On Christmas morning, I jumped up with more excitement than my sister when she opened her present. Santa brought her a CycleOps Fluid 2.
I was ready to set up the bike right then and there but she didn’t think it was such a fun idea. Since this was her first serious year of cycling, I had the chance to explain the different types of trainers and why I think her husband gets bonus points for buying her the Fluid 2.
But before I jump ahead, I’ll tell you what a trainer is and why it’s important that cyclists own one.
A trainer is a device that hooks up to the back of your bike. It holds the bike stationary and in place by securing the rear skewer and provides resistance by adding pressure to the rear tire. A trainer allows you to focus on pedal efficiency, builds strength and maintains an endurance base during the winter or rainy months.
Spin classes are a great tool for motivation and fitness but if you have a specific goal for your next season, you will want to tailor your spin workouts to that goal instead of relying on the instructor’s routine. If you’re afraid you won’t know what to do with your trainer once you get it, you can hire a coach or access a huge variety of workouts available on the Internet.
There are three types of trainers: wind, magnetic and fluid. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, which you will have to consider when determining which is the right trainer for you.
Wind trainers are the least expensive of the three. It uses a fan-like system that produces progressive resistance. This means the faster you pedal, the more resistance you create, which is similar to riding in outdoor conditions as you would pedal harder to produce the same amount of speed on varying terrain. The major downside of wind trainers is that they are extremely loud and vibrate quite a bit and make for an uncomfortable ride.
Magnetic trainers are a bit more expensive but the magnetic system eliminates some of the noise of the wind trainer. Although it is quieter, it has another downfall. Because the magnets produce constant resistance, as you speed up that resistance becomes proportionally less. Manufacturers tried to solve this problem by providing adjustment settings, but I find the adjustment lever is often finicky and unpredictable, rarely providing the right amount of resistance to mimic outdoor conditions. I originally bought the magnetic trainer because of the lower cost, only to upgrade to a CycleOps Fluid 2 the very next day. I found the magnetic trainer was still too noisy for apartment living or watching TV and the adjustment settings frustrated me as I could never adjust the tension as I needed for the workout.
Fluid trainers are the most expensive as they are quiet and provide progressive resistance. They have solved both problems by designing a fan-like system that is immersed in oil. The one possible downside is that the seals may eventually wear down, allowing the oil to leak. But in the six years that I have owned my Fluid 2, the seals are still good and the trainer works just as well as the day I took it out of the box.
In my opinion, the cost of the fluid trainer is outweighed by how quiet the device is and how comfortable the ride. If your neighbour complains every time you workout at home, it’s sure to make its way into storage as soon as the bliss of your New Year’s resolution wears off.
Kristina Bangma is a coach, personal trainer and writer with a love of riding and racing. Email questions to kris@ getfitwithkris.com.