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Best turbo trainers: Smart trainers to improve your indoor cycling experience

Best turbo trainers
(Image credit: Tacx)

The best turbo trainers have seen extreme and rapid development over recent years. 10 years ago, even the best turbo trainers were noisy and would chew through tyres. Then the advent of new technology meant indoor cycling as a discipline underwent a revival. Now, all of the best turbo trainers are 'smart', meaning they connect to your computer via Bluetooth or Ant+ and resistance can be controlled by indoor cycling apps.

Gone are the days of staring at a wall in your basement spinning aimlessly; now we are awash with options to guide you through highly targeted workouts, replicas of real roads, and even virtual worlds that will keep you entertained as you suffer. So popular has riding indoors become, the UCI has introduced an e-sports world championships.

Skip to: Wheel-on turbo trainers
Skip to: Direct-drive turbo trainers
Skip to: How to choose

Best in stock

With governments advising (or enforcing) people to stay home and self isolate due to COVID-19, more and more people are turning to the turbo trainer to keep their training up. This has led to an unprecedented surge in demand, and retailers are struggling to keep up. 

With that in mind, we've noticed many of our recommendations are out of stock. There are only so many we can put in a list of the 'best turbo trainers', but there are plenty more we'd happily mount our bikes to for a Zwift race

We've therefore decided to add a few extra turbo trainers below from our guide to the cheapest Zwift setup, and we will continue to check the stock is available in order to help you take your training indoors.

Elite Qubo Digital Smart | £324.99 at Wiggle
At the time of writing, Wiggle has 39 of the smart wheel-on trainer in stock. It's a cheap way to get started in the indoor cycling scene. View Deal

Elite Turbo Muin II Fluid | £449.99 at Wiggle
Wiggle has secured some stock of the Elite Turbo Muin II, it's a low-cost direct-drive smart turbo trainer that's likely to fly off the proverbial shelf, so be fast if you want to get onto ZwiftView Deal

4iiii Fliiiight | £469.00 at ProBikeKit (Was £479.99)
By using magnets to create resistance there is no wheel contact when in use, no faff with trainer tyres and silent operation is perfect for those that want minimal fuss starting an indoor training ride or dealing with the moaning neighbours downstairs.View Deal

Elite Suito | £649.99 at Wiggle
The Elite Suito is a smart, direct-drive trainer that can handle up to 1900 watts of power. It's one of the best value for money trainers available, so it's likely to sell fast. There are only three in stock. View Deal

Elite Direto-X | £769.99 at Wiggle
Continuing the Elite theme, Wiggle has managed to secure stock of the Elite Direto X. Our tech editor rated it as 4.5 / 5 stars in our recent Elite Direto X review. At the time of writing, Wiggle has 35 in stock. View Deal

Elite Drivo II | £860.49 at ProBikeKit (Was £1,199.99)
Our pick of the best deal available today, with 29% off. This range-topping direct-drive trainer from Elite can simulate gradients of 24-per cent and claims a power accuracy within 0.5%.View Deal

Blackburn Fluid | $270.00 at ProBikeKit USA
A fluid trainer with a progressive resistance curve. The Fluid is slightly quieter than the equivalent mag trainer and has unlimited levels of resistance. View Deal

Wahoo Kickr Core | $900.00 at Rei
One of the best turbo trainers we've ever used, availability of the Kickr Core is sparse at the moment, but we've found some at Rei.com. With a simple setup, up to 1800 watts of resistance within 2% accuracy, compatibility for most modern axle standards, and up to 16% incline. View Deal

Tacx Flux 2 | $900.00 at Rei.com
The Flux 2 comes with power accuracy of less than 2.5% variance, and has 2,000 watts of resistance. It's a step up from the cheaper Flux S, but still offers great value for money.View Deal

Tacx Neo 2T | $1,400.00 at Competitive Cyclist
We're definitely out of the realms of cheap, but if you're going to be training indoors full time, the Neo 2T is perfect for the job. It also doesn't require a power supply, instead, it uses the power of your legs to function. It can handle power of up to 2200 watts and can simulate gradients of up to 25%. View Deal

The rise of applications like Zwift, TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest and so many others, has heralded the dramatic rise of the turbo trainer. Using a Bluetooth or ANT+ connection, a smart turbo trainer will not only use a built-in power meter to measure your output but can also change the resistance to help you get the most out intervals or simulate virtual changes in topography and road surface. At the pinnacle of the category, smart turbo trainers can simulate rough surfaces, climbs and descents to truly replicate the on-road feel. 

