Best Budget Bike Trainers + Buying Guide

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By Katie Pierson, Certified Spinning® Instructor & Personal Trainer.

Wishing you could be out for a ride, but the weather is not cooperating? Perhaps you should consider purchasing a bike trainer. Bike trainers are heavily used by outdoor cyclists, especially during colder months when the road conditions are not ideal for riding outside. These indoor bike trainers make it possible to get a great workout anywhere and at any time. Don’t have the time today to ride for an hour outside? No problem! Quickly hook your bike to your trainer, and you are ready for a fast and effective workout. The price of this piece of equipment can range from less than a hundred dollars to thousands. We will examine the best affordable bike trainer options that give you bang for your buck.

Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Bike Trainer Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Bike Trainer
4.6

A one-month ROUVY subscription is included with this purchase. With the easy purchase of a speed sensor, ROUVY and Zwift can be thoroughly enjoyed with the Fluid2.

What features still make a cheap bike trainer great?

 An expensive price tag doesn’t guarantee an excellent product. In fact, many affordable bike trainers offer a great experience. Let’s examine a few of these features that still make a cheap bike trainer great!

  • Design: The trainer’s design plays a critical role in the trainer’s durability, stability, and performance. Sturdy frames made of steel build the foundation for excellent stability. In addition, pairing a sturdy frame that includes a broader base decreases side-to-side movement. 
  • Noise: One of the biggest complaints about trainers is the amount of noise they create. However, there are a variety of trainers on the market that are relatively quiet but still affordable. They often include in their marketing if they have noise reduction features. 
  • Connectivity: Many cheaper bike trainers also provide the ability to connect with various apps such as Zwift for a versatile riding experience. Additionally, smart trainers are available at numerous price points to connect to third-party devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers.
  • Load Capacity: The load capacity is a key metric to understand. A greater load capacity will allow for more flexibility in the future if you decide to purchase a heavier bike or if your weight changes as well. This is because the load capacity includes the weight of the bike and the rider. Fortunately, many reasonably priced trainers still offer a load capacity of close to 300 pounds.
  • Storage: The ability for a quality bike trainer to fold for easy storage is a big selling point. It is great to quickly set up your trainer for a ride or store it for another day.

Our Top Budget Bike Trainers

Best Overall: KICKR Snap

KICKR Snap Bike Trainer Specs

  • Wheel Size Accommodations: 26-29″/ 700 c
  • Extended Size: 29″ x 26″
  • Load Capacity: 250 pounds
  • Resistance Type: Electromagnetic
  • Item Weight: 38 pounds

The KICKR Snap features a 10.5-pound flywheel that automatically adjusts to simulate climbs up to a 12% incline. This wheel-on smart trainer can generate up to 1500W of resistance.

This 4.4 out of 5 star rated trainer was selected as our best overall due to the extended features it provides while still being an affordable bike trainer. One of the best features of this smart bike trainer is that it mimics riding outside due to the amount of power and inertia generated by the flywheel. This feature plays a key role when the trainer is connected with apps such as Zwift, TrainingRoad, and Sufferfest. Additionally, the sturdy steel frame of the KICKR Snap accommodates a load capacity of 250-pounds and 26-29″ sized tires.

We love that this model also tracks power, speed, and distance without the need for additional sensors. Many owners said things such as “best wheel-on bike ever” and “simply fantastic,” while others wished this model to be quieter. Unfortunately, many trainers do not accommodate bikes with disk brakes, but that is not a problem with the KICKR Snap. 

Runner-Up: Saris CycleOps Fluid2

Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Bike Trainer Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Bike Trainer
4.6

A one-month ROUVY subscription is included with this purchase. With the easy purchase of a speed sensor, ROUVY and Zwift can be thoroughly enjoyed with the Fluid2.

Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Bike Trainer Specs

  • Wheel Size Accommodations: 26-29”/ 700c
  • Extended Size: 21.5” x 19.9” x 7.3”
  • Load Capacity: 300 pounds
  • Resistance Type: Fluid
  • Item Weight: 21 pounds

The Saris CycleOps Fluid2 features fluid resistance and includes a 2 inch round 16-inch gauge steel frame. The sturdy frame accommodates a load capacity of 300 pounds.

Fluid trainers are known for their realistic feel and quiet riding experience. Luckily, you do not need to purchase an expensive model to reap the benefits of a fluid trainer since the Saris CycleOps Fluid2 is available for less than $300. A one-month ROUVY subscription is included with this purchase. With the easy purchase of a speed sensor, ROUVY and Zwift can be thoroughly enjoyed with the Fluid2.

