VC BUYERS GUIDE: TURBO TRAINER ACCESSORIES
So you’ve decided to invest in a turbo trainer? Let’s assume you’ve signed up to a training app, or you’re using a program supplied with your trainer. You’re now going to need some add-ons to improve the indoor riding experience. Some of these are essential, some are luxuries. We’ve listed our suggested add-ons in order of priority:
- Heart Rate Monitor
- Media Desk/Handlebar Mount
- Trainer specific tyre
- USB Dongle
- Trainer specific clothes
- Trainer platform
Without any wind to cool you down, you’ll quickly overheat on your trainer. This makes a good fan an essential first purchase. There’s a huge range of options depending on how much you’re prepared to spend, but broadly speaking we can split fans into two categories: All purpose fans that work well with a turbo trainer; and trainer-specific fans with some special features.
The best example of the former are gym fans. Wide (18”+), free standing floor units that can be placed in front of your front wheel and tilted upwards. You can get a good fan for around £30.
At the other-end of the scale are trainer-specific fans, such as the Wahoo Kickr Headwind. This fan links to your trainer and virtual app, matching air flow to your efforts. A powerful vortex fan delivers high-velocity cooling in a very targeted area to ensure none of the cool air is lost. But this comes at a price – RRP is £199.
Heart Rate Monitors
To get the most out of your virtual riding experience, it’s worth buying a heart rate monitor. If you’re using Trainer Road or the Sufferfest, you’ll need an HRM to get an accurate reading of your effort. If you intend to race on Zwift – you’ll need an HRM to appear on the zwiftpower leaderboards (to ensure you aren’t cheating). And if you want an accurate calculation of how many calories you are burning, (rather than an estimate on Strava), a heart rate monitor is essential.
Starting at just £20, it’s not a huge investment – and you can use your HRM for any kind of exercise. In fact, your choice here may be determined by the other sports you participate in.
Any HRM with bluetooth connectivity will do the trick – but make sure the HRM you are buying will link to your chosen app.
Watches are pricey and are known to have accuracy issues. Chest and arm straps are better choices, with more expensive models working for running (with cadence sensors) and swimming (being water-proof).
Media Desk/Handlebar Mount
If you’re going to use a virtual training app, unless you’re using a smart TV or wall mounted monitor, you need some way of holding your chosen device in place while riding. If you’re DIY-minded, you could make your own. Otherwise there are two options:
Trainer tables are designed to hold your laptop or ipad around chest height directly in front to the bike. They tend to come with wheels and have adjustable heights. Prices start around £90.
The second option is a handlebar mount. These can be trainer specific – accepting an ipad or phone. Or you could use a standard phone mount (such as a quadlock), coming for as little as £10.
Trainer Specific Tyre/Wheel
If you’ve acquired a wheel-on turbo trainer, you’re going to have problems with tyre wear and noise. A number of tyre manufacturers have developed trainer-specific tyres which bespoke compounds.
These tyres are harder wearing, grippier (for better contact on the roller) and quieter than a standard road tyre. They also come in a range of bright colours! But these tyres are not designed for road use – so you’re going to need a separate back wheel (and cassette) to ease the switch from road to trainer.
There is one exception to that rule: The Minoura Dualist thats designed to be used indoors and out.
There two reasons to buy a mat to go under your trainer setup:
- To protect your carpet/floor from the buckets of sweat you’ll be shedding (it will be buckets!)
- To stop your trainer sliding around on the floor during particularly hard efforts (sprint intervals for example)
Most of the big name trainer manufacturers produce their own branded mats – these look good, but tend to be expensive for what they are. A cheaper alternative is a standard yoga mat.
A riser holds your front wheel steady – its normally a simple plastic block with slots on one side for your front wheel and floor grips on the other. Most top-end trainers will be supplied with a riser, but check if one is supplied.
It’s a relatively cheap and worthwhile investment – without one you’ll find your front wheel snaking across the floor during sprint efforts.
There is one further more sophisticated (and expensive) variation: The Wahoo Kickr Climb simulates the gradient of any virtual hills you ride up, but requires you attach your front forks (and pay £500 for the pleasure).
Virtual training apps connect wirelessly to your devices (smart trainer, heart rate monitor, cadence sensor etc) via ANT+ or Bluetooth. If you have an i-phone, Apple TV or Android device – you’ll be able to connect your devices via Bluetooth.
If you’re running your app on a PC – you may need an ANT+ (Adaptive Net Technology – a wireless connectivity protocol) dongle. Most PCs can only connect to one Bluetooth device at a time. Running your devices on ANT+ via a USB dongle solves that problem. Prices start at around £10.
Trainer Specific Clothes
Intuitively, we should be wearing as little as possible when using a turbo trainer. In fact, there are benefits to wearing a jersey or base layer on your top half. Your top will absorb your sweat and your fan will then wick away that sweat.
You can also buy trainer specific clothes. Rapha and Le Col have recently launched ranges aimed at the indoor market. Le Col have worked in partnership with Wahoo, analysing data from thousands of indoor rides to design their range. It features ultra light fabrics with moisture management and sculpted pads designed for the increased saddle time of indoor riding.
The ultimate luxury for your pain cave is probably a rocker platform. These platforms hold your entire setup – the biked, turbo and trainer and riser. The platform moves side to side and fore to aft to replicate outdoor road feel (and gradient) indoors.
There are trainers on the market that have some side to side movement, such as the Kurt Kinetic R1. But platforms take this to a new level – responding to your movements. This can take you indoor experience to a new level, but it comes at a price. The Saris MP1 Infinity Platform comes in at a cool £1000. There are cheaper DIY alternatives.