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The Best Bike Turbo Trainers in 2021: Reviews and Buying Guide!
Last updated 25th March, 2021

If you already own a bicycle, investing in a turbo trainer is an excellent way to maintain your training throughout the winter months, in addition to keeping in contact with friends and making new ones using platforms such as Zwift. Unlike an exercise bike, you need your own bicycle to reap the benefits of turbo trainers. Generally, you will find that you can get a higher spec turbo trainer for the same amount of money as an entry-level exercise bike.

Throughout this article, we will take an in-depth look at what a bike trainer is, why you should buy one, and do a comprehensive review of the best turbo trainers for all budgets and abilities. At the end of the article, there is a helpful buying guide to ensure that you make an informed decision before buying a top turbo trainer.

What is a bike trainer?

A bike trainer is a piece of indoor/static training equipment that allows you to work out on your bicycle without having to leave the comfort of your own home. They differ from exercise bikes and indoor bikes, as you have to connect your bicycle up to the equipment to ride it. There are three different types of bike trainer available: wheel-on turbo trainers, direct drive bike trainers and rollers. Each has its pros and cons, we will look at these in a bit more detail in the buying guide after the bike trainer reviews.

As with many pieces of indoor training equipment, bike trainers are called several different things, including turbo trainer, indoor trainer, static trainer, cycling trainer, and bike trainer stand. No matter what you decide to call it, a bike trainer is an effective way to get you more used to riding your bike and build up your fitness while at home.

What is a smart turbo trainer?

Smart turbo trainers use either Bluetooth or ANT+ to project your training data such as speed, Watts, cadence and distance to a tablet, phone or computer. They have become increasingly popular thanks to fitness and cycling apps such as Zwift that add a social aspect to your indoor training. By syncing up your real-time training data, you can watch as your avatar competes with other indoor cyclists around the world.

Why buy a turbo trainer?

Use your own bike

A turbo trainer is an excellent training aid. Not only do you get a great workout, but it also makes you spend more time on your own bike. From beginners to seasoned cyclists, you will notice how quickly your body gets used to a particular riding position. By being able to train on the bike that you will use for your next charity bike ride or race, you are improving your chances of performing at your peak on race day.

Save money

Also, as you are supplying the bike, turbo trainers are a lot more cost-effective than indoor exercise bikes. You can buy a smart turbo trainer for a lot less money than a smart exercise bike would cost. You are just buying a piece of equipment that allows you to cycle in one place and not the whole contraption.

Have fun and track your progress

While we are on the subject of smart turbo trainers, connecting to 3rd party fitness apps, joining in on group bike rides, or even participating in virtual races really helps you keep engaged. Indoor cycling should be fun, and by tracking your metrics, recording your progress and engaging with a community of like-minded individuals, you find that you can ride faster for longer.

Top 15 Turbo Trainers

We have scanned the market to bring you the top 15 bike trainers. We have split the list into the top five wheel-on trainers, top five direct drive (wheel-off) trainers, and top five rollers.

Top 5 wheel-on bike trainers

1. LifeLine TT-01 Magnetic Turbo Trainer

First up, we have an entry-level wheel-on turbo trainer from Lifeline. This magnetic turbo trainer is simple and easy to use. Simply connect your rear axle using the skewer mounts. This is a simple turbo trainer that will allow you to workout indoors using your bike but does not come with any connectivity options. You can choose from 6 resistance levels to ensure you are mixing up your training. This design is excellent if you are tight on space and need to fold your bike trainer away and store it in a cupboard. If you like the design but would prefer a fluid resistance system, then check out the slightly more expensive Lifeline TT-02 Turbo Trainer.

  • Connectivity: None
  • Max gradient simulation: None
  • Power Meter Accuracy: N/A
  • Max power: 800 watts
  • Resistance: Magnetic (6 levels)
  • Product weight: 9.7kg
  • Price: £
  • Retailer: Wiggle

2. BalanceFrom Bike Trainer Stand

Another affordable bike trainer is the BalanceFrom Bike Trainer Stand. It folds away, so it is perfect if you do not have much space. Once you have connected up to your rear wheel, you can rely on the magnetic resistance to provide enough of a challenge for a decent workout. You have 8 resistance levels to choose from. However, experienced or strong cyclists may not find the resistance tough enough for more punishing workouts. You do not get any smart connectivity for this price, but this is a great introduction to indoor turbo trainer workouts.

