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Best bike for cycling indoors

Included in this guide:

Best bikes for cycling indoors
(Image credit: Courtesy)

It might never have occurred to you to look for the best bike for cycling indoors, and we of course fully understand you don't need a specific bike for indoor cycling, but there are certainly arguments to suggest it's a worthy consideration. 

We've all heard the horror stories of brands voiding the warranty on a frame due to indoor use, even on the best turbo trainers

The likelihood of damaging your frame in the indoor trainer is pretty low. We've been riding carbon frames with all types of turbo trainers for years, and never had an issue, however, having a cheap 'trainer bike' has its merits. Plus you can usually buy both a bike and a top-end direct-drive smart trainer for less than the best smart bikes will set you back. 

Read on for our picks of the best bikes for cycling indoors, or you can jump to the bottom, where we'll make our case for having a second bike for use inside. 

Quick Black Friday deals: bikes for cycling indoors

If you're on the lookout for some bargains, don't forget that it's Black Friday weekend and there are plenty of offers around right now. Here are some retailers to check out who are running deals on bikes that would be perfect for cycling indoors. For a full list, check out our roundup of Black Friday bike deals.

US:

🚲 WiggleSave up to 49% off aluminium road bikes from Vitus, Cube, Fuji, and more

🚲 Walmart: Up to 30% off aluminium road bikes 

UK:

🚲 WiggleUp to 61% off aluminium road bikes from Cube, Fuji and Zannata

🚲 Sigma SportsSave up to 35% on road bikes from Tifosi, Orbea and Specialized

Best bike for cycling indoors

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Vitus Razor

High-end alloy frameset with easy-to-service components

Specifications
Gears: 2x8
Rear axle: Quick Release
Sizes available: XS-XXL
Price: £549.99 / $649.99 / €759.99 / AU$999.99
Reasons to buy
+External cables for easy maintenance+Great value for money+Reasonable gear range
Reasons to avoid
-Only 8-speed

Coming from Vitus, the Wiggle/Chain Reaction Cycles in-house brand, the Razor is an entry-level alloy road racer. The frame is made from 6061 double-butted aluminium, and all the cables are externally routed, meaning when you snap one downshifting to match an attack on Zwift or RGT Cycling, you won't need to spend hours trying to feed a replacement through your frame. 

For under £1,000 the frame is quality but, at this entry-level price point, it's no surprise to see an 8-speed Claris groupset, complete with a 50/31T chainset and 11-28T rear cluster. 

The Vitus Razor and a Tacx Neo 2T as a package is still less than what the Neo Bike costs, and you then have a bike that can also be ridden outdoors. 

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Cube Attain Race

Upright geometry to keep you comfortable on a long Zwift ride

Specifications
Gears: 2x10
Rear axle: Thru-axle
Sizes available: 50-60cm
Price: £1,199 / $1,599.99 / €TBC / AU$2,199.99
Reasons to buy
+11-34T cassette for a wide range of gears+Rear thru-axle makes for a robust connection
Reasons to avoid
-You'll need adaptors or an axle

Adding a couple of gears at the rear, Cube's Attain road bike has a full Shimano Tiagra groupset with 50/34T chainrings at the front and an 11-34T cassette. The frame is based around Cube's Road Comfort geometry, meaning as you slog through a long structured workout, the relaxed position will temper some of the non-aerobic discomfort. 

With the bike being a disc-equipped roadie, the rear hub spacing is 142x12, so when you mate it with your direct-drive smart trainer, make sure you have the right adaptors. If you're running a wheel-on trainer, you will also need to get a trainer axle like the Kinetic Traxle, Tacx E-Thru-Axle or Robert Axle Project trainer axle.

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 4

Alloy frame with deep racing routes and a price that won't bust your budget

Specifications
Gears: 2x8
Rear axle: Quick-release
Sizes available: 44-58cm
Price: £800 / $1,000 / €949 / $TBC
Reasons to buy
+Great value for money+Quick-release axle for convenience+Slightly more relaxed geometry than flagship CAAD
Reasons to avoid
-Only 8-speed

Among the best aluminium road bikes, Cannondale's CAAD is probably one of the most universally loved and race-ready, and the Optimo borrows most of its design cues from past models of the frame. Compared to the CAAD13, it has a slightly shorter reach and taller stack, meaning it won't push your flexibility to its limit after 90 minutes of riding. 

This particular version of the CAAD Optimo comes with Shimano's Claris groupset with an 8-speed 11-30T cassette paired to an FSA Tempo 50/34 crankset. 

Best bikes for cycling indoors: Giant Contend SL 1

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Giant Contend AR 3

High-quality frame with a comfortable geometry and 2x9 gearing

Specifications
Gears: 2x9
Rear axle: Quick-release
Sizes available: S-XL
Price: £1,099 / $1,350 / €TBC / AU$1,599
Reasons to buy
+Shimano Sora groupset+Lots of frame details borrowed from the Defy
Reasons to avoid
-Only 9-speed

Giant's Contend is the brand's entry-level road offering, the frame is made using Aluxx-Grade aluminium and sees plenty of design elements borrowed from the Defy — so don't expect it to flex under power. At the same time, the all-rounder geometry provides a comfortable position for hours of riding on the smart trainer. 

The Content AR 3 sees a 2x9 Shimano Sora groupset bolted on, and the chains, clusters and chainrings won't break the bank when they do eventually wear out over time. 

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Ribble Endurance AL

Bike builder lets you spend money where you want to, and skimp where you don't

Specifications
Gears: 2x11
Rear axle: Quick Release
Sizes available: XS-XL
Price: Variable
Reasons to buy
+High-quality frame can be built using the exact specification that you want
Reasons to avoid
-Takes a bit of time to customise your spec -Not every component is changeable

Direct-to-consumer brand Ribble, is usually found pretty close to the top spot in 'bike of the year' roundups which says a lot about the quality the UK outfit is producing, and also the performance-to-value ratio. 

