One of the cheapest options, they’re simply rollers that you put your road bike on. Unfortunately, the learning curve is steep, as the many hilarious YouTube videos will demonstrate – just search for cycling rollers fail for a good laugh.
Once you’re spinning over 10mph you don’t have to worry about balancing as the spin of your rear wheel acts like a gyroscope and keeps you upright. You can change the resistance using your gears, and the beauty of rollers is that you can use your outdoor bike as it is, with little modification.
Also called mechanical trainers, turbo trainers come in a number of variations, using wind, magnets, liquid, or a combination of the three to provide resistance to your cadence. Unlike rollers, turbo trainers lock your back wheel to the training frame, making it easier for you to mount and dismount.
The downside is limited sideways movement meaning a narrower group of muscles is exercised – not great if you’re training for a climb out the saddle. Also, disconnecting your bike from the trainer takes time and space, so ideally you leave a spare bike on the trainer, and a spouse who’ll tolerate a training room in the house.
Turbo Plus – the next generation
More advanced trainers like the Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll are designed for a natural riding style. Your back wheel is still attached to the trainer, but the whole trainer is built on a rocking system allowing you to get out the saddle and make like you’re dancing up the Tourmalet.
The resistance is variable so you can connect up the trainer to an app on your smartphone and burn through intervals until you bonk off your bike. The added bonus is because you never left home, you don’t need to call the taxi of shame – just crawl to the kitchen and make yourself a peanut butter sandwich.
The most expensive option means you don’t need a spare bike, just plenty of space. Spin bikes like the RealRyder allow for sideways movement just like the Kurt Kinetic. You can get fully tech versions like PelotonCycle that bring the spin class to your home, or you can buy an add-on like CyberCycle that extends your training experience onto your TV. Personally, I’m happy to watch Tour De France stages on repeat – nothing motivates you to bury yourself like seeing a break-away group win a stage.
The cheapest indoor trainer doesn’t need a bike – just push the sofa back and do some work on the floor. Squats, planks, lunges, and the Pilates 100 all build your core muscles in ways that cycling won’t. It’s ironic that a lot of muscles that assist your power output aren’t directly exercised by cycling, so floor work could be the best training you do off the bike. The added bonus is your spouse won’t complain that you’re riding your bike indoors. Again.