  • Connectivity: None
  • Max gradient simulation: None
  • Power Meter Accuracy: N/A
  • Max power: 800 watts
  • Resistance: Magnetic (8 levels)
  • Product weight: 9.4kg
  • Price: £
  • Retailer: Amazon

3. Tacx Booster Ultra High Power T2500 Magnetic Trainer

The Tacx Booster Ultra High Power T2500 Magnetic Trainer is an affordable wheel-on turbo trainer designed to withstand a high power output. This is perfect for more experienced cyclists looking for a relatively simple way to further level up their training plan with indoor workouts. The Tacx Booster is not foldable, but it does not take up anywhere near as much space as an exercise bike. Although this model is not smart, you can pay a little extra for Tacx Flow Smart Trainer and still benefit from the smooth resistance and stability while also syncing it up to your favourite fitness app (naturally, you need to be prepared to pay more).

  • Connectivity: None
  • Max gradient simulation: None
  • Power Meter Accuracy: N/A
  • Max power: 1050 watts
  • Resistance: Magnetic (10 levels)
  • Product weight: 9kg
  • Price: £
  • Retailer: Chain Reaction Cycles

4. Wahoo KICKR SNAP Bike Trainer

The Wahoo KICKR SNAP is a smart wheel-on indoor trainer. It is well built and comes with an inbuilt power meter with an accurate up to +/-3%. Combine the smooth-riding experience with seamless connectivity, and the Wahoo KICKR SNAP is one of the best entry-level smart turbo trainers. It is a little heavier than the cheaper (less connected) wheel-on trainers out there, and it does require a powered connection to make use of all of the functions. However, if you are serious about your indoor cycling training and do not want to buy any additional accessories, this is a perfect investment. This is also one of the quietest wheel-on turbo trainers available.

  • Connectivity: ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, and Bluetooth
  • Max gradient simulation: 12%
  • Power Meter Accuracy: +/-3%
  • Max power: 1500 watts
  • Resistance: Magnetic (Controlled resistance and automatically set via your favourite app)
  • Product weight: 17kg
  • Price: ££
  • Retailer: Wahoo Fitness

5. Saris M2 Smart Trainer

The final entry for the top wheel-on turbo trainers is the Saris M2 Smart Trainer. It is well built and runs a lot quieter than the much cheaper entry-level turbo trainers. It comes with a built-in power meter with up to +/- 5%, which could be improved, but it is a good start if you are relatively new to using watts as part of your training plan. It is smart, so you are able to connect it to apps such as Zwift with ease. You will need to be set up near a power outlet to make use of all these features, but weighing in at only 9kg, the Saris M2 Smart Trainer is easy to move around.

  • Connectivity: ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, and Bluetooth
  • Max gradient simulation: 15%
  • Power Meter Accuracy: +/-5%
  • Max power: 1500 watts
  • Resistance: Magnetic (6 levels)
  • Product weight: 9kg
  • Price: ££
  • Retailer: Wiggle

Top 5 direct drive turbo trainers (wheel-off)

1. Tacx Flux S Smart Turbo Trainer Black

The first top direct drive turbo trainer is the Tacx Flux S Smart Turbo Trainer Black. It is one of the most affordable direct drive turbo trainers on the list, but that does not mean it is not packed with features. Despite its relatively small stature, the Tacx Flux S Smart Turbo Trainer provides a smooth riding experience and is incredibly quiet, even at high speeds. It is a smart turbo trainer and seamlessly syncs your power, speed and distance data with your favourite cycling app.

  • Connectivity: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth
  • Max gradient simulation: 10%
  • Power Meter Accuracy: +/-3%
  • Max power: 1500 watts
  • Resistance: Magnetic
  • Product weight: 21.3kg
  • Price: £££
  • Retailer: Leisure Lakes Bikes

2. Elite Direto Smart Turbo Trainer

The Elite Direto Smart Turbo Trainer is a feature-packed smart turbo that can also be neatly folded away when not in use. This direct drive turbo is performance orientated and can withstand some serious power output. Also, thanks to the direct power measurement built-in, it has one of the most accurate power measurements at this price range. If you are looking for a robust direct drive smart turbo trainer that can also be packed away, then the Elite Direto is the one for you.

  • Connectivity: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth
  • Max gradient simulation: 14%
  • Power Meter Accuracy: +/-2%
  • Max power: 2200 watts
  • Resistance: Magnetic
  • Product weight: 15kg
  • Price: £££
  • Retailer: Wiggle

3. Wahoo KICKR Core Smart Trainer

The bigger brother to the Wahoo KICKR SNAP, the Wahoo KICKR Core may look similar, but it has a lot more to offer. The built-in belt motor drivetrain provides an incredibly smooth riding experience and remains relatively silent throughout your workout. The Wahoo KICKR Core delivers one of the most realistic road bike feelings thanks to its innovative flywheel and drivetrain design. Thanks to the smart connectivity syncing this turbo trainer up to your favourite fitness app is super easy.

