The 10 Best Indoor Bike Trainers – Bicycling

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Video Bike stands for exercising

Whether you’re training for an event, just trying to keep a regular riding schedule, or simply prefer the safety of riding inside, an indoor bike trainer is a valuable tool. But what to get? There are several basic kinds, and the options for them have proliferated wildly over the past few years, not to mention the explosion of “smart” trainers and the virtual worlds and training programs they allow you to connect to. Here, check out info on five of the best-performing trainers from our testing, then scroll deeper for longer reviews of these and other top options, plus buying advice.

Best Indoor Bike Trainers

  • The Gold Standard: Wahoo KICKR Smart Trainer V6
  • Cheapest Direct Drive Smart Trainer: Zwift Hub Smart Trainer
  • Best Simulated Road Feel: Garmin Tacx Neo 2T Smart Trainer
  • Best Value Kicker: Wahoo KICKR CORE Smart Trainer
  • Easiest to Store: Saris H4 Direct Drive Smart Trainer

The Three Types of Indoor Trainers

Although there are many variations of each, most trainers come in three basic styles.

  1. Direct-drive trainers attach to the rear dropouts, replacing your wheel and providing a direct connection to the resistance unit. These are easily identified because they require a cassette. They’re typically the most expensive but also the most accurate, with the highest levels of resistance.
  2. Friction trainers place a small roller against the rear wheel and utilize either magnetic or fluid resistance. They tend to be lighter and more portable than direct-drive trainers, but are noisier and less accurate. The trade-off comes in cost. You can get a smart friction trainer for about half as much as a direct-drive model.
  3. Rollers are the most basic style and also require the most technique since the bike isn’t held in place but rather perched atop three rollers. Resistance can range from almost nothing up to as much as any direct-drive trainer. They are also very useful for refining pedaling technique.

What Is a Smart Trainer?

Typically the term Smart Trainer means that a trainer can wirelessly communicate power data with a training app on a smartphone or computer. Most Smart Trainers will also interact with virtual riding platforms like Zwift and RGT by automatically adjusting resistance to simulate changes in terrain. The popularity of Zwift and other apps means most newer trainers are “smart” and will both transmit your data and adjust resistance. These features do add to the cost of a trainer, but prices are falling, and you can now score a smart trainer like the Zwift Hub for $500.

If riding virtually is not interesting to you, a trainer that only transmits power data, such as the Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2, can be a much cheaper option.

If you’d like to try Zwift and you currently don’t have a Smart Trainer, you can still start logging virtual miles with the addition of a Bluetooth speed sensor. Check out my guide to getting started here.

Other Things to Consider

  • Compatibility: With axle attachment standards and widths changing almost yearly, check whether a trainer you’re interested in offers different attachment options such as thru-axle adaptors and, for direct-attachment trainers, free-hub options. Some trainers come with them. If yours doesn’t, you’ll have to purchase them separately.
  • Noise: With more people exercising indoors and with families working at home, looking for a quieter option may be more of a priority than before (as well as getting a good fan when you work out). While most manufacturers can get away with using words like “silent” and “virtually silent” to describe the noise level of their trainers, there are other factors to consider, such as the sound your bike’s drivetrain cranks out as you pedal and, if you use one, the fan that’s whirring away to keep you cool and simulate wind speeds. To get a better idea of how loud “silent” actually is, we used a decibel meter to record the noise levels of each trainer being ridden at 15 and 25 mph. Decibels ranged from 68 (comparable to a vacuum cleaner) to 85 (diesel truck going 40 mph); the fan alone measured 71. To get an idea of how significant a seemingly minor jump in decibels can be, 70 is twice as loud as 60, and 80 is twice as loud as 70.‌
  • Stability: Trainer crashes are rare, but not unheard of when you’re going cross-eyed trying to beat your PR on that workout. Typically, the broader the trainer’s base, the more stable it will be. Many have a leveling feature for uneven surfaces.

Check out this short video on why a Ramp Test might be better for you than the traditional FTP test.

