Best Turbo Trainers (2018) – Top 6 Traditional Indoor Cycling Turbos for Bike Training at Home

There's nothing like cycling on an open road, but turbo trainers can be a convenient alternative - especially in bad weather. Keep reading for a list of the best turbo trainers depending on your budget and requirements.

A picture of an indoor cycling trainer

Turbo trainers get a bad rap from many cyclists, but there's no denying they can be useful. If you don't have time for an outdoor ride, need to warm up for a race or the weather is unsafe, a turbo trainer can help you stay fit and even improve your performance.

In fact, the convenience of an indoor cycling trainer has led to many cyclists using them year-round. Cycling indoor might not be as fun, but it allows you to avoid traffic and bad weather conditions, while maximising your training time.​

Let's take a step back though. If you've never used a turbo trainer before, what exactly do these machines accomplish?

At a basic level, a turbo trainer is a fixed platform or stand that allows you to ride your bike indoors (like a stationary bike). The frame of a turbo holds the rear tyre on a roller, so that as you pedal the roller turns with the wheel. This simulates a ride without using a clunky stationary exercise bike.

Turbo trainers are categorised by how they generate resistance. Some models have a simple air-resistance system that increases resistance the faster you pedal. Others have resistance units that are similar to those found on exercise bikes, including magnetic and fluid systems.

As you probably know, there are a huge number of static indoor cycling trainers on the market. Many of these provide excellent performance, but others are weak or don't provide a realistic feel. There's also a wide range in price. If you want to use a turbo trainer for anything more than the occasional ride, it's vital to get a high-quality and durable model.

For this reason, we've put together a list of the best turbo trainers depending on your requirements, budget and bike type. Each of these trainers provides excellent performance and value for money, but make sure you read the reviews to find the right option for you. Let's get started!

Note: This page is for traditional turbo trainers, which don't have smart connectivity for software like Zwift. If you're looking for a more feature-packed trainer, check out our best smart turbo trainer page. 

EDITOR'S PICK


Jetblack Whisper Drive

Jet Black Whisper Drive

If you're looking for a high-quality turbo trainer but don't need advanced connectivity/smart features, the JetBlack WhisperDrive is a great choice. It's a direct-drive model with quiet operation and smooth feel. It's also solid and stable, so it can handle high-intensity training.

Why Buy a Turbo Trainer?

The obvious benefit of a turbo trainer is that you can train from the safety and comfort of your own home. If the weather is horrible or you just don't have time, turbo trainers can simulate everything from a quick ride up to a two-hour training session.

Admittedly, this is a poor substitute for being on an open road. But if you don't want to miss a ride, it's great to have the option of home training.

That's not the only benefit of having a turbo trainer though. Others include:​

  • Complete control over your training session. Unlike real roads, you can train for an exact time at a specific resistance level when using a turbo trainer. If you're a competitive cyclist, this can be a valuable training tool.
  • Warm up before races. Having the option of warming up before a race without needing an actual road can be handy.
  • Great for high-intensity training. High-intensity training can be difficult on roads, as you need to worry about junctions or traffic. Turbo trainers are a useful alternative if you want to focus on training your sprints.
  • Steady training without distractions. If you need to work on base fitness, you can ride steadily at a fixed pace indefinitely on a turbo trainer. This might not be the most exciting way to train (to put it mildly), but it's effective.
  • No traffic to worry about. Turbo trainers are never going to replace roads, but sometimes it's refreshing to train without the danger of traffic.

The latest turbo trainers are also much better than older models. In the past, you either needed to spend a fortune or settle for a noisy trainer with poor durability. Due to technological advancements, you can now buy high-quality trainers for considerably less.

As this is an article about traditional bike trainers, we won't discuss the benefits of newer smart devices. Needless to say, they can take indoor cycling to an entirely new level - but cost a lot more.

6 Best Indoor Bike Trainers in the UK (Technical Specs & Reviews)

Listed below are our top picks for a turbo trainer without "smart" feature. They are listed roughly in order, but the right choice depends on your budgets and requirements. Make sure you read each review to find out which is the best match.

If you don't want smart capabilities, these models are excellent choices - and for much cheaper than "connected" trainers. So, if you're not sure whether to get a smart or traditional trainer, it's probably better to go for a cheaper option then upgrade later.​

1. Jet Black Whisper Drive

Jetblack Whisper Drive

The JetBlack WhisperDrive is a brilliant direct-drive turbo trainer with an adjustable magnetic resistance unit. It's designed to be quiet and stable when in use, and the drivetrain interface saves your tyres from wearing down. If you want an excellent turbo but don't need "smart" functions, the WhisperDrive is our top pick.

