With the introduction of smart indoor bike trainers, there are now more options available to help you bring your outdoor ride inside. Here at CycleOps, we've been at the forefront of indoor bike trainer technology for over two decades. In fact, we were the first to have a smart bike trainer before such a thing existed.
So what exactly is a smart trainer? Where a basic bike trainer allows you to turn your outside bike into a stationary inside bike, a smart trainer takes it up a notch - by seamlessly connecting to your favorite virtual training application, no extra gadgets needed.
Here are some ways a smart trainer can help breathe new life into your inside ride.
When it comes to staying engaged, entertained, and dare we say – having a little fun – there's no better bet than a smart trainer. Thanks to some pro engineering, everything you need to connect to your favorite virtual training software and to ride inside is all in one.
Once you connect your virtual trainer up to a platform like VirtualTraining, Zwift, TrainerRoad and others, simply clip in and prepare to feel the ride - and we do mean that literally. You'll feel every change in grade, in real time, meaning what you're seeing on screen is exactly what your legs are experiencing. Plus, virtual training apps often let you train with friends – which mean you can keep up that group ride no matter the conditions.
What if we told you that a smart trainer can keep you more accountable to your training plan? It's true; consider an example.
Let's say your coach has assigned you a steady, 20-minute effort at 200 watts. With a basic bicycle trainer you would be focused on your numbers, doing your best to stay on target – and if you fall off your target numbers no one is all the wiser.
Take on this same effort with a smart trainer and it's no problem, thanks to a feature referred to as ERG mode. Once your target watts are set and you begin the workout, suddenly your smart trainer is more than a piece of equipment – it's your new accountability partner or built-in-coach.
The beauty of a smart trainer is that you get access to a variety of workouts with just one piece of equipment. This is because when it comes to resistance ranges, virtual bike trainers take the cake.
All basic, or non-smart, trainers have a set resistance curve. This means that depending on the curve, if you're wheel is spinning at 20 mph you'll always get the set resistance for that speed. With a smart trainer, you're now dealing with a resistance range instead of a set point. And with a wider range, comes more choice in how you spend time in the saddle.
Let's take a closer look at the chart below. The blue line is the resistance curve of our most-popular indoor trainer, the Fluid2. If riding a Fluid2 at 20 mph, your resistance would be around 200 watts. Now take a look at the green area – that's the resistance range for the Magnus. At 20 mph on the Magnus smart trainer you're now looking at a range of 100 – 800 watts.
In short: having a range of resistance to work within gives the rider more control of their riding experience.
Power measurement is the reporting of efforts during an indoor ride in watts. For those who train, or are interested in training with power, being able to receive these numbers is a big deal.
When it comes to measuring power on a training ride, there are two ways to go about it. One is to measure power directly on the bicycle with a cycling power meter. The other is to train on an indoor smart trainer.
The main difference between these two types comes down to where effort is being measured. A power meter measures the direct force applied to the bike to push it down the road, where a smart trainer measures all the work that has dissipated during the ride. Both methods yield numbers close enough to each other to be used interchangeably in a training plan.
And while a basic trainer can report power with the correct set-up, a smart trainer eliminates the need for a power meter on the bicycle.
A frequent concern with purchasing a piece of equipment reliant on technology is that it will become outdated. The beauty of a smart trainer is that keeping it up-to-date is as easy as installing a firmware update.
Plus, who knows what the next big indoor training software will be? Firmware updates give a smart trainer the ability to talk to new programs with an update you can do from home or on the road - without the purchase of a new trainer.
So whether there's a new training app on the market or a bug that needs fixing, a firmware update can give you a trainer that feels like new.
As for the basic trainers, the only way to upgrade is to purchase a new trainer.