This trainer also includes a patented fan that helps keep it cooler, therefore increasing the longevity of the model. In addition, the Saris boasts that when riding above 20 miles per hour, the trainer only emits 69 decibels, which for reference is quieter than when operating a vacuum cleaner.

Best for Resistance Training: Alpcour Portable Stainless Steel Indoor Trainer

Alpcour Bike Trainer Stand Alpcour Bike Trainer Stand
4.4

Offering six levels of magnetic resistance, the Alpcour Portable Stainless Steel Indoor Trainer accommodates road and mountain bikes with wheel sizes of 26-29." In addition, this non-smart trainer is foldable.

Alpcour Portable Stainless Steel Indoor Trainer Specs

  • Wheel Size Accommodations: 26-29”/ 700c
  • Extended Size: 21.5” x 19” x 16.5”
  • Folded Size: 21.5” x 19” x 7”
  • Load Capacity: 260 pounds
  • Resistance Settings: 6 Levels (Manual)
  • Resistance Type: Magnetic
  • Item Weight: 20 pounds

The resistance control easily connects to the handlebars of the Alpcour trainer. It offers six manually adjustable resistance levels to take your ride from a flat to a vigorous climb. This model was designed with the ability to ride at greater resistance levels. It features a lower profile and an extra-wide base for maximum stability. Since the Alpcour was created to be portable, it folds to a size that fits within the convenient transport bag included with purchase.

This $159.95 trainer from Alpcour also has a 4.5 out of 5-star rating from almost 2,000 reviewers. Reviewers expressed their excitement with this model, including statements, “totally worth it!” and “excellent trainer.” However, some reviewers said that although this model includes magnetic resistance, it was still louder than they would have liked. 

Best for the Price: Sportneer Bike Trainer

Sportneer Bike Trainer with Noise Reduction Sportneer Bike Trainer with Noise Reduction
4.3

The Sportneer Bike Trainer features six levels of magnetic resistance and a quick rear release lever to switch out bikes easily. It includes a noise-reducing wheel for a quieter ride.

Sportneer Bike Trainer Specs

  • Wheel Size Accommodations: 26-28”/ 700 c
  • Extended Size: 22″ x 22″ x 15.5″
  • Folded Size: 21.3″ x 7.9″ x 25.2″
  • Load Capacity: 300 pounds
  • Resistance Settings: 6 Levels (Manual)
  • Resistance Type: Magnetic
  • Item Weight: 19.5 pounds

This model includes a front rider block, a broader base, and a lower profile for greater stability. Not only is this model extremely affordable, but it also consists of some very nice features. One great feature, in particular, is the friction-reducing design, which increases the life of your tires. Purchasers rated the Sportneer Bike Trainer as a 4.3 out of 5 stars. Priced at only $114.99, users raved about its affordability, saying things like, “This is a very good buy!” and “so affordable.” However, some of the more critical claims with this model described the noise level and vibration as an issue. 

This trainer can be assembled or disassembled in only a few minutes, accommodating even the tightest of schedules. The Sportneer Bike Trainer also includes a load capacity of 300 pounds, higher than many of its competitors. This allows for a more comprehensive array of future bike options to be selected.

Best for Beginners: SONGMICS Indoor Bike Trainer Stand

SONGMICS Indoor Bike Trainer Stand Specs

  • Wheel Size Accommodations: 26-28”/ 700 c
  • Extended Size: 19.7″L x 15.7″W x 16.5″H
  • Folded Size: 19.7″L x 5.5″W x 16.5″H
  • Load Capacity: 220 pounds
  • Resistance Settings: 6 levels (Manual)
  • Resistance Type: Magnetic
  • Item Weight: 16.5 pounds
SONGMICS Indoor Bike Trainer Stand SONGMICS Indoor Bike Trainer Stand
4.2

This bike trainer stand from SONGMICS features six levels of magnetic resistance and a large flywheel. It offers a load capacity of 220 pounds and can fold for more accessible storage.

The six levels of resistance offered by the SONGMICS Indoor Bike Trainer Stand offer a variety of terrains. In levels one and two, riders can emulate riding downhill, in levels three and four simulate a flat, and levels five and six imitate a slope. This model is the most affordable trainer we are examining at only $69.99, and we found it to be a fantastic option for beginners. With just shy of 500 reviews, this model has received a 4.5 out of 5-star rating. Reviewers loved how easy this model was to assemble, its stability, and the price. Many reviewers revealed this was the first bike trainer they had ever owned and raved with statements such as “easy set-up” and “worth every penny!” For a first bike trainer, this is a great option.


Types of Bike Trainers and Resistance Systems

There are two main categories when examining bike trainers, which include direct-drive and wheel-on. In addition, we can find trainers in both of these categories that are also considered smart trainers. We will break down each of these options for you in greater detail.

