Let’s be honest, there are times when indoor cycling on a trainer is necessary for one reason or another. Whatever the reasons for choosing to include indoor cycling as part of your training program, selecting the best fluid bike trainer for your level and style of riding, will give you a high- quality indoor cycling workout and fitness results that you can’t achieve from doing similar cycling sessions riding outdoors.
There are various successful brands on the market that offers a wide range of different options in terms of indoor bicycle trainers – with so many amazing features that as soon as you start focusing at a few it can quickly become difficult to decide between these you want and the ones you really need.
This brief list is based on a comprehensive review of the top-selling, popular indoor fluid bike trainers available on today’s market, so you can feel confident picking the one that best suits your needs and budget.
Nashbar Fluid Bicycle Trainer
Among all the popular indoor bike trainer brands, namely CycleOps, Kurt Kinetic, Trek, Blackburn and Minoura, Nashbar Fluid Bike Trainer is definitely the best available mid-level budget option for a dumb trainer.
While the Nashbar Bike Trainer is impressive for its price, it’s not a trainer that perfectly mimic the actual feeling of riding on the road cycling like the Kinetic Rock n Roll, but it comes close. That does not mean the road feel is poor on this trainer and you probably shouldn’t buy it – they are actually different enough to be similar, but you and your legs will notice the numerous benefits of using a Nashbar Fluid Bicycle Trainer in your cycling life.
The Nashbar Fluid Trainer is a really perfect choice for riders who just want to stay in shape while staying indoors and doesn’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of money, or perhaps for those who are just wanting an easily portable fluid-based dumb trainer to take out for a pre-race warm-up.
The resistance provided by the fluid unit is progressive as a function of the rotation rate of the impeller which is in contact with a fluid-liquid filled chamber. In other words, the faster the rear wheel rotates against the trainer’s roller, due either to a higher cadence or bike’s gears shifts, the higher the resistance becomes and vice versa.
The Nashbar Bike Trainer is durably constructed of robust metal frame encased in a sturdy plastic to withstand the most intense cycling sessions. On one side of the trainer, we have a nice meaty yellow lever that keeps the bike sturdily in place and allows fast, easy bike attachment and removal. In addition to this, the resistance unit roller is adjustable vertically to accommodate 26-27 inch wheels, as well as 650c and 700c.
The trainer includes its own quick release skewer for the rear wheel which ensures a much more secure hold of the bicycle to the trainer. Fluid-type cycling trainers are, in general, viewed as “quiet” option, but as with most “wheel-on” designs, there will be some noise associated with riding your bike indoors on the Nashbar Cycle Turbo Trainer.
The total amount of noise generated by tire/roller contact is always going to be dependent on a number of factors of which four key ones are: the bike itself, especially the tire and chain/gear set, the wheel speed though, the surface on which the trainer is installed and the size of the room in which the trainer is used.
Of course, there are a couple of solutions that I have found helpful and can be applied to all “dumb” cycling trainers. One option is to pick up an exercise/trainer mat and place it under the trainer during use. This bike trainer mat is designed specifically to dampen the vibration and lessen the noise caused by bike trainer. It also has the added benefit of protecting your carpet/floor from scratches, flying sweat and tire residue or other damage that might occur!.
Another solution is to replace the standard road bike tire with a trainer-specific indoor tire. The lack of tread on this type tire will help greatly to reduce the noise, improve the performance of the trainer, providing the tire exceptional grip on the roller and last but not least the durable rubber compound will withstand the heat and stress longer, which is an awesome side benefit as well.
The Strengths I Like…
The trainer is relatively inexpensive when compared to other fluid cycling trainers
It is tremendously lightweight ( 20.4 lbs / 9.3 kg) that makes it easier to carry around
It folds up compactly when not used and stored away in a small space after the riding session is finished
It is created by a reliable company that you can trust
The Weaknesses I Don’t Like…
The clamp handle and knob for adjusting the tire tension on the roller are made of hard plastic and doesn’t provide a proper grip for better tightening and loosening
The resistance unit requires a little time, usually about 10-15 minutes to warm up and reach a steady resistance. Some fluid cycling trainers like the Kinetic Road Machine do this faster but cost much more
If you are particularly sensitive to noise or have easily irritable neighbors – then the Nashbar Fluid Pro Bike Trainer simply is not a good choice.
