There were enough reasons to get a turbo trainer before the coronavirus, but with the UK now stuck (and cyclists encouraged to travel shorter distances and stay local) cyclists are looking for a safe way to secure their time on two wheels using a fixed trainer at home.
Authorities in Italy and Spain have already banned cycling enthusiasts – citing the possibility that injured amateur cyclists will place an unnecessary burden on the health service in this time of crisis. Italy, however, allows professional cyclists with a driving license to continue training outdoors. But there is the potential that these same restrictions could be imposed on UK cyclists. Have you not yet reached the professional ranks? So it’s time to find your turbo.
WIRED recommends is your definitive guide to the best technology. Read our list of the best gadgets for our favorite pieces of technology in each category. When you purchase something using the retail links in our stories, we earn a small affiliate commission. This does not affect the products we recommend.
What is a turbo trainer?
A home instructor is a perfect addition to regular driving for busy cyclists looking to keep up with the miles in adverse weather conditions (who really likes to ride in the lashing winter rain?). It is also perfect for cyclists who like to structure their efforts using personal training apps or for cyclists who are punctual and want to maximize their workouts.
In principle, two types of trainers are available: endurance and smart: the difference between them is connectivity. Endurance trainers are set manually to an extent adjustable by the cyclist. With an intelligent (connected) trainer, resistance can be set and adjusted with an app.
Smart instructors can also be associated with social cycling simulators such as Zwift, allowing cyclists to compete against others in a virtual environment. They can receive feedback on virtual gradients from the app and, in turn, adjust the effort required. They are called intelligent for a reason. The refund on all that connectivity? Price.
There are two other options for smart instructors: wheeled (just fix the rear wheel of the bike in the trainer and go) or direct drive – in which you remove the rear wheel from the bike and insert the chain on a cassette (gear) on the trainer itself .
There are advantages for both styles: the wheeled units are generally smaller, lighter and easier to store, the adjustable resistance is applied with a roller to the rear tire. Direct drive units generally boast a more realistic driving experience, resistance is automatically managed by an app.
Part of the surge in popularity of smart instructors over the past two years is due to multiplayer / cyclist training games like Zwift. These apps allow cyclists to interact, train and compete in virtual worlds with a £ 12 monthly subscription in the UK. Cycling clubs such as Rapha’s CCR have even started planning rides on the platform while the country is stuck.
What is the best turbo trainer in 2020?
We rated our TACX Neo 2 Smart (£ 1,199) ours best turbo trainer altogether. Great build quality, extraordinary results and simulated gradients, in addition to this it is the most silent trainer of our tracking shot. It also replicates several road surfaces.
View the TACX Neo 2 Smart for £ 1,199 on Wiggle
If you are looking for the best self-powered turbo trainer, we recommend JetBlack Whisper Drive Smart (£ 500). Taking the energy generated by pedaling, the unit collects data and connects to apps with the power of the pedal only.
View JetBlack Whisper Drive Smart for £ 500 on Evans Cycles
In the meantime, if you’re in the market for maximum power and slopes, look no further than Elite Drivo II (from £ 699). It’s not nice, but it can simulate the steepest climbs of the professional tour as well as being super precise with a huge resistance of 3,600 W.
View the Elite Drivo II for £ 699 on Halfords
TACX Neo 2 Smart Turbo Trainer
WIRED recommends: TACX Neo 2 is the best of the best
Dimension: (open) 57.5 cm L x 75 cm L; (closed) 62 cm L x 44 cm L |
Wheels: all from 24in to 29in MTB | Connectivity: ANT +, ANT + FE-C and Bluetooth | Devices: iOS, Android, PC (Mac and Windows) Weight: 21.5 kg | Maximum simulated degree: 25 percent | Maximum power: 2,200 W. | Precision: +/- 1 percent
The Neo 2 (£ 1,199) represents a gold standard (and price) in turbo trainers. He often goes head-to-head in competition with Wahoo KICKR (below) in the same premium way, and for good reason. Both trainers have an exceptional build quality, manage extraordinary results and simulated gradients (with the Neo 2 pushing forward with respect to the KICKR with a maximum degree from 25% to 20%).
The TACX, however, is the quietest trainer in our roundup. Without the buzz of a belt, a roller or a wheel, the only real sound of the Neo 2 is the chain and the cassette (gear), much more socially acceptable if you cannot close yourself in a garage or in a space of workout alone.
Those looking for that realistic driving feeling will also be impressed by the trainer’s ability to replicate virtual road surfaces: cobblestones, walkways and (very “now”) are part of the driving experience. Add to this some integrated bike movement (sway) and you will have a more realistic, converted driving experience, all from the comfort of your front room or garage or even the back garden.
Professionals: Standard driving quality
Price: £ 1,199 | Check the price on Amazon | Wiggle | Evans Cycles
An alternative all-rounder
Dimension: (open) 20 inches x 28 inches; (closed) 20 inches x 9 inches x 17 inches | Wheels: all from 24in to 29in MTB | Connectivity: ANT +, ANT + FE-C and Bluetooth | Devices: iOS, Android, PC (Mac and Windows) Weight: 21.3 kg | Maximum simulated degree: 20 percent | Maximum power: 2,200 W. | Accuracy: +/- 2 percent
KICKR rightly holds a reputation as the industry standard: with high-end construction and finish, ease of connectivity and responsive driving sensitivity, it is the meter of intelligent coach.
