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Best stationary bike stand – reviews and guide

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stationary bike stand reviews and guide

Want to train in some better weather conditions? A stationary bike stand lets you ride safely indoors.

This guide explains everything you need to know before you buy and shows you the best indoor bike trainers available today.

What is a bike trainer?

A stationary bike stand provides you with a way ride your bike indoors. They are an invaluable piece of cycling kit that’s allows you to train in the warm and dry during winter or bad weather, or to warm up pre-race.

You’ll see them referred to by many different terms:

  • Stationary bike stand
  • Bike trainer
  • Turbo trainer
  • Indoor trainer

Direct drive / wheel-off stands

A direct-drive stand attaches to the rear dropouts of your bike. It replaces your rear wheel, using a cassette to provide direct resistance connection.

Direct-drive stands provide the best level of accuracy and reliable resistance settings. But with this high quality comes a higher price tag. Direct-drive trainers are generally the most expensive stationary bike stands.

Tire drive / wheel-on stands

With tire drive stands you keep your wheel on. You position your rear tire so it sits on a roller. As you pedal, your wheel turns the roller. The stand provides varying resistance settings during your ride. Resistance changes via one of the following methods:
  • Manual – via a lever on the stand
  • Manual – via a lever clamped onto your handlebars
  • Automatic – getting harder the faster you pedal
  • Automatic – based on a smart connection to a virtual course
 
You will find tire drive stands classified via the resistance method, which will be one of the following:
Also known as a mag trainer
 
A magnetic flywheel creates resistance. The resistance does not increase as your cadence increases.
 
Generally you adjust resistance via changing gears or adjusting the trainer. Some magnetic resistance stands have spring-loaded magnets, which create progressive resistance.
A silicon based fluid creates resistance. As you pedal faster the fluid warms and becomes thicker, providing increasing resistance.
 
Fluid resistance stationary bike stands tend to feel more “road-like”. They’re generally more accurate at simulating conditions such as hills, sprints and flats.
 
Fluid resistance increases or decreases with wheel speed.
 
You change gears and speed up or slow down to vary resistance.

Rollers

Rollers are the most basic type of stationary bike stand. They don’t keep your bike in place, like other stands, your wheels sit on three rotating cylinders. One under the front wheel and two under the rear wheel.
 
Resistance can vary from nothing up to the same amount as direct drive stands.
 
While rollers are the most basic, they also need the most technique and concentration. They and are popular for working on improving technique.
 
Roller stands are the quickest to mount/unmout your bike before a race.

Summary of stand types

Direct drive

  • Take the rear wheel off
  • Connect via socket and dropouts
  • Provide the best quality, most effective resistance
  • Highest price tag

Wheel on / tire drive

  • Keep the wheel on
  • Connect via dropouts
  • Rest rear wheel against small roller, which provides resistance
  • Classified by the means of resistance (magnetic or fluid)
  • Fluid provides more road like conditions

Rollers

  • Bike sits freely on rotating cylinders
  • Varying resistance
  • Quickest to setup
  • Requires complete concentration so as to not fall off

Why use a bike trainer?

A bike trainer provides you complete control over your riding conditions.

Predictable weather

Winter can be a dangerous time for cyclists. The nights draw in, making it darker and you less visible. It get’s colder, wetter and windier, all making it more dangerous and less enjoyable on the road.
When was the last time it rained or snowed in your house?

With access to a bike stand you are no-longer at the mercy of mother-nature. You decide how your trainings goes, not the outside world.

Zero traffic problems

Sometimes the local traffic is not well suited to the workout you had planned. Be it roadworks or congestion, weight of traffic, or the ignorance of other road users.
 
Using an indoor bike trainer you don’t need to worry about what the roads are like.

Terrain exactly as your training plan call for

Terrain exactly like your training plan calls for
Cycling workouts usually fall into one of the following categories:
  • Aerobic endurance
  • Muscle strength
  • VO2 max training
  • Sprints
It’s not always easy to match what you had planned to work on today with the terrain outside.
 
You could spend ages mapping routes to stretch your body the way you want. Or jump on a trainer at home and do exactly the workout you want, the way you want it.

Short sharp precise workouts

If you only have time to fit in a quick 15 minute session. Or you want to warm up before a race.
 
