So you're ready to buy a smart trainer, but perhaps are overwhelmed by the amount of choices. Direct Drive, Electric Braking, Ant+, Bluetooth Smart, One-Way vs. Two-Way: there are a ton of options, and finding what works best for you can be daunting. That is where your local bike shop is here to help. In this article we will help to explain some of the nuances of the different trainers, what these different features offer, and who they benefit most.
First, we will look at some of the different options for trainers on the market today. In this article we will be focusing on smart or interactive trainers, meaning those that can communicate with your home or cycling computer and display information such as speed, cadence, and power. There are two main protocols used to communicate this information: Bluetooth Smart and Ant+. Depending on what devices you wish to connect your smart trainer to will help to determine what trainer will work best for you. There are too many different scenarios to explain them all here, but you can come by the shop or call us to find out what trainer is compatible with your device. After figuring out what protocol will work best with your device, determining whether you want a one-way or two-way unit should come next. One way smart trainers will send your information (speed, cadence, power) out to a device such as a Garmin that will record your ride. A good example of this would be the Satori Smart Trainer from Tacx. A two-way smart trainer will not only send your data to a device, but can also receive information back from the unit and add variable resistance to the trainer accordingly. The Tacx Vortex and Bushido Smart Trainers are examples of two-way smart units. Two-way smart units are great when connected to various training apps such as Zwift and Trainer Road which have different courses pre-loaded that you can ride either in video form, or in the case of Zwift, more similar to a video game.
Another major factor in choosing a trainer is how the trainer provides resistance. All of the trainers that we stock use magnetic brakes to provide resistance. Generally speaking as the price of the unit goes up the max resistance of the unit will rise as well. This is important for our customers that are using trainers for race simulators , as some units may not be able to provide enough resistance to accurately replicate the workout they desire. The most advanced resistance units (Tacx Genius and Neo Smart) will be able to provide power to the wheel or cassette while coasting to provide real road feel when descending or riding flats. The next option to consider would be whether or not to go with a direct drive unit. Direct Drive Trainers mount a cassette directly to the unit instead of placing a roller against the rear wheel. This has the benefit of reducing wear on your tires and generally direct mount trainers give better road feel because they have higher resistance and less moving parts between the bike and the trainer, thus direct mount. The Tacx Neo Smart Trainer goes one step farther and will raise and lower the rear end of the bike to make climbing and descending feel more realistic and can replicate the road conditions of riding on cobblestones, sand, and mud.
You are probably saying about now, "This is great, but what trainer do I need?". The simple answer is to come talk to us, but we will outline some generalities here that we hope will help. For someone who is not tech savvy, but wants to be able to record their workouts the Satori Smart Trainer is a great basic option with variable resistance that will allow the rider to record their workouts. Another great option would be to get a basic Tacx Blue Twist Trainer and a Garmin Cycling Computer. The Blue Twist is not an interactive trainer, but you can use most Garmin head units to connect with a desktop computer and get many of the same benefits of a one-way smart trainer with the additional benefit of a dedicated cycling computer, in the Garmin, that you can use year round. For the rider that wants a two-way trainer, but doesn't want to break the bank the Tacx Vortex and Bushido trainers offer great real road riding experience at an amazing price. These trainers may be the best value of the entire bunch. And finally for the serious rider who wants the most realistic indoor riding experience possible the Tacx Genius and Neo Smart Trainers are the way to go. Both offer over 2000 watts of resistance and a motor brake which provides the most realistic road feel imaginable from a trainer. We carry Tacx interactive trainers because they are compatible with most devices, offer models at many different price points, and they provide the most realistic road feel with the least amount of noise that we have found.
Riding indoors doesn't have to be a drag anymore, and interactive trainers have opened up a plethora of options to keep you entertained. Stop by the shop today and let us help you pick out the best trainer for you!