Indoor cycling has come a long way since the first days when riders mounted their bikes on unstable rollers and stared at the wall for hours during training. Nowadays, smart turbo trainers and connected exercise bikes provide a more enjoyable indoor cycling experience – albeit they are very different from each other. Which one should you get?
Indoor cycling isn’t just a replacement for going outside, but it has several distinct training advantages over going out onto the open road. First, it is more efficient as opposed to getting in and out of traffic; and secondly, an hour on a turbo or smart bike always provides a full hour of structured training.
Moreover, it is easier to do some types of indoor training, such as repetitive intense efforts that would normally result in twisting all over the asphalt. Third, thanks to both virtual classes and training gamification, it’s easy to stay motivated, especially when the weather is gloomy outside.
Of course, to try something like this, you’ll either need your bike and a matching turbo trainer, or one of the latest generation of smart indoor bikes. But what are the advantages of each style?
Advantages (and disadvantages) of turbo trainers
On wheel mount or direct mount versions, you take your regular bike and either drop the rear wheel onto the turbo trainer drum (wheel-on) or take it off and bolt the bike directly to the machine (direct mount). Many modern turbochargers can connect directly to training apps for structured workouts that can be controlled from your phone or tablet.
Some intelligent trainers can simulate the feeling of going uphill with a slope of more than 20% along with the feeling of going freely downhill. Not only that, but they can often stimulate different types of roads as well, making you feel like you’re driving to Paris-Roubaix without leaving the cave of pain.
If you have a Smart TV at home – and enough space to put a turbo-charged road bike in front of it – you can stream workouts that seem almost real, or lose yourself in the virtual world of Watopia (Zwift’s virtual world), which he says users is almost as rewarding as riding in a group in real life.
When using your own bike, the main benefit of turbo trainers is that you will immediately feel at home in the saddle, as technically you are riding the same bike indoors as outdoors. They are also quiet due to the magnetic resistance and no chains etc. The flip side of this is that your drivetrain and tires (wheeled models) wear out when pedaling, and bikes can also be surprisingly sensitive when sweaty.
In addition, the condition of your bike can affect the level of noise it generates, and a bike that is poorly maintained can be surprisingly squeaky. There is also the fact that you will have to configure everything every time. It doesn’t take too long to assemble the bike; Nevertheless, it is the kind of minor hassle that can weaken your determination to avoid a scheduled session.
While it’s fun to always have your bike set up and ready to ride, not all of us have unlimited space. In this regard, turbo trainers achieve high scores for portability and storage. Since most folds down to a size that will fit under your bed, dedicated cyclists will also appreciate being able to transport them to the competition to warm up in a professional style.
Look out for big names like Tacx, Wahoo or Elite to create products that are great for bringing the feeling of an open road to your showroom or garage. For those looking to track their progress, models with built-in power sensors will also provide direct insight into changing performance.
Advantages (and disadvantages) of smart exercise bikes
The boom in spinning and indoor cycling has seen everyone, from celebrities to professional soccer teams, add indoor riding to their training sessions. There are many static bikes available, ranging from simple models with magnetic resistance to sophisticated spin bikes like the Peloton, but if you’re looking for a really dynamic experience, you need a smart bike.
All indoor bikes have the advantage that they are always ready to ride after the initial setup, which makes them much less cumbersome in everyday use than a turbo trainer. They are surprisingly quiet and wear is hardly a problem. What sets smart bikes apart, however, is their ability to automatically change resistance levels in real time based on data from a connected app, resulting in a more realistic riding experience that adapts to your needs on the fly.
Prices for smart bikes from brands such as Wattbike, Stages and Wahoo range from $ 2,600 / £ 2,000 / AU $ 3,500 for the base model to $ 4,000 / £ 3,200 / AU $ 5,000 for the latest high-end version. These bikes offer instant resistance adjustment, gear simulation, power measurement, and (in the case of the Wattbike Atom) pedaling efficiency analysis. Basically everything you’d expect from a high-end turbocharger – and more.
Providing enough training knowledge to become a hit with professional athletes, those on several rungs of the athletic career ladder will appreciate being able to easily complete complex workouts or combine exercise with fun in virtual racing applications such as Zwift.
Spin bikes may look similar to smart bikes but have completely different functions. First, most of them do not have the same level of intelligent integration, instead requiring the user to select the required resistance level. Often using a steady gear and a large, heavy flywheel, this combination means you have to pedal constantly, which may seem strange at first, but it helps create flexibility and strength in your legs. However, they do not provide such dynamic changes in resistance as a smart bike.
Smart bikes are perfect for those looking to take their gym experience home with them. At the same time, anyone who wants to keep their regular outdoor bike, or doesn’t have a bike to start with, will also be served well – assuming they have the resources and space required to accommodate the larger size and cost.
Turbo Trainers vs Exercise Bikes: Which One Is The Best?
Turbo trainers are perfect for professionals and people who prefer to ride their own bikes. Admittedly, setting up your bike every time you want to ride is a bit of a hassle, and you may need to clean the frame a bit to keep dirt from getting everywhere in your home, but in return you’ll be able to virtually participate in any major race on the road. around the world on your bike – nothing beats that feeling!
Exercise bikes are more accessible and designed for indoor training, meaning you don’t need to calibrate or clean them before using them. They are often more comfortable to ride and offer many customization options for riders, allowing you to tailor the riding experience to your liking.