The best turbo trainers

Squeezed for space but still want to fit in some home gym equipment? Turbo trainers are where it's at

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Turbo trainers make keeping fit so easy. Why? Well, we all know it can be hard to get your cycling fix if it’s raining, cold, or otherwise impossible to get out an about on your favourite routes. And, if your home gym amounts to the last bit of clear floor space in the garage or a corner in the box room, it’s unlikely you'll have the space to keep a static bike out permanently. That’s where the turbo trainer comes in. By contrast, turbo trainers are a more compact alternative to the exercise bike, and over time, a much cheaper alternative to a costly gym membership. Ready to find the best one for your home gym?

What is a turbo trainer? 

Turbo trainers are a great way of factoring in your resistance training at home when it’s lashing it down outside. A simple A frame that attaches to the quick release skewer of your bike’s rear wheel, it holds the bike upright and static for an indoor-friendly workout that gives you the same benefits as an outdoor one. Simple enough, but once you’ve decided you want to buy one, there are different types to choose from.

How to choose a turbo trainer

Magnetic and fluid resistance trainers offer an admirably realistic experience for the rider who’s used to being out on the road, but if you pick one up that’s also labelled as smart, you don’t have to rely on thinking about where you want to push yourself. Using buddy and universal apps, smart turbo trainers connect wirelessly to your device and allow you to everything from downloading virtual reality courses to uploading your data as you progress. 

For most the picks in our buying guide, we’ve listed the wheel sizes suitable for use, with one exception: direct drive trainers. These require you to remove the back wheel and attach to the bike frame instead, which reduces wear on the tyres and can make for a smoother ride, but is a little more fiddly. What we advise doing is thinking about the practical implications of each trainer: the wheel sizes suitable, the strenuousness of the setup, and the quietness of the ride, and seeing which one is suited to your particular needs.

1. Wahoo KICKR Smart Turbo Trainer

Sturdy, stable and very, very smart

Specifications
Best for: Natural feel
Type: Smart
Wheel Size: 24”, 26”, 27.5”, 29”, 650c, 700c
Resistance: 2000W
Reasons to buy
+ Great build quality + Varied and realistic rides 
Reasons to avoid
- On the noisy side 

Touted by Wiggle as 'the ultimate training experience', it’s little wonder the Wahoo KICKR has nabbed our top spot for best turbo trainer. Realistic and responsive, the trainer reacts to the course set out on the buddy Wahoo Fitness app, replicating inclines, intervals and sprints instantaneously for the most realistic cycling experience this side of the velodrome. Reviewers reported no wheel slip, a solid build, an easy setup, and superb realism. 

2. CycleOps Hammer Direct Drive Smart Trainer

Keeping an eye out for a low-key, quiet turbo trainer? This is it

Specifications
Best for: Variety
Type: Smart
Wheel Size: N/A
Resistance: 2000W
Reasons to buy
+ Smooth ride  + Easy to set up 
Reasons to avoid
- Not the best for long climbs 

This direct drive turbo trainer eliminates the annoyance of potentially bumpy tyre-to-roller contact by foregoing to rear wheel and attaching straight to the frame. This, plus the heavy base, is designed for a smooth ride, and that’s precisely what you get, an uninterrupted resistance training experience that lets you switch seamlessly between intense intervals and casual cool-downs. Finally, there were two particular high notes that reviewers picked up on: the quietness, and the ease of setup. If you want to introduce resistance training into your routine with as little fuss or fanfare as possible, this looks to be a good way to do it.

3. Elite Qubo Power Fluid Turbo Trainer

An ultra-realistic replication of road conditions

Specifications
Best for: Competitive riders
Type: Fluid
Wheel Size: 700c, 24” - 29”
Resistance: 2000W
Reasons to buy
+ Realistic response to input + High resistance at low speeds 
Reasons to avoid
- Some of the plastic parts could be more robust 

This affordable turbo trainer uses fluid resistance for a unique experience that, according to the manufacturer, is best suited to road racers. That’s because the weight of the user, and the power they put into the workout, influences the resistance that comes out, so it’s a good way of training up for your next race, letting you feel a realistic imitation of what you’ll be getting up to out on the road. The extra-large flywheel is immersed in oil, which sounds weird, but it’s all in the name of resistance: namely, offering high resistance even at lower speeds for a really good workout. 

