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Bicycle trainers mean you can ride when you can't.

"The use of bicycle trainers me motivated through the winter", Mike, Iowa

There is only so much skiing you can do in the winter. You have to take a break from your "break" from cycling. But where are you going to ride when there is snow on the ground. You could join the Icebike crowd and ride in the really deep snow. You could commute to work and get your riding that way, but you are still out in the snow. Then again, you could take a trip somewhere warm and get the riding you love so much without the cold.

The rest of us use bicycle trainers to get our riding done in the winter and when the weather is just not "right".

There are four types of trainers and one great training aide I'll tell you about.

 

Rollers

Kreitler 2.25in Complete Roller SetRollers have long been a staple of indoor training. Not that long ago there weren't too many choices in rollers. You really could choose one name, Kreitler. For over 40 years Al Kreitler was making these rollers out of his shop. You can read about the history of Kreitler rollers here. Kreitler makes a very large selection of rollers that come in different quality levels. Pretty much anything you are looking for is there from Kreitler. There is once exception that only one company makes. I'll tell you about those below in my rollers section.

Kreitler offers a complete training station that has everything you need to ride including the fan below. There are two models that are available,Kreitler Kat 2 Training Station

Kreitler offers some pretty cool (no pun intended as you'll see) options for their rollers that bicycle trainersno one Kreitler Killer Kool Headwind Fan .It attaches to the rollers and is powered by the rollers, adding resistance while you ride. The harder you pedal, the hard it gets to ride, just like the real world. Now while this isn't that much different than the way some stationary bicycle trainers offer resistance, what is different is this wind is directed at you. As you ride the wind begins blowing on you, wherever you have it pointed. As you ride faster, the wind blows harder, just like real riding. This is a pretty simple concept when you think about it but I haven't seen anyone else offer it.That's pretty cool (again, bad pun).

bicycle trainersThere are ,of course, different brands of rollers out there. Cycle-Ops, made by Saris the manufacturer of the Power Tap power meter offers several different rollers. They have some basic rollers you can get that have PVC drums and a pretty basic setup for not a lot of money.

 

The hard thing about rollers is getting used to balancing on them.bicycle trainers Riding them is nothing like riding on a trainer where your front wheel is on a block (like my computrainer works) or locked into a fork clamp. Not that there is anything bad about clamping your front wheel in. Different strokes you know.

Here's what one of those clamps looks like on a Cycle-Ops roller setup. The only problem is that you aren't getting the benefit of moving around from side to side that rollers offer you. What is nice with the stand is you can invest in one bicycle trainer if you have riders of different abilities in the house. One rider might not be ready to ride on rollers while another is. Kind of makes financial sense to me. Since I am the only rider in the house that uses a trainer, this really didn't apply to me so I chose a different route.

One more company that has made a name for itself in the world of rollers is Minoura. They offer some pretty nice sets of rollers for decent prices.

Take a look at this assortment of rollers from different manufacturers If you can't decide what you like. Of course, you can read on for the ultimate set of rollers, but they do come at a price.


My rollers

bicycle trainers bicycle trainers

Inside Ride makes the eMotion rollers. I have these rollers. I'll share my experiences with this roller setup with you. The roller diameter is about 3" (actually just a hair over according to my calipers). As far as bicycle trainers go, this is one of the best (there is one exception, but who can afford it?)

bicycle trainersThe eMotion rollers have a unique setup. At the front roller, on each side, is a set of inline skate wheels. You can see it in this photo. The inline skate wheels will contact the sidewall of your tire should you drift over to the side while riding or you get a little overzealous sprinting (yes sprinting). This keeps you from riding off the side of the rollers and crashing to the floor. Very embarrassing and potentially dangerous. If you can't picture what I mean, look at this video.You really can do this.

The great thing is that with this piece of mind, you can go all out and train with full power without worrying about crashing. Standing on these rollers is no problem. Sprinting on these rollers is no problem. Simply amazing.

The rollers ride in a track that allow them to slide back and forth as you change the amount of effort you put into a ride. You know how you kick back when you go to stand climbing a hill (and the guy behind you yells at you for almost hitting his front wheel?) Well, the eMotion rollers let you slide back because the rollers themselves move on a rail system with a shock absorber. You can see what I mean in this video. Something else I find very comforting is you can ride no hands on these rollers without a problem. Again the shock absorbing motion takes up the little back and forth motion that makes it hard to ride with no hands on other brands of rollers.

There are bumpers that you can mount on the rear wheel or front and rear wheel. These bumpers are for the unlikely event you move more than the shock absorbing system can take up and your wheel comes off the rollers. These bumpers spin and keep you from riding off the front or rear of the roller drums. Neat idea.

They are super quiet. I ride them in my theater and watch a movie all the time. Now, when I want to ride a specific ride, I'll move to the computrainer in my gym.