How We Tested

We used every one of these trainers to squeeze Zwift workouts into our busy workday and even hauled a few of them with us for race-day warm-ups. We tested each one with third-party apps as well as their own companion apps—and untethered for those who prefer the freedom to choose their own structured workouts. Every trainer was put through the same steady-state intervals, max-power sprints, and Tabata-style efforts (high-intensity intervals) to test ride feel, stability, resistance, reliability, and repeatability. As we mentioned, we tested ambient noise levels while riding at 15 and 25 miles per hour to determine the real-world disturbance you’ll cause during your pre-dawn trainer session. In the end, we were left with this list of the best indoor trainers you can buy right now.



Wahoo Kickr V6

Wahoo’s Kickr helped change indoor riding and training for many riders. The sixth version of the venerable smart trainer is more of an update than a wholesale redesign. Still, it again places Wahoo ahead of its competition in terms of connectivity, this time by adding WiFi to the mix.

The new Kickr looks virtually identical to the previous version. And because both versions use the same flywheel, the ride feel is also the same. The new Kickr ramps up smoothly and correctly as you accelerate. Power accuracy seems very good, with shorter efforts showing the most discrepancy, but anything longer than one minute is well within the claimed 1% accuracy. It is hard to test these things conclusively, as all I am only checking is how close the Kickr reads to my current power meter. Still, it was assuring to see things line up so closely.

Despite the high price and the lack of cassette choice, the latest Kickr is a solid update that tackles the most significant issue riders face with their smart trainers. WiFi connectivity should substantially increase reliability and ensure that the trainer is always up to date with the latest firmware. Being the first trainer offering WiFi connectivity will likely give Wahoo an edge over other high-end trainers, at least for a little while. Whether or not the price is worth it will likely be determined by how much trouble you have with signal dropout on your current indoor setup.



Zwift Hub

While Zwift has exploded in popularity with riders, becoming a verb for riding indoors amongst many. Despite this popularity, there are still hurdles for many riders seeking to access the platform, ranging from cost to hardware compatibility. The Zwift Hub focuses on lowering the cost of an immersive Zwift experience with its incredibly low price of $500.

The ride itself is quite good. In terms of feel and inertia, it’s as good as the pricier Wahoo Kickr Core. It’s also essentially silent. The only noise you’re likely to hear will be either your drivetrain or your fan. Really the only meaningful critique I can make of the Hub is that it doesn’t fold up or have adjustable legs. But if you’re not tight on space and have pretty even floors, this is the most cost-effective way to get the full virtual training experience that Zwift and other apps can offer.



Tacx Neo 2T

The Neo 2T is similar to the Kickr in both power measurement (up to 2,200 watts within 1 percent accuracy) and maximum gradient simulated (up to 25 percent). But the Neo 2T has two features found nowhere else. It generates its own electricity, meaning you can use it without external power—although it works best when plugged in. That’s especially relevant in the winter when our training-obsessed test editor loves that he can still use the Neo 2T for a workout when his house loses power during a snowstorm. Similar to the old-school Nintendo Rumble Pack, it vibrates to simulate a wide range of road surfaces—from gravel to cobblestones to concrete slab roads, to name a few—when you’re riding on virtual platforms. Unlike other direct-drive trainers that use belts or rollers for power transmission, the Neo 2T has a metal flywheel with magnets that interact with electrical coils to moderate resistance. You turn the flywheel directly as you pedal; the more electricity that flows through the coils, the larger the magnetic force. This space-age-looking device allows more side-to-side movement than the Kickr, and felt as comfortable and natural as riding a stationary trainer can, even through high-powered efforts like steep climbs and full-gas sprints. It also comes with pedal-stroke analysis and a thru-axle adapter that accommodates 142 x 12mm and 148 x 12mm axles, plus is compatible with Shimano and SRAM 8- to 12-speed drivetrains.


