What are trainers?
A trainer or "indoor trainer" is a piece of equipment that makes it possible to ride a bicycle indoors without moving forward. They are primarily used to train for races.
A trainer consists of a frame,
a clamp to hold the bicycle securely, a roller that presses up against the rear wheel,
and a mechanism that provides resistance when the pedals are turned.
Trainers allow the cyclist to train at any time and for any terrain. When training outside you are limited to riding what is available. If you're riding on a trainer, you can adjust it to simulate many conditions, such as large hills, rough terrain and others.
Trainers are much better than stationary bicycles because you are able to ride in the natural cycling position specific to each cyclist and their bike. This is the most effective training you can get.
Some trainers also allow the athlete to fine tune and maximize their training by analyzing the power output of the rider, cadence, virtual speed and heart rate.
Rollers are a similar device to trainers, but they do not support the bicycle. Balancing the bicycle without flying off the rollers is an extra challenge for the rider. Some find that this helps them focus on the workout, while others prefer the stability of a trainer.
Types of Trainers
Bicycle trainers are categorized by how the unit provides resistance.
- Wind — the unit uses a fan powered by the cyclist's legpower to provide resistance on the rear tire.
Pros: Resistance progresses with cyclist's speed, creating a realistic feeling of cycling on a road.
Cons: Noise, limited resistance.
- Magnetic — a magnetic flywheel creates resistance on the rear wheel.
Pros: Nearly silent operation.
Cons: Resistance has an upper limit, prone to breaking.
- Fluid — combines magnetic flywheel with fluid resistance chambers.
Pros: Nearly silent magnetic operation with added progressive resistance.
Cons: Repeated friction heating and consequential expansion and contraction of the fluid can result in seal leaks.
- Mechanical — a belt on a modified magnetic flywheel trainer transmits motion to a heavy spinning flywheel, such as a laundry washtub.
Pros: pedal powered clean clothes.
Cons: Considerable do-it-yourself engineering required; imperfect design requires a strong cyclist.
- Virtual Reality — this is a very comprehensive simulator, the rear wheel sits on a motorized roller and the front forks fit in a frame equipped with steering sensors, and the whole system is linked to a computer with 'virtual world' software. Riders steer their way through this virtual world and pedaling gets harder (the motorized roller 'loads' the rear wheel) when going uphill.
Pros: the virtual world is massive, it will hold your interest, and you can fit your own bike into it.
Cons: It is expensive and you do need a computer with a modern graphics card and a monitor.
Usually all trainers can be adjusted for most sizes of road and mountain bikes.
However, keep in mind that knobby mountain bike tires
can cause vibration and noise, defeating the purpose of noiseless units.