Beyond that, there's something more premium again. Enter the best smart bikes, which remove the need for attaching your own bike, instead housing the smart turbo trainer technology inside a purpose-built static bike. 

Direct-drive

Wahoo Kickr Core

Compact and quiet direct drive trainer

Flywheel weight: 12lbs / 5.4kg | Connectivity: ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, and Bluetooth | Accuracy: +/- 2-per cent | Max power: 1800-watts | Max simulated grade: 16-per cent

Accompanying app
Intuitive user experience
Accessories
No height adjustment
No included cassette

Wahoo's Kickr Core sits just under the brand's flagship direct-drive Kickr model. It's a few hundred dollars cheaper, and the main differences are the lack of folding legs, height adjustment, the slightly smaller flywheel at 12lbs / 5.4kg (the same size as the 2016 and 2017 Kickr), and you’ll have to supply your own cassette.

What the Kickr does offer is universal training app compatibility, 1800-watts of electromagnetic resistance, a simulated grade topping out at 16-per cent and claims of a +/- 2-per cent power accuracy. Once you've installed your cassette, it works with quick release, and thru-axle rear ends and offers smooth transitions in resistance and a surprisingly realistic road feel.

Should you want to take your indoor riding to another level, it’ll work with the Kickr Climb and Kickr Headwind too.

(Image credit: Tecx)

Tacx Neo 2T

For the dedicated Zwift lover, if you can afford it

Flywheel weight: 125kg / 275.6lbs (virtual) | Connectivity: ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth | Accuracy: +/- 1-per cent | Max power: 2200-watts | Max simulated grade: 25-per cent

Cordless
Pedalling feedback and 'road feel'
Price

If your pockets are deep enough, the Tacx Neo 2T turbo trainer is a Zwift or Rouvy lover’s best indoor companion. Offering a degree or two of movement in the freewheel, the Neo 2T can also recreate road surface sensations with some clever electronics. 

Using electromagnetic resistance, Tacx says it can simulate up to a 125kg flywheel and offers 2200-watts to fight against and a max incline of 25-per cent. It's also compatible with 135x10, 142x12 and 148x12 mm axles without the need for extra adaptors. It can also be unplugged and still continue to function, so it can be taken to races for your pre-race warmup.

Instead of using a belt to spin the freewheel like most other direct drive trainers do, the freehub Neo Smart 2 turns the flywheel, which Tacx says allows the trainer to offer power accuracy within one per cent without calibration — Tacx is so sure of this, it doesn't even provide an option to calibrate. The Neo 2T also offers advanced power metrics like left/right balance and pedal stroke analysis.

Wahoo Kickr

(Image credit: Josh Croxton)

Wahoo Kickr

The Wahoo Kickr is quiet, easy, accurate and simple - a real complement to anyone's indoor trainer setup

Flywheel weight: 16lbs / 7.3kg | Connectivity: ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, and Bluetooth | Accuracy: +/- 2-per cent | Max power: 2200-watts | Max simulated grade: 20-per cent

Quiet in use
Simple setup
Widely compatible
Cassette included
Premium price

The latest iteration of the Wahoo Kickr has been around a while already, first being launched in 2018, but with solid construction and regular firmware updates, it remains one of the best turbo trainers available today, and many early buyers report that the Kickr is built to stand the test of time.

Updates over the former Kickr were more evolution than revolution. These included a larger flywheel (12lb increased to 16lb) and refined power management, meaning should you stop pedalling while mid-interval in erg-mode, you don't need to do a standing track start in order to get the thing moving again. 

