Let’s face it, between work, family, and everything else, finding the time to exercise can be quite a challenge. Kudos to all of you out there who are making it work. For the rest of us, we often get stuck in an endless rut of starts, stops, and do-overs, mixed with a healthy dose of inactivity and apathy.
These days, there are a lot of fitness options out there; go to your local gym and not only do you have access to an array of workout equipment, but there are classes for just about anything: yoga, Pilates, cross-fit, water aerobics, Zumba, Capoeira, kickboxing, ballet, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, pole dancing … the list goes on! And of course, most of the time the classes are at an additional cost to you, on top of your regular gym membership.
To be honest, I’ve always avoided the gym. Not that I’m proud of it, but between pushy sales reps and excessive monthly membership fees, I’ve always felt there must be a better, less expensive way, to stay fit.
Indoor Cycling Classes
My first year of college I needed a physical fitness activity, so I chose bowling.
The next semester I kicked it up a notch and signed up for a spin class ¬– and I have to say, I really enjoyed it! It was at the YMCA with a group of about 15 students. The instructor was cool, the equipment worked, and all I needed to bring was a towel and a bottle of water (no cycling shoes needed).
Years later, I’ve come to realize my spin class experience was under ideal conditions. Unfortunately, many cycling classes today are often less than satisfactory. From over booking and limited time slots, to broken down bikes, to being stuck on a waitlist, bad instructors, and expensive monthly fees, sometimes an indoor cycling class is not all it’s cracked up to be.
So, what next?
Investing in your own, personal interactive trainer can gain you a huge advantage over some of the other fitness training options out there.
But before we get started, let me just say that for a little over a hundred bucks you can get a decent fluid trainer. While it’s not interactive, you still get a good workout. So, for those of us on a strict budget, the Travel Trac Comp Fluid Trainer is a great option for indoor exercise.
It should also be noted that the next step up from a traditional trainer is a smart trainer – another great option, usually landing somewhere in the $300 to $500 dollar range. However, while “smart” trainers can send info to a cycling app, an “interactive” trainer can send and receive information. So, if you really want to take things to the next level, an interactive trainer can provide a wealth of options, data, and resources to keep you on track and keep things fun and engaging.
One of the most affordable interactive trainers out there, the CycleOps M2 uses Powertap power meter technology and dual ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart connectivity to get you all the data you need to keep track of your progress and improve your level of fitness. Add to that a virtual training program like Zwift, and now you have a vast array of training options, from structured workouts to fun interactive group rides. The M2 also features electromagnetic resistance that allows you, or the software, to control the level of resistance you’re experiencing, from 0 to 1500 watts. 15% gradient
Elite Qubo Digital
The Elite Qubo Digital Interactive Trainer is another great, affordable option. Like the M2, it features magnetic resistance that can be adjusted by a wireless unit and uses ANT+ protocol to communicate with accessories like heart-rate monitors, cadence sensors and power meters. These accessories, however, are not included – unlike the M2, which does have the built-in power meter to measure the data. However, the Qubo does offer a free one-year subscription to Elite’s “MY E-Training” app that lets you track and manage your workouts, and access advanced training sessions, videos and workouts. In addition, the Qubo has a cool, fast fixing system that allows the bicycle to be clamped and released with a single action for easy setup and breakdown.
Here’s where things get interesting, because we’re now entering the first of the wheel-off style trainers, which have some added benefits from wheel-on trainers. First, there’s no wear on your tires or cassette with a wheel-off trainer. This can be a huge time and money saver in the long run. Plus, wheel-off trainers tend to have a more realistic feel and are way quieter than wheel-on or traditional trainers.
The Elite Direto Interactive Trainer has an integrated Optical Torque Sensor that measures power with +/- 2.5% accuracy, it’s small and compact, easy to use and easy to store, and easy to transport – AND it’s compatible with both road and MTB frames as well as Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo 9/10/11 speeds. The trainer interacts with all the latest training apps, like Zwift.
With Elite’s own “My E-Training” app, you can have access to and train with My RealVideo, create video playlists, use pre-set training programs, and access map races from around the world.
Tacx Neo Smart
The Tacx Neo Smart Interactive Trainer is one of the most advanced, and most striking, trainers on the market today. The sleek design packs some serious technology to give you the most efficient, toughest, and most realistic training you’ll find on any trainer. And as an added bonus, it omits laser lights on the floor when you pedal!
The Neo uses an onboard computer that does 1000 calculations per second to perfectly simulate the road and give you a very realistic road feel. The Neo is also ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart enabled, so it can connect easily to Tacx apps or third-party software on smartphones, tablets, bike computers and sports watches. This lets you tailor your workout to power output, heart rate, or your own personal preferences.
The max power for the trainer is 2,200 watts and can also simulate a 25% slope. When not plugged in or connected to a smartphone, tablet, or cycling computer, the Neo acts as a fluid trainer, with a smooth and progressive resistance that feels natural and easy to engage. And since the unit is self-powering, you can use it anytime, anywhere.
Wahoo KICKR Power
The KICKR Power is Wahoo’s flagship trainer, and probably our favorite trainer currently on the market. It is by far the quietest of the $1,000+ trainers available and comes with an 11-speed cassette ready to ride with Shimano, SRAM or Campy drivetrains. It gives you the most realistic ride feel around, with an electronic resistant flywheel engineered to replicate the intertia of an actual rider on the road. It also gives an accurate power measurement of +/- 2%, wirelessly connects to your devices to let you control resistance levels, structure interval workouts, and simulate real-world courses.
Next up, Wahoo’s complete setup brings the outdoors, indoor.
The Climb & Headwind
With new, innovative products coming out every year, Wahoo is always on our radar – they’re not just selling fitness machines, they’re selling experiences. And this year we’re super excited to test out their latest additions: the KICKR Climb and KICKR Headwind. Compatible with both the Wahoo KICKR Power Trainer and KICKR SNAP Smart Trainer, the Climb and Headwind create a total, immersed experience.
Starting with the Headwind, this little device wirelessly pairs with your smart trainer and automatically adjusts the air flow based on your speed. The Headwind delivers as much wind power as you would feel out on the road, up to 30 miles per hour.
Finally, for the ultimate in interactive training, the Climb raises and lowers your bike to match ascents up to 20% and descents of minus 10%, and physically adjusts your bike position to mimic real-world conditions. Paired with third-party apps, simply plug in a virtual course and get the same workout as you would if you were physically there.
Whatever your budget, logistics of space, time or aspirations, we’re confident there’s a trainer that’s right for you. If you consider the cost of an interactive trainer is roughly between $500 and $1000 and compare it to the monthly membership fees of gyms and specialty cycling classes, you’ll see the initial investment of a trainer is well worth it. And consider this: the price of a private indoor specialty cycling bike ranges from around $2,000 to $3,000 – and that’s on top of the monthly membership you’re required to pay for their training services.