Bicycle trainers are great tools for cyclists who wish to maintain or improve their fitness level when biking outdoors may not be practical. Such as avoiding bad weather or wanting to get in a quick workout on a tight schedule. They also take up very little space as opposed to a larger stationary bike.
You typically mount the rear wheel of your bicycle to the trainer, which creates resistance as you pedal in place. This helps give consistency to your workout because you can use the same equipment (your bike) both indoors and out.
There are many options out there and based on your budget and/or goals, you can usually find a trainer that suits your needs.
Magnetic Trainers utilize opposing magnets to create resistance. Most consider magnetic trainers as an entry-level trainer for beginners or those who are not planning on doing much riding indoors. They usually have an adjustable shift that you can mount on your handlebars to change resistance.
Pros: They are the least expensive. Typically, easy to setup and have a lot of options.
Cons: While they are adjustable, the range is limited. They can be noisy. They don’t have a very realistic road feel.
Pros: Much quieter. More realistic road feel.
Cons: More expensive than the magnetic trainer.
Direct Drive Trainer
The direct drive trainer is typically used by the more serious cyclist looking to improve their performance. The rear tire is removed from the bike and the frame is mounted onto the trainer along with the chain. This makes the bike incredibly stable so the rider can pedal vigorously without worrying about rocking.
Pros: Extremely quiet. No slippage. Very realistic road feel.
Cons: The most expensive. Harder to setup due to having to remove the back tire from the bike. Not as portable.
Rollers rely on three spinning drums within a frame. The front tire of the bike rolls atop of one drum while the rear tire spins between the other two. You must maintain your balance on these as you pedal and many elite cyclists utilize them because it requires additional control to keep oneself upright.
Pros: Wide variety and price points
Cons: You can fall off these quite easily if you’re not vigilant