These are the best fluid bike trainers you can buy. They don’t exceed $500.
I selected them based on my in-depth market research, in which I compared and evaluated reviews, tests, and discussions from forums like Reddit, my experiences, and the experiences of my friends who used fluid trainers.
Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 is the best fluid bike trainer overall. That’s because it can transmit your ride data to indoor training apps, has up to 1200W resistance, is well-built, and is not overly expensive.
Continue reading to discover what to be aware of when choosing a fluid bike trainer, its pros, cons, features to look for, and much more.
What Are the Best Fluid Bike Trainers?
The best fluid bike trainers offer enough resistance and a realistic ride feel. The smart fluid bike trainers have ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, or Bluetooth connectivity to transmit your power and cadence data.
You will mostly find more affordable but noisier wheel-on fluid trainers can the more expensive direct-drive fluid trainers. Those are on a decline because:
Read the buyer’s guide section to learn more about fluid bike trainers.
Alpcour Fluid Bike Trainer Stand (Best Budget Fluid Bike Trainer)
- Front wheel riser included
- Resistance (type): n/a (fluid)
- Bike compatibility: 26 to 29-inch, 650b, 700c wheel bikes, through-axle adapter for disc-brake bikes is sold separately
- Flywheel: n/a
Alpcour Fluid Bike Trainer Stand is one of the most affordable fluid bike trainers on the market.
And although the maximum resistance is not stated, I am sure it will be enough for most beginners. Fluid bike trainers provide pretty high (progressive) resistance.
Except for the trainer, you will also get the front wheel riser for a more comfortable riding position that compensates for the raised rear wheel.
It’s also relatively noisy. Depending on the speed, it will vary around 60 dB. It’s the same level as music playing in the background.
Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 (Best Fluid Bike Trainer Overall)
- High maximum resistance
- Can transmit your ride data to indoor cycling apps
- Compatible with folding bikes with small wheels
- Resistance (type): 1400W (fluid)
- Bike compatibility: 16 to 29-inch, 650b, 700c wheel bikes, through-axle adapter for disc-brake bikes is sold separately
- Flywheel: 6.25 lb (2.83 kg)
Kinetic belongs among established bike trainer brands. Their trainers are well-built and reliable.
Their Road Machine Smart 2 has the best specs of all trainers on this list. Except for the high 1400W resistance you probably won’t surpass, it’s also compatible with a wide range of bikes.
You can use it with a bike with wheels as small as 16 inches! This means that you can use it with a folding bike, for example.
Furthermore, it can transmit your ride data to indoor training apps, so you don’t have a cadence or speed sensor, or power meter to get a basic overview of your performance.
One of the disadvantages of Road Machine Smart 2 is the connectivity. It’s not as reliable, but you can improve it by using new batteries in the sensor and an ANT+ cable connected to your laptop/computer.
Saris Fluid2 Smart Equipped (Runner-Up)
- Available in smart and non-smart options
- The smart one can transmit your ride data to indoor cycling apps
Saris Fluid2 is (smart equipped) a direct alternative to Road Machine Smart 2.
It can also transmit your ride data to indoor cycling apps thanks to the included sensor.
Like most wheel-on trainers, it’s also easy to set up, compatible with common bike types (road, hybrid, MTB), and provides decent resistance.
Remember, it’s available in smart and non-smart versions. Choose the smart one if you want your ride data to be transmitted.
- Well-built and durable
- Pricy considering it’s not smart
- Resistance (type): 1070W (fluid)
- Bike compatibility: 20 to 29-inch, 650b, 700c wheel bikes, through-axle adapter for disc-brake bikes is sold separately
- Flywheel: n/a
Italian bike trainer brand Elite is known for its high build quality. I reviewed the Elite Novo Force bike trainer and it was sturdy and durable.
You can expect the same from Qubo. The difference is higher resistance of up to 1070W!
So, if you are a powerful rider, Qubo should provide you with enough resistance, even for high-intensity drills.