Like many higher-end units, the KICKR delivers the rear wheel while the frame mounts directly on the trainer (and on the pre-installed 11-speed cassette). This, combined with an oversized flywheel, means that KICKR works with a minimal drone.
KICKR is also rated with an incredible accuracy of +/- 2% for speed and power (essential for the credibility of performance when driving with your friends on virtual training apps such as Zwift).
The KICKR also perfectly matches Wahoo’s other accessories for indoor training: the CLIMB, a motorized front wheel lift, designed to replicate the road differences in height for “realistic” climbing and descent; and HEADWIND, an intelligent fan that reads your effort data and controls cooling air explosions accordingly.
Professionals: The ideal intelligent instructor for good reason
Versus: Nothing really, to be honest
Price: £ 1,000 | Check the price on Evans Cycles | wiggle
Elite Drivo II
Ideal for insane power and gradients
Dimension: (open) 76 cm x 79 cm; (closed) NA | Connectivity: ANT +, FE-C, Bluetooth | Devices: iOS, Android, PC (Mac and Windows) Weight: 19kg | Maximum simulated degree: 24 percent | Maximum power: 3,600 W. | Precision: +/- 0.5 percent
If the title specs for smart instructors are your bag, Drivo II will already have you hooked. With a maximum simulated gradient of 24%, the Drivo II (£ 699) it has the power to simulate some of the steepest climbs on the professional tour calendar such as the infamous Alto del Angliru (present on the Vuelta in Spain).
Cyclists who control maximum power will be equally impressed – even pro pelotón sprinters would struggle to run out of drag with a whopping 3,600 W (at 60 km / h) available.
Elite markets Drivo as the most accurate trainer on the market, with an accuracy of +/- 0.5 percent. For cyclists keen on clean data for serious workouts, this is a real attraction.
Like the Jet Black (above), the Drivo is not a look: it is large and has a brutal dung beetle aesthetic on its hind legs, but for serious training performance there is not much to match.
Professionals: Amazing endurance specifications
Price: From £ 699 | Check the price on Amazon | Halfords | wiggle
An inexpensive option for thrifty aesthetes
Dimension: (open) 57.5 cm x 75 cm; (closed) 56 cm x 43 cm | Connectivity: ANT +, ANT + FE-C and Bluetooth | Devices: iOS, Android, PC (Mac and Windows) Weight: 10.3 kg | Maximum simulated degree: 10 percent
Maximum power: 1,250 W. | Precision: +/- 3 percent
Elite shows that all turbo trainers don’t have to look like a rejected Klingon spaceship. The Yours (£ 399) is an attractive, but inexpensive intelligent trainer, designed in collaboration with the Turin design studio Adriano.
By using beech wood on the front legs, Your boasts a more lifestyle and more suitable for the home than the rest of its competitors (that wood also acts as an effective vibration damper). Your folds even smaller and is lighter than any other trainer here, another advantage of the more traditional wheeled style.
If you are struggling to adapt your equipment to a normal trainer, the Elite might be right for you, the Tue can accommodate larger chainstays and huge 148mm “Boost” hubs (with a thru axle). This means that you can train on your new school 29er mountain bike if you wish.
Yes, it does not correspond to high-end trainers in terms of power output (1,250 w) or simulated degree (up to 10%) – but, realistically, not many cyclists can disturb that type of figure.
Professionals: Finally, a trainer with a studied design
Versus: Training fanatics may be discouraged by “wheel” style
Price: £ 399 | Check the price on Tweeks | Tredz
JetBlack Whisper Drive Smart
Ideal for self-powered feeding
Dimension: (open) 70 cm x 55 cm; (closed) 5.5 cm x 49 cm | Connectivity: ANT +, Bluetooth | Devices: iOS, Android, PC (Mac and Windows) Weight: 17kg | Maximum simulated degree: 16 per cent | Maximum power: 2,500 W. | Accuracy: NA
The Australian Jet Black has created an intelligent trainer that is actually powered by the pilot. By skillfully harnessing the energy generated by pedaling, the unit is able to collect data and connect to training apps with just the pedal power – and yes, you can use the Whisper Drive (£ 500) to charge the phone too.
The trainer starts transmitting (ANT + FEC and Bluetooth) as soon as you turn a pedal. Smartphones include: speed, cadence, power, ERG mode and that very important connection with social apps such as The Sufferfest, Zwift, TrainerRoad and the MyJetBlack training app.
With a determined look (read “cute”), Whisper Drive will not attract installers in search of “gym jewelry”, but cyclists looking for innovative technology and impressive stamina might simply shout out his name.
Professionals: Intelligent self-powered
Versus: Occasionally slow engine
Price: £ 500 | Check the price on Amazon | Evans Cycles