There are a few substantial differences between the Kickr and the Kickr Core. The flywheel of the Kickr is 16lb, whereas the Core is the same 12lb weight as the previous generation Kickr. 

The maximum resistance of the Kickr is 2200 watts, versus a probably-still-out-of-reach 1800 watts on the Core. Gradient simulation is also greater, rising from 16% on the Core to 20% on the Kickr. 

(Image credit: Saris)

Saris H3

Great for those with big engines and angry neighbours

Flywheel weight: 20lbs / 9kg | Connectivity: ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth | Accuracy: +/- 2-per cent | Max power: 2000-watts | Max simulated grade: 20-per cent

Heavy flywheel
Folding legs
Cassette not included

With a substantial 20lb flywheel to drive, the Saris H3 combines real-world inertia with electromagnetic resistance to offer 2000-watts of interactive resistance from your favourite training app.

The H3 sees integrated speed and cadence (and of course power) sensors and offers smooth transitions in power. The standout figure is the low noise, promising just 59 decibels at 20mph, the H3 is arguably the best turbo trainer for those looking to keep neighbours happy.

The legs fold away, and there’s and carry handle so you don’t throw out your back trying to move the 21.3kg unit. It comes with end caps to suit most modern rear ends (except super boost).

Elite Direto X smart trainer

(Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Elite Direto X

The Elite Direto X brings affordable and accurate direct-drive smart trainer functionality to a broader audience

Flywheel weight: 9.25lbs / 4.2kg | Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth Smart | Accuracy: +/- 1.5-per cent | Max power: 2100-watts | Max simulated grade: 18-per cent

Advanced pedalling metrics
Max power and grade simulation
Super-quiet and smooth operation
Easy to set up
Unique and appealing aesthetics
Price
Cassette and training mat not included
Prone to getting dirty and collecting debris

With so many good direct-drive smart trainers currently on the market, the Elite Direto X makes a serious case for itself as far as affordability, performance and reliability are concerned - it's a looker too with unique visual attributes that separate it not just from its rivals but its Elite stablemates too.

The integrated Optical Torque System (OTS) power meter is accurate and reliable, the platform is stable and the riding experience is glitch-free, realistic and audibly softer than its predecessor. 

Compared to some of its rivals the Direto X is one of the most universally accepting smart trainers and can play nicely with 130 and 135mm quick-release frames as well as those that employ 142x12mm thru-axle configurations - the supplied skewer/axle endcap adapters will ensure the best fit.

Kurt Kinetic R1

Direct drive trainer with rock and roll feature

Flywheel weight: 30.9lbs / 14kg | Connectivity: ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth, USB | Accuracy: +/- 3-per cent | Max power: 2000-watts | Max simulated grade: 20-per cent

Rock and roll
Folding legs
Heavy flywheel
Power accuracy could be better for the price

The best turbo trainer from Minnesota-based Kurt Kinetic; the R1 combines the features you'd look for in a direct drive smart turbo trainer with a bit of rock and roll flavour. It’ll work with several axle standards and cassettes, offers interactive resistance from your favourite training app, but then you also get about 15-degrees of side to side sway to keep your core engaged.

With a sizable 30.9lbs / 14kg flywheel, the R1 claims a power accuracy of +/- 3-per cent accuracy, offers 2000-watts of resistance and maximum slope simulation of 20-per cent. Swapping the freehub also requires no tools, and the R1 will accept Shimano and SRAM cassettes with a replacement freehub required for SRAM XD and Campagnolo.

The trainer requires a wide stance to prevent you from tipping over, the legs fold away for compact storage, and there is even a handle to help you move it around your house.

Elite Drivo II

Trainer for the data nerds

Flywheel weight: 13.2lbs / 6kg | Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth Smart | Accuracy: +/- 0.5-per cent | Max power: 2300-watts | Max simulated grade: 24-per cent

Advanced pedalling metrics
Max power and grade
Price

Elites Drivo II takes power seriously, with an accuracy claimed to be within +/- 0.5-per cent. The Italian outfit says the built-in Optical Torque Sensor takes measurements from 24-points and can even measure the smoothness and roundness of your pedal stroke.

