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BUYER'S GUIDE

Best turbo trainers 2022 — improve your cycling and get fit indoors

Want to take your training inside? Here's everything you need to know about the best turbo trainers plus which is best for your needs

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Opting for the turbo over riding in the rain and snow over winter no longer has to feel like a lonesome chore thanks to wireless-connected turbo trainers (aka home trainers or indoor trainers) and apps which allow you to ride and race with friends from all over the world.  We've put in the hours of riding on various indoor trainers to ensure that we find you the best turbo trainers for this year and far beyond...


By simulating riding outside from the comfort of your own home, a turbo trainer allows you keep fit when the weather is unpleasant and/or less safe for heading outdoors, or when time is limited and riding in the dark is therefore the unfavourable alternative.

In the last few years – and even more so over the 2020 lockdown when many had no choice but to train indoors – the popularity of 'smart' trainers has boomed. These allow for an ANT+ or Bluetooth wireless connection to a computer, phone, tablet or Apple TV box, which are able to control the level of pedalling resistance, expressed as your power in watts via a built-in power meter.

If your budget is tight then you can stick with a 'dumb' trainer (we've recommended some in this guide) but if you want to use it with one of the best cycling training apps, then you will have to use your gears to alter the resistance. If the app is telling you to target a certain power or cadence zone you'll also have to improvise, unless you have a power meter and cadence sensor on your bike already. 

Paired with useful software such as Zwift, TrainerRoad, Wahoo SYSTM or others, smart trainers can be a great tool for winter training as they allow you to train to a specific power output target. The best turbo trainers can also simulate hills or put you in a virtual race or group-training session, all of which helps to make indoor training more enjoyable. Couple this technology with some of the best indoor cycling accessories like a whopping great fan, indoor-specific clothing and a sweat catcher to protect your bike, and you're bound to find indoor training a joy instead of the task it once was. 

If you want a set-up that multiple people can use and adjust easily then you might be better off looking at our selection of the best exercise bikes and smart bikes; but if you're shopping for just you or are lucky enough to have space for multiple trainers in your 'pain cave' to keep the whole family fit, read on to see our top trainer picks... 

The best turbo trainers: our top picks

Tacx Neo 2T Smart trainer

Tacx Neo 2T Smart trainer

9
Best turbo trainer overall
Buy now for £899.99 from Wiggle
Very powerful
Very quiet
Very responsive
Very accurate
ERG mode pretty brutal

Sitting comfortably in the top spot as the best turbo trainer is the Tacx Neo 2T. If you were looking for the best direct-drive smart trainer then look no further. This very quiet trainer is a highly capable piece of equipment that's easy to set up as well as store and has a resistance unit that’s able to simulate road surfaces by altering the resistance hundreds of times a second. Therefore helping to replicate a realistic riding experience on Zwift (which it is compatible with) from the comfort of your own home.

If you were wondering why this is the best turbo trainer and how it differs from the older model (NEO 2) the NEO 2T's biggest difference is the resistance which has been improved upon and therefore produces trustworthy as well as repeatable numbers. Which is of course great for recording accurate numbers for training purposes. Moreover, the NEO 2T at lower speeds produces a more powerful resistance and is also capable of very quick ERG power changes. Overall, it's quiet (which neighbours will of course be thankful for) as well as capable. Although it’s important to note that the ERG mode can be a little hardcore in comparison to others.

In conclusion, if what you are looking for is a top of the range turbo trainer then this is a solid choice that you certainly won't regret. Although others are better value, most notably the Saris H3, the NEO 2T from Tacx is on the other hand more high tech thanks to its impressive features. Which include: its cadence sensing, ability to power itself and realistic road surface feel. 

Read our review:
Zwift Hub smart trainer

Zwift Hub smart trainer

9
Best budget smart trainer
Buy now for £449 from Zwift
Great value
Accurate power
Cassette included and you can spec the one you want
Well built
Some assembly required
ERG smoothing is unnecessary
Cadence sensing sometimes patchy

Fairly new to the market, the Zwift Hub smart trainer is a brilliant option for anyone looking for a budget-friendly and well built direct drive indoor trainer. Usefully this one is also really easy to set up and user friendly to work with, it’s of course also compatible with Zwift. Additionally, a cassette is included as well which is a great addition to an already well priced pick in the best turbo trainers list.

However, just because this is the best budget direct drive turbo trainer, don’t be fooled into thinking it’ll lack power accuracy. Fortunately, the Zwift Hub produces a claimed accuracy of +/-2.5%, which for the price is very impressive and also offers a maximum resistance of up to 1800W. Therefore your training and riding will be accurate as well as repeatable.

Therefore, if you want the best direct drive turbo trainer but on a budget, the Zwift Hub will be the indoor trainer for you. Is it on the same level as the Tacx NEO 2T? No, sadly not, but for hundreds of pounds less it is definitely the one to have if you don’t want to break the bank or if you’re looking for your first turbo trainer and you want a direct drive that’s easy to use.

Read our review: 
Tacx Flux S Smart Trainer

Tacx Flux S Smart Trainer

8
Quietest budget wheel-off smart trainer
Buy now for £449.99 from Swinnerton Cycles
Smooth ride feel
Quiet
High resistance floor
No handle

The Flux S direct drive turbo is an excellent and pretty affordable smart trainer from one of the biggest companies in the business: Tacx. This pick in our best turbo trainers selection offers a smooth ride quality and doesn’t produce much noise at all. It’s also very accurate and offers great consistency of numbers, so it’s a great option for those wanting an indoor trainer for the colder months or to mix up their training. 

Tacx claims the Flux S reads your power to an accuracy of +/- 3%. As well as that, this model can also simulate a maximum resistance of 1,500W which is very reasonable and good enough for most riders and their training needs. Additionally, the Flux S can simulate a climb of up to 10%. It’s also worth noting that the latest version now allows for the use of both gravel and mountain bikes as it has enough clearance for a long-arm derailleur.

Overall, the Tacx Flux S smart trainer is a solid option for training purposes. It’s easy to set up and connect to your other devices which is great, but on the other hand, the max resistance offered is a little lower than other direct drives. Also, it does notably struggle at delivering lower levels of resistance. But for the price, it’s a great option.

Elite Direto XR smart trainer

Elite Direto XR smart trainer

8
Most affordable high-end smart trainer
Buy now for £589 from Evans Cycles
Solid
Quiet
Accurate
Good value
Not the very best in ERG mode
No rocking mechanism

This smart trainer from Elite is very solid and delivers highly accurate power numbers. It also beats most of its competitors in the premium smart trainer space for price. 

The Direto XR holds your bike firmly in place with no side-to-side movement, and although some could find this more anchored position uncomfortable, it's one of the best if you like to be planted and for the trainer to feel rock solid underneath you. It's impressively quiet and your drivetrain and fan will likely be louder than the noise it generates. The flywheel isn't too heavy but we found this didn't negatively impact the ride responds, and the trainer responds particularly well to sprint efforts.  

It's no longer top of Elite's range with the recently launched Justo now the brand's most deluxe trainer, but if your budget can't quite stretch to a grand then the Direto XR is very capable indeed. 

Read our review:
Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ trainer

Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ trainer

8
Best wheel-on budget turbo trainer
Buy now for £274.99 from Wiggle
Good ride feel
Affordable
Accurate when calibrated
Elite app is still a bit clunky

Elite's Qubo Digital Smart B+ has been around a while now, and that means you can enter into smart training for under £300. If you're not sure if indoor riding is for you and therefore aren’t keen on splashing the cash on a more high tech direct drive model, then this is an excellent and simplistic wheel-on unit for you to try. Compatibility wise, this particular wheel-on turbo trainer allows for wheel sizes ranging from 20” to 700c.

Interestingly, according to Elite, they claim that the maximum resistance offered by the Qubo is 1,070W, which for the vast majority of people would be enough, however if you are someone who often sees past this output then this is unlikely to suit your needs. On the other hand, the accuracy for measuring power is pretty impressive given it’s one of the cheapest smart trainers on the market. In addition to the impressive accuracy, for a wheel-on turbo trainer, this unit is pretty quiet in comparison to others of a similar design, but it unfortunately cannot beat the quiet nature of the direct drive turbos. 

Overall, if what you are looking for in the best turbo trainer is a cheap smart trainer that’s reliable, simple and accurate then this is a solid option. Compared to other wheel-on turbos this one will be hard to beat, but for the money, it’s a no-brainer if you just want to try out indoor riding or are on a budget.

Read our review:
Saris Fluid2 Trainer Smart Equipped

Saris Fluid2 Trainer Smart Equipped

8
Best basic turbo trainer on a budget
Buy now for £129.99 from ProBikeKit
Clever resistance unit
Realistic ride feel
Simple to use
Instructions aren't very clear
Some instability out of the saddle

If what you are looking for is the best standard turbo trainer then the Saris Fluid2 Smart Equipped is the one for you. It’s straightforward, affordable and simple: a classic wheel-on style turbo trainer which does its job very well, which is why the design hasn't changed for years. At just £129.99 at the time of writing, there's little reason why you wouldn’t pick one up to use on the less than favourable winter days, unless your budget stretches a lot further of course. 

But, just because this offering from Saris is cheap doesn’t mean you have to miss out on riding with friends or using your favourite indoor riding apps. Usefully fitted with a speed/cadence sensor, this means that the unit works with training apps like Zwift and Rouvy. Therefore, although basic, you can still enjoy some visual stimulation and motivation for a fraction of the price of other turbo trainers. That being said, it isn’t as quiet as a direct drive turbo and the simulated power reading won't be accurate. 

Therefore, if what you want is a standard, simple, easy to use turbo trainer that is both user friendly and much cheaper than what’s currently available on the market then this is a decent option for you to consider. It’s basic, but it definitely does its job and does it well. 

Read our review:
Wahoo Kickr Core Smart Trainer

Wahoo Kickr Core Smart Trainer

9
Best for reliability on a budget
Buy now for £599 from Tredz
Reliable power recording
Excellent, fast-reacting ERG mode
Quiet
Stable
More than enough resistance (1,800W)
No carry handle
No side-to-side movement
Requires some (very simple) building
No cassette included

The Kickr Core is currently the most affordable direct drive offering in Wahoo's range, and you'll be pleasantly surprised to know that it sacrifices very little compared to the top-end Kickr trainer. We found it to be smooth and stable while providing impressively accurate power data. We were also particularly impressed with the ERG mode. 

The Kickr Core can handle a maximum of 1,800 watts of resistance and comes with a 5.4kg flywheel that's controlled by an electromagnetic resistance unit. It's virtually silent and gradient simulation is up to 16%, plus you get all the bits for attaching disc or rim brake bikes in the box. It's not exactly portable and doesn't have a carry handle, but if you have a dedicated space to train this won't be an issue. 

The accuracy is excellent considering it's not a top-of-the-range trainer, and we found it to be consistently within +/-2% of our power meter in comparison tests. Recalibration is only required when you move the trainer, so it's literally plug and play in most cases.  

While it's now not the cheapest since other players have come into the market with sub-£500 smart trainers, very few riders will be disappointed if they go for the Kickr Core.  

Read our review:
Elite Suito Turbo Trainer

Elite Suito Turbo Trainer

9
Most convenient smart turbo trainer
Buy now for £480 from ProBikeKit
Easy to set up
Comes with a cassette
Good power and excellent cadence
Some power variation between seated and standing
Noisier than some

Elite's Suito sits at the cheaper end of the direct drive trainer market but it's well made and the performance is great for what you pay. As the basis for a lower budget smart set-up it's without a doubt an excellent starting point. It’s also compatible with training apps, easy to set up and the Suito-T version also comes with a  Shimano and SRAM-compatible 11-speed cassette; a useful feature if it's compatible with your bike and/or if you aren’t too sure on how to fit one.

Although this turbo trainer is well priced for what it offers, it is unfortunately a bit noisier than other direct drive options, so if noise is an issue for you it might be worth considering quieter trainers such as the Saris H3. Moreover we found the power accuracy isn't quite as good as the more expensive units such as the Wahoo Kickr, but it's definitely good enough to provide you with repeatable training numbers if that’s what your main focus is.

Overall, it’s a great piece of equipment for the price, it’s not right at the top of our best turbo trainers list but the Suito is definitely a strong contender for the best value direct drive indoor trainers if that’s what you are seeking. It’s easy to set up, as well as use, and offers good power with excellent cadence.

Read our review:
Saris H3 Direct Drive Smart Trainer Best turbo trainer for high power accuracy

Saris H3 Direct Drive Smart Trainer

9
Best turbo trainer for high power accuracy
Buy now for £474 from ProBikeKit
Accurate
Quiet
Good build quality
Cadence sensing isn't the best
Doesn't ship with a cassette

The Saris H3 is another very well-priced direct drive smart trainer which offers the rider a quiet, solid and accurate ride for a lot less money than many other rivals within the market. It’s also pretty user friendly in terms of setting it up and is a great all round option for those looking in the mid-price range but still want a quality feel. 

Moreover, the H3, capable of simulating a gradient of up to 20%, can also produce 2,000W of resistance which is without a doubt more than enough for training and racing. Additionally, while in ERG mode, the H3 is very responsive in adjusting the training load when swapping between easy to hard. In addition, this turbo also produces accurate and repeatable numbers which is really useful for training and when using Zwift. 

Therefore, if your thing is accuracy for training purposes and you’re in the market for a new turbo trainer, then we'd highly recommend considering the H3. As Saris have now launched the slightly updated H4, it's currently a lot cheaper than other high end direct drive turbos, and it doesn’t have the same issues as cheaper ones such as noise issues and inconsistent numbers. Of course we'll be reviewing the H4 soon to see what's new, but we'd highly recommend considering the H3 now the price has come down. 

Read our review:
Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer v5  Best high-end turbo trainer

Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer v5

8
Best high-end turbo trainer
Buy now for £799.99 from Sigma Sports
Accurate power
Solidly made
Easy to connect
Axis feet not that effective
ERG algorithm needs work
Some cadence dropouts

Wahoo's Kickr V5 is one of the best turbo trainers that money can buy currently, thanks to high quality feel, accuracy as well as its ability to easily connect to your devices and apps. It even features Axis feet that provide some motion to give a more realistic riding experience. However, all of this does come at a fee, more specifically £799.99. Therefore, if you aren’t wanting to splash so much cash, this won’t be the turbo for you.

Usefully, Wahoo now includes an 11-speed cassette with this model which is a great addition but potentially should be expected given the price. Numbers wise, Wahoo claims the accuracy for the V5 is +/- 1%, which is very impressive. Moreso, it can simulate a gradient of up to 20% and the maximum resistance offered by this model is 2,200W, which is absolutely enough for 99% of people. Therefore this would be a great option for those who race or love training and accuracy.

All in all, the Wahoo Kickr V5 is pricey but it without a doubt has to be included on the best turbo trainers list. It’s a really great piece of equipment that can really help support a rider's indoor training and riding experience. There's also a tweaked Wahoo Kickr V6 that we'll be reviewing soon, but the very capable V5 is, of course, currently cheaper. 

Pinnacle HC Turbo Home Trainer

Pinnacle HC Turbo Home Trainer

8
Another great budget smart trainer
Buy now for £399.99 from Evans Cycles
Good price
Relatively accurate
More than enough resistance (1,800W)
Requires some (very simple) building
No cassette included

At the current price, the Pinnacle HC Turbo Home Trainer is very affordable for a direct-drive unit. It works seamlessly with all your favourite training apps and you can expect mostly reliable figures from its built-in power and cadence sensors.  

Although it doesn't fold up for easy storage, if you have a dedicated space then the set-up is nice and easy. The freehub is designed for Shimano and SRAM cassettes, and adaptors for rim or disc brake bikes are included. A riser block to keep your front wheel fixed in place is also included. 

We found the Pinnacle offers a smooth ride feel from its 5.7kg flywheel and it fels nice and natural, and the power delivery is good. The maximum gradient simulation is 20% and the wattage ceiling is a huge 2,500 watts, which no mortals will ever trouble. Our reviewer found the power to read around 3% higher in a comparison with a power meter crank, but this was mostly consistent throughout the sessions with only occasional drifting. 

It's not the quietest, but that's to be expected at this price point. Overall, this is a very capable proper smart trainer at an impressive price point. 

Read our review: 

How to choose from the best turbo trainers

faq-icon
Is it worth getting a turbo trainer?

Turbo trainers are definitely a piece of equipment that is worth investing in for many different reasons. First and foremost, having one allows you to ride your bike even when the weather outside is unsuitable for riding such as snow or ice. Moreover, they also offer variation for your training and riding experience which can be a brilliant way to help break up training and keep you motivated and focused. Similarly, smart turbo trainers allow you to ride with friends all over the world, thanks to apps such as Zwift. 

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What are the main features of turbo trainers?

Perhaps the most basic thing you need to know is that there are broadly two physical types of turbo trainer: wheel-on and direct-drive. A wheel-on trainer has a mechanism that clamps your bike at the rear, usually by the quick-release; your rear wheel then drives a roller attached to a resistance unit. For a direct-drive trainer you remove your bike's rear wheel and the chain drives sprockets on the trainer. That drives the resistance unit and a big flywheel, surrounded by a plastic shell to keep out fingers and paws.

All turbo trainers have a frame that supports you and your bike. Some trainers are sturdier than others, but trainers from specialist brands are all pretty solid. A larger footprint and heavier frame will ensure it's more stable, which you want if you're doing maximum-effort intervals.

Space can be a premium in many households and many turbos fold flat, but how much space they take up when folded down differs greatly from brand to brand. Many trainers have adjustable legs or feet, so you can ensure you get the trainer perfectly level on uneven floors.

A wheel-on turbo fixes to the quick release of the rear wheel, and often a quick release is supplied with the turbo that is specifically compatible with the model. A cam locking system adjusts two cones that clamp around the skewer. The better models get ergonomic levers that make setting up a breeze. Most trainers also accommodate various sizes of wheels, and some feature a latch to bring the roller up against the wheel, saving you from having to set the roller each time you begin a session.

Direct drive trainers allow you to fit your bike to the trainer; most come with the necessary hardware to fit either quick release or through-axle frames.

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What is a smart trainer?

Trainers can briefly be divided into smart and non-smart options. Smart trainers can be controlled by apps like Zwift, so you can ride in virtual worlds or follow precise training sessions, while non-smart trainers usually just have variable mechanical resistance with no electronic control. Smart trainers have become far and away the most popular variety in the last few years and are our pick if you're serious about using a turbo trainer as part of your fitness program.

A standard turbo trainer has a stand to support your bike and a resistance unit driven by the rear tyre or chain. In a smart trainer the resistance unit has built-in electronics that transmit your speed to an ANT+-capable device and receive instructions from the device to set the resistance you're working against. Smart trainers usually include power meters so you can train by that metric too.

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How do I choose a smart turbo trainer?

If you are unsure as to which turbo trainer is the best for you and your needs as a rider, it's a good idea to first start with a rough idea of your budget: this allows you to focus your search on the best turbo trainers in your price range as they can get rather pricey. You should also consider what features you would like, for example you may only be looking for a direct drive turbo trainer. But in general, as with many things, the more expensive the turbo the more features and abilities it posses. 

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What is the quietest turbo trainer?

Although it is somewhat difficult to know exactly which turbo trainer is the quietest, the Tacx NEO 2T is regarded as one of the quietest turbo trainers money can buy. Which is another solid reason as to why we feel it's the best turbo trainer overall. However, in general you will find that the higher end direct drive turbo trainers that are currently on the market are all impressively quiet. Therefore, although the NEO 2T is a standout pick, you can rest assured that most expensive direct drives won't be producing much noise while in use. 

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Can you put any bike on a turbo trainer?

Usefully, you can attach most bikes to a turbo trainer. However, it's important to note that at times you will need an adaptor depending on what bike you will be trying to fix to the turbo. For example, bikes with disc brakes will need to use a thru-axle adaptor in order to use on a direct drive turbo trainer. Therefore, if you fancied riding your mountain bike on a direct drive turbo then it wouldn't be an issue. 

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Do you use gears on a turbo trainer?

This depends on what type of trainer you have and its capabilities; but generally, unless you're using ERG mode on a smart trainer, it's always a good idea to change gears when using the turbo to alter your resistance and cadence. 

We'll deal with smart trainers first. These sophisticated trainers are trying to replicate the outdoor riding experience from the comfort of your own home, and if this is what you want then it's useful to practise your outside riding habits like changing gear. If you want to take part in virtual cycling events like Zwift races, you'll need to use your gears to react to changes in gradient or catch breaks, so it's just as important that your gears are shifting properly indoors as outdoors.

If you simply want to ride to a target power or do virtual training sessions, then pretty much all modern smart trainers offer an ERG mode. We go into far more detail in our ERG mode feature, but essentially this tells the trainer what resistance to feed in regardless of what actual gear you are in. This means whether you're on the very hardest gear or the very smallest, if your session demands an interval where you have to ride at 250 watts, you will be riding at 250 watts no matter what. As ERG mode takes a split second or so to react and change your resistance level, it might be best to turn it off and stick to gear shifting if your session demands very explosive efforts. 

For non-smart trainers you have to change gear to alter your resistance level, so make sure your bike is shifting properly as you usually would. 

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Do turbo trainers damage your tyres?

If you are looking to buy a direct drive, wheel-off smart trainer like most options in this guide then you can skip this part, because there are no tyres attached to the trainer to damage! You simply take the back wheel off, put your cassette on the trainer and pop your bike on it. If, however, your trainer is a more 'traditional' model where the back wheel spins against a resistance unit, then you should expect a certain amount of wear due to the build up of heat between the tyre and the roller.

Because rolling resistance is not an issue when riding indoors, it's best to get an indoor turbo trainer tyre that is made specifically to deal with heat generated from your turbo, and is extra durable to stop it wearing down too fast. Generally they're inexpensive and could last you thousands of virtual miles, with the Halfords Essentials Turbo Trainer Tyre costing just £15 as one example. You'll want to pump it up to a higher pressure than you usually would with outdoor tyres (at least 100 psi) and top the air up regularly. 

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What is ANT+?

For a fully smart, controllable trainer, the function to look for is ANT+ FE-C capability. ANT+ is a wireless communication protocol, as used for speed sensors, heart rate monitors and other fitness gadgets. FE-C stands for Fitness Equipment Control and the clue's in the name: it's a set of commands over ANT+ that, well, control fitness equipment such as turbo trainers.

Smart trainers can also use Bluetooth to communicate with the controlling device, which is handy if you're using a laptop, say, because you don't need an additional ANT+ dongle; however we'd always recommend buying an additional ANT+ sensor to plug in via USB, because, at the time of writing, it's simply a superior connection for fitness equipment. We've heard of riders' virtual training sessions cutting out mid-ride when using a patchy Bluetooth connection, which can be mighty frustrating when you just want to Get It Done! An ANT+ connection will make the likelihood of this happening very minimal. 

Having learnt to ride a bike in order to race age 4, Charlotte is no stranger to life on two wheels. Racing across multiple disciplines over the years, she now focuses her time on road racing. Racing at the UCI continental level with her British based team. Not only that, but Charlotte has many years experience working within the cycling industry alongside her racing endeavours. Therefore, it’s fair to say that anything with two wheels is right up her street.