Direct-drive turbo trainers connect directly to your bike, rather than using the rear wheel to turn the roller. This means they require a bit more setup than other turbos - although the WhisperDrive is relatively simple. It doesn't come with a cassette though and isn't the cheapest trainer.

What makes the WhisperDrive worthy of our #1 spot though?

As you might expect from its name, the Whisper Drive is a quiet device. It's not silent, but it's much quieter than many other models - largely due to the lack of a rear wheel and magnetic resistance system.

The WhisperDrive has a 5.9kg flywheel. This is attached to the resistance unit, which provides seven resistance levels via a handlebar adjuster, so you can adjust your workout on the fly. The trainer frame is also reasonably heavy so it doesn't move around too much, even when doing sprints or high intensity training.

While the WhisperDrive isn't a true smart trainer, it's compatible with Jet Black sensors. This allows you to upload your latest sessions to Strava.

With its rock solid design, easy setup and relatively quiet operation, the Jet Black WhisperDrive is an excellent product. ​It's expensive for a trainer without advanced features, but if you use it a lot you'll be glad you paid a bit more. You'll also save money on tyres!


2. Elite Qubo Power Fluid

The Elite Cubo Power Fluid

Fluid turbo trainers are amongst the quietest on the market, and the Elite Qubo Power Fluid is a particularly good example. It even has an elastogel roller to reduce tyre wear and noise even further. If you want a quiet trainer but without paying extra for a direct-drive, the Qubo Power Fluid is a great choice.

Let's start with the frame. The Qubo has a new frame with a wider footprint than previous models. This, combined with the adjustable feet, makes it highly stable - even when you're sprinting or doing high-intensity intervals.

An interesting feature of the Qubo is that you don't need to adjust the roller pressure. The trainer automatically adjusts depending on the rider's weight, so it's faster to get started. 

Elite has done a good job of making this device as quiet as possible. There is some residual noise, but it's probably as quiet as you'll get without paying for a direct-drive model. It also comes with an ElastoGel roller, which improves grip, lowers noise by up to 20% and reduces tyre wear.​

Like all fluid resistance turbo bicycle trainers, there's no resistance setting. Instead, the faster you pedal the higher the resistance becomes. You can use your bike's gears to get a certain amount of adjustment though.

While it's not a truly "smart" device, it is compatible with several third party platforms. These include Zwift, Elite's My E-Training, TrainerRoad and KinoMap. You'll need to by additional speed and cadence sensors for this though.​


3. Jet Black Z1 Fluid Pro

The Jetblack Z1 is a fluid trainer

If the Whisper Drive is outside of your budget but you still want a quiet turbo trainer, the Jet Black Z1 is a great alternative. It's not a direct-drive, but it uses a fluid resistance system for a smooth ride. It's also considerably less expensive.

With its bold orange design, the Z1 certainly isn't a trainer you can hide in the corner. It comes with a QR trainer skewer, a semi-integrated quick release and a "no tool" setup system. There's also a fast bike entry system and a lifetime warranty.

On the inside, the JetBlack Z1 Fluid Pro has a 3kg flywheel and a fluid resistance system. Like most fluid systems, you can't adjust the resistance directly, although you can use your gears to simulate different inclines. It also gets harder to pedal as you go faster, so there are near-infinite resistance levels.

While it's not as quiet as a direct-drive trainer, the fluid resistance system isn't loud either. It's also smooth and does a good job of simulating the feel of a real road. There are no advanced smart features, but it's a quality model that provides great value for money.

One thing to note is that the trainer whines a bit when you first use it. Once the fluid gets warm, however, it is much quieter than the average exercise bike.


4. Elite Novo Force

The Elite Novo Force

Moving away from fluid trainers, we have the Elite Novo Force. It's a relatively cheap magnetic trainer with a handlebar mounted resistance lever - and it provides great value for money. The Novo Force also has a heavier flywheel than the previous Novo Mag (by 700g) and a lower bike position.

Elite's promotional material says the Novo is designed to be stable and to provide a tough workout for cyclists of almost any level. This is partly due to the lower rear wheel position, which eliminates the need for a riser block and provides extra stability.

It features a magnetic resistance system with five levels, along with an ElastoGel roller. This reduces noise and makes the Novo surprisingly quiet. The resistance doesn't go high enough for riders who want the hardest training, but the ability to adjust it means you can vary your workout depending on your goals.

Aside from its in-use performance, the Novo is relatively lightweight. This makes it easy to carry around and a good choice for race warm-ups. Even with the lightweight design, it's a tough and durable trainer that should last a long time.

There are a few drawbacks though. Despite Elite's claim that this is a highly stable trainer, it's prone to wobbling at high speeds. This can make it difficult to go flat out - although for many riders it's stable enough for the average training session. It's also a bit more difficult to setup than other options, as the instructions aren't as clear as they could be.