With 2300-watts of resistance, up to a 24-per cent simulated grade, the Drivo features built-in speed and cadence sensors too. It does require a bit of assembly out of the box, and the fold-out legs provide for a stable pedalling platform for those trying to target that maximum wattage. 

The trainer plays nice with a host of third-party training apps, and the trainer comes with a 36-month membership to Elite's My E-Training app.

Wheel-on

Wahoo Kickr Snap

One of the best turbo trainers for user-friendliness

Flywheel weight: 10.5lbs / 4.76kg | Connectivity: ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, and Bluetooth Smart | Accuracy: +/- 3-per cent | Max power: 1500-watts | Max simulated grade: 12-per cent

Third party app compatibility
Quick setup
Calibration

While Wahoo's Kickr direct drive turbo trainers are likely some of the first that comes to mind (for good reason), the brand's wheel-on Kickr Snap is no chump.

With both ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity, Wahoo makes the unit compatible with basically every training app under the sun and the Kickr Snap plays nicely with iOS, Android, Windows and Mac.

At +/-3 per cent accuracy, the power measurement of the V2 edges in just above much of the competition and in the ERG mode, the Snap adjusts the resistance at the rear wheel to match what your app of choice dictates.

The frame is sturdy and doesn't feel as though you're going to tip over when the intervals get tough, but the legs are foldable for easy storage.

Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll Control

A smart turbo trainer that simulates outdoor riding

Flywheel weight: 12lb / 5.4kg | Connectivity: ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth | Accuracy: +/-3-per cent | Max power: 1800-watts | Max simulated grade: 10-per cent

Rock and roll action
Big footprint

Kurt Kinetic's Rock and Roll turbo trainer offers an indoor riding experience that many people attempt to replicate with a rocker plate. The unique frame sways from side to side, forcing you to engage your core as you would in the real world. On the downside, if space is at a premium, the Rock and Roll has a massive footprint and does not fold down.

Kinetic is offering the Rock and Roll trainer with a Power Control unit which features a 12lb flywheel and app-controlled interactive resistance. Even better, if you've already got a Rock and Roll, or any other Kurt Kinetic trainer you can upgrade it with the Power Control Unit.

The Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll Control has a maximum resistance of 1800-watts and maximum simulated incline of 10-per cent. There is plenty of leg-burning power on tap.

Saris M2

Mid-range tyre driven trainer with good power accuracy

Flywheel weight: 2.6lbs / 1.2kg | Connectivity: ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth | Accuracy: +/-5-per cent | Max power: 1500-watts | Max simulated grade: 15-per cent

Integrated cadence sensor
Spring-loaded skewer clap
Pairing can be difficult

Coming from the same umbrella company that brought you PowerTap is the Saris (formerly CycleOps) M2, which offers good power accuracy through its electromagnetically controlled resistance unit.

With 1500-watts of resistance and 15-per cent simulated grade, there is plenty to push up against as you race up Zwift's Epic KOM mountain or chase down breakaways with Sufferlandrian Director Sportif Gunter Von Agony telling you to ride faster.

When it comes to connecting your bike to the trainer, the M2 has three quick settings for typical hub spacing on both road and mountain bikes, and a two-inch roller for up to a two-inch tyre in 650b, 700c, 26in, 27in, and 29er.

(Image credit: Elite)

Elite Tuo

Part trainer, part modern art

Flywheel weight: N/A | Connectivity: ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth Smart | Accuracy: +/- 3-per cent | Max power: 1250-watts | Max simulated grade: 10-per cent

Aesthetic
Accuracy
Low simulated grade

The Elite Tuo is easily the best turbo trainer for the style-conscious or those who want their turbo trainer to blend in with their home decor. 

However, it's not just a pretty face. With a claimed accuracy of +/- 3-per cent, slope simulation of 10% and a maximum resistance of 1250 watts, it holds its own as a great training tool too.

