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The flurries started coming down yesterday. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and I already had a nice frosty layer of ice on everything.
And now these flurries.
It isn’t right.
So, I wandered down to the basement and dug out my trainer. You see, the winds may howl, but I’ve got to stay in shape. If I don’t, I’ll be riding by my lonesome self in April as the whole club gets up and out-pedals me. (Fear is a powerful motivator)
I’ve been hearing that a lack of exercise is a major reason for the “winter blues.”
And I agree. If I could ride my bicycle in the sunshine, I wouldn’t be this blue.
Not to mention I’m about to consume a year’s worth of calories over the next 6 weeks of holidays.
Staying At The Top Of Your Game
It is important to take a little bit of a break. Wintertime is a good time to do that. So if you only ride 3 hours a week instead of 6, that’s fine. Your body can use this lighter workout as a time to recharge and get ready for the season ahead.
Plus, you can do some cross training with swimming, weightlifting, and yoga to maintain an optimally flexible body.
But at the core of everything, you need to keep your legs and energy processing systems in top bicycling shape. If you don’t, you will rapidly lose all of the strength that you have built up over the past summer and will be left with some nice, unresponsive noodles on the first day of spring.
Wind Vs. Magnetic vs. Fluid Trainers?
You have three major types to choose from.
Which one is the best? Which is the most durable? Which one is the loudest? The quietest?
Here’s a quick overview. Read this, and you’ll be better informed than some bike shop employees!
Wind – Super loud. Put it down in the basement or out in the garage, and the rest of the family is still going to complain. The biggest downside is that I like to watch TV while I pedal. With a wind trainer, you need to run the sound to a set of earbuds if you plan to watch TV while pedaling. Even with earbuds, the endless whirring can leave you feeling a little numb and overloaded with noise after 30 minutes.
Magnetic – An excellent, affordable selection. These devices derive their resistance from magnets are much quieter than the wind resistance units. You will still hear them, but, for the most part, you can talk over them easily. They also offer more resistance. Some of them come with a selector switch that lets you adjust the resistance while you ride. Others are automatic, and will increase the resistance the faster you pedal (my preference, but cost more).
The downside with magnetic-based resistance equipment is that there are so many mediocre ones. Having worked at a bicycle shop, I had the pleasure of testing them. There is nothing quite as disconcerting as a smoking, growling magnetic trainer when you are 20 minutes into your first workout with it. Because of my experiences, I insist on only purchasing magnetic trainers that offer a strong warranty.
All said I would highly recommend that beginners look at getting a magnetic trainer. They are that perfect blend of durability and price, and it is hard to go wrong.
Fluid – Here is the cream of the crop. A fluid trainer uses a hydraulic fluid and centrifugal bands to create a super-smooth workout. The nice thing with fluid is that it provides adjusts responsively to your workout. So if you want to stand up and sprint, it will automatically increase the resistance in parallel to your speed. While magnetic units will do that to some extent, they don’t adjust as quickly, and they reach their maximum power range much sooner. Some of these fluid-based designs are used by professional cyclists and can handle over 700 watts, meaning that unless you are a freak of nature, you will never max out your trainer. Plus they are the quietest and most durable.
What is the Most Realistic Trainer?
I would say the Kinetic Rock n Roll. This is the trainer that all of us start swooning over the first time we see it in action.
This model has been consistently updated over the years and now has the inRide sensor.
As we know, “Smart” trainers are all the rage. Thanks to the Kinetic inRide app, you can track your workout and even use the fitness tests to measure your performance.
Kinetic makes some of the best units on the market. They use larger, heavier flywheels than most of the competition, which gives you a very road-like feel when riding. Plus, they have a lot more engineered in the way of cooling mechanisms to make sure that yours won’t overheat or fail.
What sets the Rock N Roll apart is that the frame flexes while you ride. So you have to help balance your bicycle as you pedal. This engages your core muscles while you ride and creates realistic sprints.
Plus, it takes the stress of your powerful pedal pushes off of your bike frame and lets the trainer absorb it.
So the Rock ‘N Roll is the only one I’ve found that it doesn’t stress your bike frame, and gives you the added benefit of a core workout, too. If you have the money, it is well worth the extra couple of hundred to snag this one. Plus, their unconditional lifetime warranty means that you are guaranteed a long-lasting unit — no matter how hard you pedal.
Cycleops Fluid 2Not ready to drop a lot of money on a trainer, but want a solid value for your money?
This trainer is also Zwift compatible
Then you’ve got to check out the Cycleops 2 Fluid.
Cycleops has been a longtime leader when it comes to manufacturing bike trainers. They make such an incredibly durable product, that they are one of the top picks by racers everywhere. In fact, you are hard-pressed to find a professional rider warming up on anything but one of these.
