Ever wished, on those cold winter mornings, that you could just bring your bike indoors instead of venturing out into the freezing weather?
You actually can! A stationary bike stand will allow you to convert your existing bike into a stationary bike with a few easy clicks. Keep reading to find out more about this nifty fitness gadget.
So, I’d be converting my existing bike to a stationary one?
That’s right. The stationary bike stand prevents you from having to re-invest in further gym equipment just to keep up your cycling practice through winter or in dangerous or grotty weather.
Besides the obvious savings in money and space, there’s a few other ways using your existing bike in a stationary bike stand can assist your training goals.
Number one among them is the fact you can still work with the same make and model of bike that you use for competition events [or simply out on the street], so there’s no need to re-adapt to a completely different mechanism, and if you are in training for an event of any sort, you have the reassurance of continuing to practice with the bike of your choice.
They’re also a great choice for maintain your biking fitness whilst in recovery from injuries.
This sound’s incredibly simple- is a stationary bike stand really so easy to use?
The idea sounds simple because in principal it is. A stationary bike stand isn’t like the complicated gadgets you find at gym. It’s a simple solid stand that will hold your existing bike securely for your use.
A quick glance at this niche market, though, and it suddenly won’t seem so simple. There are actually quite a few different categories of stationary bike stand, and it may seem confusing trying to work out which type best suits you.
Below, we’ll guide you through them all to help you make the best decision to meet your goals.
There are five main types of stationary bike stand:
- Fluid trainers
- Magnetic trainers
- Roller trainers
- Virtual reality trainers
- Wind trainers.
Most of this variation is caused by the type and principals behind the resistance unit on your stationary bike stand. You need the resistance to simulate the resistance you meet when out on the road. With this in mind, let’s break them down a bit more:
Fluid trainers are not as popular as wind and magnetic trainers, but they are a new technology in a growing market. They have a few great advantages too.
The resistance they offer is fairly realistic, with inertia provided and power generated fluctuating with increases and decreases in speed. They’re also fairly quiet, and easy enough for anyone to set up.
Low budget versions, however, suffer from a tendency to leak due to faulty seals, and as they’re a new technology the prices can sometimes venture quite high for better quality options.
If simulating a realistic ride is of greatest importance to you, the fluid stationary bike stand is probably your best bet.
Magnetic trainers are the old faithful of the stationary bike stand market. They’re easy to set up and accommodate most types of bike wheel for a seamless training experience. They’re cheap, and generally reliable.
Specs of each particular model will vary depending on the bells and whistles you need with your purchase- some are programmable with a host of other features, some are just basic models for low budgets.
They’re a great mid-range pick in the trainer market, lacking the advanced features of stands like the fluid-resistance stands, but slightly more complex and quieter then the wind trainers.
Magnetic stands don’t offer varying resistance, but the higher-priced options will usually allow manual adjustment via a handlebar lever.
Roller trainers are for the indoor cyclist who wants a challenge. In the more usual types of stationary bike stand, the balance factor of a real bike ride is taken out of the equation by clamps.
Not so in the roller trainer, which offers a realistic simulation of the perils of bad balance on the trail – if not more so!
Roller trainers work with 2 sets of rollers, one spun by the rear wheel of the bike and the other manipulated by the front wheel. Some brands negate the need for the front wheel roller by requiring you to remove the front wheel of the bike and acting as a support instead.
They’re not for everyone, as they can take a lot of getting used to, but roller trainers offer a great simulation of real-life biking experiences.
It’s obviously incredibly easy to switch from on-the-road to stationary with a roller trainer, as there’s less assembly of your bike onto the stand. It offers realistic variable resistance, can be a great endurance trainer, and is a must if balance is important to your training program.
They also offer reduced stress on the bike frame, as the motion is very ‘natural’ on the frame and there’s no anchor point.
With that said, the balance aspect is not for everyone, and novices needed to be particularly careful. It’s not a stationary bike stand for the indoor cyclist who wants to read, listen to music or watch TV either.
It’s a noisy option compared to other stands, and resistance levels are poor compared to other stationary stand styles.
Virtual Reality Trainers
As the name rather suggests, virtual reality trainers use the best of modern technologies to simulate the outdoor biking experience. If you’re a natural tech-head, this option's for you, allowing you to hook your bike to your PC screen and even offering racing simulation for an added training dimension.
The simulator uses the on-screen terrain to control the resistance the unit offers the bike.
Setup isn’t as simple as with other options, as your bike will need to be wired into several sensors. It provides a great simulation of the real life biking experience, though.
Needless to say, the digital aspects of a virtual reality trainer make for intriguing, interesting and engaging ‘scenic’ indoor routes. The approximations of the virtual trails make for varied resistance that realistically matches the ‘conditions’ you’re biking in.
Being digital, data logging and feedback are possible in a way you don’t receive with ordinary stationary bike stands.
