DC Rainmaker‘s annual Smart Trainer Recommends Guide has become the Christmas shopping reference standard for indoor riders everywhere, and for good reason: Ray spends a lot of time with a lot of trainers, shows an amazing attention to detail, and has been doing this for a long time.

You can read his entire guide here, but I’m going to summarize his top picks for each price category below.

Budget (sub $500)

These wheel-on trainers tend to be basic in function and lack the durability, accuracy, and realistic road feel of higher-priced offerings.

Mid-Range ($500-$700)

The best of the wheel-on trainers, but still falling short of the durability, accuracy, and realistic road feel of higher-priced  direct-drive offerings. 

Note: DC Rainmaker declined to pick a top two for this category, saying they were all pretty similar. The two listed above were referred to as the most “robustly built” and “most accurate” respectively.

Mid-High End ($700-$1000)

Direct-drive trainers which lack some of the beefier features of their high-end counterparts.

Note: we linked to the Tacx Flux 2018 above instead of the Flux S, since the S isn’t yet widely available. According to DC Rainmaker the Flux S is “basically just the 2016/2017/2018 Flux 1 with a bunch of internal changes and support for longer derailleur cages.” 

High End ($1000+)

The best trainers available, these are quieter, more accurate, and sturdier than their mid-high counterparts.

Note: the Neo 2 has just been announced and is not yet readily available, but its release has lowered the price of the Neo 1 in many shops. DC Rainmaker recommends either as his top pick, so it really comes down to the price you can get and whether you want the “latest and greatest.”