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Indoor training has come a long way in the last few years. Back in the day, using home trainers just felt wrong, because the equipment was clunky, loud, and worst of all, monotonous. And the ride itself was static and uninteresting – the exact opposite of what getting on your bike should be. Putting in the hours over winter would certainly yield results come spring, but unless you were racing it never really felt worth it. But no more. 

Interactive trainers and software like Zwift have revolutionized how we exercise inside. It now feels how it should feel – like a bike ride. And they’re better training tools than ever before, too. It’s now easy to work with your personal trainer remotely, or even create your own detailed fitness plan. And in recent months they’ve become a lifeline for countless riders around the world who cooped up inside due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Do you need a home trainer?

If you want to train hard, think of a home trainer as your own private gym with a built-in personal trainer. And if you want to connect with friends, think of it as social media that doesn’t involve sitting on a couch mindlessly swiping. They’ve become more than just a fitness tool, they’re now entertaining. The question is no longer, “do I really need a trainer?” Now, the only thing we’re asking ourselves is: “Which one should I buy?”

There’s no shortage of choice, with machines to suit all budgets and types of rider, from the occasional user just looking for a smarter way to workout to the tech-savvy bike junkie who wants (needs) all the bells and whistles

But what’s right for you? A lot of them look very similar, if not almost identical. Our friends over at Elite offer a wide range and figuring out which one is for you can feel like it’s going to require a daunting amount of research. Do you want rollers or a home trainer? Wheel-on or direct drive? And what’s the difference between smart and interactive? Thankfully, they’ve compiled a bunch of resources to help you choose the perfect model for your needs. 

Do you need direct drive? 

Direct drive trainers mean the rear wheel is removed and the chain is coupled directly to a cassette on the machine. Compared to a traditional home trainer that presses your real wheel onto a little Elastogel roller, direct drive trainers are a lot quieter and they don’t suffer from slippages on high-power efforts, while also providing more accurate data. A bigger flywheel means that a direct drive machine provides a more realistic road feel, too. 

What do you want to achieve with your workout?

It might seem like an obvious question, but we all have different fitness goals. Elite’s range of interactive trainers are all direct-drive, delivering great “road feel” for a realistic experience. They also record really accurate power data and can simulate really steep gradients. Thanks to electronically managed resistance that wirelessly connects to your device, the resistance change is both quick and realistic, whether you’re training using a GPS file from a favorite loop, or on one of Zwift’s courses.

If you’re just looking to get some exercise and spend a couple hours each week on your bike – hopefully on one of the inGamba Zwift rides – then an interactive trainer like the Elite Suito fits the bill. Retailing at $799, it’s cheaper than the Direto X (MSRP $899) or Drivo II  (MSRP $1,199) but it’s also more compact, folding away really neatly if you’re short on space, and comes with an 11-speed cassette pre-installed, so you can pretty much pull it out of the box and get riding. 

For those after supreme power data accuracy, the Direto X wins out thanks to its OTS (Optical Torque Sensor). The Direto X and Drivo II are actually the only two trainers currently on the market with a proper power meterinside, resulting in highly accurate workouts (within a 1.5% margin on the Direto X and 0.5% on the Drivo II, vs. 2.5% on the Suito). It can also handle higher gradient simulation (18% against 14%) and slightly higher max power (2100w vs. 1900w). For the average rider, that isn’t going to matter, but if only the best will do, it’s worth spending the extra cash. You’ll have it for years and it’s a lot cheaper than a gym membership.

If you’re looking for something a bit different, rollers are great if you want to improve your balance and pedal speed – which is why track riders love them. They’re also light and foldable, so they have a very small footprint if space is right. And if you race, they’re easy to bring with you for warm-up before events. Elite’s Nero rollers (MSRP $899) got a great review on GCN recently, which is worth checking out. 

Get involved! 

A lot of us are stuck indoors right now, and those lucky enough to be able to go outside for some exercise can’t enjoy the simple pleasure of a spin with friends. You can still ride your bike with other people though – you just have to do it in the digital world. Thanks to apps like Zwift, it’s still possible socialize while also getting a great workout at home. We’re currently organizing three fun group rides a week, with a relaxed pace and a focus on socializing. Check out this link for more. And if you want to ride around on our own but do it in style, you can use the code ‘goingamba’ in the game to get our custom inGamba jersey.

Colin O'Brien

Colin is an author and journalist from Ireland. He first met inGamba's founder João Correia back in 2013. João handed him a bidon full of Chianti Classico and took him to a three-course lunch. They've been friends ever since.