A buyer’s guide to buying an indoor trainer in India. What all you need to look for in a trainer and the brands available in the country. And once you get a trainer, how to set it up and get the most out of it…
If you’ve already read the guide to indoor cycling in India, along with the advice from CyclingMonks’ many friends, and want to get into indoor training, then continue reading!
Unlike the first part on indoor cycling, this second part helps you buy a trainer, set it up and get the most out of it.
Grab a coffee and start reading, because there is lot to read!
Buying an Indoor Trainer
We begin with…
Types of Trainers
An indoor trainer is made up of a metal frame, clamps for the bike’s rear axle to be fixed and a roller to provide resistance to the rear wheel (not applicable for direct drive trainers) and a resistance mechanism.
Before you go ahead and splurge on fancy new equipment for your indoor training needs, here’s a variety of trainers. These machines differ in price, method of providing resistance, connectivity with apps and structure.
As with all wheel on trainers, this type of trainer also has the same metal frame. There are clamps for attaching the rear wheel and a roller to provide resistance to the rear tyre.
The difference in all these trainers is in the mechanism used to build resistance against the rear wheel.
As you pedal, the rear wheel turns, pressing against the roller. The roller in turn moves a fan at the rear of the trainer. The air is what eventually provides resistance to the fan and indirectly to your legs, which is from where it derives its name.
These trainers are generally the cheapest option. The downsides are plenty. Prominent of which are, wind trainers are extremely noisy and provide insufficient resistance for a half-decent cyclist.
Magnetic trainers are built like wind trainers, the difference is that magnets are used instead of air to create resistance.
An internal flywheel filled with opposing magnets generates the resistance which the rider feels. The resistance built by magnets is generally more than that of wind trainers. The resistance level can be adjusted, a few by getting off the bike and pulling levers, while more expensive ones have remotes attached to a cable to do the job.
A fluid trainer is also built as the above two.
The resistance is generated with the help of fluid inside a sealed unit. A fan pushes against the fluid and the resistance of the fluid against the blades is what you feel in your legs.
These are more expensive than the previous two and are also significantly quieter. The amount of resistance produced is also more, allowing you to train harder. A downside with this trainer is that users have reported fluid seeping out of the sealed container. Especially under hard efforts when the fluid heats up.
Manufacturers claim that problem is a thing of the past and fluid trainers these days do not suffer from leakage.
A trainer absolutely unlike the others. This is the simplest machine of the lot and is what was originally considered an indoor bike trainer.
There is a rectangular metal frame, with three rolling drums within the frame. Two of the rollers support your rear wheel, while the single one supports the front wheel.
Unlike the other form of trainers, your bike isn’t fixed to this. The advantage of which is you can use pretty much any bike on a roller, which isn’t the case with a turbo trainer.
Rollers require significantly more skill and precision while riding. Which is why they help with bike handling skills.
The shape and size also means that rollers are easy to fold and store when not in use.
As with everything smart these days, indoor trainers which are interactive are called smart trainers. These trainers can communicate with your apps and devices.
Even among the smart trainers there are two varieties. Trainers which can relay information to your device/ app, one-way communication. And trainers which can relay and receive data from your app. The latter will automatically adjust the resistance as per the instructions of your app.
These type of trainers are expensive, but come the closest to replicating real world feel.
Within this category there are two variants. Wheel on trainers and direct drive trainers.
As the name suggests, in the former, the bike’s wheel remains fixed to the bike and presses against the trainer roller.
With direct drive trainers, the rear wheel is removed and the bike drivetrain is connected directly to the trainer. These are the top-of-the-line trainers from all the different brands.
Choosing a Trainer
Now that you know the different types of trainers available in the market, how do you choose one? Below are a bunch of parameters you must keep in mind while buying an indoor trainer.
Adjusting the Resistance
The cheapest trainers in the market have little to no resistance adjustment. Rollers cannot be adjusted at all.
Some trainers require you to dismount and adjust the resistance levels. The best trainers can change the resistance basis of what is visible on your computer screen. If you see yourself climbing a virtual hill, you will feel yourself climbing a hill!