Like some of the other models on this list, the Novo Force​ isn't a true "smart" device. It can be connected to Zwift, but you'll need an ANT+ dongle and ANT+ speed and cadence sensor. Even with this setup, the trainer doesn't have the ability to change resistance based on hills in Zwift, so you won't get the full experience. For basic indoor training, however, it's a great choice.


5. CycleOps Fluid2

Cycleops Fluid 2

Another excellent fluid turbo trainer is the CycleOps Fluid2. It provides a smooth ride and resistance due to its balanced flywheel and sturdy construction. It's also easy to fit and comes with a quick release skewer.

The Fluid2 is able to fit (almost) all mountain and road bikes. It comes with a quick release steel skewer, along with three options for rear dropout spacing. The fluid resistance system provides gradually increasing resistance depending on your pedal RPM, and you can vary the resistance by using your bike's gears.

What makes the Fluid2 stand out from other fluid options though?

It might not be the quietest - although it's certainly not loud - but it's brilliant for providing a realistic road feel.​ If you want a trainer that mimics "real" cycling without spending a fortune, it's one to consider.

CycleOps are aware that you might want to use the Fluid2 for extended training sessions, so they've included cooling fins on the main body. These reduce the temperature of the unit and allow you to train for as long as you need. Like most of the best turbo trainers, the Fluid2 also has levelling feet to ensure stability.

Additionally, the Fluid2 is easy to setup and is neat when packed away. ​Considering the low price, it's a high-quality trainer that's great for indoor training.


6. Elite Turbo Muin II Fluid

The Elite Turbo Muin II

The Elite Turbo Muin II Fluid is a direct-drive trainer, so it's more expensive than some of the others on this list. The combination of direct-drive and fluid resistance means it's extremely quiet though - and it's still cheaper than the Jet Black Whisper Drive.

As a direct-drive turbo trainer, the Turbo Muin II has several advantages over traditional trainers. These include eliminating rear tyre wear and providing a road-like feel. The fluid resistance system means you can't adjust the resistance directly, aside from using your bike's gears, but the harder you pedal the stronger the resistance.

Where the Turbo Muin II really shines is its noise output though. With its fluid design and internal flywheel, it's amazingly quiet. This makes it a great choice if you don't want to annoy the neighbours (although be aware that it's not entirely silent).

It also provides a smooth ride. The direct-drive design is great for mimicking a road surface, and it's a good choice for sprint training or intervals.

Aside from its quiet performance, the frame is stable, sturdy and well-designed. It also uses a pulley system to transmit pedal force to the resistance unit with increased efficiency, so you'll get more from your workouts. It's quite a heavy device, so you can sprint without worrying about it toppling over.

There are a few downsides to this model though. It doesn't include any smart features, so it's harder to track your workouts. It's compatible with the Muin B+ smart sensor, although you'll need to pay extra for it. While the frame is strong and durable, it's relatively bulky and not easy to move around. It's also expensive.

If you're looking for a high-quality turbo trainer that's durable, smooth and quiet - and don't care about connectivity options - it's a great option though.


Buyer's Guide & What to Look For in a Cycling Trainer

In most ways, turbo trainers are straightforward machines - especially those without "smart" features. The rear wheel is held onto a roller, which is then connected to a resistance unit. As you pedal, the wheel moves on the roller, so you can cycle indefinitely.

There are still various considerations before you decide which to buy though. Here's an overview of what to think about.

How Are You Going to Use the Device?

The biggest consideration when choosing a cycling trainer is what you want to use it for and how often.

Cheaper trainers have their place. If you only plan to use a trainer for short warm-ups or the occasional ride when the weather is bad, it doesn't make sense to spend a large amount of money. A cheap turbo trainer is likely to be all you need.

If you want to use a trainer as part of your weekly training schedule, however, then it's worth spending some more money. The better trainers are more stable, have a wider range of resistance levels and provide a more realistic ride.​

Resistance Types (Fluid, Magnetic, Direct Drive, Fan or Other)

Another consideration when buying a cycling trainer is the type of resistance unit. This affects the price, noise, smoothness and variability of a trainer, so it's vital to know which your buying. In fact, it's so important that the type of resistance is usually how turbos are categorised.

Basic trainers may not include any type of variable resistance. Instead, you can only adjust resistance by changing the gears on your bike. This works to an extent, but you have much less control over your ride.