Cascade Fluid Pro Bike Trainer
Another reliable dumb turbo trainer you should take into consideration is the Cascade Fluid Pro Bike Trainer. Although the company is not one of the big players on the trainers market, Cascade is really a well-known and respected name in the realm of indoor cycle training – especially involved in sponsoring several college and university teams across the USA!
The Cascade Fluid Pro resistance unit provides up to 900 watts of smooth progressive resistance, and its heavyweight flywheel is designed to mimic the real road feel of cycling outdoors. The drive unit features a thermally sealed fluid chamber as a further guarantee against any possible leakage of fluid therefrom.
When it comes to ‘real’ road feel on fluid bike trainers, the weight of the flywheel is one of the key components that actually create a smooth experience for the rider, replicating the feel of a regular road bike and often make the difference between a good ride and a great one in trainer’s performance.
One of the advantages of the heavier 7lbs/3.18kg flywheel the Cascade Fluid Pro Trainer has technically over the others with lighter flywheel is that it provides a better simulation more efficient workout experience and natural and smooth pedaling motion.
Cascade’s Fluid Pro Trainer has heavy-duty steel frame construction and features a wide stance (footprint open 61cm x 58cm 24″ x 23″) and anti-slip rubber feet to keep you, your bike and the trainer firmly rooted on the floor (or another surface). As you’d expect, now mounting and dismounting the bike from the trainer is fast and easy, with the “Quick-Connect” system design of the Cascade. It can accommodate bikes with wheels from 24” to 29” in diameter.
With the Cascade Fluid Pro Trainer, the only noise you will hear during use emanates simply from the rotation of the rear wheel (and especially the spokes whip against the air)
The Strengths I Like…
Heavyweight flywheel with fully sealed resistance unit to ensure leak-free performance
Excellent customer support!
The folding design enables it to fold easily for compact storage when not in use
It is relatively quiet compared with other dumb fluid turbo trainers in this price range
Includes a riser block for the front wheel with three different height positions for use, so you don’t have to purchase
The stability that Cascade provides when the bike is actually attached is amazing, one feature separating good from not-so-good trainer models
The Weaknesses I Don’t Like…
The trainer is not as light as it seems. The claimed weight for the whole unit is 17.6 kg, so it can be a challenge, especially if you plan on transporting it frequently from one location to another. Of course, its weight is a big plus as that makes it way more stable when you are using it
The folding legs don’t have a lock-out system, this can be a finger pincher if you are not careful when carrying it from one location to another
CycleOps Fluid 2 Bike Trainer
In 2001, CycleOps released on the market their first classic progressive resistance fluid bike trainer, which made the indoor cycling workout much more entertaining and as realistic as possible. In 2007 almost six years after its original conception, CycleOps have revised and adjusted the fluid resistance drive unit from its previous an equivalent unit in order to provide riders with a more stable and continuous power curve resistance.
Well, that’s the history. Today, the CycleOps Fluid 2 Bike Trainer still stands out as one of the most recognizable CycleOps models ever produced and also one of the bestselling fluid bicycle trainers in the U.S to date.
The CycleOps Fluid 2 is different from the majority of other conventional fluid based trainers on the market due to utilizing CycleOps’s advanced Power Band Technology. This technology is able to provide a self-adjusting and progressive range of resistance according to the speed of rotation of the bike wheel.
The CycleOps claims that the trainer can offer over 750+ watts of resistance – to put this into perspective, record-breaking Tour de France cyclist Lance Armstrong could maintain 705 +watts continuously for one hour from what I’ve heard; this means that for the large majority of us even a 750+watts would be more than enough, unless you’re Fabian Cancellara.
You should be aware, however, that the resistance offered by the CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer, like most other “wheel-on” designs is almost non-existent for the first 15 to 20 minutes of pedaling until the fluid in the resistance unit heats up. But once this happens you will find that the resistance becomes progressively more challenging.
