Closest feeling to a real bike ride
Inside Ride E-Motion rollers: Innovative roller that allows safe, high-performance training.
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Likes: Feels more like real cycling; both wheels spin on roller drums, forcing you to balance as you rock back and forth while pedaling. Takes just 30 seconds to learn, making it far safer than age-old rollers. The trick: The entire device is built on a spring-loaded subframe that slides 4 inches fore and aft on a track; inventor Larry Papadopoulus says this accommodates the natural, imperceptible pulsing that occurs during outdoor pedaling but feels jerky on fixed-position trainers. Light and portable.
Dislikes: Triple the cost of a normal trainer. Use with a mountain bike requires slick tires.
Price: $795, plus $38 shipping. (503) 647-5883; www.insideride.com.
Low-priced, smooth ride to nowhere
Performance Travel Trac Century Fluid Trainer: Stationary rear-wheel training stand generates resistance through the tire's contact with a roller drum that must overcome the inertia of an attached fan encased in a fluid housing.
Likes: Smooth ride. Quick, easy setup. Extremely safe for novices and experts alike. Although noisier than the Minoura (right), it is still TV-friendly and quieter than similar air-fan and magnetic-resistance trainers. Folds up small for easy storage. Market's lowest-priced fluid trainer.
Dislikes: Can't be used with any knobby mountain-bike tire. Does not come with a front-tire block ($10-$15).
Price: $199. (800) 727-2453; www.performancebike.com.
Quietly suitable for any tire
Minoura Powermatic rim trainer: Stationary training stand creates resistance on the rear-wheel rim, allowing use of any tire, including a mountain-bike knobby.
Likes: Quietest, smoothest trainer I've used. Instead of the tire rolling on a metal drum, as with all other trainers, this has two small, spring-loaded rubber wheels that pinch the rim from each side. Includes handlebar-mounted adjustable resistance lever. Folds up small.
Dislikes: Not large enough to accommodate the new, oversized "29er" mountain bikes. Does not come with a front-tire block ($10-$15).
Price: $289.95. (510) 538-8599; www.minoura.jp.
Virtual-reality riding experience
Expresso Fitness S2u: Exercise bike with 17-inch LCD screen that pits you against interactive courses and racers
Likes: The most fun, motivating, realistic health-club exer-bike I've used. True virtual-reality riding, pivoting handlebars, and resistance that changes with the terrain. As in real cycling, you must steer the bike through traffic and around corners and shift gears or stand up out of the saddle to climb hills and speed up.
More than 30 programs offer easy-to-difficult courses in which you race pacers or against your personal best. Includes heart-rate monitor, a watt meter, and calorie, distance, RPM, gear and slope readouts.
Dislikes: You can buy a Tour de France-caliber race bike and rollers for this price. 190-pound, 4-foot-by-5- 1/2 -foot unit won't fit in a closet.
Price: $5,145. (888) 528-8589; www.expresso.com.