Spinning Bike Vs Stationary Trainer Vs Roller


New Member
Mar 22, 2015
The cycling season here is rapidly coming to an end. I only have one bike, that I still plan to use throughout the all-year, but much less than in the last few months, so I'm in the market for something to keep spinning throughout the winter.

As I'll keep riding my road bike through the wet season and want a bike I have indoors to be clean, using the same bike for the stationary trainer is not an option for me. So I'm looking at either getting a basic used road bike and stationary trainer.

Given the cost of both a bike and the trainer, I'm considering the spinning bike as the cheaper alternative.

Finally, if I go for the bike what are the benefits of a stationary trainer vs a roller - or am I best of getting both.
Ignoring the bike, a trainer is easiest stored between uses, with 2nd place going to the rollers.
Trainers have a limit to how much power they can soak up. If you like to practice all-out sprints, you're pretty much limited to "real" spinning bikes.
Rollers are a little more "real" and a little less boring as you still have to balance.
I alternate between rollers and a fluid trainer during the Winter. I find that the Kurt Kinetic fluid trainer can take all the power I can dish out and then some. It can make a workout hurt plenty. Getting on the Kurt Road Machine 2 allows you a brain dead workout. No balancing, just focus on the music and/or video and pound out a tempo. Alter your position by standing up easily for a few, sprint with only minor worry of a crash...and Kurt does have a crash replacement warranty of some sort, in addition to their excellent standard warranty and great customer service.

As dabac said, the rollers are more realistic riding. They require concentration and will teach a rider to be smooth and if you pay attention, how to be positioned properly on the bike. They can be a workout by themselves (especially the smaller diameter rollers), but are more often coupled to fans, drag brakes or fluid units to achieve mega-Watt capacities. Kreitler publishes a file that shows how many Watts their bare rollers and accessory-equipped rollers will allow you to achieve: http://www.kreitler.com/wattage-information/

The newer style of fore/aft sliding rollers look like the ultimate in realistic road feel for indoor training. If I were young and buying my first set of rollers, I would make the investment in that type of high-end rollers.

I've never done a hard workout on a spin bike so I'll not comment on them. I believe Maydog can give you his expert opinion on their strengths and weaknesses as he spends his Winter months in spin bike pain sessions.

I do believe a rider interested in maintaining fitness and sanity through the gray depths of Winter should have some form of beater bike for the times we can get out on pavement. Even if it only gets used a few times each winter it will pay for its (hopefully) modest price and upkeep with smiles, some outdoor miles and muscles strained by real climbing while sucking in some of that cold air!
  • Like
Reactions: BobCochran
Here in Maryland, most winters one can still ride. The most conservative assertion I've read is "ride all the way through November." I know at least one person who extends that to "most of the year except snow and ice days." I agree with CampyBob a beater bike is good...or just use the same bike all year round, then when you are ready to buy a new one, the old becomes a "beater bike". I think the PACTour owners recommend practicing on a mountain bike too -- as a beater bike.

It really depend on where you live. In Michigan, you're mainly just dealing with cold weather rather than ice/snow, which is horrible for us bikers. But, if you feel that a stationary would be better for where you live, don't be afraid to pick on e up. What's the point of biking for only half the year, if you can't bike the other half?
I ride rain or shine, snow or shine. ;) I don't have a preference between the stationary bike or the rollers, really. They have their own benefits and disadvantages, but I'd go with whatever one is more comfortable for you and your needs. I've used both and don't have a problem with either, so I guess I'm the worst help for making a decision. :p
I have used wind trainers and magnetic trainers but I have been using the Proform TDF trainer the last few years. It is
the best thing I have found so far.
I didn't think of that - when you cannot bike outdoors, what is you alternative? I actually don't have an alternative when the weather is not good. I just don't ride outdoors, just like that. When at home, I have other activities like watching tv, playing with my phone and other house chores like cooking, etc. So it didn't enter my mind to have some pedals to push when I cannot ride outdoors. Maybe I am not a real biker since I consider myself just a hobbyist.
As CB stated, i frequent indoor group cycle classes when the weather and or logistics are incompatible with outdoor riding.

Spin/indoor cycle bikes are not the run-of-the mill health club exercise bikes. The latter usually have bad ergonomics and limited adjustibility and are not typically intended for high workloads - I had a few machines actually seize up during a power tests last winter.

A proper spin bike is very adjustable and you should be able to set it up similar to your road riding position. They have a heavy duty construction, are stable, and can handle high workloads.

A drawback of many group cycle classes is the lack of feedback on intensity. Some bikes have no gauges, others only cadence. Measuring your intensity is guess work. Heart rate is OK, but most of the intervals are pretty short and your HR will jump around. Recently the bikes at my gym were upgraded to bikes with integrated, accurate power meters. You enter your FTP into the computer to set your levels giving you a much more tailored workout.

Another drawback for indoor training is the lack of inertia. Accelerating on rollers, trainers and spin bikes is comically easy. It is hard to simulate a good sprint since it spins up so fast. You forget about how much work it is to accelerate your heft if you spend too much time indoors.
The lack of feedback on spin bikes really puts me off. I prefer good stationary trainers to spin bikes because I can set the load level (eg, gear) and watch my speed, wattage output and HR closely as I pedal. Our YMCA has Cybex trainers, which are heavy-duty with consistent power calibrations. They are rated up to 900W load, which is way above what I need on intervals. At the heavy load levels, there is nothing easy about accelerating or holding cadence.