A Beginners Guide to Road Cycling: Turbo Trainers

My regular reader will be aware that I began road cycling back in spring 2012, oh halcyon days! To begin with the weather was almost always perfect in my little part of Yorkshire and it wasn’t until the weather turned, around autumn / winter of the same year, that I began to look at ways to continue to cycle and to keep dry at the same time.

Early on in my research I looked into purchasing a Turbo Trainer, they sounded the business, but to my surprise the cycling community seemed to shun this piece of equipment. Then without actually trying what one of these devices, my mind was made up to avoid such horrors when I read this description of a Cyclops Wind Turbo on eBay…

I’m selling this bastard thing because I HATE it.

I’m sure there are people out there who like or even have a perverse love affair with their turbo trainer. It might even attract some sort of love/hate duality. I know for a fact that some people, many of them ostensibly sane with some hideously rapid times to their name, view the turbo as the essential piece of training equipment. Personally, i’d rather rip my face off and dive into a bath of saline solution than use this horrible piece of apparatus. It’s utterly soul-destroying and mind-numbing, which is a pretty vicious combination.

The straw that broke the camel’s back:

I thought i might do a ‘quick’ turbo session this evening. The reason being that the weather is pretty terrible and i hadn’t got the time to head down to the lake for the first race of the season. By the time i’d sorted out the rear turbo wheel by putting a tyre on and then pinching an inner tube, then changing the tyre and putting a new tube in, switching the cassette and setting up the bike and then setting up the computer with ‘The Flying Scotsman’ on the iplayer with headphones and subtitles (because of fearsome noise) to alleviate the dreadful and crushing ennui of it all and then got changed and put some water within reach and found my sweaty turbo towel that hasn’t been washed since the last time i dared to ride the bastard (turbo, not turbo towel) and wrestled with the quick release mechanism and then adjusted the height with a series of books under the front wheel by getting on and off about four times then adjusting the saddle height then going back and adjusting the resistance about 6 times with the manual turny thing, i’d wasted about 55 minutes. This was about as long as i intended to spend on the bastard piece of shit.

I managed about 11 minutes at about 70% of max before two things happened. The iplayer began to freeze and unfreeze, robbing me of the only thing that helped me think that i wasn’t actually on the turbo, and then without warning the back wheel leapt out of the dropout clasps and i had to do an emergency unclip and braking manouevre ON THE GODDAMNED TURBO just to stay alive. i suddenly lurched towards the computer where Graeme Obree was riding off the front of some sort of Tour of the Scottish Prettylands in the early part of the film and very nearly ended up joining the crazed circular-breathing scotsman on the silver screen.

If you’re made of far stronger stuff than I am, and I’m thinking Ivan Drago in Rocky 4 when he kills Apollo Creed to death – that sort of stronger stuff – and think you can handle the savage bestiality of the CYCLOPS WIND TURBO then please, please, please buy this REPULSIVE ITEM.

…so, instead, in the winter of 2012 / 13 I went to spinning classes at the local leisure centre, something I quite enjoyed and certainly helped keep my cycling legs in shape for spring 2013 when the weather was more to my suiting.

Fast forward to autumn 2013 and I once again found myself spending less time out on my push hog and more time sat on my gluteus maximus, all the while those valuable training hours on the road ebbing away. So, like the year before, I decided to take up spinning at the LLC, only this winter it’s become extremely popular and after numerous failed attempts to get in a class, I finally threw in the towel and started to look at other winter training alternatives…


The way I see it I had three choices this winter:

1. Buy a winter bike.

2. Join the Gym.

3. Buy an indoor trainer.

Initially I looked at buying a winter bike, a cross bike or hybrid, something I could feel comfortable riding in all conditions. However not only would I need to buy a new bike, I’d have to get suitable clothing and good lights – this all proved too expensive.

Secondly I thought about joining the gym, but with the LLC only allowing 12 months membership, I ruled this out.

The third option was to buy an indoor trainer, I don’t consider myself skilled enough to ride on rollers, so I set my sights on a turbo trainer…

Introducing the Turbo Trainer

For something so polarising, the Turbo Trainer, or indoor trainer, is a very simple device. Basically the TT turns your existing bike into an exercise bike by suspending the rear of the bike from the ground on a metal frame and resting the rear wheel on a resistance unit, offering friction when pedalling.

Types of Turbo Trainer

Many company’s produce turbo trainers, ranging from lower end units to high quality trainers…

Jet Black

Typically Turbo Trainer resistance is gained by using one of the following methods:

1. Air Trainers – These tend to be the lower price range and much like exercise bikes, use fans to generate wind resistance and use the bikes gears to alter the effort, so the faster you pedal the more resistance is formed. Fan Turbos can be noisy and offer little in the way of adjustment, but they can be picked up for less than £100, so would suit a cyclist on a budget.


2. Magnetic Trainers – These come in two types, magnetic and electromagnetic, but use the same principal of causing resistance by creating an adjustable magnetic field. These trainers are more likely to be found in the mid price range and have the advantage of being quieter than fan turbos and also adjustable via handlebar mounted levers. The basic mag trainers can be found for under £75, but more complex models are £100+.


3. Fluid Trainers – The higher price point turbos will be typically fluid based, using a rotor submerged in oil to generate the resistance. These units are favoured by more experienced riders as they offer more refined adjustment and are much quieter than magnetic and fan trainers. These trainers are typically £150+.

To read the full content just got to: A Beginners Guide to Road Cycling: Turbo Trainers


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