Fluid vs. Magnetic Bike Trainers: Which Ones Are Better?

Fluid vs. magnetic bike trainers: Saris Fluid2 on the left and Elite Novo Force on the right

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If you’re considering buying a new bike trainer, you’ll appreciate this fluid vs. magnetic resistance comparison.

The main difference between fluid and magnetic bike trainers is that fluid trainers use fluid resistance which is progressive. The faster you pedal, the higher the resistance. Magnetic resistance is linear, so you have to change the trainer’s resistance to get higher resistance.

I will explain how they work and, more importantly, their benefits and disadvantages, so you can decide which one is the right choice for you.

How Fluid Bike Trainers Work?

Bike trainers with fluid resistance have a flywheel and an impeller that moves through a fluid (e.g., silicone) that creates the resistance. The faster you pedal, the higher the resistance. This is because the resistance is progressive (exponential).

Power curves - linear, progressive, outdoor (for illustrative purposes only)
Power curves – linear, progressive, outdoor (for illustrative purposes only)

On the other hand, magnetic bike trainers have a linear power curve. You will learn more about them below.

The following video explains the Kinetic Fluid resistance unit and why Kinetic uses medical-grade silicone.

Explanation of how the Kinetic fluid resistance unit works

Examples of fluid bike trainers: Saris Fluid2 Trainer, Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2, Elite Turno


How Magnetic Bike Trainers Work?

Bike trainers with the magnetic resistance unit also have a flywheel, but instead of a fluid, they use a magnet. Usually, you can change the position of the magnet to adjust the resistance. The closer the magnet is to the flywheel, the higher the resistance and vice versa.

Elite Novo Force magnetic bike trainer and its resistance unit parts
Elite Novo Force magnetic bike trainer and its resistance unit parts

Some bike trainers had a feature to automatically increase the resistance (for example, CycleOps SuperMagneto Pro). But nowadays, they are not as popular as smart trainers with electromagnetic resistance that adjust it based on an indoor cycling app.

Electromagnetic bike trainers can adjust resistance based on indoor cycling apps. They work on the same principle as the magnetic bike trainers. The main difference is that their magnet is controlled electronically.

Examples of magnetic bike trainers: Elite Novo Force, Sportneer Bike Trainer, Saris Magnetic Bike Trainer
Examples of electromagnetic bike trainers: Wahoo KICKR, Tacx Flow, Saris H3


Pros and Cons of Fluid and Magnetic Bike Trainers

The biggest advantage of fluid trainers over magnetic trainers is the more realistic and outdoor-like feel. This is thanks to the progressive resistance similar to the resistance outside.

Additionally, fluid trainers are quieter, so you won’t disturb your neighbors if you live in an apartment or your loved ones.

On the other hand, they are more expensive than magnetic bike trainers and you can’t adjust their resistance.

The following table shows the pros and cons of fluid, magnetic, and other types of resistances used on bike trainers.

Type of ResistanceProsCons
Wind• Cheapest
• Progressive resistance
• Very noisy
• Lack of resistance adjustability
Magnetic• Relatively affordable
• Quieter than wind trainers
• Manually adjustable resistance
• Linear resistance
• Maximum resistance level
Electromagnetic• Adjustable resistance based on 3rd party apps
• Very quiet
• Expensive
• Require electricity
Fluid• Progressive resistance translating into
a very realistic riding feel
• Quieter than wind and magnetic trainers
• No maximum resistance level
• Expensive
• Lack of resistance adjustability
Pros and cons of wind, magnetic, electromagnetic, and fluid bike trainers | Sources: cyclistshub.com, artscyclery.com, youtube.com, medium.com (The Pacemaker)

Fluid vs. Magnetic Bike Trainers FAQ


Conclusion

So, should you get a magnetic or fluid resistance trainer?

Go for a magnetic one if your budget is tight or if you don’t require an outside-like ride feel.

I recommend fluid bike trainers for those who don’t want to spend extra on electromagnetically-resisted bike trainers and those who prefer outside-like progressive resistance.

Feel free to contact me or write any comments in case of any questions.

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