Why would someone try so hard to pedal knowing they wouldn’t get anywhere? Probably because biking on a stationary turbo trainer or smart bike is a phenomenal workout and the perfect addition to pursuing almost any sport or fitness goal. From office workers spinning at the gym, to burly rugby players looking for aerobic gains, to cyclists honing their final sprint, more and more people are finding that indoor cycling is an efficient way to get a high-intensity, low-intensity workout. impact.
Not just a substitute for going outside, indoor cycling has a number of distinct training benefits over the open road. First, it’s more efficient as, unlike getting in and out of traffic, an hour on a turbo or smart bike always provides a full hour of structured training.
Second, it’s safer and easier to do some types of training indoors, like the kind of high-intensity repeated exertion that would normally leave you swerving all over the tarmac. Third, thanks to virtual classes and gamification of training, it’s easy to stay motivated, especially when the weather outside is bad.
Now with wireless connectivity and smart resistance, the latest exercise bikes and trainers can also connect you to apps like Zwift, where you can ride virtual courses and compete against cyclists from around the world. Likewise, there are a number of platforms that allow you to join a group and work on a spin class at home.
Of course, to experience all of this, you’ll need your bike and a matching turbo trainer or one of the latest generations of smart indoor bikes. But what are the benefits of each style?
A turbo trainer is a unit of resistance that creates the feeling of pedaling, giving your legs something to push on. Coming in direct mount or wheeled styles, you either take your regular bike and drop the rear wheel onto the turbo drum or remove it and attach the bike directly to the device.
Controlled by smart circuits and generating their resistance through electromagnetism, the latest smart trainers can simulate the sensation of climbing gradients of more than 20%, along with the feeling of freewheeling back. Installed in front of a smart TV or tablet and connected to an online platform like Zwift, this can give you the impression of pedaling in a virtual world, with the effort required by your legs matching in real time what is happening on the screen.
A little less fun, but even more useful for training, they can also walk you through set exercises, varying your level of suffering to match each interval in the program.
Using your own bike, one benefit of a conventional turbo trainer is that you’ll feel instantly at home. The flip side of this is that your drivetrain and tires wear out as you pedal, while bikes can also be surprisingly sensitive when sweaty.
Previously a bit noisy, the latest turbos are now quiet enough to go unnoticed by your neighbors. However, the condition of your bike can affect the noise level it generates, and a poorly maintained bike can be surprisingly noisy.
There’s also the fact that you’ll need to configure everything every time you use it. Just a minute or two work is, however, the kind of little annoyance that can sap your resolve when it comes to getting away from a planned session.
However, while it’s nice to always have a bike set up and ready to go, not all of us have unlimited space. In this regard, turbo trainers score highly on portability and storage. With most collapsible to a size that slides under the bed, dedicated riders will also appreciate the ability to transport them to events for a pro-style warm-up.
The cheapest introduction to indoor cycling, entry-level turbos with rudimentary connectivity like the Saris Fluid2 Smart (opens in new tab) start at $350 / £250 / AU$400, while a high-end trainer can cost twice as much.
Look for big names like Tacx, Wahoo or Elite, who create products that do an excellent job of bringing the open road feel to your living room or garage. For those who want to track their progress, models with integrated power sensors will also provide direct insights into their changing performance.
The spin and indoor cycling boom has everyone from celebrities to professional football teams adding indoor cycling to their training routines. There are many stationary bikes available, from simple models that use magnetic resistance to high-end spin bikes like the Peloton, but if you’re looking for a truly dynamic experience, you’re going to need a smart bike.
All indoor bikes have the benefit of being always ready to go after initial setup, making them much less complicated to use on a daily basis than a turbo trainer. They are surprisingly quiet and wear is almost an issue. What sets smart bikes apart, however, is their ability to change the resistance level automatically and in real-time based on data from a connected app, providing a more realistic riding experience that quickly adapts to your needs.
Smart bikes from brands like Wattbike, Stages and Wahoo range from $2,600 / £2,000 / AU$3,500 for a base model, all the way up to $4,000 / £3,200 / AU$5,000 for the latest high-end version. These bikes feature instant resistance adjustment, simulated gearing, power metering, and (in the case of the Wattbike Atom (opens in new tab)) pedaling efficiency analysis. Basically everything you’d expect from a high-end turbo – and then some.
Providing enough training information to make them a hit with professional athletes, those a few rungs down the athletic career will appreciate the ability to easily perform complex workouts or combine workouts with games in virtual running apps like Zwift.
Spinning bikes may look similar to smart bikes, but they have quite different features. For starters, most don’t have the same level of smart integration, requiring the user to dial in the level of resistance they need. Often using a fixed gear and a large, heavy steering wheel, this combination means you have to pedal continuously, a trait that may seem awkward at first but helps build flexibility and strength in your legs. However, they don’t provide the same dynamic changes in resistance as a smart bike.
Smart bikes are ideal for anyone looking to take the gym experience home. At the same time, anyone who wants to keep their regular bike for biking outdoors, or who doesn’t have a bike to start with, will also be well served – assuming they have the funds and space to accommodate their larger size and cost. .