Find your perfect winter training partner in our best triathlon turbo trainer review.
How we test
Each turbo trainer was tested with the same road bike, with the rear tyre inflated to 120psi. We couldn’t guarantee exactly the same tyre-to-roller pressure for each turbo but we did our best to make sure it was as close as possible.
We assessed them using several criteria, including ease of set-up, number of useful features, price, noise, time for the flywheel to stop after a sprint and how they felt to ride compared with riding on the road. Many turbo trainers lack that sensation of momentum, which means your pedalling style is not the same as on the road. This isn’t crucial for building your fitness but we’ve always felt that mimicking road feel makes turbo sessions that bit more bearable.
1. Beto Airflow
It may be cheap but this Beto fan resistance trainer has little else to recommend it other than being easy to set up and relatively stable when you’re riding on it. There’s no adjustable resistance on the turbo, which means you’re stuck with whatever it comes with. And this is not good: it took just four seconds for the rear wheel to stop after a sprint. That resistance resulted in the choppiest, ugliest pedalling motion we’ve ever managed on a bike and it’s loud when in use. It’s so far removed from the reality of riding a bike that, unless you’re desperate to ride your bike indoors, we’d recommend you save your cash and get a better model, or rent a WattBike for a couple of months
Yes it’s cheap, but its choppy action means it definitely is not cheerful.
2. CycleOps Classic Mag trainer
A budget turbo trainer that’s fit for purpose, the CycleOps Classic Mag is an ideal entry-level turbo. It has five resistance settings which are not adjustable remotely, but you can still use your gears like you would on the road. We found the lowest two settings would suit most riders, and maintaining a decent cadence wasn’t a problem – it gave a surprisingly good rolling feel. We had no slip when sprinting and time to a standstill from a max effort was 16 seconds on the lowest resistance setting. For a little extra motivation, it comes with a Race Day DVD to help your training programme.
Great value turbo trainer for beginners , with the lack of remote the only minor issue .
3. Elite Novo Force
The Novo Force magnetic trainer from Elite is an entry-level turbo. It features five resistance settings, operated from the handlebar, which we found were adequate for any workout we would want to do indoors. It’s fairly quiet by turbo standards – a high-pitched whine rather than the sound of a jumbo taking off in your living room. Its lowest setting offers a comfortable spinning resistance for recovery sessions or rest intervals, and although it didn’t feel as road-like as the Kinetic Magnetic, it wasn’t bad. After a sprint it took 38 seconds for the rear wheel to stop on the lowest resistance setting, which we’d put right in the middle of the acceptable range for this basic inertia test.
Solid performer that is let down by its high price for an entry-level turbo .
4. Kinetic Magnetic
We’ve tested our share of excellent turbos from Kurt Kinetic but we had not ridden the Magnetic before. We were very impressed by it. It was the quietest turbo on test and it offers eight resistance settings via a handlebar-mounted lever. On the lowest resistance setting, our sprint test took 60 seconds from flat out to a stop. We wouldn’t generally use this low setting for anything but recovery rides but it’s nice to have that option, and a good indicator that you’ll get a smooth, real-life ride on it. At the other end of the scale, there’s more than enough resistance for bigger, more powerful riders, making this a good option for triathletes of all fitness levels. It’s not exactly a ‘budget’ option, but definitely worth considering
A great turbo that would suit a lot of riders, but expensive .
5. Elite Qubo wireless digital trainer
Elite’s Qubo digital turbo is simple to set up and even the wireless handlebar-mounted computer doesn’t take too long to master. It needs mains power so it’s strictly for indoor use. It gave a nice smooth ride with no slip when sprinting. Roll-down time was 34 seconds from a sprint to a stop. There are several options, including a set power (which can be programmed into interval sessions) or you can just train to a set level, which you can adjust on the go. We found that the set power matched our PowerTap watts to within 5-10W, if we kept cadence consistent. For the money, we think this is a great indoor training option
Mains power limits the location of your session, but otherwise excellent.
6. Kinetic Rock and Roll
The Kinetic Rock and Roll scored well in our test last year and with good reason, so we’ve included it in the line-up again this winter. Thanks to a clever design giving it incredible stability, it’s the only turbo that allows you to move the bike underneath you, so you can get out of the saddle and give it some welly just as you would out on the road. It doesn’t feel exactly the same as riding in the great outdoors but it’s impressively close for a turbo. You can couple it with a pro flywheel (available separately) for a tougher workout, but in practice we found the smaller flywheel that it came with did the job well. We took 45 seconds to go from a sprint to a stop on the Rock and Roll.
Clever bit of kit that we really like, but RRP is sky-high .
7. Minoura Magteqs
Minoura’s latest magnetic turbo trainer, the MAGTEQS is aimed at the serious triathlete or cyclist who wants the option of greater resistance for tougher indoor bike workouts. Even on the easiest of its 13 resistance settings you don’t get a free ride, as it took only 15 seconds to go from a sprint to a stop. Using the higher settings here, you’re really going to have to work for your pedal strokes, but if beasting yourself on the bike is what you have in mind over winter then this turbo is a good option. It runs off two neodymium magnets and while it doesn’t generate that much noise while you’re riding, there are definitely quieter turbos on the market. It’s well constructed and easy to set up and use.
Excellent turbo for strong indoor sessions but feels average compared to road riding.
8. Le Mond Revolution
We tested this trainer in 2011, but it’s now available without a cassette. Here it works off a big, belt-driven fan that effectively replaces your rear wheel, eliminating the problem of tyre wear which is handy for any turbo devotees planning on spending a winter indoors. All resistance is provided through the gears on your bike. As we found last year, pedalling action on the trainer is very smooth and it feels incredibly lifelike to ride, but is also incredibly loud, like most air trainers. It’s not something you’ll wear out in a hurry either as it’s very solidly built. For an extra £300 you can buy the LeMond Power Pilot, a power meter with downloadable data designed specifically for this trainer
Good build quality but noise levels and lack of remote adjustment let it down .
If you want a training system with the lot, the Genius and its version 4 software should be on your list. The resistance unit works wirelessly via the software on your PC. It copes with real-world variables like wind resistance and direction as well as gradients. You can use set courses with virtual scenery, or upload one of your own GPS-recorded rides, then ride it in VR using Google Earth, complete with gradient adjustments. As the name suggests you can race other riders via an internet connection. There’s more analysis data than you can shake a stick at, too. Set-up is quick, with video instructions available.
Very easy to set up and the experience of using it is incredible, but so is the price .
We were impressed by nearly all nine turbo trainers we tested. The overall quality of the machines has improved since last year and we found basic problems like tyre slip under high power were almost nonexistent.
The CycleOps Classic Mag trainer is our budget winner. For just £150 you’d be hard pressed to find many serviceable turbos cheaper than this. It felt as realistic to ride as machines that were over £200 more expensive, and wasn’t any noisier. Although you can’t change resistance settings on the fly, we found one setting, plus our gears, was enough.
The Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll was one of our favourites. Its unique design means you’re able to get out of the saddle when training and it simulates on-road riding really well. Granted, it’s expensive, noisy and bulky, but if you’re OK with these and want something that you can properly sprint on, then give it a good look.
The Tacx Genius Multiplayer VR trainer is the one to get if you want full virtual reality immersion (Elite do something similar with their RealPower system). But considering a balance of price versus functionality, the Elite Qubo Wireless Digital Trainer is our overall winner. At £400, it offers you all the functions you need to train, including the essential power measurement