A bike stand is ideal for quick short sharp blasts of training. And being small and portable you can put one in the trunk of your car to take along on race day.

Summary

Bike trainers allow you to train in the comfort, warmth and predictable conditions of your own home or immediately prior to a race.

Smart trainers

Smart trainers capture your workout data such as:
  • Power output
  • Heart rate
  • Cadence
  • etc
This data is shared wirelessly via bluetooth or ANT+ with your phone, tablet, computer or Apple TV*.
Use a virtual training app like Zwift to provide interactive features for the ultimate in training experience. Smart trainers automatically vary resistance to match changing terrain and conditions. Some of them will vibrate to simulate road conditions.

Imagine for example riding up the Alpe d’Huez, while monitoring your heart-rate, power and racing your buddy.

Yes.

You’ll need to get a speed and cadence sensor*. These connect to Zwift in a similar way to how a smart trainer would.

The difference is you won’t get any resistance feedback to your trainer from Zwift. This means you won’t be able to vary resistance to match changing terrain and conditions.

How to choose a bike stand

As a general rule use this to guide to your order of preference for what type of indoor bike trainer stand to choose:
  1. Direct drive
  2. Fluid resistance tire on trainer
  3. Magnetic resistance tire on trainer
  4. Rollers
There are pros and cons of each type, so let’s look in some more details about what matters to you.
Direct drive trainers are the most expensive and rollers usually the cheapest.
  1. Direct drive
  2. Fluid resistance tire on trainer
  3. Magnetic resistance tire on trainer
  4. Rollers
Direct drive stands are quite a bit more expensive than tire on trainers.

Fluid resistance are often a bit more expensive than magnetic resistance. Though the price difference between the two is not that huge.

Rollers are usually the cheapest. But the best quality rollers come in a bit more expensive than the cheapest quality mag trainers.

If you want to immerse yourself in a virtual training app like Zwift, you’ll need a smart trainer.

Pretty much all direct drive stands are smart as are many the high end tire drive trainers.

While it is possible to connect to Zwift with a classic (non-smart) trainer by using a speed and cadence monitor. You won’t get any resistance feedback for changing terrain etc.

Direct drive
Adjusts resistance either automatically via an immersive app or manually via the manufacturers app.
 
Fluid resistance tire drive
Adjusts resistance automatically as your speed increases. While you can connect them to an app via a cadence monitor, there is no resistance feedback.
 
Magnetic resistance tire drive
Adjusts the resistance in many different ways, depending on how much money you spend on them.
  • A smart mag trainer will provide app feedback to dynamically adjust resistance based on in-app terrain.
  • Most will provide a cable and switch to clip onto your handle bars for resistance change.
  • Cheaper models will have a level on the stand itself for adjustment.

 

Rollers
The cheaper rollers don’t change resistance. The larger the roller cylinders the more resistance.

Some of the higher end rollers provide magnetic resistance, the adjustment is usually on the rollers themselves. This means you need to get off your bike to change it.

Bike stand crashes are not common, but can happen when going full out crazy style.

Generally the broader the base of the stand the more stable it’s going to be.

The good quality stands will have rubber feet and some sort of levelling features.
The highest end direct drive trainers provide a degree of rocking. This allows you to move your bike freely from side to side as you would on a sprint or uphill climb.
Do you have a dedicate area you can leave your bike stand in place or will you need to pack it away?

If you are going to store it away, keep in mind how easy (if at all) it folds down and how much storage space it will take.

This is the order of quietness for stands from quietest to loudest:
  1. Direct drive
  2. Fluid resistance tire on trainer
  3. Magnetic resistance tire on trainer
  4. Rollers
Rollers in particular will start off quiet and then get loader the faster you go.

How to fit a bike onto a trainer

Here’s the steps to fit your bike to the stand

Direct drive

These are the steps to mount your bike onto a direct drive trainer stand.