This functionality comes at an increasingly higher cost. Depending on your training requirements, you will need to decide what works for you or not.
Real World Simulation
The most important thing that all cyclists want in their indoor training is to replicate outdoor feel.
The closer you want your indoor riding to be to the outdoors, the more money you need to spend. Cheaper trainers feel nothing like riding outdoors, while the most expensive setups do allow you to train realistically.
That being said, the joy of riding outdoors can of course only be experienced outside.
Irrespective of how much you enjoy your training, people who live around you might not.
Cheaper trainers can get really noisy. Which negates one of the benefits of indoor training, where you can train at any time of the day or night.
As with the previous two attributes, the cost and silence goes hand-in-hand. Truly silence is golden or costs as much as gold!
This point is relevant only to smart trainers. When selecting a smart trainer ensure it connects to your favourite indoor training application.
A classic trainer will not allow you to record or save your ride data. Without data it is difficult to keep track of your training regime or progress.
Check whether the sensors you have can be connected to the indoor trainer or not. Some trainer brands only use Bluetooth, while others use ANT+.
You wouldn’t want to invest in a trainer and then realise that you need to invest in a whole new bunch of sensors.
How much are you willing to spend? How often will you be using the trainer?
If you are only going to use a trainer for recovery rides, then you probably don’t need the fanciest.
If you are into more serious training, you might want to stretch your budget and get the best there is.
Service in India
Like premium cycles in the country, all indoor trainers are imported.
If something goes wrong, you need to deal with the Indian distributor. Unlike cycles which are simpler machines, expensive trainers are complicated. Getting spares and replacement parts can be a nightmare.
Often a dysfunctional trainer cannot be repaired and needs to be junked.
Check to see which brands have the best after sales service in India. A distributors reputation can go a long way in choosing a brand.
Trainer Compatibility with your bike
If you have anything other than a traditional roadbike, it is a good idea to check whether your bike is compatible with the trainer you like. Different wheel sizes, tyre widths, wheel mounting systems etc. have queered the pitch.
Most trainers provide converters to mount your bike onto the trainer. Nonetheless, it is a good to cross check with the manufacturer regarding trainer-bike compatibility.
One workaround which a few cyclists have done, is to buy a cheap road bike only to be mounted on the indoor trainer!
Buying an indoor trainer isn’t just the cost of the trainer itself. But the accompanying accessories as well. Stores will likely try to palm off the whole ensemble to an unsuspecting buyer.
Some of these accessories are essential to your riding, some are nice to have and others are plain ridiculous.
Trainer tyre, front wheel riser block, floor mat, ANT+ dongle for your laptop etc. are a few useful accessories to have while indoor training.
Apps for your Smart Trainer
Buying an indoor trainer which is smart means you to need to connect it to an app. The app controls your trainer and makes your structured training all the more fun.
The trainer you purchase will generally have an in-house training app. It will be basic, enough to build and follow structured workouts, but might not have the chutzpah of some of more popular trainer apps.
Almost all the apps are paid, with monthly and annual subscriptions.
Some apps work only on Windows, others on iOS and some on Android. A few even work on all platforms. You need to check whether the application you are subscribing to, works with the device you own.
Zwift is the most popular app in India by far. Every cyclist and their grandfather can be found on this app. Another app a lot of cyclists use for training is Trainer Road. The Sufferfest is another app which lies inbetween Zwift and Trainer Road in terms of features.
Setting up a training zone
An indoor training setup does not take up a lot of space in the house. It can still be a problem, especially if you live in a flat.
You would want to have a setup which doesn’t occupy too much space and also allows you to train comfortably indoors.
Ideally, your setup should be such, that you can leave it as it is, even when not riding. Else, you will end up spending a lot of time putting everything together every time you ride. Eventually avoiding the effort and missing out on your training ride.
If possible, choose a space in your house which can be left undisturbed. You need roughly 3 feet by 7 feet to fit everything in with a level floor and power outlets for your smart trainer. You don’t need power for classic trainers or rollers.