Virtual reality trainers are both fun and challenging- and some models even allow for tournaments similar to ‘LANs’ in which you can race against other participants using the same trainer.
These super-advanced features come with a price tag, though, and it’s a hefty one. You don’t even get the PC and monitor for your bucks- you’ll be providing them separately.
Depending on your bike and the tyres you use, they’re not the quietest option either. But you’ll not find a more tempting stationary bike stand- you may even forget to go outside for a real ride!
Occupying the other end of the spectrum from the no-holds-barred virtual reality trainer, wind trainers are the entry level stationary bike stand of choice. They do offer progressive resistance, so you get a good, naturalistic riding experience.
Wind trainers use the power of air friction, the same kind of resistance forces you get out in the real biking world, so the resistance is realistic and they’re a dead simple mechanism.
If you’re new to this kind of indoor cycling, the price tag can’t be beat, either.
You’ll trade that real resistance simulation for a noisy ride, though, and past a certain point there’s not much extra you can do with a wind trainer.
But they’re great to start off your indoor cycling program, or if you need your stationary bike stand only under duress and prefer your outdoor rides.
What should I look for in my stationary bike stand?
Obviously, depending on what category of stand you’re looking at, there are a few different features to keep an eye on. But all quality stationary bike stands should share a few features:
- Resistance generation- this will vary from model to model, but make sure you’re getting a good, consistent resistance from your chosen bike stand.
- Noise- again, some model categories are quieter than others, but be sure to compare your brand within the range of similar stationary bike stands to make sure it’s as quiet as possible. In models such as the magnetic trainer, look for minimal vibration too.
- Durability- the frame should be sturdy, well balanced and preferably heavy duty. Look at known weaknesses- like the seals on fluid trainers- and be sure you’re making a quality purchase.
- Storage- make sure the trainer you pick suits the storage you need. Some do offer foldable frames for maximum portability.
- Compatibility- make sure the trainer you want is compatible with the bike and tyres you will use it with. Also make sure you’re looking at a type of trainer that’s suitable for your needs. Whilst more complicated trainers like the virtual reality simulators will have harder setups then simple ones, the brand you consider should be as easy to set up as is reasonable within type of trainer.
- Warranties- look for a good warranty you’re comfortable with, and the more expensive the category of trainer you choose, the better the warranty will need to be.
With these basic categories in mind, let’s look at some of the best options out there.
Virtual Reality Trainers:
The Virtual Reality trainer market is dominated by Tacx. The brand is trusted, and none of their products earn less than a fulsome 5 star rating on popular internet retailer Amazon. If money’s no object, opt for the ‘iGenius’.
It comes packed with features to offset the price tag, including the Tacx Trainer software, 4 terrain options, races and more. It complements the digital gewgaws with a sturdy, trusted aluminium frame. The trainer does require access to a power point, but communication with the software is wireless. Add on its Video game quality graphics, and you couldn’t do much better.
If you’d still like to tinker in the virtual world, but with a softer price tag, try their ‘iFlow’ offering instead. Whilst there’s only 2 terrains and some of the extras are add-on rather than included with your purchase, you get the same great Tacx quality for roughly half the price. What could be more tempting if you just can’t resist the fun and games of a virtual trainer?
If you’re more into the balancing challenge of a roller trainer, you couldn’t do better than the Kreitler Kompact Challenger Roller stand. Another Amazon favourite, this US- manufactured lightweight aluminium roller set offers a few configuration options depending on your bike and roller preference.
The end caps are deliberately non-aluminium to keep pricing down, but do be aware they’ll need replacing long before the trainer itself.
As wind trainers go, the best on the market has to be the CycleOps trainer with vortex fan blades. Offering the simplicity of the wind trainer design combined with solid construction and a weighted fan blade to give you variable resistance in a neat, foldable frame. It earns a solid 4 star rating.
If magnetic’s more your style, opt for the Graber Mag Indoor Bicycle Trainer, another 5-star product offering 3 levels of resistance and a foldable frame designed to remain level on any surface. It’s best used with 26” or 27” 700c wheels. It’s a basic trainer with few frills that delivers on its promises.
Last but certainly not least, if you’re in the mood for the newer fluid technology, opt for the Cascade Fluid Bike Trainer. With the perfect blend of reliability, stability and weight, its heavy flywheel will ensure great performance for years.
It also fails to live up to the ‘cascade’ part of the name- this is a leak-free choice. It’s also incredibly easy to set up and use.
Amazon gives it a 5 star, and users love the stability feature and its all-natural feel. It also rates out as an incredibly quiet trainer.
Stationary bike stands allow you to bring your favourite outdoor activity inside. From the simplest of no-frills wind trainers to the dizzying heights of the digital world and virtual reality technology, this easy fitness tool is a perennial winner among those who love their cycling, both on and off road.