The 7 Best Budget Bike Trainers (Ideal for Beginners) [2021]

Best Budget Bike Trainers

This is my selection of the best budget bike trainers for up to $500. I did in-depth market research, read cycling forums, and talked with fellow cyclists to provide you with the most relevant recommendations possible.

You find mostly “dumb” wheel-on trainers on this list. However, I included a few smart trainers as well.

If you are new to indoor cycling, don’t worry. You also learn how to choose the best budget indoor trainer that will suit your needs.


What Are the Best Budget Bike Trainers?

Before you hit a “BUY” button, I recommend reading the buyer’s guide, where you find out what to be aware of when choosing a budget bike trainer.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B071HQFKBY&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US
Sportneer Bike Trainer

Read More

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B006JYDIBO&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US
Elite Novo Force

Also available at competitivecyclist.com and performancebike.com

Read More

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07YF5LTYV&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US
Tacx Flow

Also available at competitivecyclist.com, jensonusa.com, and wiggle.co.uk

Read More

Skip to the comparison table…


Elite Novo Force (Best Overall)

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B006JYDIBO&Format= SL450 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US
Elite Novo Force

Main Features

  • Adjusts resistance via training app: No
  • 8 levels of resistance
  • Well built and durable
  • Portable
  • Quick-release included

Technical Specs

I have Elite Novo Force at home. It was my first trainer, and I have to say it is a great dumb trainer. It is durable, portable, and reliable. Its price-value ratio is excellent.

Thanks to the elastogel roller, it improves traction so the tire won’t slip when you start pushing too hard.

It also reduces the noise by up to 50%. This is great if you don’t have a dedicated training cave and you don’t want to disturb your loved ones (or neighbors).

Elastogel’s third main benefit is that, according to Elite, it reduces tire wear by up to 20%. Wheel-on trainers can “eat” your tires pretty quickly, so this is a nice feature that can save you some money. But, if you can, get a trainer tire.

You can also make Novo Force compatible with training apps by buying a Misuro B+ sensor. It can transmit your speed and cadence data to mobile devices and computers to make your training sessions less boring.

Elite Novo Force Elastogel is compatible with bikes that use a 5mm quick-release skewer or 130-135 x 5 mm QR axles. The quick-release is included.

To use it with thru-axles, you have to buy an adapter (code 1020008) that ensures compatibility with 135x10mm | 135x12mm, 142X12mm, or 148x12mm​ thru-axles.

This trainer is quieter than the more affordable alternatives like Sportneer Bike Trainer or Alpcour Bike Trainer, but noisier than Tacx Flow.

Also available at competitivecyclist.com and performancebike.com


Tacx Flow (Best Budget Smart Trainer)

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07YF5LTYV&Format= SL500 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US

Main Features

  • Adjusts resistance via training app: Yes
  • Measures speed, power, and cadence
  • Front wheel block and quick-release included
  • Portable
  • Quieter than most wheel-on trainers on this list

Technical Specs

  • Resistance (type): Up to 800W (electromagnetic)
  • Accuracy: ±5%
  • Gradient simulation: 6%
  • Weight: 20.7 lb (9.4 kg)
  • Connectivity: ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth
  • Flywheel: 3.5 lb (1.6 kg)
  • Bike compatibility: 130-135mm QR axles

Garmin’s Tacx Flow is one of the most affordable smart interactive trainers on the market that can also adjust resistance based on a training app. Thanks to this feature, your training will be more engaging and fun.

Flow is also quiet, especially when used with the Tacx trainer-specific tire. It is also easy to set up and portable, so it doesn’t take too much effort to set it up every time you want to train. This is handy if you are limited by space, for example.

This trainer also offers decent resistance (up to 800W). This is enough for most beginners and hobby cyclists. It can even simulate gradients of up to 6% making it ideal for 3rd party apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, etc.

It has ±5% accuracy, which is not too good compared to direct-drive trainers, but you can overlook this shortcoming easily if you don’t care about every watt.

Its biggest downside is that you may experience connectivity issues, so it is better to use it with an ANT+ receiver that improves the connectivity.

Overall, Tacx Flow provides an unmatched price-value ratio, and it is the best choice if you want to taste interactive indoor training.

Also available at competitivecyclist.com, jensonusa.com, and wiggle.co.uk


Sportneer Bike Trainer (Most Affordable)

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B071HQFKBY&Format= SL450 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US

Main Features

  • Adjusts resistance via training app: No
  • 6 levels of resistance
  • Front wheel block and quick-release included
  • Very portable
  • Adjustable rubber end caps

Technical Specs

This trainer is perfect for you if you have a limited budget and you just need a trainer for spinning your legs or losing weight.