Qubo is more expensive than the Alpcour trainer and you can also upgrade it by buying an Elite Misuro B+ sensor to transmit your ride data, but it costs extra money.
|Alpcour Fluid Bike Trainer Stand||Wheel‑on||n/a||26 to 29-inch, 650b, 700c wheel bikes||Check Price|
|Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2||Wheel‑on||1400W||16 to 29-inch, 650b, 700c wheel bikes||Check Price|
|Saris Fluid2 Smart Equipped||Wheel‑on||n/a||27 to 29-inch, 650b, 700c wheel bikes||Check Price
Check Price (rei.com)
|Elite Qubo||Wheel‑on||1070W||20 to 29-inch, 650b, 700c wheel bikes||Check Price
Check Price (performancebike.com)
Fluid bike trainers provide a more realistic ride feel than magnetic bike trainers, thanks to the progressive resistance similar to riding outdoors. They are also quieter.
After comparing more than 10 fluid bike trainers and evaluating their features and customer reviews, I believe that:
- The best budget fluid bike trainer is the Alpcour Fluid Bike Trainer. It’s the most affordable fluid bike trainer on the market, making it ideal for people who don’t want to spend a fortune on a sophisticated indoor training setup.
- The best fluid bike trainer overall is the Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2. It’s a well-built fluid bike trainer that can transmit your ride data to indoor cycling apps. It has up to 1400W resistance, which is enough for most riders.
How to Choose the Best Fluid Bike Trainer?
The following guide is a consolidated version of the how-to choose a bike trainer guide edited to comply with fluid bike trainers.
Type of a Fluid Bike Trainer
When buying a fluid bike trainer, you have 2 basic choices. You can either buy a wheel-on or a direct-drive trainer.
Wheel-on vs. Direct-drive Fluid Trainers
Wheel-on fluid trainers require the rear wheel to be mounted on your bike. It’s then set up against a cylinder that provides resistance.
Wheel-on trainers are more affordable than direct-drive trainers. They are also more portable and don’t take up too much space.
They are ideal for riders new to indoor cycling or with a limited budget. However, advanced riders can use them too.
Direct-drive (wheel-off) trainers require you to take off the rear wheel and mount your bike directly in the trainer.
They are quieter because they eliminate the noise caused by the tire + cylinder. But due to their limited use case (they are relatively expensive and can’t adjust resistance via training app as electromagnetically resisted smart trainers), they are in decline.
The overall bike trainer resistance is given in watts. Many fluid bike trainers have no stated maximum resistance.
However, based on my experience, it’s often high enough for beginners and intermediate riders.
The resistance increases progressively, just like riding outside. This is one of the reasons why fluid bike trainers provide a more realistic ride feel.
The following applies to smart fluid trainers only.
A trainer’s accuracy means the power deviation at a certain power. If you ride at 250W and the deviation of the trainer is 2%, the real power will be in the range of 245-255W.
The following table shows the power variance for different levels of trainer accuracy and power output.
Fluid bike trainers are among the quieter trainers. However, wheel-on trainers are louder due to the tire’s contact with the cylinder. As such, the resistance unit of the trainer does not make much noise.
Direct-drive trainers are quieter (if you have lubed chain). However, the drivetrain will make some noise. To avoid it, you would have to invest in a smart bike.
You might be interested: Follow these tips to make your trainer quieter.
Some fluid bike trainers are smart but not interactive. So, what’s the difference?
- Interactive bike trainers can adjust the resistance based on 3rd party apps like Zwift, ROUVY, TrainerRoad, etc.
- Noninteractive bike trainers can’t adjust the resistance. They can only transmit your ride data to the training app.
- Dumb fluid bike trainers cannot measure your ride data or transmit them.
I recommend buying an interactive smart trainer for better engagement during indoor rides.
But if your budget is tight and you already have a power meter, a dumb fluid bike trainer will do the work.
Other Features to Consider
- Bike compatibility – fluid bike trainers may not be compatible with every bike. Double-check the compatibility to avoid an unpleasant surprise when setting up your bike.
- Weight – heavier trainers (usually direct-drive) tend to be more stable but less portable. If you are limited by space, I recommend choosing a more compact and lighter trainer.
- Flywheel weight – flywheel is one of the most important parts of a bike trainer. Together with the resistance unit, it creates resistance. Remember, though, that the heavier flywheel doesn’t necessarily mean a better, more road-like ride feel. If you can’t try the trainer in person, check out the reviews of other customers.
- Gradient simulation – unlike smart bike trainers, fluid bike trainers cannot simulate gradients.
Fluid Bike Trainers FAQ
Preview picture source: Saris