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Turbo trainer guide

Turbo trainer guide

Rain won't stop play when you have an indoor training solution
Turbo trainer

Turbo trainers are the ideal solution to putting in the miles when it's cold and wet outside.

Unlike an exercise bike, you still get to ride your own steed, so you'll have exactly the same set up you're used to. Turbo trainers and rollers are great for long rides, sprint training and also to warm up before events.

For those who can't get a babysitter, they are a great way of practicing without leaving the house.

Turbo trainers

Technical training

Turbo trainers hold your rear wheel in place, so you can pedal away.

Although you don't get the 'road feel' of rollers, there is more technology to benefit from, such as compatibility with heart rate monitors and power measuring devices or super high tech virtual courses to tackle via your PC or TV.

The downsides to turbo trainers are the cost and the noise they produce, which can vary from a low murmur on expensive models, to a sound akin to a large aeroplane taking off at the cheaper end of the scale. As with a lot of bike gadgets, they also take up room, along with your time, which may not go down well with other inhabitants of your abode…


Simply stable

Turbo trainers have a very simple design, consisting of an A-frame in which the wheel is suspended and a roller in a resistance unit which the tyre is held against.

The rear wheel is fixed to the turbo by the quick release.


Resistance is futile useful

There are three types of resistance units which are found on turbo trainers.

Air resistance

Air resistance turbo trainers are affordable and simple to use. Your pedalling powers a fan which provides resistance on the wheel. The faster you go, the more resistance you create, but this resistance isn't adjustable - you have to rely on your gears for this.

  • ✔ Simple
  • ✔ Affordable
  • ✔ A more realistic 'road feel'
  • ✘ Limited adjustability
  • ✘ Noisy

Magnetic resistance trainers

Magnetic resistance turbo trainers consist of a metal plate spinning in a magnetic field, which drives a flywheel to create resistance. You can vary the resistance, with simple adjustment at the budget end of the scale to precise tracking and adjustment on expensive models.

  • ✔ More quiet
  • ✔ Adjustable resistance
  • ✔ Trainers to suit all budgets
  • ✘ 'Stop/start' feeling is a little clunky
  • ✘ 'Road feel' isn't as realistic

Fluid resistance trainers

Fluid resistance turbo trainers give a smooth an realistic feel. A flywheel operating in a fluid chamber creates the resistance, which has a wide range of adjustment.

  • ✔ Very quiet
  • ✔ Adjustable resistancee
  • ✘ Expensive
  • ✘ 'Road feel' isn't as realistic

Adjusting resistance

Some basic turbos don't provide any adjustment at all, but some will have a lever - one on the handlebar rather than the resistance unit is better for changes mid-ride without fumbling around.

Higher up the price range and you'll see handlebar-mounted electronic control units which might also provide a power measurement.

At the top of the scale are turbos which plug into your computer or television which allow you to ride a visual route with the resistance automatically adjusting as you sprint down the Champs Elysees or crunch your way up Mount Ventoux.

Buying checklist

Here's what to look for when buying a turbo trainer.


A sturdy frame which won't flex or bend under your riding - the heavier the better for stability.


Look for trainers which fold flat and how much space it will take up.


Buy a trainer with the most resistance levels for variety and challenge.


Adjustable legs or feet help you stay level on wonky floors.


If you're looking to take it with you to warm up before a race, pick one that's lighter for ease of transportation.


Riser block

As the back wheel of your bike is held a couple of inches in the air, so a riser block props up the front wheel to match.

Budget alternative - a book.


Protects your floor surface from getting covered in sweat and/or tears. They also act as soundproofing which can be invaluable in strengthening neighbour relations if you live in a flat.

Budget alternative - a carpet offcut

Bike thong

The amusingly named bike thong is like a wafer thin cushion which will prevent your bike rusting and/or corroding from dripping sweat.

Budget alternative - a flannel

Turbo trainer tyre

A specific turbo trainer tyre is made of a harder, thicker and more durable compound to resist the heat generated by metal rollers, which can flatten the profile of your tyre. This saves wearing out your best rubber during training.

Budget alternative - an old wheel

Turboing in action

Check out our turbo trainer video featuring Team Tredz triathlete Dave.