It comes with 6 levels of resistance that you can change using a remote. The first two simulate descents and flats, the third and fourth false flats, and the fifth and sixth climbs.

Sportneer bike trainer is also highly portable. You can fold it to store it when you don’t use it. This makes it ideal for people with limited space – for example, in apartments. It also easily fits a car trunk so that it can be your companion for races.

This trainer is super easy to set up. The rubber end caps are adjustable. This is a very nice detail that is useful if your floor is not completely flat.

The packing includes a front-wheel riser to improve your riding position and comfort (so your bike will not be tilted as if you were riding downhill). The quick-release is also included ensuring compatibility with most bikes.

Sportneer bike trainer has a few downsides too. It is marketed as quiet, but it is not as quiet as Tacx Flow, for example. Riding it also causes vibrations, so make sure to use a trainer floor mat that absorbs them to don’t disturb neighbors that live underneath you.

NOTE: There is also an Alpcour bike trainer for twice the price. But, this is the same, only rebranded trainer.


Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07DSCW998&Format= SL500 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US

Main Features

  • Adjusts resistance via training app: No
  • Measures speed, cadence, power
  • Well built and stable
  • Quick-release included

Technical Specs

  • Resistance (type): Up to 1400W (fluid)
  • Accuracy: n/a
  • Gradient simulation: n/a
  • Weight: 28.9 lb (13.1 kg)
  • Flywheel: 6.25 lb (2.8 kg)
  • Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Bike compatibility: Most bikes with QR axle, bikes with thru-axle require adapter

If you don’t like Tacx Flow for some reason, Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 is a cheaper alternative that lacks 3rd party apps interactivity (because it uses fluid resistance).

Road Machine Smart 2 is well built, easy to set up, and stable. It differs from other trainers mainly in the resistance type. The fluid resistance is progressive, meaning that it increases exponentially as you pedal faster and harder. This better simulates road-like conditions.

Although this trainer is not interactive, it can communicate with most training apps via ANT+ and Bluetooth protocols thanks to the inRide 3 Power Sensor. This means you can move the virtual avatar in an app, but the trainer won’t adjust the resistance (Tacx Flow does).

Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 is quieter than more affordable trainers. The larger roller diameter reduces the tire wear and saves you some bucks. However, a dedicated Kinetic trainer tire also improves traction and reduces noisiness, so don’t hesitate to buy it.

According to users, Road Machine 2 Smart measures power accurately, but the exact accuracy is not available. Where it also lacks is the cadence accuracy that may be a little bit off sometimes.


Saris Fluid2 Trainer

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07WP6JRSQ&Format= SL450 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US

Main Features

  • Adjusts resistance via training app: No
  • Non-smart and smart version
  • Well-built
  • Portable

Technical Specs

As the name of this trainer suggests, Saris Fluid2 provides fluid, progressive resistance. Due to this resistance type, it cannot adjust the resistance based on a training application.

Saris trainers (formerly CycleOps) are typical for their high quality. The Fluid2 model is one of the most affordable trainers from this American brand.

Thanks to the progressive resistance, it faithfully simulates riding outdoors. It is also relatively quiet (but not as quiet as Tacx Flow).

For a few extra bucks, you can also get the same trainer but with a speed sensor. It then transmits your ride data to a training app making your workout more engaging as your avatar moves through the virtual world.

The biggest downside of this trainer is Saris customer support. Customers report that it is not very responsive and helpful.


Wahoo KICKR Snap

4e50bdf2 3f79 406a 9e17
Wahoo KICKR Snap | Source: rei.com

Main Features

  • Adjusts resistance via training app: Yes
  • Measures speed, distance, and power
  • Front wheel block included
  • Very portable
  • Well built
  • Reliable

Technical Specs

  • Resistance (type): Up to 1500W (electromagnetic)
  • Accuracy: ±3%
  • Noisiness: 54.5dB at 230W (source)
  • Gradient simulation: 12%
  • Weight: 38 lb (17.2 kg)
  • Connectivity: ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth
  • Flywheel: 10.5 lb (4.8 kg)
  • Bike compatibility: 130-135mm quick-release and 12mm x 142mm thru-axle hubs with adapter

Wahoo KICKR Snap is a more expensive alternative to Tacx Flow. It comes with higher-spec, though.

It will provide you with up to 1500W resistance (enough even for advanced cyclists). Snap is interactive, so it can adjust the resistance based on 3rd party training apps and make your training more engaging.

Owners praise the ride experience that is very close to riding outside. The 12% grade simulation contributes to this because once you encounter a steep climb on Zwift, for example, the trainer will slow down your pedal stroke.

Snap is quiet, so you can train and watch a movie, for example, and you won’t need headphones. You also won’t disturb your family members or neighbors.

