Buying a Turbo Trainer / Ergo Trainer

I’ve decided it could be a good idea to get a turbo trainer to help keep me fit. I’ve been out Mountain Biking quite a bit and watching the Tour de France on the TV has motivated me even more to try to get a little fitter and faster so a Turbo trainer could be an ideal way of doing so.

They are great for interval training and some proper ‘formal’ training sessions rather than just bikes rides in the hills and following on from my lab tests at the Sports and Exercise Department I should soon be getting some results and some detailed training plans, so a turbo trainer should be a useful training tool It will also give me an excuse to get the road bikes out of the shed and at least use them a little even I don’t actually go anywhere on them!

There are just so many different choices though  and with prices starting from around £40 and going up to thousands decided which is best isn’t going to be easy. The main physical difference between the various types is the way in which the resistance is produced.

Air resistance – The original turbo trainers used a plastic fan to generate wind resistance.  They are very noisy and not really much good these days.

Friction from a large flywheel – Used on spinning bikes in the main and the size and weight can be limiting. Spinning bikes are quiet and solid but very expensive.

Fluid resistance – A a fan revolving in oil or gel. Valves allow you to adjust the resistance on some models. Quiet. Usually smooth, usually expensive too.

Magnetic resistance – These units use a metal plate spinning inside a magnetic field and you can adjust the level of resistance. Most of the sophisticated electronic trainers use magnetic resistance, However they aren’t always as smooth as fluid trainers.

Electronically controlled – These are the latest breed of magnetic trainers and they offer the best control via an electro-magnet, but they come at a price.

Of course, once you get into the higher priced versions the determining factor becomes extra features such as computer readouts and on some of the top of the range models. Virtual Reality screens connected to computers so that you can ride virtual stages of the Tour de France etc. These are just too expensive for me, but I would like one that at least allows me to see my speed, power output, cadence and probably heart rate. It would be good if I could then download this data to my computer after a wokout but I have so far been unable to find one that will interface with an Apple Mac computer.

However, I do already have a Garmin Forerunner 305 which I could use as a heart rate monitor and with the GPS function switched off and a Speed/Cadence Sensor for it I should be able to record my speed, distance and heart rate and upload that info to my Mac Training Software.

As we get older staying fit gets more and more difficult to do, but I find that treating myself to new toys and new gadgets ever now and then helps keep me motivated and keeps the fitness training on course.

I haven’t quite decided which model of turbo trainer to get yet. I could get a basic one and not have the power output reading, but at the moment I’m tending to lean towards a Tacx T1680 Flow. This looks as though it has all of the basics of being fairly quiet, stable and adjustable resistance but with some added features such as a digital display showing speed, Heart Rate, Cadence and that all important power output. Hopefully these extra features will help me push just a little bit harder and keep my interest up whilst out there training on it. The training sessions will be a good opportunity to catch up with listening to some podcasts as well.

Or, should I save some money and get a more basic version and base my training on my Heart Rate from my Garmin Foreunner?… So many choices.

4 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    After getting feedback from Jon from my lab tests as part of his PhD research I think the Tacx Flow is the one to go for.

    It is more expensive than a basic turbo trainer but that’s because after reading more about them, its actually and ‘Ergo Trainer’ that allows you to set a certain power output to work at and the machine will adjust the resistance so that your power output remains the same regardless of your cadence.

    I’ve got a load of figures from Jon, Gas Exchange Threshold, Critical Power etc. and some standard work outs to do based on these. Now all I need is some money to buy the ergo-trainer and some time and motivation to use it and sweat a little!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sounds as though my new Tacx T1680 Flow ergo-turbo trainer has arrived.

    No time to play with it though as I’m out for a ride in the real world tonight.

    No doubt I’ll post photos and a review here soon though

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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