  • Connectivity: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth
  • Max gradient simulation: 16%
  • Power Meter Accuracy: +/-2%
  • Max power: 1800 watts
  • Resistance: Magnetic
  • Product weight: 18kg
  • Price: ££££
  • Retailer: Wahoo Fitness

4. Saris H3 Direct Drive Smart Trainer

The Saris H3 Direct Drive Smart Trainer is a super quiet direct-drive smart turbo trainer. It provides accurate power, speed and cadence measurements and can be synced to your favourite app with ease. Once connected, you will be amazed just how much power this turbo can withstand, with the well-balanced flywheel able to handle 2,000 watts. You may not need (or be able to) to reach those limits. Still, if you are serious about your indoor cycling training and are looking for a well built, stable and reliable smart direct drive turbo trainer, then the Saris H3 Direct Drive Smart Trainer is worth every penny.

  • Connectivity: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth
  • Max gradient simulation: 16%
  • Power Meter Accuracy: +/-2%
  • Max power: 2000 watts
  • Resistance: Magnetic
  • Product weight: 21.3kg
  • Price: ££££
  • Retailer: Wiggle

5. Tacx Neo 2 Smart Trainer

To round off the best direct drive turbo trainers, we have the top-of-the-range Tacx Neo 2 Smart Trainer. The price may make your eyes water coming in over the £1,000 ($1,400) mark, but you are paying for the very best and feature-packed turbo trainer available on the market right now. The Tacx Neo 2 Smart Trainer is super silent, gives very accurate power measurements and even “Pedal stroke analysis” to fine-tune your workouts. If you want an authentic road-feel, descent simulation and an experience that is super interactive when connected to the likes of Zwift, then the Tacx Neo 2 Smart Trainer is worth checking out.

  • Connectivity: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth
  • Max gradient simulation: 25%
  • Power Meter Accuracy: +/-1%
  • Max power: 2200 watts
  • Resistance: Magnetic
  • Product weight: 21.45kg
  • Price: ££££
  • Retailer: Chain Reaction Cycle

Top 5 bike trainer rollers

1. LifeLine RT-01 Roller Trainer

The LifeLine RT-01 Roller Trainer is a simple but effective indoor cycling trainer. The 3 Polyurethane rollers work together to allow you to cycle in one spot while working on your pedalling efficiency and cadence. Due to the lightweight construction, these rollers are not ideal for high-intensity workouts or all-out speed. However, they are a great way to improve your balance and bike handling skills. The rollers are gently curved to a dip in the middle to help with balance while in use.

  • Connectivity: None
  • Product weight: 8.5kg
  • Price: £
  • Retailer: Chain Reaction Cycle

2. Tacx Antares Professional Training Rollers

The Tacx Antares rollers are sleek and super portable. They collapse into a small size to make for easy transportation and storage. The bearings on the Tacx Antares allows for a very smooth riding experience. They offer little in the way of resistance, but if you are looking for a way to get your heart rate up and improve your pedalling efficiency and balance, then these are a perfect introduction to indoor cycling.

  • Connectivity: None
  • Product weight: 7.7kg
  • Price: £
  • Retailer: Wiggle

3. Tacx Galaxia Training Rollers

If you like the idea of rollers but are concerned about how difficult they are to use, it is worth spending a little extra to get the Tacx Galaxia Training Rollers. They benefit from the same smooth ride and excellent build quality as the Tacx Antares, but the Galaxia model comes with a patented swing system that absorbs some forward and back motion to help keep you stable and upright on the rollers.

  • Connectivity: None
  • Product weight: 8.2kg
  • Price: ££
  • Retailer: Leisure Lakes Bikes

4. Elite Arion Mag Parabolic Rollers

The Elite Arion Mag Parabolic Rollers look pretty awesome and add a level of resistance to the rollers for a more challenging workout experience. This added bit of resistance makes these rollers feel like you are riding on the road. It is worth noting that it does not mean that you can change the resistance as you can on more traditional turbo trainers. If you need a reliable set of rollers to work on some tempo or speed training, these are a great investment.