Wahoo KICKR Snap is one of the best smart trainers in terms of price value. However, Tacx Flow is a little more affordable and sufficient for beginners or people with a limited budget.

Also available at competitivecyclist.com and wiggle.co.uk


Interested in Zwifting? Make sure to also check out the best bike trainers for Zwift.


Magene T100 Direct Drive

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B08CRC2H5Q&Format= SL450 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=cyclistshub 20&language=en US

Main Features

  • Adjusts resistance via training app: No
  • Cassette is not included
  • Direct-drive trainer
  • Very portable
  • Excellent price-value ratio

Technical Specs

  • Resistance (type): 700W (electromagnetic*)
  • Accuracy: ±3%
  • Gradient simulation: 3%
  • Weight: 35.3 lb (16.01 kg)
  • Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Flywheel: 10.5 lb (4.8 kg)
  • Bike compatibility: 130-135mm quick-release and 12mm x 142mm or 148mm thru-axle

This is one of the most affordable bike trainers of this type. The Magene T100 is the only direct-drive trainer on this list. More expensive alternatives start at double the price.

However, its lower price reflects lower specs (lower resistance and gradient simulation, lower accuracy). But, if you are not a demanding rider, Magene will be enough for you.

The manufacturer claims that the T100 has a noise level of 60dB. This is a normal conversation level (source).

This trainer will surprise you with its excellent price-performance ratio. According to users who have a power meter, the trainer’s power meter is pretty accurate.

Keep in mind that Magene T100 Direct Drive doesn’t come with a cassette, and you have to buy it separately.

At this price point, you also should not expect as good a road-like riding experience as with more expensive smart trainers. It also lacks an ERG mode, so if this is feature is important to you, look elsewhere.


Feedback Sports Omnium

RD
Feedback Sports Omnium | Source: competitivecyclist.com

Main Features

  • Rollers with fixed front fork axle
  • Very portable
  • Front fork mount is compatible with QR and thru-axles
  • Travel case included

Technical Specs

  • Resistance (type): Progressive
  • Weight: 14 lb (6.35 kg)

Feedback Sports Omnium rollers with a fixed front fork axle are the most portable trainer in this roundup. The packing includes a travel case for convenient transportation.

It is perfect for people with limited space or for riders who need a trainer for pre-race warm-ups. It easily fits into a closet or a car trunk.

Thanks to its construction, it is also very unique. Your front fork is fixed while the rear wheel is set against the rollers. They will provide you with progressive resistance, so the more you pedal, the harder it gets.

Owners are also delighted with this trainer because it is quiet. Another benefit is that the package includes adapters for quick-release and thru-axles. They make this trainer compatible with virtually any bike.

Keep in mind that you will need a power meter or speed + cadence sensors to connect it with training apps.

Also available at trekbikes.com and wiggle.co.uk



My Verdict

To spend your money wisely on your next budget bike trainer, I recommend reading the buyer’s guide so you can decide what bike trainer is the best for your needs. You should consider the following features:

Based on the comparison, evaluating reviews, and customer experiences of more than 25 budget bike trainers, I selected the following three trainers:

  1. The most affordable bike trainer is the Sportneer Bike Trainer. It offers an unmatched price-value ratio. It will surprise you with its quality and features considering its price.
  2. The best budget bike trainer overall is the Elite Novo Force (also available at competitivecyclist.com). It is well built, stable, and provides enough resistance for most beginners.
  3. The best budget smart bike trainer is the Tacx Flow (also available at competitivecyclist.com and wiggle.co.uk). It is one of the most affordable interactive wheel-on bike trainers on the market. Flow is ideal for beginners or riders who want to upgrade their dumb trainer to an interactive smart trainer.

How to Choose the Best Budget Bike Trainer?

When I talk about budget bike trainers, I mean wheel-on entry-level trainers for up to $100, mid-range for about $250, and high-end for up to $500.

Low-end and mid-range bike trainers are mostly not “smart.” Only the higher-end trainers are. This means they can transmit your ride data to a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Interactive trainers can also adjust the resistance (more about them below).

Learn more about the differences, benefits, and disadvantages of wheel-on and direct-drive trainers in this bike trainers guide.

Here are the features to consider when choosing a budget bike trainer:

Type of a Bike Trainer

Budget trainers for up to $500 are in the vast majority wheel-on trainers. In fact, from around 30 trainers I researched, 90% of them were wheel-on and the rest direct-drive (not counting rollers).

Therefore, I am going to focus on wheel-on trainers only in this guide. If you are interested in a direct-drive trainer, visit the best smart bike trainers article.

