As much fun as it is to get outside for a ride, sometimes that’s just not feasible. Especially during the winter months, a good indoor trainer is necessary for serious cyclists to maintain their fitness. In addition, a good portable bike trainer is a great way to get in an on-site warmup on race day.
These days, bike trainers are more connected than ever. With Bluetooth connectivity and ANT+, you can connect your trainer to smartphones, computers, and GPS devices. This lets you measure your heart rate and power output, program resistance, and even simulate rides down to the terrain style, incline, and (in some cases) wind resistance. For more information on bike trainers, check out our buyer’s guide and FAQ at the end of this article. For a close comparison of price and features, see our helpful comparison chart.
We sought out the best bike trainers in a variety of styles and features and found you the best bike trainers of 2023. Feel free to scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:
- Best Overall: Wahoo KICKR
- Best Budget: Alpcour Bike Trainer Stand
- Runner-up: Saris H3
- Best Wheel-On Trainer: Tacx Flow Trainer
- Best Roller: Saris Aluminum Rollers
- Best of the Rest
- Wahoo Fitness KICKR SNAP
- Tacx NEO 2T Smart Trainer
- Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Bike Trainer
- Tacx Flux S Direct-Drive Smart Trainer
- Sportneer Bike Trainer Stand
- Elite Suito Interactive Trainer
The Best Bike Trainers of 2023
- Type Direct drive
- Weight 48 lbs.
- Very quiet
- Easy out-of-box use
- Intuitive app
- Comes with axis feet
- Exposed flywheel
- On the pricier side
- Type Wheel-on
- Weight 20.2 lbs.
- Handlebar-mounted resistance control
- No app connectivity
- Louder than others on this list
- Type Direct drive
- Weight 47 lbs.
- Great price point
- Encased flywheel
- Longer setup
- Does not come with attached cassette
- Very basic app
- Type Wheel-on
- Weight 20.7 lbs.
- Cheap for a smart trainer
- Don't need to remove back wheel
- Only simulates a 6% grade climb
- A bit noisier than drivetrain trainers
- Type Roller
- Weight 19 lbs.
- Bike control training
- No adjustable resistance
- No sensor connectivity
Best of the Rest
- Type Wheel-on
- Weight 38 lbs.
- Easy to install
- Compatible with a wide range of apps
- LED indicators
- Requires external power outlet
- Type Direct drive
- Weight 47 lbs.
- Smooth ride
- Minimal noise
- Terrain simulation
- Spotty Bluetooth
- Type Wheel-on
- Weight 21 lbs.
- Note A trainer tire isn’t necessary, but highly recommended
- Quiet for a wheel-on trainer
- Adjustable feet
- Disc brake adapters and a wheel block to level the bike are sold separately
- Type Direct drive
- Weight 47 lbs.
- Smart drive works without added software
- Tons of add-on accessories
- Arms don’t fold so storage can be a pain
- Type Wheel-on
- Weight Not listed
- Noticeably quiet especially for a lower-cost trainer
- Wheel block included
- Only fits bikes with 26- to 28-inch wheels
- Type Direct drive
- Weight 1 lb.
- Folding arms and built-in handle make for easy storage and transport
- Fits on bikes with 26- to 28-inch wheels
Bike Trainer Comparison Chart
|Wahoo KICKR||$1,300||Direct drive||47 lbs.|
|Alpcour Bike Trainer Stand||$220||Wheel-on||20.2 lbs.|
|Saris H3||$1,000||Direct drive||47 lbs.|
|Tacx Flow Trainer||$369||Wheel-on||20.7 lbs.|
|Saris Aluminum Rollers||$300||Roller||19 lbs.|
|Wahoo Fitness KICKR SNAP||$400||Wheel-on||38 lbs.|
|Tacx NEO 2T Smart Trainer||$1,400||Direct drive||47 lbs.|
|Saris CycleOps Fluid2|
Indoor Bike Trainer
|Tacx Flux S Direct-Drive Smart Trainer||$750||Direct drive||47 lbs.|
|Sportneer Bike Trainer Stand||$150||Wheel-on||Not listed|
|Elite Suito Interactive Trainer||$800||Direct drive||1 lb.|
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Bike Trainer
Types of Resistance
There are three main types of trainers: roller trainers, wheel-on trainers, and direct-drive trainers.