Equipment for your indoor training setup:
Other than the two obvious elements of bike and trainer, the first thing you should purchase for indoor training is a mat. This gets placed under the trainer and the bike’s front wheel. The mat helps absorb vibrations and noise from your trainer, instead of transmitting it to the floor and people who live below you. It also collects the pools of sweat dripping off you.
A front wheel riser block helps keep your bike level. Else you will constantly feel like you are riding downhill. A hack is to use books or such to raise the front wheel, but if you are planning to spend a lot of time indoor training, then getting a dedicated block makes sense.
A pedestal fan is a life saver. Indoors you don’t experience the wind while moving on a bike outdoors. Your body will overheat much faster and to keep things cool, you need a fan pointed directly at you.
Device to run your application. Be it mobile, laptop or tablet. You will need a small table or stand to place it in front of you. Some even choose to connect it to their TVs for a bigger and better viewing experience. Especially if you are using an app like Zwift.
If not using a smart trainer, you can use your bike sensors connected to your bike computer to record your ride. The bike computer is fitted in its regular spot.
Wireless headphones are perfect if you plan to listen to music or watch a movie while doing your workout. Sitting in one place pedalling away can get monotonous.
Soft highly absorbent towel. You will be sweating by the bucketloads and will need the towel. Hang it over the bars and top tube and it will act as a sweat catcher as well, protecting your frame and drivetrain from the salty sweat.
Experiment with placement of all these things around you, and within a few rides, you will have a setup which works. A useful tip to use is to keep the windows open near the setup. It will help greatly with ventilation and keeping things cool.
Indoor Trainer Brands in India
Now that you know what type of trainer you want and are ready to buy one. Here are the brands currently available in India:
(Unfortunately most distributors in India haven’t as yet learnt how to build a proper website!)
Kinetic by Kurt
The brand Kinetic came into existence in 2000, when the parent company, Kurt, found itself with a lot of stock and tooling for indoor trainers. Previously Kurt manufactured trainers for other brands.
Since then these trainers have steadily improved and saw a revamp in 2013.
In India, Kinetic is imported and distributed by Happy Earth, based in Bangalore. They sell trainers starting at Rs 27500/- for the basic fluid trainer and going up to Rs 84900/- for the smart direct drive trainer.
Tacx is a Dutch company which has been manufacturing indoor trainers for a long time now. Starting with rollers and then connecting trainers to computers as early as 2000, when most people didn’t even have computers!
In 2019, Garmin acquired Tacx, and that acquisition is still unfolding.
In India, Tacx is imported and distributed by Brightex, based in Pune. The same folks distributing Garmin here. You can check out their range on the Garmin India website.
Wahoo is an American brand which makes indoor trainers, bike computers and related accessories.
In India, Wahoo indoor trainers are imported and distributed by Mumbai based, Ensign Sports. You can check out the range of trainers on the BOTS website.
Jetblack is an Australian company which manufactures and supplies indoor trainers across the globe.
In India, Jetblack is imported and distributed by Mumbai based, Ensign Sports. You can contact them on their Facebook page for more information.
Elite is an Italian company involved in the manufacture of cycling accessories for decades.
In India Elite is imported and distributed by Pune based, Extreme Adventure Sports. You can get in touch with them on the EAS Facebook page.
Minoura is a Japanese manufacturer of indoor trainers. The company is almost 90 years old now. In 1988, they came out with a magnetic trainer, which is a long time ago.
In India Mumbai based, Longshine imports and distributes Minoura indoor trainers. You can get in touch with them on their Facebook page.
Btwin a brand from the French sports giant, Decathlon. Available online and now in most big cities.
Only two basic models of indoor bike trainers are available from Btwin. No smart trainer is sold.
You can find their trainers on the Decathlon website.
If you enjoyed this guide to buying an indoor trainer in India and wondering what all you can do with one, then read this 24 hour indoor ride by Sumit Patil! Also have a look at the bicycle brands which are available in India…