Wahoo KICKR SNAP wheel on bike trainer
Wheel-on bike trainer (Wahoo KICKR SNAP) | Product picture source: wahoofitness.com
Wahoo KICKR Smart direct drive bike trainer
Direct-drive bike trainer (Wahoo KICKR) | Product picture source: wahoofitness.com

Wheel-on Trainers – Dumb vs. Smart vs. Smart Interactive

Wheel-on trainers work on a simple principle. Your rear wheel is set against the cylinder that provides resistance.

There are three basic types of wheel-on trainers:

  1. Non-interactive (dumb) trainers – cannot transmit any data. You can only adjust their resistance manually.
  2. Smart (non-interactive) trainers – can transmit your ride data but can’t adjust the resistance based on a training app.
  3. Smart (interactive) trainers – can transmit data and adjust the resistance based on a training app.

Which one should you choose?
Of course, the more sophisticated the trainer is, the more you have to pay for it.

Non-interactive trainers are good if you don’t plan to ride for more than one hour, you have a power meter (so you can use apps like Zwift, Rouvy, etc.), or you want to just lose some weight.

Smart (non-interactive) trainers are suitable for people with a limited budget that don’t require interactivity. This means they don’t mind that the trainer won’t adjust the resistance based on the training app.

Smart (interactive) trainers are perfect for more demanding riders who need more engaging training to stay motivated during longer training sessions.

Resistance & Resistance Type

Budget bike trainers mostly use air, magnetic, or fluid resistance, sometimes even electromagnetic (mostly found on smart trainers). The following table shows their pros and cons.

Type of ResistanceProsCons
Wind• Cheapest
• Progressive resistance
• Very Noisy
• Lack of resistance adjustability
Magnetic• Relatively affordable
• Quieter than wind trainers
• Resistance adjustability
• Linear resistance
• Maximum resistance level
Electromagnetic• Adjustable resistance based on software
platforms (Zwift, Rouvy, etc.)
• Quiet
• Expensive
Fluid• Progressive resistance translating into a very realistic riding feel
• Quiet
• No maximum resistance level
• Expensive

The progressive resistance means that the more you pedal, the higher the resistance. It better simulates real-world riding conditions because the air resistance increases exponentially (source).

The overall bike trainer resistance is given in watts. Unfortunately, it is common that the info about the maximum resistance is not available for budget trainers.

However, if you are a casual cyclist or want to buy a budget trainer just to spin your legs from time to time, you don’t have to worry about it because the resistance will be sufficient.

Gradient Simulation

Gradient simulation means that the trainer can slow your pedal stroke when you start climbing a steep climb in a training app. This improves your ride experience and makes indoor training more road-like.

Gradient simulation feature is common on smart interactive bike trainers, and budget trainers often don’t offer it. The higher the gradient simulation, the faster the trainer slows down your pedal stroke when you encounter a steep climb in an app.

To learn more about how this feature works, watch the following video by Shane Miller (GPLama).

Accuracy

Accuracy is a feature that is not as important for casual cyclists as for performance-oriented riders. However, it should not be omitted.

The trainer’s accuracy means what the power deviation at a certain power is. Let’s say you ride 200W, and the trainer has a power accuracy of 5%. This means the power can vary from 190 to 210W.

The general rule of thumb is the more expensive the bike trainer, the more accurate it is. With budget trainers, expect an accuracy of around 5%.

The following table shows the power variance for different levels of accuracy and power.

Accuracy250W500W1000W2000W
1%247.5-252.5495-505990-10101980-2020
2%245-255490-510980-10201960-2040
3%242.5-257.5485-515970-10301940-2060
4%240-260480-520960-10401920-2080
5%237.5-262.5475-525950-10501900-2100

Noisiness

The biggest downside of budget trainers is their noisiness. Due to the nature of wheel-on bike trainers, they are pretty noisy. The noisiness level of budget trainers can vary a lot. While the quietest direct-drive trainers have a noisiness level of around 55dB, budget wheel-on trainers can easily exceed 70dB.

To reduce the noise, make sure to use a dedicated trainer tire. It will also improve traction so it won’t slip during hard efforts and reduces your tire wear.

Other Features to Consider

  • Included accessories – budget trainers often come with the front wheel riser to improve your comfort and simulate climbing. If it is not included, don’t worry, you can use a book instead. However, included wheel riser is a nice-to-have. The packing should also include a quick-release for an easier attachment of your bike to the trainer.
  • Bike compatibility – most bike trainers are compatible with 130-135 mm quick-release (QR) axles. Bikes that use thru-axles may require special adapters. Always double-check the trainer’s compatiblity to avoid future issues.
  • Portability – bike trainers are cleverly designed so you can fold them when you don’t use them. However, some trainers are more portable than others due to their construction so keep that in mind if you are space-limited.

Budget Bike Trainers FAQ

Preview picture source: Kinetic

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top