The Tuo is compatible with bikes from 130mm quick-release up to Boost 148x12mm thru-axle. It has a large footprint for stability during high power efforts, yet if you do decide to hide it away, it folds up to a compact package. 

Tacx Flow Smart

A budget-friendly smart turbo trainer for indoor training newbies

Flywheel weight: 1.6kg | Connectivity: ANT+FC-C, Bluetooth Smart | Accuracy: +/- 5-per cent | Max power: 800-watts | Max simulated grade: 6-per cent

Price
Elastogel roller
Light flywheel
Limited resistance

Not all smart turbo trainers have to be expensive, and the Tacx Flow smart is one of the most budget-friendly trainers out there. Using electromagnetic resistance, the Flow Smart provides interactive resistance from the training app of your choice or the brand's own proprietary training app.

For apartment dwellers, the folding legs make for compact storage, and the elastogel core roller helps to dampen noise and vibrations, and limit the passive-aggressive notes your downstairs neighbour slides under your door.

While the Flow Smart doesn't offer quite the level of resistance, simulated grade or power accuracy as some of the more expensive units, it's also only a little more than half the price. For someone looking to get into indoor training, the Tacx Flow Smart is a great starting point.

Essential info

Turbo trainers can be a confusing minefield to the uninitiated, but that's where we can help. Firstly, you'll need to decide between smart and dumb. The best turbo trainers of today are all smart, which means they can connect (usually via Bluetooth or ANT+) to your electronic device (phone, laptop, cycling computer, etc) to offer variable resistance which is controlled by apps/programs such as Zwift

When buying, look for connectivity specs and compatibility claims. If it has Bluetooth/ANT+ mentioned, or it claims to be compatible with Zwift, then you're looking at a smart turbo trainer. 

Dumb trainers forego this connectivity and are much cheaper. They either offer a variable resistance curve (the harder you pedal, the harder it gets), or a manual controller, which is not dissimilar to dragging your brakes. Of course, if you have a power meter or speed sensor, you can still pair that with your Zwift-running device, but the interactivity is lost. For more information on this, we've put together a guide to the cheapest Zwift setup which explains what you need to ride on Zwift and the cheapest way to make it happen. 

Within smart turbo trainers, there are two options, wheel-on/tyre driven and direct drive. Just as the names suggest, wheel-on places a roller against your rear tyre to provide resistance while direct-drive connects a cassette to the trainer itself, and removes the rear wheel entirely.

The most significant factor in determining which turbo trainer is best for you will be how much you're willing to spend. Direct drive turbo trainers are often the most expensive, the wheel-on smart variety is more budget-friendly, and dumb turbo trainers are regularly the cheapest. 

Of course, there is a trade-off. The wheel-on trainers are usually louder and don’t offer the same accurate power measurement their direct drive cousins do and most direct drive trainers require power calibration before each use, generally in the form of a 'spin down'.

Zwift

Zwift is a popular training program used with turbo trainers (Image credit: Zwift)

Smart turbo trainers can also offer ERG mode where the trainer will tailor the resistance curve to help you hit your target power. For example, let's say you're riding using TrainerRoad and your target power is 200 watts, ERG mode will provide the right resistance for 200 watts regardless of whether you're pedalling at 60RPM or 150RPM.

This means you can focus more on the pedalling and less about shifting, cross chaining and blowing your interval because you got a bit too involved in whatever you were watching on Netflix.

When it comes to communication with your device, almost every trainer can connect via Bluetooth Smart or ANT+ and now, ANT+ FEC. While Bluetooth Smart has been able to broadcast data and control your trainer from the outset, ANT+ only transmits data and ANT+ FEC allows for your device or training app to send orders to the trainer.

As of around 2016, virtually every trainer on the market was dual-band, meaning they worked on both protocols, so no matter if you're using a Garmin head unit or your laptop, your smart turbo trainer should be able to speak the right language.

Bikes use a variety of axle and free-hub standards these days it's also essential to make sure you've got the right adaptors. Most direct-drive trainers come with a variety of end caps to suit multiple axles; however, wheel on trainers may require a special axle, either one from the respective trainer company or a third-party universal option.