One thing about them is they are pricey. I paid around $800 for mine. A lot of money, but after riding others, then riding these. There really was no other option as far as rollers went. Kreitler's are nice, these are great.


Stationary Trainers

Stationary trainers are a low cost, easy way to get some riding done in the winter or any other time you don't want to ride outside. They are more stable than rollers and without a computerized component, they are must less expensive than the Computrainer or Tacx Fortius.

Many different manufacturers offer stationary trainers. I have two of them. The Kurt Kinetic Fluid bicycle trainer and the Cateye Cyclosimulator CS-1000. Having a stand alone stationary trainer is a great way to warm up before a race. I like to take a trainer with me and set it up beside the car to sit and spin and talk to my friends. These come in really handy in 24 hour endurnace races when you are doing a team event and you need to warm up before your lap. KURT KINETIC fluid trainerbicycle trainers

KURT KINETIC makes some really nice bicycle trainers. The model in the link is even approved for tandem use.  My Kurt is absolutely silent. This is because the resistance is fluid as opposed to a wind or magnetic like some other models out there. There is a magnetic connection between the side with the roller that your tire contacts and the fluid chamber. This eliminates a seal that could leak. There is some debate as to how well the fluid trainers reproduce higher speed resistance versus the wind based trainers but after the use I put it through I can say it is very good. This trainer has a 6-1/4# flywheel to smooth out your acceleration and coasting. This gives a more realistic feel to the ride. I understand there is now a Pro model with an additional 12# flywheel to give you a 60 second coast from 25 mph. This is unreal. My Kinetic will coast for 15-20 seconds with the 6# flywheel and that feels really good. Nice when you want to take a break.

You definately don't want to touch the cooling fins on this bicycle trainer when you are done with a long ride. They get hot! I am sure this is why they went with a magnetic connection between the roller and the fluid. All of this heat would most likely increase pressure and force the fluid out past a seal.

bicycle trainersKurt has introduced a model called the Rock & Roll . This new trainer has a swivel at the base that allows you to get the side to side motion you feel when riding your road bike up a hill. You aren't locked in like you are in other models of bicycle trainers.

That was always a downside to the basic stationary bicycle trainer, you couldn't rock your bike from side to side when you were standing up and "climbing a hill". I am glad to see that someone has come up with a solution to this. You can, as I had stated before, do this on rollers but they aren't for everyone.

My Cateye Cyclosimulator CS-1000 (discontinued but available on eBay every now and then) bicycle trainersbicycle traineroffered the best of both worlds in terms of wind and magnetic resistance. You can ride the trainer on purely wind resistance and add more and more magnetic resistance as you need it via a lever that mounted below the pole mounted display. (see picture). The display shows wattage, speed, time and distance. It was a great trainer in its day and if you can get one, do so.

The rear wheel mounts into the Cyclosimulator,we call it the cyclostimulator :) with a simple screw in mechanism, there is no quick release like the Kurt has. You can see this in the photo above.

Also note in the photo below the mag and air resistance "chambers" for the CS-1000 bicycle trainer. You can also see the foot lever to step on the release the pressure from the roller on the rear wheel. As you can see from the mark on the roller, this has seen a lot of use.

bicycle trainer

Here's a full view what it looks like with my sister-in-law's bike mounted on it in their basement.

bicycle trainer

 

bicycle trainersNow as far as stationary bicycle trainers go, you are going to need to prop the front wheel of your bike up to make it level with the back wheel. Now, you can use a 2x4 or something like that but that isn't the most stable solution. Some trainers come with a basic wheel block. I prefer to use the CycleOps Riser Block . My local shop uses one when they fit you to a bike. Here's a photo of mine set up with my Computrainer. I like it because it offers three different heights. You can change the block depending on what you want, level, slope up or slope down. Of course if you have 650c tires or are using a mountain bike in your trainer this is nice too. There is pretty much enough adjustment with the three way setting that you can get comfortablebicycle trainers.

If this doesn't offer you enought variation, you can use the Kinetic Riser Block . This offers you four positions for a little more added adjustment.


Computerized Bicycle Trainers

Sometimes even riding your rollers can get to you. You want some competition rather than watch a movie. Sure as bicycle trainers go, stationary trainers are good, rollers are great but a computerized trainer is a different beast. There are a couple different kinds of computerized bicycle trainers on the market. I personally have the Racermate Computrainer Pro. This was a very advanced system when it came out.

The Computrainer offers you the ability to do a few different things. You can ride the system in the"3D" mode. This puts you up on the screen as a rider in your choice of a few different colored kits. The computer puts up a rider on the right in liquid metal and you are on the left. I haven't found a way to choose a different side but I guess that isn't all that important. On the bottom of the screen you get your speed, average, top, distance, lead or lag in seconds, wattage, average watts, max watts, RPM (average and max of those too), pulse (wired or wireless, in average and max), calories burned, percent grade, head or tailwind and perceived power. Whew that was a lot!

bicycle trainers

Basically you get a lot of data. Now if you want even more, you can split the screen and see how well you are doing putting the power down on either the left or the right side. This is called SpinScan, you can read more about this on racermate's site here. It basically lets you adjust your pedal stroke with real time feedback on how round you are pedaling. It not only makes you more efficient but makes you stronger as well. By working the muscles all together, you get more power with less effort.

