Indoor training is getting more and more popular. Not only because the trainers are getting better, but also because the possibilities with apps and software are endless now. The workouts are on a higher level than ever and, maybe even more important, much more fun! But there’s a wide range of indoor trainers and you might wonder what kind of trainer suits you best? Let’s start by explaining the difference between the classic wheel-on trainer and a direct drive trainer.
The visible and obvious difference between these two types is the way you place your bike on the trainer. On a wheel-on trainer, you fix your rear wheel in the trainer by two simple clicks. For a direct drive trainer, you remove your rear wheel and mount your bike directly on the cassette mounted on the trainer. You place the trainer between the dropouts of your bike and clamp it with a quick release or a thru-axle. It’s certainly no rocket science, but you have to be a bit technical and know how to remove your wheel and mount a cassette.
Applying the resistance
In the case of a wheel-on trainer, the resistance is applied by a roll that presses against your rear wheel. The harder this roll presses against your rear tyre, the more resistance is generated and thus the tougher the training gets. With a direct drive trainer, the resistance is applied directly to the cassette that is either directly connected to the motor (NEO) or via a belt (other direct drives). The resistance of the trainer will be transmitted directly to your drivetrain.
Because the technique of wheel-on trainer is less complicated than a direct drive trainer, the price is a bit friendlier (especially the entry level trainers). Of course, these trainers are less advanced than direct drive trainers but they are still great for a decent work-out or warming up. The ease of usability is also one of the pros: you can start training right away by simply clicking your bike in the trainer and off you go. And because these trainers weigh relatively little and are all collapsible they are easy to store.
Direct drive trainers, on the other hand, have more to offer than wheel-on trainers. The advanced technique brings more accuracy, makes the trainer generally more powerful and simulates a more realistic bike feeling. Furthermore, you don’t or barely have to calibrate your trainer. This is due to the fact that the trainer works without a rear tyre. A tyre will namely deform and slowly deflate while you train, which will influence your performance during a training. An additional advantage of a trainer set-up without a rear tyre is that this will make your training much more silent. And because most direct drive trainers are equipped with a built-in power meter, your workout will even get more professional.
Whether you should buy a wheel-on or a direct drive trainer depends merely on your budget and what you demand from a trainer. Both trainers have their pros and cons and we’ve summed it up for you to help you make a choice which trainer suits you best:
|Direct drive trainer||Wheel-on trainer|
|+ more accurate|
+ more realistic
+ responds faster
+ higher resistance
+ less to none calibration needed
+ built-in power meter
|+ more affordable
+ less weight so easy to move
+ easy to mount your bike
|– more expensive|
– remove rear wheel
– mount a cassette
|– less accurate
– can make some noise
– calibrate every training session
– slippage on high power