Direct Drive

A direct-drive trainer is a design that requires the back wheel to be removed where it connects to the trainer’s cassette via the rear dropouts. The trainer transmits resistance to the chain drive as the pedals turn. Since this model doesn’t include a back tire, it is significantly quieter than the wheel-on models. 

Wheel-on

A wheel-on drive is just that. The rear wheel is not removed but works in unison with the trainer. With the use of rollers, the rear wheel continues to spin as the pedals rotate. The back wheel presses into a roller, which can wear tires down and is a louder model. If selecting this type of trainer, it is wise to invest in a specific indoor wheel to not compromise your regular tire for riding outside. 

Smart Trainer

 Smart trainers include built-in sensors and connect the trainer to your tablet, phone, bike computer, or regular computer. It helps track your metrics, which can be utilized in Zwift, Sufferfest, and TrainerRoad.

Bike Trainer Resistance Types

Fluid

Resistance is created in a fluid resistance system using a propeller that turns within a tube containing a hydraulic substance. Resistance either increases or decreases based on the speed that the pedals turn. This resistance style is often the most expensive but offers the ability to grow exponentially with the rider. In addition, fluid resistance is the most realistic to riding outside and is extremely quiet.

Magnetic

Magnetic resistance is used with the use of magnets and a metal flywheel. Although this type of resistance offers various resistance levels, it does have a maximum amount that can be added. Trainers that use this resistance system provide a quiet ride and are often less expensive than fluid but more than wind.

Wind

Trainers that use wind resistance utilize a fan similar to larger fan bike models. As the pedals begin to turn the fan faster, the resistance increases. This resistance type offers durability but is much louder in comparison to magnetic and fluid options.

What To Look For When Buying A Budget Bike Trainer 

Purchasing a budget bike trainer doesn’t mean that you must miss out on enticing features. On the contrary, many affordable trainers offer a wide array of features. Below are a few features to keep in mind when selecting the right budget bike trainer for you. 

Noise

If noise is an issue for you, look for models that include quieter resistance systems. If purchasing a wheel-on model, we recommend that you invest in a smoother tire, such as a Turbo Tire. A Turbo Tire is only used with your trainer and can decrease the noise emitted during the ride. We recommend this investment because if you use your regular tire, you will receive an uneven wear pattern on your tire, which will affect your next ride.

Resistance

The resistance system used can also play a prominent role in the noise level of the trainer in addition to how the trainer rides. Selecting a trainer that uses either fluid or magnetic resistance is your quieter resistance option.

The resistance type also impacts the kind of ride you will experience. For example, if you are looking for an experience that closely resembles riding outside, a fluid resistance trainer might be better.

Experience

Some riders want more than simply riding to their music on their trainer. For some, the ability to access applications such as Zwift makes the ride more enjoyable. If you can continue to make your ride fun and versatile, you will likely ride your bike on a more consistent basis, which is what it is all about!

Compatibility

If you are going to be purchasing a trainer, it is vital to make sure that it is compatible with your current bike. Checking that the trainer includes your bike tire size before purchasing is a must. Also, some models do not work well with mountain bikes, so it is imperative to research this component if you have something other than a road bike. 

Ease of Use

Understanding if you are a person that wants to be able to hop on your bike in seconds or if you do not mind taking the extra time to attach your bike is vital to understand before purchasing your trainer. Selecting a trainer that matches your needs will increase the likelihood of you using it.

Construction Quality

Even though you might be in the market for purchasing a cheaper bike trainer, it is still important to find one that is quality constructed and designed. Stability plays a large role in the exertion level you can ride on your trainer. A thing to consider is the type of material used for the frame. Is it something that can withstand repeated training sessions? Also, does the design offer a broader base that minimizes side-to-side movement within the trainer? A wide, sturdy base can add more stability so that you can maximize your workout.

Storage

Finding a model that easily folds for quick storage is ideal—many collapse for quick storage under your bed or in a closet.

Budget

Selecting a trainer that fits your budget is important. Purchasing a bike trainer is an investment, and important to find which one offers the vast majority of features you want and that fits within the amount you are willing to spend.

The Bottom Line

There are many great affordable bike trainers available. Identifying which features are most important to you will help to narrow your search. Remember to make sure it is compatible with your current bike and keep in mind potential bike models you might be interested in purchasing soon. Finally, the best bike trainer is the one that you will use, so find one that you are excited about trying.

Katie Pierson

Katie is the creator of MT Girl Fitness and has been a certified fitness professional for almost twenty years. She currently holds ten different fitness certifications, including Group Fitness, Spinning Elite, Rockstar Spinning, and Personal Training. Fitness is her passion, and she loves seeing her clients reach goals they never imagined.