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Best cheap turbo trainers: Top turbo trainers on a budget

Cyclist magazine
14 Jan 2021

The best budget turbo trainers for indoor cycling starting from £100

Here are some of the best turbo trainers for those looking to train indoors on a budget, starting from as little as £100. 

The thought of riding your bike indoors may be sacrilege to some, but unfortunately, with the weather getting colder there is a chance that it may be your only chance to get a workout in across the winter months.

Thankfully, there are plenty of budget turbo trainers out there than can get you set up at home for a pretty reasonable cost, all things considered. All you need is your bike, the turbo trainer, a towel, some water and you're pretty much good to go.

For a guide on what accessories you need to ace that turbo trainer workout, click here, while if you're after some excellent indoor workouts, just click here.

Otherwise, see our list of the best budget turbo trainers below

The best cheap turbo trainers

Saris Basic Mag: Most easy to use budget trainer 

As simple and easy as turbo trainers come, the Saris Basic Mag trainer is a rear-wheel powered option that offers five resistance levels via its tidy, quiet and frictionless magnetic flywheel all controlled via a handlebar-attached lever.

Adjustable feet allow you to use the Basic Mag on uneven surfaces making this perfect for use beyond the home and with a foldable frame, storage in even the most compact of homes is achievable too.

Worth noting that the simple knob on the rear of the trainer also allows you to adjust fit for tyres from 700c to 29” meaning this is versatile for almost any bike.

LifeLine TT-01: The best entry-level trainer 

Not too sure that indoor riding is your thing but want to give it a go on a budget? The LifeLine TT-01 could be just what you need.

Previously the bottom end of the market, although you'll be less likely to find this model on special during lockdown it still represents decent value.

Suitable for wheel sizes from 26in MTB wheels through to your standard 700c road wheel, six levels of resistance controlled via a handlebar resistance lever can provide up to 800w of resistance for you to work against.

The A-frame design neatly packs down in order to be stored away, too.

Wahoo Kickr Snap: Best budget smart trainer

A proper smart turbo trainer with automatically variable resistance and power output measurement for under £500? Yes please! Basically, all of the best features of the Wahoo brand, but in a cheaper, wheel-on format, the Wahoo Kickr Snap does all the things you could ask of a modern smart Turbo.

A tiny bit noisier than the very poshest models, its design sees your whole bike drop onto the trainer rather than just the frame and drivetrain.

However, while now considered a little old-fashioned, it’s not really an issue. Plus, who cares when you’ve got Zwift-ready compatibility along with accurate power measurement plus up to 1500 watts of resistance.

Jet Black M5 Pro Magnetic: Most robust budget trainer

Producing increasing magnetic resistance up to 475 watts, the Jet Black M5 Pro Magnetic trainer is a good example of a slightly dated design. Sturdy and serviceable, its SQR quick release system allows easy mounting on your bike and is pleasingly secure.

With your rear wheel deposited above a semi-squishy hydrogel roller, this promises less noise and reduced tyre wear. Generating resistance up to 475 watts, this can be varied by a remote lever which attaches to your handlebars.

A solid if quite basic model, you’ll be able to tire yourself out on the Jet Black M5. However, if it wasn’t for the lack of choice elsewhere, it might appear a somewhat less shiny option.

Saris Fluid 2 Classic with speed sensor: Best for Zwift on a budget

Because the Saris Fluid 2 Classic turbo trainer is provided with a speed sensor, all you need to do is invest in an ANT+ or Bluetooth sensor and you'll be ready to rock on third-party training apps like Zwift or Rouvy immediately.

In fact, the Saris Fluid 2 is among the cheapest options for those looking to get on the virtual training platforms that have become so popular throughout 2020.

The large flywheel allows for a smooth progression of resistance without making too much noise either. In fact, even at 20mph noise is restricted to under 68 decibels which we are sure will please the neighbours.

LifeLine TT-02: Best budget fluid turbo trainer

By using spinning rotors within an oil bath to create resistance, as opposed to magnets, fluid turbo trainers were often credited as providing the smoothest and most realistic ride of any turbo (until direct-drive came along, of course).

The LifeLine TT-02 offers that smooth feel of a fluid trainer while allowing a progressive power curve as you notch up the resistance.

Made of steel, the unit itself is sturdy and robust while it also folds up neatly making it easy to transport or store in your hallway cupboard.

What do I need to ace my turbo trainer session?

Getting all you need to get set for a great turbo trainer session is pretty easy and only needs a few things to get you going.

  • A bike
  • A turbo trainer
  • Floor mat
  • A towel
  • A water bottle
  • Bibshorts
  • 3rd party app/music/YouTube
  • A fan or open window

Most bikes will be able to fit on the above turbo trainers but it is worth checking that your bike's axle width is compatible as some will not. It is also worth noting that some bike brands will recommend against being used on a turbo trainer and will likely void any warranty if used.

If opting for a rear-wheel setup, you may want to invest in a tyre to be used just on the turbo as it will wear away the tread quicker than usual.

Something like this 23mm indoor tyre from Schwable is cheap, cheerful and will do the trick.

Before setting the turbo up, you will likely want to invest in a protective mat to go underneath and protect your flooring from any marks, especially if you haven't got the luxury of training in a garage. This LifeLine mat costs just £24.99 and is all you need.

Once your bike is set, grab a towel and plenty of water to drink during the session and also slip on a comfortable set of bibshorts and a thin jersey, in order not to overheat.

Some brands, like Le Col, offer kit specifically designed for riding indoors, however, you may find that a cheap set of bibshorts and a thin underlayer do the trick.

Then, to stave the boredom, you are going to want to either link up to a good 3rd party training app, find a good music playlist or watch a great cycling documentary on YouTube to pass the time.

Some of the turbo trainers above are Zwift compatible and a guide on how to get set up on the app can be found here.

If you are opting or some music, let us recommend this 'Is it New Wave' playlist on Spotify here because who doesn't love New Wave music?

And, if watching some old footage from cycling's past is your thing, surely the last 40km of the 2016 Paris-Roubaix is just what you need to get motivated!

Making your basic trainer smart

Add sensors to get your trainer and bike working with apps like Zwift...

Garmin Bike Speed Sensor 2

Wiggle | £34.99

Super simple to install, the speed sensor provides speed and distance data.

Even if you don't want to use a training app, it connects to Garmin computers and watches so you can track your data while staying offline. 

Buy now from Wiggle for £34.99

LifeLine ANT+ USB

Wiggle | £29.99

This is what you'll need to get on Zwift, Rouvy, TrainerRoad etc.

It'll connect to your sensor and transport your data into the virtual world. 

You can also get a LifeLine USB extension lead for £2.99 to shorten the distance the signal has to travel and ensure everything goes smoothly - especially helpful if your laptop isn't that close to your trainer.

Buy now from Wiggle for £29.99

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