Roller trainers are the OGs of the trainer world. Basically a set of three rollers within a frame, your bike sits right on top with nothing to connect it.
As you ride, the two back rollers that contact your rear wheel spin. They attach to the front roller that sits under your front tire so that it spins along with your back tire. This not only gives you a solid workout but also forces you to work on your balance and bike control while you train.
It takes some practice to get used to — we recommend setting it up next to a wall, so you can brace your hand against it while you get used to the balance. It’s the simplest, least expensive, and most portable option, and it’s a great way to get a better feel for your bike. However, it’s not recommended for people who want to just put their heads down and grind.
Wheel-on trainers are trainers on which you mount your bike via the rear wheel pin. The rear tire meets the roller hub, which provides resistance.
Wheel-on trainers are more stable than rollers. They also provide a varying amount of resistance, so you can adjust your difficulty to suit your training style. These come in A-style frames, and most models can be folded for easy transport and storage.
Direct-drive trainers are the most stable kind of trainers. The bike’s rear wheel is removed and the bike connects to a rear-wheel cassette that is attached directly to the trainer (hence the name direct drive). They offer a more realistic ride than wheel-on and roller trainers.
Many direct-drive trainers are smart and have built-in power meters, can mimic inclines, and can connect with devices and apps. In some cases, they even mimic different types of roads like gravel and cobblestone roads. These are often the most expensive trainers, but the benefits outweigh the cost for those who can afford them.
Bluetooth & Training Apps
Many trainers — particularly direct-drive trainers — sport Bluetooth and ANT+ capability to work out with apps like Zwift, Sufferfest, and Strava. These apps will do everything from tracking your ride stats like power output, distance, and cadence, to allowing you to participate in virtual group rides and races.
They can even let you ride real routes around the world from your garage, mimicking the distance, inclines, and, in some cases, even the texture of the road. Many apps also will put your virtual ride on screen, letting you see the views that you’d be seeing if you were out on your ride. Which is much better than staring at the tile floor in your kitchen for hours on end.
Realistic Road Feel
Road feel tends to increase as you go up the price ladder. Rollers are the most basic, providing little resistance as you ride. A few models will add some resistance as you sprint, but the power will be limited. The realism on rollers comes from you having to balance and control your bike to keep it on the rollers while you ride.
Wheel-on trainers offer more resistance to provide more resistance, letting you mimic sprints and, to an extent, inclines. While the balance that you get from rollers isn’t there, the added power for resistance is a huge plus for cyclists looking to increase their fitness.
Direct-drive trainers go the distance when it comes to simulating the feel of riding on a road. Smart trainers will connect with apps to put you on predetermined routes, allowing the trainer to automatically adjust the resistance and incline to mimic sprints and hills.
Some companies, like Tacx, go the extra mile by adding Road Feel, which automatically recreates the feel of riding on different roads during your ride. Depending on where your training app takes you, Tacx’s trainers can simulate concrete plates, cobblestones, brick, dirt, gravel, and even ice.
The best trainer in the world is useless if your bike won’t fit. Roller trainers are the most versatile, as they only have to consider the distance between the front and back tires.
Wheel-on and direct-drive trainers are more limited in their compatibilities, so make sure that your bike will fit within a trainer’s parameters if you’re thinking about buying it. And if it doesn’t fit and you really like that trainer, check the company’s website to see if there are any adapters available that will make it compatible.
One of the biggest issues that people have with bike trainers is the noise they generate, especially if you live with someone or work out in a space that shares walls with neighbors. By far the loudest are wheel-on trainers that use fans to provide wind resistance.
Those fans can create a racket that you need to shout over to be heard. You’ll find these in gyms more often than in homes for this reason.