Wahoo Kickr Core

Wahoo’s Kickr Core is a little more compact and a bit less expensive than the much-loved Kickr. We love it so much that we’ve placed it on Bicycling’s Gear of the Year list. The Kickr Core uses the same smooth and quiet flywheel tech and reliable belt drive with electromagnetic resistance. The Core has a 12-pound flywheel (versus the Kickr’s 16-pound) and comes in a smaller package that features a reduced footprint and a more compact stand (when folded) that’s easier to store than other direct-drive units. If you love the Kickr but don’t need the extra max wattage or incline of that pricier unit, the Kickr Core delivers the same great quality and ride experience in a cheaper and more portable package.READ FULL REVIEW


Saris H4

The Saris H4 is a modest upgrade over the previous Saris H3, with the big ticket items being an increase in accuracy, maximum wattage, and full support for 12-speed drivetrains. Numerically that means that accuracy has increased from +/- 2% to +/- 1%, max wattage goes up from 2,000 to 2,300 watts, and it can now simulate inclines of 25%, where the old H3 could only do 20%. It’s still compatible with the most popular virtual cycling platforms via ANT+, FE-C, and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. And while pairing to those apps is simple, that’s not the case with the Saris companion app, which is prone to crashing and generally just annoying to use. Fortunately, you really only need it for software updates and to calibrate the trainer. And if you want to just plug in and ride, no app is needed. Resistance changes on the H4 are as pleasantly smooth as the best trainers we’ve tested. And that dead feeling often associated with heavy flywheels isn’t as noticeable on the H4—it provides enough momentum to simulate a “real” ride feel without feeling sluggish. For those who don’t have room in their garage or living room to leave the trainer out all winter, we love the H4 for how easy it is to fold down and how little room it occupies when stuffed into a closet.



Wahoo Kickr Rollr

With the Rollr, Wahoo designed a trainer with ultimate user simplicity in mind. Their target user was someone who doesn’t want to deal with removing the rear wheel from their bike, deal with drivetrain compatibility, or various rear skewers or thru-axles. It’s also ideal for riders that might want to train on multiple bikes indoors without adjusting for axle or cassette standards.

To accomplish this, Wahoo has created a novel-looking trainer. At the front, there is an A-shaped bracket that holds the front wheel at the tire. The front wheel clamp uses a tool-free adjustment and can accommodate a tire up to 2.1” (or 53mm) width. At the back of the Rollr are two drums that cradle the bike’s rear wheel and an external flywheel that adds resistance. While the frame of the Rollr is adjustable for wheelbase, the adjustment is limited and is optimized around road bikes, which means that mountain bikes with a particularly long wheelbase might be a bit too long to fit. Still, most road or gravel bikes shouldn’t have any issues.

We would not recommend the Rollr for riders who are doing a lot of out of the saddle, high-intensity training, or riders who regularly race on Zwift. A direct drive trainer will be better suited to these tasks. But riders that find these trainers to be too cumbersome will love the smooth ride feel and easy on-and-off set-up of the Rollr.



Elite Nero Interactive Rollers

If you hate the “locked-in” feel of being on a trainer but want to ride on third-party virtual platforms, the Elite Nero Interactive Rollers are the answer. On their own (in other words, not plugged in and connected to any devices or apps), they function just like a set of standard rollers, except they offer the added bonus of progressive resistance. However, strong riders may overpower the resistance and momentum. For sustained efforts north of 400 watts, our tester, who eschews compact gearing, was nearly maxed out at the bottom of the cassette in order to maintain the effort level. The rollers also slide back and forth on a fixed frame, which makes for a somewhat natural ride (if you ignore the feeling of sliding backward) as the bike has the freedom to move not just side to side but forward and back as well. Along with the freedom to move, these rollers give you the freedom to join the world of virtual cycling. At first, it feels odd to experience resistance changes as you hit climbs and descents on Zwift while riding rollers, but it quickly feels as normal as riding in a virtual world can, aided by the free-flowing movement of the bike. Don’t get carried away thinking these are the magic bullet for indoor training. Roller purists will find there’s too much resistance for high-cadence technique work, and trainer lovers won’t like that they can’t zone out for hours on end with nothing to think about but keeping the pedals turning. In other words, the Nero offers a comfortable middle ground.



