If you want the best turbo trainer set-up to dive into the world of Zwift and online training, then this guide will get you up and cycling in no time.
From getting a basic turbo trainer hooked-up to the internet to buying a cutting-edge smart trainer, this guide will help with everything you need, including all the technical stuff and accessories for a perfect indoor training experience.
So let's start at the beginning...
1. The bike
This is the easy part - you just need your own bike. Most people use their everyday road bike to replicate their real riding as closely as possible but, really, you can use just about any old bike, mountain bike or commuter. No e-bikes though - that's cheating!
For certain trainers you may need a thru-axle, but in general, it's best to use a bike with an easily removable rear wheel - both for hooking up to direct drive trainers or for switching tyres for wheel-on units.
2. Which smart trainer or turbo trainer?
There is a world of options for Zwift-ready turbo trainers, but if you don't want to shell out for a smart trainer, you can upgrade your existing unit to give you a taste of the experience. For the purposes of this article, we can divide the gamut of trainers into three categories.
- Smart trainers: Smart turbo trainers automatically adjust their resistance to replicate the climbs or headwinds featured on-screen. They also come equipped with speed and cadence sensors, among others, so the programme can match your performance on screen to your real-life output.
- Semi-smart trainers: Some 'smart trainers' come with built in sensors needed to connect online but don't provide the automatic feedback from onscreen gradients, meaning your trainer won't automatically adjust. However, these trainers often have handlebar mounts meaning you can make the adjustment manually when prompted.
- Basic trainers: Basic trainers provide manually adjustable levels of resistance, but don't offer the sensors you need to get connected. That's easily overcome, however, with sensor kits that will transform your dumb trainer into a semi-smart unit.
The best smart trainers for Zwift
If you want to compete with the world's best on ZwiftPower, get the advantages of all the latest features and data, and be truly tested by punishing levels of resistance, then a top-line smart trainer is the way to go. Here are some of the best.
The Tacx Neo 2 gathers and relays a huge set of data to your device, accurate within a 1% range of your true power output. While taking in every aspect of your performance, it's also intensely powerful, generating up-to 2000 watts of resistance. Ideal for online training programmes like Zwift, Trainer Road, or SufferFest, easy to set-up, and touted to be "the most silent indoor trainer ever", the Tacx Neo 2 is a quality partner for your indoor training.
One of the most popular turbo trainers available, the Tacx Vortex Smart Trainer provides maximum resistance of 950 Watts with an easy-to-use wheel-on design. Simple, effective, and competitively priced, it's popular for good reason.
The Bkool Smart Go Trainer is among the least expensive truly smart trainers, providing the same feedback and connectivity of more expensive units. It may not have the same level of power - limited to around 800 watts, simulating inclines of around 8% - but if you simply want to get online and enjoying more stimulating training rides, this could be the choice for you.
If you want to get the most out of your indoor turbo training then your choice of clothing for indoor training will be similar to outdoor. You'll still need quality bib shorts to keep you comfortable during a long session in the saddle, and you'll want the sweat-wicking and breathable fabrics of outdoor wear.
Indeed, the popularity of indoor training has led to the introduction of new lines specifically made for the rigours of turbo sessions, offering improved ventilation and fast-wicking chamois pads that support an aggressive riding position on those sprints.
Here's a quick look at some of the best...
With global competition growing, smart trainer-specific wear is in more demand than ever. Primal have developed their E-Sport Bib Shorts specifically for indoor training, featuring lightweight, breathable fabric you can sling on when jumping on the trainer.
Echoing dhb’s wider Aeron collection, these turbo trainer shorts use premium Italian fabrics to ensure top-level performance, with side and rear panels providing maximum airflow throughout your session.
With light compression material to support muscles on long sessions, Gore's C7 bibs are ideal for warm days outside and the inevitable temperature increases in the pain cave.
Endura’s comfortable Women’s Hyperon II 'Shorty' Shorts feature the 500 Series Pad which is specifically designed for the female figure. Made from a single block of open-celled foam, it stays breathable and comfortable when you're working hardest.
4. Turbo trainer accessories
Getting your environment right can make a huge impact to the quality - and frequency - of your sessions. A few handy items can transform your training so you love coming back for more.
An adjustable trainer table supports your devices and keeps gels and hydration within reach, reducing interruptions. This model by LifeLine offers a wide range of adjustment and non-slip rubber.
Keep noise levels to a quiet hum with a training mat. This model by Wahoo KICKR soaks up falling sweat and keeps you anchored when sprinting.
If you're converting a basic trainer into a 'smart' set-up, you'll need speed and cadence sensors, all of which are included in this kit. You'll also need an ANT+ stick to communicate your performance to your device.
A sweat cover protects your bike's paintwork, components - and the floor - during those long miles.
Keep your quality rubber for the road with a specially designed training tyre. These hard-wearing tyres are a great option if you're using a 'wheel-on' style trainer.
The Lifeline dual height front wheel riser block enables you to level your bike while indoor training. The clever design means there are two different heights ensuring your bike is always perfectly level no matter what size frame or wheel you ride.
While any fan will keep you cool, the Wahoo KICKR Headwind Smart Fan provides a completely immersive experience by adding realistic headwinds from your virtual world.
5. Choosing the right platform
Which e-training platform is best for you depends on your goals and preferences. Some are great at connecting you to the social element of online training, while others offer more detailed data and regimes.
Here is our quick guide to the leading platforms…
Cost: £12.99 per month
Benefits: Probably the biggest online platform in the world, Zwift is a great social space with awesome graphics and large worlds to explore.
Cost: £7.48 per month
Benefits: A training programme with personality. While there's no virtual world to cycle around, you'll find awesome interval training programmes and enough data to help you deep dive.
Cost: Around £15 - 16
Benefits: Easy to use and with a clean interface, Trainer Road is hugely popular. With over 1,000 workouts, you'll never be stuck for something new to try.