Fluid and magnetic wheel-on trainers can cause a ruckus as well, but the better ones incorporate sound-dampers to lower the noise. Some of the better ones will put out decibels in the mid-50s at 20 mph, which is roughly the sound of indoor conversation.
Rollers are generally quieter than wheel-on, but you still have the tires moving on the rollers, which can get loud.
The least noisy are direct-drive motors. They’re more built-up, with bigger, enclosed consoles that usually sport sound-damping methods to ensure that the machine itself won’t make any noise. More importantly, there’s no sound from the wheels moving against rollers, as the bike’s drivetrain is attached directly to the trainer itself.
If you don’t want to spend the money on a direct-drive trainer, you can get a trainer tire to use when you ride indoors. Trainer tires are designed specifically for use with a roller, built with softer compounds than standard road tires, so they grip the roller better.
The smoother tread also minimizes the noise coming from the tire when you train. Trainer tires work for outdoor road riding, but the road wear will eventually cut the tire’s lifespan short.
If you tend to alternate between indoor and outdoor riding, having a separate wheel with a trainer tire on it will make it a lot easier to switch between indoor and outdoor training.
Weight & Storage Size
Storage and portability of your trainer are huge considerations if you don’t have a dedicated space for your trainer. Many companies don’t specifically list their trainer’s weights, but most wheel-on and direct-drive trainers tip the scales at roughly 50 pounds.
Roller trainers are by far the easiest to transport. Basically a frame with three aluminum rollers in it, they tend to weigh around 20 pounds and are easy to carry around. This makes it especially handy if you want to take it with you for a quick on-site warmup on race day.
When looking at a wheel-on trainer, look for one with a collapsible frame. This minimizes the space it’ll take up in a closet or your garage. The same goes for direct-drive trainers. Our favorites have stability arms that will fold into the body, as well as a carrying handle so you can pack it into your office when you’re done with it.
Ease of Setup
When it comes to setup, the more complicated your trainer, the more setting up is involved. Rollers are by far the easiest since it’s basically a treadmill for your bike. Just put your bike on the rollers, hop on the bike, and get pedaling.
The most complicated part of using a roller is getting the timing and balance right. This may take a few attempts, but most cyclists catch on quickly after the first few times.
Wheel-on rollers take a bit more work, but you can still set your bike up in a few minutes. Simply adjust the clamps to fit your bike’s rear hub and lock it in. Then adjust the roller so that it meets the rear wheel. After that, you’re ready to (not) roll.
Direct-drive systems take a little more work. This is because you have to remove the rear wheel and attach the bike to the trainer’s cassette. This takes a bit of familiarity with bike mechanics. Also, smart trainers require an initial setup to connect with apps and devices on their first use.
Traditionally, the fewer moving parts that a machine has, the fewer things can go wrong. The same holds true with trainers.
Thanks to their simple design and construction, they can last for years without any issue. Just make sure you don’t accidentally drive over it when pulling into your garage.
With wheel-on trainers, heat buildup can be an issue. Many units have cooling features that minimize failure due to heat buildup over time.
The sturdy aluminum frames are practically bombproof. Some companies are so confident in their frames that they’ll offer unconditional lifetime warranties.
Direct-drive trainers are the most complex, which means more things can go wrong. The build quality is generally the same as with wheel-on trainers. The issues that pop up with these tend to be in a machine’s smart features. A smart sensor going out or Bluetooth not connecting are common complaints.
Most trainers are built to last, so it’s hard to go wrong when choosing a type. Try to buy one from a reputable, well-known company.
Many trainers have a good warranty and/or replacement policy, so look online to see what’s covered. Also, be sure to check out any online bike trainer reviews for durability issues.
The question of rollers versus wheel-on or direct-drive trainers depends on how you specifically want to train. How much you are willing to spend is also a factor.
Roller trainers are great for their simplicity and mobility. They’re great for riders who ride indoors and outdoors in equal measures because there’s no installation required. They tend to last a long time, they’re inexpensive, and they are easy to store and transport.
The simplicity comes at a cost, however. Rollers do not have the power or incline capabilities of their more complicated counterparts. They also don’t have the ability to connect with your electronic devices or track your stats.