  • Connectivity: None
  • Product weight: 7.3kg
  • Resistance: Magnetic
  • Price: ££
  • Retailer: Wiggle

5. Elite Nero Smart Rollers

Are you looking for the riding experience of rollers but want the smart tech found on the latest direct drive turbo trainers? Then check out the Elite Nero Smart Rollers. This roller is in a league of its own. Thanks to the ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity and double flywheel resistance system, Elite Nero Smart Rollers gives you an enjoyable riding experience. When synced to your favourite cycling app such as Zwift, the Elite Nero Smart Rollers automatically adjusts the resistance to match the ‘virtual’ terrain. The fact that you also have to maintain balance, these rollers give you the closest experience of cycling on the road, without having to leave the comfort of your own home.

  • Connectivity: ANT+ and Bluetooth
  • Max gradient simulation: 7%
  • Resistance: Magnetic
  • Product weight: 19.2kg
  • Price: £££
  • Retailer: Chain Reaction Cycle

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Buying Guide

There are a number of factors to consider when buying a turbo trainer. In this buying guide we cover the key things to consider and questions to ask yourself.

Type of Turbo Trainer

Wheel-on turbo trainers

As the name suggests, you leave your bike intact with these turbo trainers and just connect up your rear axle to the turbo trainer. Sometimes you will need to replace the axle to fit the skewers, but these are often included in the package. You should consider investing in a trainer rear wheel as standard rubber tires are quickly worn out using wheel-on turbo trainers. A magnetic system often provides the resistance. However, you can also get fluid resistance systems that are usually a bit more expensive but also give a smoother and quieter riding experience.

Wheel-on turbo trainers are an excellent introduction to the world of indoor cycling. They are relatively inexpensive and very stable. However, you will find that the cheaper models are a little bit noisy once you build up speed. If you are incredibly fit, the resistance levels may not be quiet enough for you. Wheel-on turbo trainers are a great place to start, but once you have fallen in love with indoor cycling you will need to look to upgrade to a direct drive turbo trainer.

Direct drive (wheel off) bike trainers

Relatively new to the indoor cycling market, direct-drive bike trainers provide you with a smoother riding experience and all of them come with Smart connectivity. Thanks to their design, the flywheels and drivetrains are often heavier and more efficient, which adds to their relatively quiet running. You will have to buy a rear cassette for most direct drive bike trainers, but this is a relatively inexpensive purchase that will last for ages (unlike the tires on wheel-on turbo trainers).

Once you have removed your rear wheel and set up the gears, they are incredibly low maintenance. However, they can be a bit of a faff if you are looking to ride your bike outdoors in between workouts. Direct drive bike trainers are often the most expensive options and require a powered connection, so make sure you have the budget and enough space to make the most of these innovative machines.

Rollers

Rollers are not just the preserve of professional cyclists. You will no doubt have already heard that many people struggle to get used to rollers, but once they have, they fall in love. The riding experience is unique as neither your wheels or frame are connected to anything, so you have to rely on your body and momentum to give you balance. Most rollers offer little in the way of resistance so they are only suitable for high cadence and tempo training.

They are an excellent way for you to improve your pedalling efficiency and balance while riding. However, they do take some getting used to. If you need a compact and affordable way to get your heart rate up and are already a relatively experienced cyclist, then these are a great way for you to change up your training plan.

Quality and Performance

Honestly, the best way to gauge quality and performance is by looking at the brand and price. You will have noticed that the same names repeatedly appeared throughout the best bike turbo trainers reviews. The likes of Tacx, Saris and Elite are well known and quality brands. The higher your budget, the better the performance.

The more expensive turbo trainers will withstand higher power, increased gradient simulation, reduced noise and provide the most realistic riding experience. That does not mean that the entry-level or more affordable options are no good, they are a great introduction, but as you get into indoor cycling, you will need to spend more for an all-around smart turbo trainer.

Technology

You will have noticed, turbo trainers are either smart, or they are not. Smart means that they have both Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity. This allows you to sync your turbo trainer up to your phone or tablet and get instant fitness data. You can also connect to a bike computer or HR monitor using the ANT+ tech.

Naturally, those with the most technology are more expensive, so you need to decide how vital it is to use apps such as Zwift or keep track of your workouts. A relatively inexpensive ‘hack’ is to get a basic turbo trainer and then buy separate cadence, power and speed sensors (you generally find that these sensors are not as reliable or accurate as the tech built into smart indoor bike trainers).