What's nifty about Ribble, especially if you are looking for a bike for the indoor trainer, is you can use its bike builder to hand-pick almost every component. This allows you to prioritise drivetrain components while opting for the cheapest available components everywhere else where they won’t have a major effect on your ride. 

We were able to build up an Ultegra Spec Endurance AL for a hair over a £1,000.

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Octane One Gridd 2

An adventure bike perfect for the indoor trainer

Specifications
Gears: 1x10
Rear axle: Thru-axle
Sizes available: S, M, L, XL
Price: £999 / $1,099 / €TBC / AU$1,599
Reasons to buy
+Upright geometry+1x10 SRAM GX drivetrain
Reasons to avoid
-Thru-axles mean you'll need the correct adaptors or a trainer axle -Limited sizing availability-Wheel-on trainer users will need a new tyre

While a gravel bike might not be your first port of call when looking for an indoor-specific bike, we think it's a great option, especially if you're using training software such as TrainerRoad or Systm with ERG mode. By allowing the trainer to dictate the resistance, there is little or no need to shift, and even less reason for a front derailleur. 

If you're riding Sim Mode in Zwift, the GX 1x10 drivetrain with an 11-40T cassette and 40T chainring provides plenty of range, and fewer moving parts also means less maintenance. The Gridd's frame is 6061 aluminium and the cables are routed externally, so when it does come time to replace the shift cable it won't take too long. Plus the more upright gravel geometry will add comfort over the course of an extended session. 

It also provides an alternative outdoor riding option, in case you decide to return to the great outdoors, but want to avoid the busy roads. 

Best bikes for cycling indoors: Pre owned

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Anything second hand or your old bike

It may already be in your garage

Specifications
Gears: N/A
Rear axle: N/A
Sizes available: N/A
Price: N/A
Reasons to buy
+Costs significantly less
Reasons to avoid
-Parts may already be worn out

The other option is to look for something second hand or to use an old frame. Buying a bike second hand, you never really know what it has been through or if/how many times it has been crashed, so there is some degree of risk. That said, if it's only going into the trainer, equipment failure has a much lower consequence than something you'll be riding outdoors.

The advantage of using an old bike is you know it fits, you know its history and it probably already has your preferred touchpoints installed. That said, some of the parts may already be worn and this will be further exacerbated the more you ride indoors.

Why consider a bike for cycling indoors?

Will using my bike on a turbo trainer damage the frame?

When you're chasing attacks on Zwift or pushing through a VO2 max interval, there is a lot of force going through the frame. When you're out on the road, the bike can move around underneath you, and some of that energy can dissipate through this movement. When riding indoors, however - unless you've bought one of those Gucci, Saris MP1 Infinity trainer platforms, or built a DIY rocker plate - every bit of that force will be absorbed by your bike. 

These forces won't break your frame, but they will introduce additional fatigue over time, not only to the tubing but also bearings systems like bottom brackets.

Will sweating more corrode my bike?

While we've never seen a frame break that has been properly installed into a trainer, we have seen handlebars snap due to salt-corrosion. While most aluminium bars are anodised to stave off corrosion, scratches or imperfections can allow the nasty salty bits inside. 

You are going to get exceptionally sweaty when riding indoors and that sweat is going to drip off and make its way onto your bike, stem bolts, bearings and whatever else.

This can be avoided with a sweat net or a beach towel but there will still likely be a bit that finds its way through. 

It's also worth bearing in mind that aluminium and carbon are on the opposite ends of the galvanic scale, and when you connect them with an electrolyte, like sweat, it can speed up the corrosive process. That's why all the bikes we've recommended here have alloy frames.

How long will my drivetrain components last?

When you're riding inside, there is no such thing as just spinning along, and the majority of your time on the trainer will be high-intensity intervals and plenty of watts. Whether you're using a smart trainer or a dumb trainer or even rollers, we tend to stick to only a few gears on the rear cluster, whereas if you're using ERG mode, there is no need to shift at all.

All of this can prematurely wear out drivetrain components, so it's especially important to clean and lube your drivetrain to prolong its life as much as possible. Don't fall for the trap of neglecting it because "you've only been on the trainer."

Which type of wheel axle do I need?

Regardless of what bike you're using, we cannot stress the importance of using a steel skewer rather than the lightweight titanium one you're using with your nice wheels for riding outside. The skewer is taking on far more force than it would outside, and needs to be more stout to prevent damage. 

Additionally, lightweight skewers don't always interface well with wheel-on indoor trainers and can be damaged or even pop out. While we've never seen frames damaged because of significant efforts on the trainer, we have seen broken frames as a result of people falling out of trainers because their skewers weren't mounted correctly in the trainer itself. 

With regards to the type of axle - quick-release skewer vs. thru-axle - most, if not all, turbo trainers come ready for a quick-release skewer, so if your bike has thru-axles you'll need to buy a separate adapter to make them compatible with each other.

How much should I spend on an indoor bike?

Most of the things that we bang on about such as weight, compliance and handling characteristics don't come into play with a bike that is going to be used indoors, because you're not actually going anywhere. With that, the most important factors are really bottom bracket stiffness and geometry that fits.

Obviously the drivetrain is important as well, and this will weigh heavy on the price, based on how many gears you want at the back. If you're only going to be riding in ERG mode, you don't really ever need to shift so you don't need 12 cogs at the back, but if you're competing in Zwift rides and races, you may want to opt for more gears.