UPDATE: this post is now outdated, but our Smart Trainer Index has up-to-date recommendations for smart trainers at all budget levels.
DC Rainmaker‘s annual Smart Trainer Recommendations 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.
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.
High End ($1000+)
The best trainers available, these are quieter, more accurate, and sturdier than their mid-high counterparts.
Note: the Neo 2 is typically priced ~$200 higher than the Neo 1. 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.”