Feedback Sports Omnium Over-Drive

At 14 pounds, the Omnium Over-Drive is ideal for race day, small living spaces, and travel—it comes with a durable tote bag that lets you stow it under a bed or shove it into an overhead bin on a plane. This portable trainer isn’t light on features, though. Two four-inch magnetic drums provide progressive resistance up to a max of 1,050 watts at 55 mph and make for an incredibly quiet ride that won’t disturb the peace while you’re cranking out a workout in your hotel room. Thanks to its height-adjustable fork mount (compatible with post- and flat-mount disc brakes) and sliding base on which the aluminum rollers are attached, the Over-Drive can accommodate various bike and wheel sizes and quick-release or thru-axle configurations. At first glance, you might think the Over-Drive’s simple design sacrifices stability, but even in an out-of-the-saddle sprint our tester couldn’t tip it over or get a rear wheel to skip off the rollers. The most he could do was lift a front support leg off the ground. If you like the concept of the Over-Drive but don’t want the resistance, Feedback Sports offers the Omnium Zero-Drive, which is identical except the rollers have no resistance. As an added bonus, both models’ sleds (the part that holds the rollers) are interchangeable and sold separately, so if you want both options, you don’t have to buy two complete trainers.



Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2

If power data is all you need, Kinetic’s Road Machine Smart 2 trainer is a great value. While it doesn’t automatically control resistance (for that, check out the Road Machine Control), it does connect with training apps such as Kinetic Fit, Zwift, TrainerRoad, and more, as well as ANT+ and Bluetooth-enabled computers and ANT+ head units. Its stable base with floor-safe rubber feet, 6.3-pound (claimed) flywheel, and big roller mean it can find a permanent spot in your home, but its foldable legs and wheel-on design make it a convenient race-day traveler, too. It’s far louder than the direct drive trainers on this list, but it reliable works every time. Despite having access to a fleet of the best smart trainers around, our tester found himself gravitating to this trainer for structured workouts when he just wanted to put his bike on the trainer and ride without spending time screwing around with power cords, apps, and Bluetooth connections. It fits 22- to 29-inch wheels and comes with its own skewer, so you can save yours from wear and tear. If your bike has a thru-axle, you’ll have to drop another $49 for the Kinetic Traxle thru-axle adapter. Bonus: It comes with a free one-month subscription for the Kinetic Fit training app. READ FULL REVIEW VIEW 15 IMAGES


Wahoo Kickr Bike V2

The all-new Wahoo KICKR Bike V2 is definitely, in my opinion, the be-all and end-all of the indoor ride setups. The bike is ideal for anyone committed to improving their fitness through indoor training. At $4,000, however, it’s pretty much an investment in an entire extra bike, and one you can’t ride outside. But consider: Instead of dragging your cruddy bike through the house, recalibrating resistance, relocating sensors, and potentially removing a wheel, you just hop on the KICKR and ride—at a moment’s notice.

Because the KICKR Bike has no actual gears to shift, you can program it to feel like whatever Shimano, SRAM, or Campagnolo drivetrain you’re used to riding—or one that you wish you had on your bike (feel like riding eTap? The KICKR Bike will make it feel just like you are). You can select the exact make and model of your drivetrain, the gear ratios, and the number of teeth per cog. Most of this incredibly real-feeling ride is due to the high-tech flywheel, which in addition to adding resistance, also has a motor that speeds you up, so you get the sensation of coasting in addition to braking and shifting. There is a piston-like mechanism toward the rear that reflects virtual elevation changes in real time by changing the angle between the bike and the ground, with a range of 20 percent incline to -15 percent decline.

The Kickr bike is the indoor setup for someone who has the space for a dedicated indoor training setup and wants the best possible experience.