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Basic Guide To Resistance Trainers

As a general rule, bikes are meant to be ridden outdoors. The ability to breath fresh air, take in the sights and explore new places is why we ride. But sometimes pedaling inside makes sense. Maybe the roads are covered in four inches of fresh snow, or maybe you’re looking to do a highly structured workout and don’t want to be impeded by stoplights or dead-end streets.

Enter the resistance trainer. These handy devices work by lifting your rear wheel off the ground via a clamp that attaches to your wheel’s axle. A platform for your front wheel levels things out. Pedaling resistance is created by a fly wheel that’s held against your rear tire. Think of it as your own personal spin bike, except it doesn’t collect dust in your basement when not in use.


While similar in appearance, there are several types of trainers, each with a different method of creating resistance. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each:


Wind Trainers: Uses a fan to generate resistance.


  • Fewer moving parts
  • Produce progressive resistance, which increases as wheel speed increases
  • Smooth resistance with minimal vibration


  • Noisy
  • Fan susceptible to damage
  • Increasing wheel speed only way to increase resistance


Magnetic Trainers: Use combination of magnets and metal plates to generate resistance.


  • Offer multiple levels of resistance
  • Quieter than wind trainers
  • Produce linear resistance, which stays the same regardless of wheel speed
  • Typically less expensive than other options


  • Changing resistance level requires dismounting bike unless trainer is equipped with handlebar-mounted remote shift lever


Fluid Trainers: Uses a hydraulic fluid and an impeller to create resistance.


  • Produce progressive resistance, which increases as wheel speed increases
  • Very quiet
  • Most moving parts protected by enclosed resistance unit
  • Available in adjustable resistance models


  • More Expensive



To truly maximize your trainer time it helps to have access to metrics such as Ride Time, Power Output, Heart Rate, Speed and Cadence. This allows you to accurately gauge your efforts, and complete structured workouts that can provide a big boost to overall fitness. However, standard cyclo-computers typically rely on front wheel sensors, making them useless on indoor trainers where the front wheel is stationary.

Instead, consider a cycle-simulator. These systems measure and display key data, and can change resistance levels according to pre-programmed routes or courses. Some advanced models even connect to a personal computer and display the route or a competing rider. It’s a great way to push yourself to new levels of fitness.

Bicycle Trainers