From a ride standpoint, I think the Fluid2’s light 2.75 lbs (1.250kg) flywheel has a smaller rotational momentum of the rear wheel (aka: inertia) from a weight. It just doesn’t feel quite as smooth or “road-like” to the pedaling compared to the heavier 7 lbs (3.18kg) flywheel of its competitor Cascade who offer quite noticeable power from a low cadence, but it definitely holds perfectly well.
Besides having a high-quality internal build, another great benefit of this trainer is the well-designed footprint dimensions ( open: 22″ L, 31″ W, 16″ H ) that makes it exceptionally stable without a hint of wobble even when sprinting. While the updated foldable CycleOps Classic Series frame is stronger, more durable, and tougher, it’s also lighter with a weight of 18 lbs, to be exact.
Right out of the box, the Fluid 2 trainer is compatible with most bikes with a quick release wheel in it with the most common rear dropout spacing -120mm, 130mm or 135mm – and fits 26″, 27″, and 700c wheels. Keep in mind that CycleOps thru-axle adapter is needed for 142mm and 148mm thru-axle compatibility.
Furthermore, it features a newly improved CycleOps Clutch Knob which ensures that the precise amount of pressure is applied against the trainer’s roller and the rear tire of the bicycle; once it gets to that point, the lever clicks and won’t tighten any further. Much better made than the tiny hard plastic knob on the Nashbar Fluid Trainer.
While I wouldn’t call it noisy, it is definitely not as quiet as some other models in CycleOps’s lineup, it produces 68 dB of noise at 20mph. You’ll probably find it quieter than your old air resistance turbo if you are replacing anything 10 or 15 years old. The Fluid 2, however just can not compare to today’s high-end direct drive smart trainers, which are designed to be quieter in operation.
The Strengths I Like…
It is approximates more or less closely to an actual road ride because there is a smooth, self-adjusting and progressive resistance, but never can’t replace the road: the changes in terrain under your wheels, road vibrations/textures, the wind, etc
Outstanding customer support!
Heavy duty frame design
Can be paired with popular training software such as Zwift, Trainer Road, etc.
Once the quick release mechanism is installed, attaching and detaching the bike into place on the trainer is quick and convenient
Lifetime warranty, manufactured in the United States with the highest quality of components
The Fluid2’s fully-sealed resistance unit
The Weaknesses I Don’t Like…
It’s louder turbo at high speeds, but it’s deemed by many as the best choice in its class
The CycleOps Fluid 2 Trainer is tough enough to handle any seated hard cycling workout, but If you’re the type of indoor rider who prefers to ride out of the saddle to simulate climbing, the level of resistance may not be sufficient for that type of riding
Does not come with front wheel block
No matter how willing you are to head outdoors during the colder (or hotter) months of the year, there will be instances that you cannot go for a ride outside in the real world and have an outdoor experience, so investing in a good trainer still appears to be a wise decision, and over time, a much cheaper alternative to a costly gym membership.
WHICH BIKE TRAINER IS RIGHT FOR ME?
I know a lot of people will want some sort of concrete answer on which of these aforementioned three trainers, to pick, but well, it’s not that easy. What I can say based on my experience is that each of these trainers has something unique it can offer users, whether that is the heavier flywheel weight (Cascade), the most advanced technology of trainer resistance unit (CycleOps) or a great compromise of both (Nashbar).
All the presented trainers have slightly different pros and cons, but on the whole, they’re just really good trainers.
For someone on a budget who is just starting out, and who may decide to ride their bike indoors up to two or three times weekly, Nashbar is definitely enough. But for anyone else, who logs a few hundred/thousand miles per year (not that unusual) and plan to do serious cycling sessions indoors, the Cascade or the CycleOps are definitely a much better choice.
If you are interested in learning more about any of these trainers, I’d recommend you to visit the world’s largest and trusted retailer of many products online with one of the links below. This will direct you to the relevant product page, where you can find more information and reviews on the CycleOps Fluid 2 Bike Trainer, the Cascade Fluid Pro Bike Trainer or even the Nashbar Fluid Bike Trainer, so you can make an informed decision on which fluid bike trainer to buy for your needs.