Calling all bikers - a question about trainers vs. stationary.

I’m looking to buy something that will keep me fit over the winter. My husband and I have decided that, due to cost (we’d like to get a treadmill but can’t afford one) and knee problems, we’re going to get either a stationary bike or an indoor trainer like a CycleOps Magento or a Fluid. Any opinions on this?

I’m leaning toward a trainer - they’re far smaller, seem easier to store, and you can use your own bike. Also, from what I can see, they tend to be cheaper than stationary bikes with all the bells and whistles. However, my husband likes the programs on a stationary bike, but I’m suggesting we get the trainer and some spinning DVDs. Are there any bikers out there who have experience with both stationary bikes and trainers? Could you let me know what your preferences are and why?

I know the best answer would be to just brave the outdoors (it’s been an unusually warm winter anyway); however, my husband wants something he can do indoors because he’s more likely to actually do it if it’s in the house.

Get a trainer.

I used to race in college, and unless attitudes have changed dramatically in the past few years, stationary bikes just don’t hold a candle to your own bike on a trainer. The ergonomics of a trainer are completely different then those of a road bike, and if you plan on putting some serious time in on it that makes a huge difference, especially in terms of how well the hours you put it on the trainer will carry over to your bike once you get outside again. Keep in mind, that your cycling computer will work just fine on a trainer, so long as you put the speed pickup on the rear wheel.

Further advice: Don’t get a trainer that uses air resistance. They’re noisy as hell. I bought one, used it a while, then switched to a more expensive fluid trainer–but it was well worth it. Quiter, and a more realistic feel. Performance (the mail-order discount house) has an in-house brand of trainer that’s a pretty good bang for the buck–I bought one of their models that seems to be this one and it held up quite well.

If you are a decent cyclist, you might consider rollers instead. Trainers are indeed better than stationary bikes(which are worthless IMO) but rollers will really give you a better workout. With a trainer you really don’t have to worry about balance at all but with rollers you’re using your whole body to balance, even more than you would normally riding a bike. A lot of people describe it like riding a bike across ice. :wink: It takes a while to get used to, but after riding on rollers for a few weeks your performance and comfort on the road will be vastly improved.

One of the great disciplines of cycling is the use of free standiing rollers.

They don’t have anything like the same pedalling resistance, its preferable to use a fixed wheel machine, and they take lots of time to master, but,

They improve your pedalling style immeasurably, you learn how to breathe correctly, you learn ho to concentrate and how to handle your road bike, and, as with all indoor trainers, you sweat all the crap out. You can get fans attatchments to fit on some free rollers but unfortunately they tend to make you sway a bit to much with the increased effort, so you are better off riding a very high gear ratio.

Your chances of picking p an off season winter injury are reduced hugely, things like knee pains and tendon and ligament damge are unlikely as long as you warm up and cool down properly, and this is true of all indoor trainers.

The sweat on any indoor trainer can be a problem, its corrosive and slowly eats into all those nice anodised finishes, so dont use a new shiny bike.

The problem with rigid trainers, which use your own machine, is that the machine is forced to flex as you move around pedalling, and this deadens and takes the springy life out of the frame, though I’ve never seen one break through such use yet.

The indoor trainers are not much good for cyclists, especially competition riders as the riding position is not the same, and the length of crank arm is also usually shorter. Details like these are intimately and crucially important to serious riders as just a change of a couple of millimetres here and there can cause havoc with style and efficiency and can result in some fairly nast injuries.
They are ok for those who just use them for fitness purposes but do not do great mileages and do not race.

If you ride much at all in the summer, you’ll want a trainer like the CycleOps one, rather than a stationary bike. When you’re riding indoors, you’re not just doing cardio work; you’re maintaining the muscles used to ride. If you train on a stationary bike, or any other bike that’s ergonomically different from the bike you ride in the summer, you’ll be training your muscles to respond differently than they would on your road bike. It’s just like a driving range, or batting practice; you want to come as close as possible to duplicate the activity you’re training for. Rollers are even better, but man, they’re tough to learn to use.

Someone once told me, “Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent.”

Thanks, all, for the information! Looks like a trainer or rollers are the way to go over a stationary. Now, another question: what’s your stance on mats? Do you need one under your bike on a trainer if you’re on hardwood? Does it mark up your floor? What sort of mat do you recommend, if any?

A mat might be nice if you’re in an apartment, to deaden the sound. I read a recommendation that you start using rollers by placing them halfway through a doorway so that you can catch yourself if you lose balance.

Rollers are the way to go, IMO.

You have to take apart the rear axle to get on a trainer, but rollers aren’t that hard to learn. I heard all the warnings, but I put mine in a doorway and learned to balance without bumping my elbows into the doorway in about 10 minutes. You can move the whole set up very easily, and it improves your balance and pedal cadence, as you have to be smooth to stay up.

Look on ebay and such, they don’t cost that much.

I remember the kind that Cardinal is talking about, and they’ve come a long way since then. These days, you don’t have to take apart the rear axle to get on a trainer; at least not on the CycleOps. There’s just a quick release cam lever on the trainer that grabs the spindle. It really, honestly takes me less than 20 seconds to attach my bike to the the trainer. Certainly less time than it takes me to pump up one tire.

Not to knock rollers; the people I know that use them swear by them. I have a set, and mainly swear at them. Cardinal must be more coordinated than me.

Regardless of which way you go, you’ll want a mat of some sort under your trainer, or sweat will build up on your floors. It doesn’t need to be made for the purpose; I use a 6’ x 2’ carpet runner I got at Restoration Hardware for $10 - $20.

Today we got a Minoura Mag. We got one of REI’s floor models, so it was really reasonable. I was so excited I did a workout right after I got home. I sweated my ass off, and it only took a half hour to get a good workout. I would have gone longer, but I haven’t used my bike in a while, so I don’t yet have my “butt-callus” back. Thanks again for all the great info - it was really helpful.

Just wanted to add, they do sell bicycle trainer sweat guards, so that you’re not sweating all over things. When I’m on my rollers I like to wear a skullcap and put a fan in front of me. Also, my rollers are set up in the garage(and I’m not worried about the finish on my bike :)) but, if it’s an issue for you, there ya go.

Another problem with a trainer is that you and your husband will have to swap out your bikes, unless both of you can use the same bike. My wife got a trainer a couple of years ago, and swapping is enough of a pain that I have only used it once.

The trainer we got makes it pretty easy to swap bikes. All you have to do is slip the ends of the spindle into the appropriate location and make sure it’s tight. It only takes about 20-30 seconds to switch bikes. Though I got a look at a friend’s trainer, and his was far more complicated - you had to take the spindle out, then put it back in. I can see where that would be a pain in the butt after a while. Especially for my husband - if it’s not really easy to do, he won’t do it.

I guess time will tell if we got a really great deal. If I all of a sudden crash my bike into my book case because the spindle comes loose, I will definitely let everyone know. Knowing my particular grace and competence, I’ll probably manage to do that or something similar, even if I take every precaution. :slight_smile: