Athletes need to train a lot to keep their fitness and endurance at peak levels. As much as they would want to feel the air as they ride against the wind, cyclists can’t always go out for their training needs.
Cycling outdoors is dependent not only on weather conditions but also on time availability. Because of the global pandemic, the prospect of outdoor cycling has taken a further hit.
This makes indoor bike trainers very handy.
An indoor bike trainer (also known as turbo or resistance trainer) enables cyclists to accomplish their bike workout within the comfort of their homes, with no need to step outside. Thus, good weather or bad, an athlete will be able to accomplish his daily fitness goals right in his living room.
- Classifying an Indoor Bike Trainer
- At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Indoor Bike Trainers on a Budget
- Top 8 Best Indoor Bike Trainers on a Budget – Our Reviews:
Classifying an Indoor Bike Trainer
One way an indoor bike trainer is classified is through a wheel-on or wheel-off configuration. A wheel-on bike trainer fixes the rear wheel of the bike to a roller on the trainer, and flywheel resistance then provides the effort for a workout.
Meanwhile, in a wheel-off trainer (also known as a direct drive trainer), the rear wheel is removed and the bike’s chain is attached to the cassette of the trainer itself.
An indoor bike trainer is also classified according to the type of resistance it offers. The two most widely available types are magnetic trainers and fluid trainers.
Another type is a wind trainer that uses fan movement through pedaling to provide resistance.
With so many bike trainers on the market to choose from, it can be difficult to find the perfect one. Not to worry as I have selected the best bike trainers below for those on a budget.
At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Indoor Bike Trainers on a Budget
If you’re in a hurry, you can jump straight into our top picks (these are the budget indoor bike trainers that most people buy).
- Cascade FluidPro Bike Trainer Top Pick
- TacX Flux S Runner-up
- Kinetic Road Machine Smart Trainer Runner-up
Top 8 Best Indoor Bike Trainers on a Budget – Our Reviews:
1. Cascade FluidPro Bike Trainer
As an entry-level bike trainer, the Cascade FluidPro boasts a sleek design that meshes reliability with superior technology to provide the perfect workout sessions to athletes.
Fluid resistance ensures low noise and a good workout, and the training tire seamlessly connects to the setup via the patented Quick Connect technology.
A built-in power meter not only tracks wattage but also human body vitals such as heart rate, energy expenditure, and blood pressure. App support is unfortunately not included.
Being a fluid trainer, the Cascade FluidPro is competitively priced at just under $300. It’s a lean and mean machine with its only downside being its heavy weight.
Combining the best of both worlds, this turbo trainer provides expensive features at an affordable cost.
- Low noise
- Power meter included
- Heavy weight due to metal body
2. TacX Flux S
Within the realm of turbo trainers, the Flux S is a powerful machine built for high endurance cycling.
As one of the most renowned direct drive trainers, the Flux S comes with an 11-speed Shimano cassette. ERG mode is also included within the Flux S for hassle-free riding at a high cadence.
A magnetic resistance unit provides the necessary friction.
Trainers can also indulge in Virtual Reality cycling through a third-party training app such as Zwift. The TacX desktop app, that comes with the trainer, can be connected to all types of wireless support such as ANT and Bluetooth.
At $750, the Flux S is one of the more expensive turbo trainers out there. With its superior performance and unmatched connectivity, the Flux S is a worthy indoor trainer for anyone looking to put in the extra work at home.
- Unmatched digital connectivity
- 11-Speed Shimano cassette included for power cycling
- Could have been a little cheaper
3. Kinetic Road Machine Smart Trainer
Available in a bright green design, the Road Machine is a sturdy indoor bike trainer that’s sure to be loved by cyclists of all backgrounds.
Since this indoor trainer is powered by fluid resistance, it produces less noise than other types of indoor trainers. Multiple resistance levels are also provided for different levels of endurance riding.
The road feel may not be as authentic as other expensive bike trainers but wireless support is built into the device. In addition, a third-party app such as Zwift can be easily used on this resistance trainer as well.
Costing around $350, this turbo trainer is an affordable and capable smart trainer designed to push both the biker and bike to their limits.
- Great machine for indoor cycling
- Wireless support for other devices included
- Perfectly recreates road bike riding experience
- Road feel could be made a little better
4. HOMCOM Indoor Bike Trainer
Perfect for a quick bout of training in the living room, the HOMCOM bicycle trainer is for people who want a no-frills solution for indoor cycling.
The steel frame not only ensures high endurance under repeated use but also contributes to the stability of the whole machine.
Supporting all tire sizes (even 29-inch ones), 8 different resistance settings are provided. However, most buyers have noted that there is a minimal, if any, difference between the levels.
At around $130, this is one of the best indoor trainers if one goes by entry-level requirements. Professional requirements notwithstanding, the HOMCOM will fulfill the indoor cycling needs of most customers easily.
- Very affordable at only $130
- Simple design
- All resistance levels feel the same
5. Sportneer Magnetic
Costing around $80, the Sportneer is highly recommended by biking circles to individuals looking for a cheap bike trainer to maintain their endurance levels.
The magnetic resistance flywheel offers 6 different resistance settings. The wide base of this bike trainer also ensures the device remains stable even during high-intensity workouts.
The noise level remains low due to the superior design employed and the 6 resistance levels do their best to provide a road-like feel to the rider.
Easy to set up and a breeze to use, this budget bike trainer is a great means to get a challenging workout done right from the comfort of your home.
- Perfectly recreates road bike riding through its 6 resistance levels
- Cheapest bike trainer on this list
- May not survive long term use
6. Clark Bike Trainer
For those looking for turbo trainers for a limited amount of money, the Clark indoor bike trainer is a pretty strong contender.
Since this isn’t a fluid trainer, the noise level is a little high. However, ease of use is improved by its folding ability that allows the trainer to save space after his or her workout.
Seven resistance levels are offered and tire sizes up to 28 inches are easily fixated on the trainer. The quick-release mechanism allows for easy mounting and dismounting of the bike.
For an indoor bike trainer, this machine is also fairly lightweight, clocking in at just over 12 pounds. At a retail price of $100, the Clark indoor bike trainer remains a formidable machine at an affordable cost.
- A capable cycling trainer at an affordable cost
- Folding ability saves space, making it perfect for small apartments
- Easy handling due to its light weight
- Somewhat noisy; best used with a trainer mat
7. Unisky Bike Trainer
The Unisky Bike Trainer is a cheap and effective machine for all of your indoor training needs.
The trainer enables all mountain bikes and road bikes to be connected to it seamlessly. However, the wheel size of bikes connected to it must be equal to or below 28 inches.
One of the best things about this trainer is that it easily folds into itself, thereby saving space indoors when not in use. Rather than a quick-release lever, a dual locking mechanism is included for locking the bike on the trainer.
At only $99, this magnetic trainer is a steal considering the superior workout it provides indoors. The only negative thing about it is that it’s a little heavy; however, this isn’t bound to be a problem for athletes.
- Folds easily into itself, thereby saving valuable indoor space
- Costs less than $100
- Doesn’t support 29-inch bikes
8. Wahoo Kickr
As far as smart trainers are concerned, the Wahoo Kickr is one of the best, successfully melding cutting-edge technology with resistance training to make a bike trainer loved by professionals.
Being a direct drive trainer, the rear wheel of the bike is removed and connected to an 11-speed cassette. Magnetic resistance ensures low noise and a pretty accurate road feel as well.
Being a smart trainer, the power data accuracy of the Kickr is very high. In addition, the Kickr seamlessly connects and disconnects from the bike.
The Kickr also easily connects to a plethora of training apps such Zwift and Strava. Wireless connectivity to other devices is ensured with both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ FE-C.
Costing a little less than $1000, the Kickr is right at the edge of what most would consider a budget bike trainer to be priced at. Its high cost notwithstanding, the Kickr is a terrific machine that comes the closest to recreating a cyclist’s desire of riding through fresh air.
- All wheel sizes (up to 29 inches) fit seamlessly
- Wireless connectivity ensures access to a lot of third-party apps
- Perfect turbo trainer for high endurance training
- Would definitely be the best bike trainer if it wasn’t for its high cost
Generally due to unpredictable weather and recently to coronavirus movement restrictions, having a capable bike trainer at home has become somewhat of a necessity for frequent cyclists.
Direct drive bike trainers are more expensive than wheel-on bike trainers, even if budget options of both types are considered. This is because direct drive trainers come with their own cassette that adds to the cost.
The type of resistance unit also affects total cost, with magnetic options being more affordable for people than wind or fluid ones.
So, determining the best budget bike trainer depends on a lot of factors. Keeping in view this snippet of information, I selected the best budget trainers above for both wheel-on and wheel-off devices.
Now, the best budget bike trainer in wheel-on mode is Sportneer Magnetic. With its competitive cost and simple design, the Sportneer is perfect for any beginner cyclist looking for a headway into indoor cycling.
In the realm of direct drive trainers, the best budget bike trainer is none other than the Cascade FluidPro. Boasting most of the superior features of expensive models, this is one bike trainer that truly provides an authentic cycling experience.