting and realistic feeling workout, if you choose to use them. Read more about comparison of rollers and bike stands here.
Additional features – because riding on a trainer may be boring, some brands offer virtual reality trainers. The software allows you to follow your path on a map, and track your progress. Some movies are also included in the package. Tracking with your outdoor cycling computer is possible on some models, but in most of them, the front wheel does not turn during workout, so the computer will not work with the standard setup.
Price ranges from less than $100 on some mag trainers, to more than $1000 on the more expensive virtual reality trainers. In addition to the trainer itself, you may need to purchase also a chopping block, to raise the front wheel. This additional accessory costs about $10 – $20 and is included with some trainers. See price range for different trainers in the table below –
$60 – $400
$200 – $500
$150 – $400
Up to $1300
* Prices may change. >> Click here to see current pricing on your selected models
Company customer support – some trainers come with lifetime warranty, and there are differences in the quality of customer support between companies. Especially notable for their excellent customer service are Kurt Kinetic and 1upUSA. These two companies have quick response time and are pleasant to work with. Their products, however, are more expensive compared to similar products on the market. If you purchase a more expensive trainer, check also customer reviews on service by the company.
Review of top trainers in different categories
In this section I describe the top trainers in different categories based on price, features and positive customer reviews.
Soozier Adjustable Magnetic Resistance – top economy magnetic trainer
Soozier Adjustable Magnetic Trainer has 5 levels of magnetic resistance, and can be used for wheel size 26” or 27” only. Mounting the bike is quick and easy, for both, quick release or a fixed rear wheel. The resistance level can be adjusted with a handlebar knob, in addition to changing your bike gears. This trainer is a good entry level trainer at a reasonable price. If you are in an excellent shape, and need the trainer for sophisticated training routines that require high resistance, this trainer is probably not for you. However, it would make a perfect trainer for a beginner that needs to keep moving during the cold winter months. The noise level is reasonable, but depends on the texture of your back tire. As with most trainers, slick tire is recommended. It is stable, and can be folded for storage. No need for additional riser block.
Elite Mag Speed Alu – top quiet magnetic trainer
The Mag Speed Alu has 5 levels of adjustable magnetic resistance, with a bar mounted dial. Fits rear wheel sizes 26” – 28”. The unit is extremely easy to set up, with only two screws to tighten. Mounting bike with or without quick release is very quick and easy. The unit provides enough resistance for a beginner or intermediate rider. This model is very quiet compared to other magnetic trainers available on the market. The unit only comes with 2-year warranty, however. Elite is an Italian company, and their representatives for support issues in the US are ProNet cycling, which can be easily found online, and have a very good support department.
Minoura rim drive RDA2429-D – Top rim drive trainer
Most rim drive trainers on the market are produced by Minoura. Minoura is a Japanese family company with an extensive line of different style trainers. There are 3 Minoura rim drive trainer models, and the RDA2429-D is the most popular. This model has 7 levels of resistance, and is fairly quiet. As with most Minoura trainers, this one fits rear wheel sizes 24” to 29”. Pricewise, this trainer is slightly more expensive than the tire drive magnetic trainers, and is more appropriate for use with knobby tires.
Kurt Kinetic Road Machine – Top fluid trainer
There are several excellent fluid trainers on the market. The Road Machine is certainly a top seller for a reason. Kurt Kinetic makes extremely high quality trainers, and with superb customer support and life time warranty on their products, this brand is a leader in the industry. The Road Machine is relatively light weight compared to other trainers. The fluid chamber is designed in a way to prevent leaks. To prevent fluid over-heating problems, the road machine contains a silicone-based fluid, and has fins around the fluid chamber that function as a fan, for additional cooling. Bike installation is fairly easy, although not as easy as with competing models. As all of Kurt Kinetic trainers, this trainer fits a wide range of wheel sizes – 22” to 29”. This trainer gets extremely positive reviews from users with more than 100 5-star reviews and an average customer review of 4.7 on Amazon. Positive comments include road-like feeling, quiet and stability. Read more …
Minoura MOZ Roller – Top Rollers
Minoura Moz Rollers is one of the most recommended rollers on the market. It is light weight and folds small to storage. They fit a wide range of tire size (24” – 29”), and the small roller size of 80 mm increases the resistance for your training. Optional stand and side guards are sold separately, and this unit price is comparable to other similar units. Unlike parabolic rollers, in this model there is nothing that protects you from falling off the side of the roller. This feature requires a better balance, but also provides a better workout. As with any rollers, if you’ve never been on a roller, it would take you a few minutes to get used to the feeling, and gain your balance. The Minoura MOZ Roller is among the quietest rollers on the market. As with the bike stand, here too, it helps if you don’t use a highly textured tire.