On the other end of the spectrum are direct-drive trainers. They are on the top end of the price spectrum, and they’re often double the weight of roller trainers. They also take a bit of mechanical know-how to apply your bike.
On the other hand, they offer just about everything you’d need to optimize your training. The power output for resistance is spectacular, and they can simulate inclines (we’ve seen some that go to 15%).
Smart ones work with apps to allow you to participate in virtual races. You can also access training, track your workout statistics, and even replicate roads down to the texture. This is a huge bonus for cyclists who want to mimic riding outside.
Wheel-on trainers are in the middle range in price and features. They are heavier and generally louder than rollers, but not as expensive or complicated as direct-drive trainers. Wheel-on trainers tend to hit the sweet spot between price and utility for most cyclists.
The mounting system is usually quick-locking, so you can take your bike out with minimal fuss. The rollers can generate more resistance than rollers, and there are smart options if you want to connect your devices.
In a word, no. Roller trainers are basically bike treadmills, so the only risk to your bike is you falling off the trainer. Wheel-on and direct-drive trainers put different forces on your frame than riding on the road or trail. This has caused concern about its effect on bike frames.
In fact, Specialized used to specifically say that its carbon bikes were not designed for use with a trainer. The company has changed its stance since then, citing new testing protocols. The most severe issue we’ve seen is wear on our rear tire after a winter of riding inside.
Magnetic and fluid bike trainers can look the same as the bike trainer stand looks the same. Once you get them up to speed, the difference is apparent.
Magnetic bike trainers use a magnetic flywheel to provide resistance. The flywheel has a set of magnets that create resistance as they’re engaged. This lets you choose the amount of resistance by rotating a dial on the wheelfly hub. Some options let you do this via a cable that mounts on your bike’s handlebar.
Fluid trainers have an inner chamber that is filled with fluid that thickens as the flywheel picks up speed. This provides a smoother power increase as you ride and is a closer simulation to road riding. Fluid trainers are generally quieter than magnetic trainers as well.
Fluid trainers tend to cost more than magnetic bike trainers for the reasons listed above. When choosing a wheel-on trainer, weigh the options between your priorities and the cost.
If closer simulation of road riding is your priority, the price could be worth it. If you want to put in miles or ride in your garage, the cheaper option might be ideal.
You can use a bicycle trainer on carpet, but there are a few things to consider. A carpet and the padding underneath can stabilize your bike better than tile or concrete, as the trainer’s feet can sink into the material.
Therein lies the main problem to consider when riding on carpet — the combination of bike, trainer, and cyclist adds up to a significant amount of weight. Over a long enough amount of time, your trainer can leave permanent dents in the carpet.
Also, you’re going to sweat a lot when you work out. Eventually, enough sweat will leave stains on a carpet. This can leave unsightly discoloration if you decide to move your trainer.
A good, sturdy mat under the trainer and bike will spread out the weight and minimize permanent dents. It’s also much easier to clean sweat off a mat than out of a carpet.
There are plenty of trainers that work with the cycling app. Zwift’s website has a list on its support page that shows trainers that support the app. It conveniently separates the trainers into four categories: direct-drive trainers, wheel-on trainers, indoor bikes, and even rollers.
This really depends on what you’re hoping to achieve. For people who want a road bike trainer to train specifically for cycling, an indoor trainer is the better option.
Indoor trainers mimic the feeling of riding an actual bike while riding on a stationary bike stand. They can simulate the hills, sprints, and even road textures that riding outside entails.
Indoor trainers also let you use your own bike, so you’ll be more prepared to ride outside when the weather clears up. They’re also lighter and more portable, so you can store them when they’re not in use.
If your goal is to get in shape and you aren’t necessarily concerned with your cycling performance, a stationary bike is a great option. They’re generally quieter, they don’t require you to use their own bike, and there’s no setup required after the initial setup: it’s always ready to ride.
They take up more space, however, so if you don’t have a spot in your house specifically for working out, this may not be the option for you.