  1. Deploy the trainer legs and make sure it’s stable
  2. Change gear on your bike to the smallest cog on the set – this makes it easier to get the chain onto the trainer
  3. Release the brake lever to allow the tire to pass the breaks
  4. Open the rear wheel axel quick release skewer
  5. Rotate your bikes derailer to release the chain and lift wheel away from the bike
  6. Line your bike up with the trainer
  7. Rotate the derailer again to loosen the chain
  8. Rest the chain into smallest cog on the trainers cassette
  9. Sit the bike dropouts on the trainer and secure the quick release skewer
  10. Make sure the bike is stable and chain rotates

Here’s a quick video showing how to do the same.

Play Video

Tire drive

These are the steps to mount your bike onto a wheel-on tire drive trainer.

  1. Open the rear wheel axel quick release skewer
  2. Replace with the skewer that came with your trainer
  3. Setup the trainers legs and make sure it’s stable
  4. Open the trainer rods to allow your bike to fit in
  5. Release the resistance unit and move it back out of the way
  6. Mount your bike by positioning the axel skewer ends in to the trainer cone cups
  7. Tighten the rods on the trainer
  8. Center the rear tire against the roller
  9. Lock any rod lock rings
  10. Tighten the resistance unit against the rear tire. – You should be able to move the wheel by hand without it slipping on the roller

Here’s an example video of mounting a bike onto a Kinetic trainer.

Play Video

Essential accessories

As well as your bike trainer stand you’re going to want to grab a few key essential trainer accessories.

Front block

A front block goes under your front wheel, elevating it so your bike is level.

Choose from a simple no-frills raiser, or something with multiple gradient raises to simulate the positioning of a hill climb.

Fan

A key thing you’ll miss riding indoors is the wind on your face. Get a fan to help keep you cool while sweating away.

There’s hundreds of options, ranging from budget air blasters to headwind machines specifically designed with indoor cycling in mind.

Sweat net (sweat thong)

Did we mention sweat?

One of the downsides of indoor cycling is the sweat has nowhere else to go. Over time this can corrode even the best bike.

A sweat net, also known as a thong, protects your bike. Grab a double pack so you can use the other while one’s in the wash.

Mat

A bike trainer stand mat gives you an even base to ride on and sound barrier. It’s a must if you want to quieten your workout. It will absorb the vibrations that can drive others mad.

It also makes cleaning up sweat so much easier – no-one’s gonna thank you for sweating on the carpet.

Speed and cadence monitor

If you can’t afford a smart trainer but still want to join in with Zwift or similar apps then get a speed and cadence monitor.

Tablet / Laptop or TV stand

If you’re going to be using an app like Zwift you’ll need to be able to view the screen somehow.

There’s ready made solutions in-place for whatever device you’re using.

Best direct drive stands

Best smart trainer

The Tacx Neo 2T Smart is one of the quietest trainers available. There are no noisy belts or rollers used in the transmission of power internal. Instead it uses magnets to alter resistance on the flywheel keeping it whisper quiet.
 
When you do go full out on a sprint the 2T lets you rock from side to side. It’s no-where near the amount of movement the Kinetic R1 provides, but you’re not tied down.
 
The Neo 2T has great cadence accuracy and pedal-stroke analysis.
 
It comes with a thru-axle adapter, which fits 142x12mm and 148x12mm axles.
 
It is ANT+,FE-C and bluetooth smart-enabled ready to connect to Zwift of other immersive apps.
 
You can use it without the external power source, but if you do the the flywheel momentum is less.
  • One of the quietest trainers
  • Slight ability to move side to side
  • Can use without external power
  • Smart - Zwift ready with ANT+, FE-C and bluetooth
  • One of the most expensive trainers

Best value direct drive stand

  • Smooth resistance changes
  • Maximum slope simulation 15%

Most freedom of movement

  • Allows bike to rock from side to side
  • Smooth resistance changes
  • Very quiet
  • Easy to store
  • Smooth resistance changes
  • Very quiet

Best wheel-on tire drive stands

  • Allows bike to rock from side to side
  • ANT+ / Bluetooth connectivity
  • Fluid resistance increases or decreases with wheel speed

Best value fluid smart trainer

  • One of the best value smart trainers
  • ANT+ / Bluetooth connectivity
  • Folds down small making it easy to store or transport

Cheapest stationary bike stand

  • One of the cheapest bike trainers around

Best rollers

  • Slides back and forward giving a natural feel
  • Progressive resistance
  • Rollers are great for working on technique - but require focus