4. Tacx Flux Direct Drive Smart Trainer

A great wheels-off alternative to the usual fare

Specifications
Best for: Serious trainers
Type: Smart
Wheel Size: 27.5”, 28” and 29”
Resistance: 1500W
Reasons to buy
+ Great all-round mid-range trainer + Loads of smart options for courses 
Reasons to avoid
- Slight lag when resistance changes 

The second direct drive smart trainer in our top five more than earns its place with a wealth of training and tracking options. It’s compatible with a huge range of smart cycle software, meaning you can take advantage of VR training, video courses, and a whole load of workouts to keep things interesting year-round. For such a versatile trainer, it’s pleasantly surprising to clock the mid-range price. There are some very slight negatives noted by reviewers, such as a small lag when changing resistance, that might throw you slightly off a particularly intense ride, but other than that, it looks to be unbeatable in its price band. 

5. Kinetic Rock And Roll II Smart Trainer

Rocks realistically for a bike-like feel

Specifications
Best for: Realistic feel
Type: Smart
Wheel Size: 22” to 29”
Resistance: 1500W
Reasons to buy
+ Great core workout + Wealth of compatible apps 
Reasons to avoid
- Some didn’t love the rocking motion 

This Kinetic trainer boasts the world’s only free-moving fluid trainer, combining that innovative tech with app-based training for what is, by all accounts, a pretty high-tech at-home workout for cyclists. Of course, with the wealth of apps such as the brand’s own Kinetic Fit, Zwift and TrainerRoad on offer, it’s a great one for tracking your progress, but the realistic feel of the fluid resistance in this trainer is recommended for a core workout, so if cycling is your method of choice for getting or keeping fit, you’ll get a great deal of use out of it even if apps aren’t your thing. 

6. Tacx Satori Smart Turbo Trainer

Easy breezy right out of the box

Specifications
Best for: Simplicity
Type: Magnetic
Wheel Size: 700c, 26” to 29”
Resistance: Magnetic
Reasons to buy
+ Easy to track progress  + Foolproof setup 
Reasons to avoid
- Doesn’t give a huge amount of info 

Far be it from us simply to suggest the cheapest options for your home gym, but when a budget buy really works, we’d be silly not to include it. The Tacx Satori Smart Turbo Trainer measures speed, cadence and power and wirelessly sends the data over to your device so you can keep track of your progress, and users loved how easy it was to pair with the buddy app. It’s not the most detailed in terms of info, but for beginners and budgets, this entry-level trainer looks to offer really superb value, and by all accounts succeeds. 

7. JetBlack M5 Pro Mag Trainer

Exceptionally quick off the mark, this is one for the time-starved

Specifications
Best for: Quick-release mounting
Type: Magnetic
Wheel Size: 700c, 29”, 27.5”, 26”, 24”
Resistance: 300W
Reasons to buy
+ Smooth, stable and quiet + Reduces tyre wear 
Reasons to avoid
- Max resistance isn’t very high 

With its out-of-the-box readiness and clever quick release mounting system setting it apart from the competition, this magnetic resistance turbo trainer is one of the best for a quick setup – because sometimes, you just want to get down to business. With its wide base and anti-slip feet it’s designed to stay put, even if you’re pushing hard to get up that imaginary incline or relegated to the room with the treacherously slippy hardwood floor. JetBlack also promise a particularly smooth and quiet ride, claiming that the M5 Pro Mag can take the amount of resultant tyre wear from normal composite rollers and slash it by a not-inconsiderably 25 to 30 per cent, not to mention reducing noise by 55 per cent. Not too shabby – and your tyres won’t be either, making this a good bet if you work out frequently and are worried about wear and tear. 

Want more home gym advice? Check out our buying guides: