Turbo Trainer vs. Exercise Bikes
We receive a lot of questions about turbo trainers, and one that frequently comes up is “Should I get a Turbo Trainer or an Exercise bike?”
We've asked our friends Robbie Ferri, an ultra-distance cyclist and spin instructor, to answer that question for you:
It’s a challenging question to answer as it depends on the individual. In this article, I want to tell you the Pros and Cons of each so you can make the right decision for yourself.
What is a Turbo Trainer?
A turbo trainer is an attachment for a bicycle that lets you use it while stationary. They are commonly seen in many home gyms, used by cycling professionals to warm up, and often used in bike shops for bike fitting. When using a turbo trainer, you will need your own bike.
What is an Exercise bike?
An exercise bike is a full sized bike that works while stationary. You will commonly see these in commercial gyms, spinning classes, and sometimes in people’s homes. Unlike turbo trainers, exercise bikes work alone without the need for a bike.
Turbo Trainer Pros and Cons
Turbo Trainers over the past few years have come a very long way. They have given us the ability to turn our road or mountain bike into a stationary exercise bike. Thanks to turbos, we can submerge ourselves into a completely different world of indoor training.
Through digital software like Zwift, we can go into virtual reality and race people worldwide. We can train like pros to workouts designed by the best and interact with others doing the same. We have super accurate power meters and automatic electronic resistance on these to help us get the best out of the time spent on them. This sounds amazing, but turbo trainers and indoor bike trainers do come with some big Pros and Big Cons and won’t be for everyone.
Turbo Trainer Pros
- Easy to Set up
- Take up very little floor space
- Can be very affordable as they range from as little as £149
- Use your own bike that you know fits and is comfortable
- Offers a fantastic workout
- If you have a smart trainer, you can go ride with others through platforms such as Zwift
Turbo Trainer Cons
- Requires your own bike to be mounted
- Can wear through components on your bike with prolonged use
- Basic/cheap models lack any technology to track your fitness
- Can be noisy
- Expensive turbo trainers can require cassette and adapters
Exercise Bike Pros and Cons
Just like Turbo Trainers, Exercise bikes and spin bikes have come a long way over the years. We used to have very basic bikes, only telling you minimal data such as time rode and calories. A few years ago, they got a big technology boost and exercising became more fun.
Along came the invention of bikes like the Peloton. We now have 22” screens on the front of these bikes, and we no longer have to go to a spin class. We can track our fitness better with power meters and cadence sensors. We even have the Nordic Track S22i which automatically shifts the bike into a climb, pointing the front at the ceiling. The technology on a stationary bike has become incredible.
Exercise bike Pros
- Come as cheap as £149
- Great Cardiovascular Workout
- Most bikes give you data metrics such as Heart Rate, RPM, Time, Calories
- Doesn't require a bike to mount
- Little maintenance
Exercise bike Cons
- Needs to be assembled
- Not all bikes are very adjustable. You might struggle to get the correct position
- Take up much more space
- For an excellent interactive bike, you’re spending a lot of money on it
- Good bikes with interactive content often come with a subscription
Should I buy a Turbo Trainer or an Exercise bike?
I feel it all comes down to the needs of the individual. If you are an outdoor cyclist and are looking at getting stronger on your bike over winter, a Turbo Trainer is for you. It gives you the ability to be on the same bike you will be on outdoors. It’s cheaper to buy, and it helps you get used to the position on the bike much better than an exercise bike. A smart turbo trainer will always offer more value than an exercise bike if you have a bike ready to go with it.
If you’re an avid spinner and love indoor cycling classes, you should get an exercise bike. It will feel much more natural, give you a similar experience to what you get in a spinning studio. With bikes like the Peloton, you get loads of other value added features such as HIIT and Yoga classes. It's a spin bike ready for a serious cardio workout.
Whatever you pick, you will get value from it, and it will improve your fitness. We all know the benefits of exercise to our physical and mental health. It all comes down to personal preference, and there’s no wrong answer.
I am an Ultra Distance Cyclist from the UK. I have been lucky enough to have broken world records and been in many bikepacking races. If I’m not riding bikes I’m writing about them.