The Fluid 2 has the resistance to be able to handle well over 700 watts. So feel free to stand up and sprint it to death. It’ll be revving for more long after you have worn yourself out.
I also find the Fluid 2’s quick release system for clamping your bicycle in place to be one of the easiest to work with. Slide one lever and you are secure and ready to sweat.
However, the very best thing is that they make it easy to take advantage of their lifetime warranty. I have yet to help a customer file a claim where they don’t just end up paying to ship. Cycleops has got to be the absolutely easiest warranty process I’ve ever dealt with.
The only problem is that warranty claims are so few and far between…. ‘kinda a pity, considering how friendly their warranty department is.
It’s a top-notch product with a company that really stands behind it. You won’t find better for the money.
I’m going to go with Cycleops for this pick, also. Their Mag+ is going to cost about 2x that of the mass-produced magnetic models that you most often find on Amazon and eBay. However, this brand outlasts everything else on the market. I’ve personally seen some of these be abused by riders for at least 7 years.
And that’s not just winter riding. They take these with them to races, too, so they are always getting jostled and moved.
The Mag+ requires you to adjust to the correct resistance. It has a handy little lever that clips on to your handlebar so you can adjust the resistance while you pedal. This doesn’t make it as good of a selection for sprint workouts, but then magnetic trainers aren’t normally a good buy for those types of workouts, anyhow.
So if you want one that you can sweat the heck out on, practice your hill climbing with, use it to build your base miles and increase your power overall, the Mag + is a great buy for about half the price of the Fluid 2.
This one also has all of the warranty protection of any Cycleops branded machine.
Conquer ReviewBestseller lists are fun. You can assume that since so many people are buying an item, it is probably a pretty decent machine. So let’s look at one of the bestselling bicycle trainers online: the Conquer Exercise Stand.
This model gets a lot of positive reviews from users. It seems to offer a lot of capacity for the average workout fiend.
I think for the casual rider, this could be a really good unit. It is affordable and is something you could get on and use it to ramp up your heart rate without 2-3 times a week and it will last just fine.
However, I have used magnetic resistance units similar to this one, and, in my experience, they don’t give enough resistance for an athletic rider. In addition, these are the models that have burned out on me and ended up smelling funny by the end of a workout.
The other drawback is that you have to get off of the bicycle to adjust the resistance.
The bottom line is that this would be great for an average person who wants to bump up their fitness level over the winter. But if you are already fit or are planning on putting in a lot of miles this may not be as good a choice.
Cycleops WindTired of me talking about Cycleops? Too bad. If you are really strapped for cash, then get their wind model. It’ll cost you a few $20 bills more than a cheap, no-name magnetic unit, but it will last way longer and probably isn’t that much noisier than a really cheap magnetic unit is.
The problem with wind units is that they are so noisy it is difficult to listen to TV over the noise of the wind tunnel.
I also find that the noise tends to discourage a lot of people from using them consistently.
However, the quality of the workout is close to that of a fluid trainer. And there are almost no parts to break on these machines.
Finally, Cycleops has some of the best warranties in the industry.
Best Winter Workout DVDs?
The worst part of working out on a trainer is the boredom. So much freaking boredom, just staring at a white wall.
Because of that, I like watching a movie or something. It helps me take my mind off my agony.
However, to up your game, you should try a workout DVD. Get something about 30 minutes long and just absolutely bust your butt. I was astonished at how bushed I was at the end of those 30-minute sessions.
Something about having a coach shouting at me really pushed me to dig deeper than I normally would.
I found that by getting 2-3 videos and rotating through those throughout the week pushed me to higher levels of fitness, and made it more exciting. I would alternate the days and do a workout video one day and then maybe just watch Netflix the next day.
The next year I felt so much more prepared. I was actually getting compliments on my fitness levels by the other folks in the riding club.
You’ve still got to keep pushing yourself on some longer rides. If you can reach an hour or more 2-3 times a week, you will do a lot to maintain your fitness at a higher level without peaking yourself out too much for the longer rides in summer.
I know it is a little dated, but my top pick is the Spinervals DVD. They are enthusiastic and really motivating. Just ignore their ugly costumes. (or laugh hilariously act them).
Convert Your Trainer For BMX BikesOutside of road cyclists, probably the most dedicated group of riders are BMXers. I have never figured it out. I guess it comes from being a speed demon.
The challenge is finding a trainer that will work with 20″ or 24″ bicycle tires.
For these riders, I can suggest nothing better than the Cycleops’ adapter. This little piece screws onto any of the Cycleops models. It is really easy to add this conversion and will allow you to use it with recumbents, kids’ cycles, BMX, and junior 24″ road bikes.
It gives a solid feel, too, so you don’t have to worry about compromising strength or safety.
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