Budget

As a minimum, you are looking at £100 ($140) for a basic turbo trainer. These will provide you with a workout but have limited resistance and no added frills. Suppose you are looking to take your indoor cycling a bit more seriously. In that case, you will need to spend around £500 ($700) plus for a smart turbo trainer that is both reliable, relatively quiet and provides a smooth riding experience.

For the best on the market, the latest tech more accurate power measurement, then be willing to part with £1,000 ($1,400), but this is really only necessary for seasoned cyclists that will make use of all the tech packed into turbo trainers in that price range (and want the most realistic cycling experience without having to leave the house).

FAQs

What is the best type of bike trainer?

It depends on your budget, current fitness levels and how 'smart' you want your turbo trainer to be. Due to their versatility, the direct drive turbo trainers are the most popular among regular cyclists. They give you a good smooth riding experience, sync to your favourite app and are relatively quiet even at high speeds.

Can you use any bike on a turbo trainer?

You can use most road, hybrid, tourer, and mountain bikes on turbo trainers. However, you should just double-check the wheel size before taking the plunge and buying a turbo trainer that you might not be able to use. All the main types of turbo trainers allow for an element of adjustment, even if you need to replace your rear axle. If your current ride runs on disk brakes, just double check that there is enough clearance on wheel-on turbo trainers.

Is a turbo trainer bad for your bike?

A turbo trainer is not bad for your bike, but you will be using your bike, so it will require maintenance. You must keep your chain well oiled (rusty chains seriously increase the amount of noise generated while cycling indoors). Wheel-on turbo trainers will quickly wear out your rear tire, so it is recommended that you buy a specific training tire made of a slightly harder compound.

Turbo trainer vs exercise bike: which is better?

If you are already a cyclist and own a relatively decent bike, then a turbo trainer is your best indoor cycling companion. However, sometimes it does mean that you need to take the wheel off and replace some parts. So if you just want an easy life, leave your bike locked up and buy an exercise bike. You can get a ‘high-spec’ smart turbo trainer for less money than a smart exercise bike, but there is no denying that exercise bikes require less maintenance and are super easy to use.

Turbo trainer accessories

Along with a turbo trainer, you should consider getting a few accessories to make your indoor cycling workouts as comfortable and effective as possible:

A must-have for any wheel-on turbo trainer:

For a full-on indoor riding experience you could also pair your turbo trainers with these:

Sensors to upgrade to a smart turbo trainer:

Using your bike trainer with Zwift

Some say Zwift is the best thing to happen for cyclists since the invention of the bicycle. It is an app that has made indoor cycling interactive and fun. It has several great features, but one of the best parts of it is the community. You can sync up your smart turbo trainer to Zwift using your phone or tablet and participate in group rides and races. This short description hardly does it justice, but you will question the need to don lycra and compete with motorists on the road again once you have used it.

Purchasing a smart turbo trainer is by far the easiest way to use apps such as Zwift. All the turbo trainers that have made this list allow for you to seamlessly sync up your turbo trainer with the app for real-time training data and avatar feedback. You can buy 3rd party sensors to make your turbo trainer smart. However, these are a little more temperamental and require some more patience. As a minimum, you should get a speed sensor (attach to your rear wheel) and cadence sensor (connect to your crank arm).

However, to make the most of apps such as Zwift, you will also want a power meter. These can be a little pricey and is one of the main reasons most cyclists opt for the reliable option of buying a turbo trainer with all the tech already.

Zwift is not the only reason you should get a smart turbo trainer. There are several great fitness and cycling apps, including Kinomap, Tacx Training, iFit (and the list goes on). Some are free, but to make the most out of all the features, you usually have to pay a monthly subscription.

Conclusion

We scoured the market to bring you a definitive list of the best bike turbo trainers in 2021. Throughout our research, we considered the brand quality, reliable sellers, value for money, and customer reviews. Although you would not be disappointed with any of the turbo trainers that have made this list, you need to decide what features are most important to you and what budget you have. For value for money, the Tacx Flux S Smart Turbo Trainer is the best bike trainer available. Also, Tacx has an excellent range of accessories that will upgrade your indoor cycling experience.

For the rest of your man cave needs and desires, why not explore our site or head over to the Exercise Bikes section to see more posts and recommended products!

Affiliate disclaimer: on some or all of the products above, we receive a small commission if you make a purchase via our site. This does not impact the price you pay, but it allows us to keep helping people by writing these reviews, so thank you!


Louis
Co-founder at Mancaves HQ

Dreams of having his own fully-specced man cave with all the bells and whistles one day. Until then, he loves to play poker around the dining table and pool at the pub, and occasionally get out of the house for a run along the Thames.