It’s amazing what level of nerd you become once you have bought something. The little things you wish you knew before doing so, as well as the bits of knowledge that you acquire along the way all make the whole thing that much more beneficial. So here is a summary of some of the things I have learned from my own experiences.
There is probably nobody better to go to for a detailed assessment of turbo trainers than Ray Maker, or as he is known on the internet DC Rainmaker. The nerd of all nerds on sports tech, his detailed and always non biased assessment on a product are spilled into thousands of words and videos with the best place to start his YouTube channel which you can find here. https://www.youtube.com/user/dcrainmakerblog
Another good reference point is his Australian counter-type Shane Millar who runs the channel GP Lama. Again, based purely on sports tech and from a real enthusiast perspective, you probably don’t get much better than these two. His channel is here: https://www.youtube.com/user/gplama
Smart of Dumb Trainer, Wheel on or Wheel Off
The best type of trainer will very accurately recreate the experience of riding on roads. In some cases, even riding over cobbles. It will simulate hills, some can even lift your front wheel as you climb and you can even have a specialist fan that increases in velocity as your heart rate increases. Imagine all of that whilst sat in your home, watching yourself, or more likely an Avatar of yourself, climbing a giant volcano or a snow capped Alp D’Huez.
You are only going to get that level of experience if you spend big and spending big means a high end Smart Trainer at around £1,000 and that is before you have added all the other accessories. I won’t attempt to any level of review here as I won’t do a better job than the two guys already mentioned, but what I will say, is that if you are serious about using your turbo trainer on a regular basis, you will end up with a Smart Trainer at some point.
As to whether that Smart Trainer allows you to place your whole bike onto it, including your back wheel, or one that connects directly to the drive train (which are quieter) again depends on what you are prepared to spend and frankly how often you plan to remove the bike from the trainer. Not ideal if you only have one bike, but that’s up to you.
Accessories & Support Equipment
Buying the trainer itself is not the end of the shopping spree and you will quickly realise you need a lot more little bits and pieces to help the training experience go that much more smoothly. Not all of these will set you back an arm and a leg, so I’ve focused here on ways you can do this without spending a lot of money.
If you are buying a direct drive Smart Trainer you will need another cassette and ideally one that is identical to the one you already have on your back wheel. That way, when you want to remove the bike from the trainer you can pop your back wheel on and ride away without indexing gears. Equally, it’s likely on the trainer that you are going to wear through a cassette a little quickly than normal as you will tend to use more of the mid-range gears (especially if the trainer goes into what is known as ERG [auto] mode). So don’t worry about getting the latest Dura Ace or Ultegra when a 105 one will do the job just as well. You don’t need to save weight when not moving!
You’ll need a fan and don’t let anyone tell you any different. It needs to be powerful, positioned where it can keep your upper body cool without drying your eyes out and ideally you need it operated remotely so you can switch it on when you are needing it, not when you are freezing cold at the beginning of your ride in your garage. An Alexa smart plug is perfect! Any household fan will suffice at first so you don’t need to go crazy, but you will soon find out if it works for you and upgrade after visiting your local DIY store if it doesn’t.
The Wahoo Kickrhead Fan – £199
More than just your average fan, the HEADWIND pairs with your Wahoo trainer, compatible training programs, heart rate and speed sensors and will adjust the airflow to match your efforts. Alternatively, there’s an option for manual operation. The powerful vortex fan delivers high-velocity cooling in a very targeted area to ensure none of the cool air is lost. Specifically designed for use with the KICKR DESK, although effective on its own, the wheels allow you to roll the fan into position when attached to the desk. Winner of a Design and Innovation award for 2019, the KICKR HEADWIND completes your Wahoo training ecosystem for the most powerful indoor ride.
Futura High Velocity Fan – £44.99
- Futura High Velocity Floor Fan Large
- 20 Inch 50cm Frame
- 110W Max Power Chrome Fan
- Heavy Duty
- 3 Speed
- 1.4m Cable Length, Rubber Feet, 18 inch Blades
A Frame Sweat Protector
Regardless of the fan you buy, sweat is going to drip off you onto your bike frame, onto your headset and onto your handlebars. That’s a real problem for all three of those areas, especially if your handlebars are alloy. A frame sweat guard such as the one from Tacx works well on all bikes and you can cover your top tube and your headset in one go, whilst also leaving you room on your handlebars for any attachments such as your Garmin or your phone. You can find out more about this item here: https://tacx.com/product/sweat-cover
A mat can remove the noise from the trainer, catch the sweat, protect your flooring and also complete the look for the trainer. You can buy one with the name of your trainer manufacturer written all over it and in the process part with about £40-£50, or you can go to Decathlon and buy there basic one for £20.00 which is perfect.
I’d recommend the Domyos Matt from Decathlon https://www.decathlon.co.uk/training-mat-id_8338394.html which sells for £19.99
Heart Rate Monitor
It is likely that you already have one of these, but there is also a good chance if you are the owner of an early Garmin or Polar version that it will not connect to Bluetooth but Ant+. Ant+ was the standard used by Garmin’s and other devices for a long time and it was all that was needed. However, since the invention of Smart Trainers, which are often linked to computers, Bluetooth has become more of a standard and therefore modern day heart rate monitors are able to transmit in both formats. A reliable and cost effective version is available is the Wahoo Tickr which retails for around £40.
An iPad is a great way to run training apps such as Zwift, Trainer Roads, Fulgaz and many others. Having the iPad within reach means you can control the screen, switch up your music and gain the perfect view of your computer based training app. This is the Tacx version which can be picked up for around £25.00
Trust me you are going to want some good, wireless, sweat resistant headphones. There is nothing like a good high temp playlist to get you going through your training session, and you might even find that this is the perfect place to listen to your favourite Podcast.
A bit of a luxury for sure, but a trainer table such has this one from Lifeline can really improve the convenience of your training. The top of the table has grooves purposefully designed to hold a tablet and with the table being height adjustable you can easily position it directly within reach and above your handlebars. Plenty of room for drinks bottles, remote controls, nutrition and your laptop if that’s how you are using Zwift or similar.
Front Wheel Support
As simple as it sounds, a front wheel support such as this from Tacx (£15) can create a more balanced feel of the bike and removes that feeling that you are being tipped slightly forward.
The world of indoor cycle training is never ending. I could have added to this list a large TV connected to an Apple TV device running Zwift/FulGaz and as mentioned in the introduction the Wahoo Kickr Climb. Feel free to add to the comments any other tips and recommendations you have.
Thanks for reading.