Advanced resistance units cost more money but are much more versatile. The most common types include:

  • Magnetic. Metal plates inside the unit create a magnetic field. This causes resistance without relying on friction, which is why magnetic units are relatively quiet. Magnetic resistance units can also be adjusted while riding depending on the type of training you want. As they are comparatively easy to produce, magnetic resistance units are common on mid-range trainers.
  • Fan. One of the more basic types of resistance is fan-based. As the roller turns, it drives a fan which creates air resistance. They are cheap, but are noisy and don't allow you to adjust the resistance. You won't find many trainers that use fans these days, but it's worth knowing about them in-case you're looking at second-hand models.
  • Fluid. This type of resistance unit is quiet and great for simulating a road. As the back wheel turns, it drives a roller that turns through a thick liquid substance. As you pedal faster, the resistance naturally increases - although you can also change gears to adjust resistance. Fluid systems can provide a smooth ride, but are also expensive and don't allow you to adjust the resistance manually.
  • Direct-Drive. These resistance units are the most expensive, but provide the most realistic feel. You also need to remove your rear wheel, as your bike is attached directly to a cassette mounted on the resistance unit. If you're looking for a quiet, stable and realistic trainer, a direct-drive is the best choice. They also mean you don't need to worry about wearing out your tyres.

Resistance Adjustment

It's not just the type of resistance that's important though - you also need to consider how you can change resistance.​

The best smart trainers have handlebar-mounted levers for adjusting resistance. This allows you to change during a ride. Some models also have digital unit that provide additional information and measurements, such as power output.​

Noise

One of the biggest issues with any home gym equipment is noise - and turbo trainers is no exception. Some trainers are almost unbearably loud, which can cause problems if you want to train early in the morning or late at night. If you live in a flat - particularly if you live above someone - then high intensity training is likely to be loud for your neighbours.

Noise is less of an issue if you live in a house or have a separate garage to train in. Even so, it's worth looking for a trainer that minimises noise.​ Direct-drive models are the best in this regard, although magnetic and fluid trainers can be relatively quiet.

There are also a few things you can do to reduce noise. The resistance type makes a big difference, but you can buy turbo trainer tyres that reduce noise (and save your main tyres from wearing down). It's also worth buying an insulating mat.​

Frame & Mounting System

While the resistance unit is what you're really paying for when buying a turbo trainer, the frame and wheel mount are still vital components. The more intense your training sessions, the stronger the frame needs to be so it doesn't bend or lose its shape. Most frames also come with adjustable feet so they can be used on uneven surfaces.

Additionally, a heavy frame is usually a good thing when buying a turbo trainer. The heavier the frame, the less likely it is to move when you're sprinting.​ Of course, heavier frames are less portable, which may make them less suitable for race warm-ups. If you're going to be moving your trainer a lot, look for one with a folding frame.

Mounting a bike on a turbo trainer should be relatively easy, but this depends on the type of mount use. Many come with a quick release rear skewer and are straightforward to setup, although direct-drive models are more involved.

On a side note, you don't need to worry too much about compatibility - at least when using a road bike. Pretty much all road models are compatible with turbo trainers, as long as you can fit the supplied skewer. Mountain bikes may require a training or slick tyre though. Of course, make sure you check the listed measurements before you buy.

BMX bikes are a different story though. Most can't be used with turbo trainers.​

Brand

As with most types of home gym equipment, it's often a good idea to stick with established brands. Some of the best brands for turbo trainers include Wahoo (Kickr), JetBlack, CycleOps (Super Magneto, PowerBeam, Tempo Fluid), Tacx (Satori, IMagic, Swing, CycleTrack) and Elite (SuperCrono Inertial, Qudo).

Turbo Trainers Vs. Rollers - Which is Best?

Both can be good options, but the right choice depends on what you're look for. Rollers usually have a more realistic "road feel," but they often don't provide a separate resistance unit. Turbo trainers are much more versatile in this regard, as they can simulate a variety of difficulties, but many people find them to have a less realistic feel.

Where to Buy

Turbo trainers from major brands such as Tacx and Elite can be found at almost any cycling store. Major retailers, such as Amazon, Halfords, Argos and Decathlon, also sell a variety of trainers - and they offer regular deals and discounts. If you're willing to buy second-hand or used, Ebay and Gumtree are worth checking.

Additionally, more people buy turbo trainers in the autumn which means prices tend to rise. Try to buy in advance so you get the best deals.

Summary

Turbo trainers might not be as fun as riding on roads, but they are great for training and racking up miles when the weather is bad.

It's important to choose the right trainer though. Low-quality trainers are loud, unstable and don't provide enough resistance for a challenging workout. They are also often overpriced.

If you want the best "non-smart" trainer, out top recommendation is the Jet Black Whisper Drive. It's a brilliant direct-drive trainer that's highly stable and quiet. If you want a cheaper option, the Elite Qubo Power Fluid is another quiet choice that uses fluid resistance.​