Now you can choose four different ways to ride a course on the Computrainer. You can build a course on your own from data you input or get from an interface with a GPS

  • you can let the system make a random course for you
  • you can download a course from Racermate's site. People are building tons of courses.
  • I have found it's a nice way to re-live a vacation by downloading a course from data my GPS collected and upload this into a course with software that Racermate sells. It's just a little cool thing that makes the ride on the Computrainer that much better.
  • The newest way is the Real Video courses that they are selling.

Suffice to say, as far as bicycle trainers go, this is pretty advanced.

Here are some currently for sale on eBay:

If you want to step in a slightly different direction, you can go with another computerized bicycle trainer that is on the market comes from a company called Trax. They make the Tacx Fortius Bicycle Trainer

This is a system that is newer than the Computrainer. It has a feature that makes it stand apart from the Computrainer bicycle trainer.bicycle trainers

  • The rear wheel is powered when you go downhill so it keeps spinning.

The on bike controller for the Tacx is quite a bit different from the one that the Computrainer uses. It appears to be a little more simplified but that can be a down side. You can use the computrainer head unit without hooking it up to a computer because it will display wattage, pulse and rpms without the Windows computer being on. It has a built in LCD display.

The Tacx has a rubber ring that comprises all of the controls that you will need on the bike. Not the same.

The computer system requirements are much higher for the Tacx than they are for the Computrainer. As the Computrainer (without real video Pentium 4 or faster with real video) can get by with a 500mhz processor, the Tacx requires a 3.0ghz processor and 2GB of Ram. Now, if you are spending $1500 or so on a bike trainer, you probably already have a fast enough computer to run this. The question is, do you have a fast enough dedicated computer to run this. That is the rub. Most people don't have a computer where they ride their bicycle trainers. Going out and getting a dedicated cheapo computer is one thing. Going out and getting a pretty decent computer for your bicycle trainer is another. Keep that in mind.

Don't take it that I like the Computrainer better than the Tacx. I think they are both great. They are similar but different and I just want to give you information so you can choose for yourself.


Power Cranks

Do you want to gain that little bit extra from your riding? We all know we need to do one legged drills but we bicycle trainersnever do. Why? because they suck and are a pain. What if you could get one legged drills from every training ride and make yourself a better rider at the same time?

It is pretty easy with a pair of specialized cranks called Power Cranks. I got turned on to these about two or three years ago. One of my friends was talking about them and how they had helped him round out his pedal stroke. I figured I might as well try them.

The first thing you notice about the picture of my bike is that the cranks are not in sync. They are not 180 degrees apart. You really can't get your head around how they work unless you see them work.

Take a look at the video below to get a better idea of how they work.

 

 


Now here are some power cranks for sale on eBay:




Treadmill Based Bicycle Trainers

Now here is an over the top trainer. If you have more money than you know what to do with, then this is the bicycle trainer for you.

It is called the Super Trainer. There aren't any bicycle trainers else like it on the market. Here is a little bit about it

The Inside Ride Super Trainer
Photo ©: Inside Ride:bicycle trainers

  • 5'x12'
  • 900 pound weight
  • 220volt, 20 amp power requirements
  • Nearly 30mph top speed
  • Over 16% grade possible
  • Built in cooling fan
  • light sensors to create ring of light safety curtain around riders
  • Belt can stop almost instantly from top speed for safety.
  • Around $40,000 price tag

I have written Inside Ride for permission to reproduce a lot of their information here. If I am able to secure it, I'll include that data right into this site along with videos of the unit running. For now, you'll have to go here to see more about the Super Trainer.

 

No matter what kind of bicycle trainers you use, the use of a training mat is something you really should bicycle trainersconsider. I have mats down in my gym where I regularly ride my trainer(s). When I move the eMotion rollers into the theater, I put a towel down but that is temporary. A mat will give your floor protection from sweat, tire dust, spilled water from your water bottle and a lot more. You can see from the photo in my gym I have almost the whole floor covered to protect the carpet. When I have moved things around, I can really see where the mats were because the tire dust from the use of my trainer has darkened the carpet that only a deep steam cleaning brings out.bicycle trainers

Of course the only spot that isn't covered right now is currently under the wheel of my bike with the Power Cranks on it. I am going to catch hell from my wife when she sees the darkened carpet the next time I pull up the mats to move equipment around.

I really should have one under the treadmill because the dust from your shoes and the belt of the treadmill wearing collects at the back of the tread mill and makes almost as big a mess as the tire dust from your tire wearing on a trainer.

 

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