Exercise Bikes vrs Turbo Trainers.
Basically exercise bikes and turbo trainer are one of the same. They both let you workout at home while pedaling your legs. If you want to sweat and work out your lower body then both will work just fine. But which should you get, a turbo trainer or an exercise bike, and which is the better value for money?
Well, to make this a very short article we need to ask… do you own a bike?
If you don’t then get an exercise bike because you need a real bike to use a turbo trainer. Of course if your get turned on to the idea of turbo trainers (and with trainers like this who wouldn’t) you can head out and buy a bike. You might even like riding it outside. OK, if you do have a nice road bike but for whatever reason you cannot ride outside as much as you like, should you spend a few £100 pounds on a turbo trainer or should you spend it on an exercise bike?
Do you want a realistic cycling workout?
To make things easier we’re going to assume that you want to train like you would if you were outdoors on your bike, so for this reason we are going to exclude standard home exercise bikes. This is not to say that you cannot get high quality home exercise bikes, but they just do not offer the same kind of workout that real bikes do.
The riding position and the feel is nowhere near that of riding a real bike, and the distance between the pedals is often greater, which can affect your normal cycling mechanics. Also, the resistance is in the pedals and is set at fixed levels, whereas on your real bike the resistance effectively comes from the back wheel and when you push yourself you feel it in your whole body rather than just your legs (of course your legs get a big proportion of the punishment).
If you are a keen cyclist then you should go for either a higher-end spinning bike or a good turbo trainer, forget about standard cheaper exercise bikes because the riding position and the feel is nowhere near that of riding real bike. Turbo trainers keep your natural riding position because you are on your bike (makes sense), and you have a natural feel as you change gears to increase resistance, just like on the open road.
Are spin bikes any good?
Spinning bikes are a bit different, with higher-end ones allowing you to set up the riding position so it replicates your preferred natural riding position (i.e. that of your road bike). The riding experience is more natural as well, so if realism is key for you choose a spinning bike over a traditional exercise bike.
There is one issue with having a standalone spinning bike and that is that it takes up a lot of room, and the good quality ones are heavy. Being heavy is a good thing for working out because it makes the bike sturdy and gives you a solid ride even when you get out of the saddle and really push yourself. But being heavy means it is difficult to move about when not in use, so you’d need a relatively large space with a solid foundation to keep a spin bike at home.
You can get a quality spin bike such as the York Diamond SB300 for around £320, but how does that compare to turbo trainers?
Are turbo trainers any good?
Turbo trainers are a lot smaller than spinning bikes, and are therefore much easier to move around and store when not in use. However, since you are using your real bike you may not be comfortable using it inside your house and therefore you may need a garage or some other external space to use it. Noise is also an issue with some turbo trainers, so again this can limit where you can use it. This being said newer trainers are becoming much quieter, such as the Bkool trainer.
If you want the most natural workout that replicates the feel of cycling on the open road then turbo trainers trump indoor exercise bikes. If you choose a higher-end trainer, such as the CycleOps Jet Fluid Pro then you get a resistance power curve that has been specially formulated to match that of the open road as accurately as possible, and you can ramp up through your bike gears to get more resistance. The fluid resistance technology of this trainer provides an extremely smooth riding experience.
You can even combine this smooth fluid feel with set resistance levels if you choose a trainer such as the CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro, where you can set low to high resistance steps that can be used for easy warm-ups or –downs or if you wanted a tough hill type workout you can choose this setting.
Cycle training indoors is boring
Training indoors, whether on a spinning bike or on a turbo trainer can be pretty boring, but there are things you can do to improve this. Sufferfest have specially created cycling videos that are aimed to keep you motivated as well as giving you a fantastic workout. You basically ride on videos and the Sufferfest films prompt you to increase your effort in turn with a real race environment. There are loads of films to choose from, and all you need to do is download them onto your preferred media device (e.g. laptop, I-Pad etc.) and off you go.
Check out the Sufferfest videos here.
If you want something that will really keep you engaged and add the something a little different to your workout then it looks like a turbo trainer is for you. Some higher-end turbo trainers connect with a computer (and sometimes tablets) and let you really ride on routes from all over the world. Be really ride of course you are still stuck at home, but your are hooked up to an interactive experience where as you pedal you ride along a film of real cycle route (the Alps for example), and as you pedal faster the film speed increases accurately so the faster you are the faster you go. Also, incredibly as you go up a hill on the film the resistance is automatically increased so it is like you are really climbing that steep stage of the Tour de France.
Wait, it can get even better. With a turbo trainer called the Tacx i-Genius your back wheel is even spun for you, so if you are riding down a hill the wheel is driven, and it feels just like it would in real life when gravity kicks in and you can free wheel down a hill. Of course this means you are not getting a workout at this point, but the real life experience can add something to your indoor training.
There’s more, with the Tacx turbo trainer and also another one called the Bkool trainer, you can ride on fully computerised 3D worlds, where you can compete in online races against other real-life riders. You can see these 3D rides on your screen so you can push yourself to catch them, overtake them, and eventually win the race. These 3D environments are amazing and accurate to real routes from all over the world.
The Tacx trainer is pretty pricey however, costing around £900. Although, the Bkool trainer is a more reasonable £300 to £400 and offers the same interactive and 3D online experience. The Tacx does have a superior resistance unit and is a brand steeped in cycling history, and also has many years experience in turbo trainer development and interactive environments.
If you are a cyclist and want to work out at home while you cannot get on the open roads then the answer is simple on our eyes, you need a turbo trainer. For a simple but realistic ride you can choose a trainer such as the CycleOps Jet Fluid Pro, or if you want to increase your experience and prefer more stimulation and motivation then you should look at interactive computer controlled trainers such as those from Tacx and Bkool.
This being said turbo trainers do have their disadvantages. You will probably have to use them in a garage unless you are happy bringing your bike indoors. Also, the way these trainers work means your bike tyre can wear with prolonged use, so you may need to fit a special trainer tyre. This means removing your normal tyre which can be a hassle. There are trainers that are driven by your spindle (e.g. CycleOps Silencer Direct Drive and the LeMond Revolution) and therefore do not wear your tyre, but you still need to remove you tyre to use them.
If you have plenty of room and just want to jump on and go, then a spinning bike could be the answer. Also, to help with the boredom you can use it with the Sufferfest workout videos that will really get you sweating.