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Winter training guide: Three affordable bike trainers

Three indoor bike trainer options for under $500.

While the face that we’re doing a review of trainers signals that time of the year when you’re likely going to have to spend more of your bike training time indoors, bike trainers aren’t necessarily something you should dread as a sign of winter. A useful training tool all year long, using a bike trainer on a regular basis can provide some consistent, efficient training even in the middle of summer. For those who don’t have easy access to good outdoor riding, trainers can also be a mainstay of a regular training plan.

Regardless of when you’ll be using a trainer, there are lots of options available. For those who spend a lot of time on their trainers, some of the more expensive options that offer computer interfaces and the like have become a popular option. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a very good trainer on which you can get an excellent workout. While these more “basic” trainers require that you manually change resistance (sometimes by changing gears), you’ll be able to push yourself to the limit on any of the trainers we’ve reviewed here:

STAC Zero Base – $440

 If you live in an apartment or do a lot of training early in the morning or late at night and don’t want to keep family members awake, the STAC Zero trainers are a fantastic option. Thanks to the magnetic resistance used on these trainers they are completely silent. That means you won’t need to crank the volume up on the music or video you’re watching during your workout, either. The STAC Zero does require that you have an aluminum rim, which can be a bit of an issue in this era of full carbon wheelsets, but once you’ve figured out a wheel that will work, the STAC Zero Base has everything you need to get a fantastic workout. The STAC Zero folds down to just under three inches, making it easy to slide under a bed or couch or fit into a cupboard easily. Other advantages to the magnetic resistance in addition to the silent running: zero tire wear and no moving parts, so you really shouldn’t have an issue with wearing parts out with this trainer. The trainer comes with an additional skewer that will offer a perfect fit, so set up is really easy.

Kurt Kinetic Road Machine – $490

 The basic version of the Road Machine offers a 6.25-lb. flywheel that provides a realistic road-like feel while you’re training. (You can add the Pro Flywheel for an additional 12 lb. of inertia if you need it, too.) The progressive fluid resistance ensures you get a smooth workout that’s as hard as you want it. Long renowned for their stable and durable trainer frames, the Kurt trainers are rock solid and will give you years of hard workouts. Despite the robust frame and large roller, the Road Machine folds down quite flat for easy storage. It runs relatively quietly, too, so you shouldn’t have to avoid early morning workouts or be afraid to use this in an apartment building. You can also get the Road Machine with a Smart option that provides Bluetooth sensors so you can connect to a smart phone, tablet or computer and use programs like Kinetic Fit, Zwift and TrainerRoad. A Kinetic skewer is included, too.

Cyclops Aluminum Rollers – $418; $526 with resistance

For those looking for much more than just a workout, rollers are a great way to work on your balance, control and bike handling skills. While it will take a while to be able to master their use, being able to ride on rollers is a great way to help you ride in a straight line, which will make you more efficient on the road, too. Cyclops’ Aluminum rollers are very quiet and smooth and can either fold flat or stand up for easy storage. You can get these rollers with a five level adjustable resistance option, too, which ensures you can create a super-hard workout once you get comfortable balancing on them – initially you’ll find it hard to just stay up. Once you do master them, though, you’ll find the fact that you have to pedal at all times to stay balanced that will give an excellent workout that will feel very much like you’ve been outside riding.