Everyday our team tests the latest bikes, apparel, and tech out on the roads and trails around our office. We commute, ride, and race the gear that we write about—which adds up to a lot of mileage. And like our readers, we believe getting stronger and faster is part of the fun. So in between rides, we used these products to help us fuel, recovery, cross-train, and track progress. We exhaustively researched and rigorously tested hundreds of products to arrive at this list of 32 items that we absolutely adored. If you’re looking to take your fitness, nutrition, or training to the next level, this stuff will get you there faster.
Monitor your health habits, record your sleep, and manage weight.
Tested with science and sweat, these are the best training aids you can buy.
Tools that are proven to help you recover better and rehab faster
The standout gym equipment you want to get faster and stronger
The best fuel for before, during, and after your ride—tested by cyclists, approved by dietitians.
What gets measured gets managed, they say. One way to make the most of your training miles, intervals, and heart rate is to keep track of them. These devices help you keep tabs on these, monitor the data, and make measurable improvements.
Record your data more accurately with one of the least expensive and most reliable dual-band heart-rate monitors you can buy: the Tickr. It uses Bluetooth and ANT+ technology to connect to your smartphone, GPS watch, and bike computer, and seamlessly integrates with Wahoo’s other offerings so you can dial in your training zones to get the most out of every effort.
Whoop Strap 3.0
Quickly becoming the gold standard for athletes wanting to track their sleep, recovery, and strain, the Whoop Strap monitors heart rate, heart-rate variability, and activity 24/7. Version 3.0 boasts a longer-lasting battery (up to five days), a strain coach function to make daily activity-level recommendations based on how well you’ve recovered that day, and the ability to overlay data on photos or videos (which can be shared on social media). The Whoop also lets you share real-time workout and physiological metrics with coaches in remote locations, which can transform the way you train.
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro
The 6X Pro picks up where the fēnix 5 left off, adding better battery life, more customizable screens and workout profiles, and the ability to pair to ANT+ sensors in addition to Bluetooth ones. For power geeks (TrainingPeaks upload or it didn’t happen), that means you can use this watch as a substitute for your normal bike computer if you forgot to pack it or simply don’t want to use it from time to time. The watch records sleep and stress data, which you can easily access along with a bevy of other health stats in the Garmin Connect app, and you can auto-sync with a wide variety of third-party apps, including MyFitnessPal, Strava, and TrainingPeaks. The battery lasts so long that you’ll completely forget that charging is something you need to do. Even so, the low-battery alert gives you a 19-hour buffer to get it plugged in.
Rotor 2INPower PowerMeter
This power meter is a data nerd’s dream. It reads and measures the angular velocity of the cranks at 200 points per second in order to provide you with the most accurate data possible on round or oval rings. Riders can take a deep dive into their power files with Rotor’s INpower software, but the brand’s Power app will translate ride data for you if you’re not well versed in power analysis. And the battery life is magnificent: Through four months of riding, we’ve yet to see the low-battery warning come on.
Garmin Edge 530
The new Edge maintains its predecessor’s ability to record and display power from dual-sided meters and adds more performance and training feedback, so you can keep tabs on your VO2 max, recovery time, training load, hydration, and heat acclimation. The number of useful training and mapping features packed into this little device make it worth the $300 price.
We evaluated more than 30 rollers, smart trainers, and even a few old-school friction trainers to find the best ones. We tested each one with third-party apps as well as with their own companion apps. Every trainer was put through the same steady-state intervals, max-power sprints, and high-intensity intervals to test “ride” feel, stability, reliability, and resistance. We also measured noise levels with a decibel meter to see which were the quietest.
Tacx Neo 2T
The Neo 2T (the T stands for torque) is the latest version of the company’s direct-drive Neo 2. Upgrades include 12mm thru-axle compatibility, the capability to measure power balance from one leg to the other, and the ability to replicate resistance (up to a 25 percent grade) at a minimum of 4 miles per hour. (The previous version slowed down below 7 mph on a climb, for example, and didn’t require as much of an effort to maintain speed.) The result is a more realistic, outdoor-like ride experience that will keep you fit when you need to train indoors. The trainer also boasts the ability to mimic gravel on Zwift: The optional function causes the trainer to vibrate slightly as you ride over virtual gravel sections or cobblestones.
Elite Nero Rollers
If you hate the “locked in” feel of a trainer but want to ride on third-party virtual platforms, Elite’s Nero interactive rollers are your answer. On their own (not plugged in and connected to devices or apps), they function like a set of standard rollers. The rollers slide back and forth on a fixed frame, which makes for a very natural-feeling ride as the bike has the freedom to move not just side to side but also forward and back. Along with that natural motion, these rollers also give you the ability to join the world of virtual cycling: When connected to software like Zwift, they adjust their resistance based on what you’re virtually riding. At first, the resistance changes can feel odd on rollers, but you quickly adjust thanks to the free-flowing movement of the bike. Just don’t get carried away thinking these are the magic bullet for indoor training. Roller purists will find that there is too much resistance for high-cadence technique work, and trainer lovers won’t like that they can’t zone out for hours on end with nothing to think about but keeping the pedals turning. In other words, the Nero offers a happy middle ground to satisfy most—but not all—riders.
Wahoo Kickr Bike
The Wahoo Kickr Bike is an indoor training station that’s always ready when you are—just get on and go. As a standalone machine, it doesn’t require you to install anything but pedals, and it has five different adjustment points (standover height, saddle height, setback, reach, crank length, and stack height) so you can fully customize the fit. You can also set it up with the Wahoo Fitness app, which lets you take photos of your outdoor bike and gives you measurements with which to adjust the Kickr Bike to mirror the exact same geometry. It connects with training apps (Zwift, TrainerRoad, and others), and provides unmatched, real-feel feedback to the rider based on the virtual terrain in the program, including tilting to match climbs and descents on the roads. Its integrated sensors measure your cadence and power output (with +/- 1 percent accuracy up to 2,200 watts) to fully track your data.
You gain the most fitness benefits from your training if you give your body plenty of time to recovery. The recovery tools below help you flush out lactic acid, reduce inflammation, or help you relax to get your legs ready for the next workout.
Amp Human PR Lotion
You know how it feels when you push past your lactate threshold too long or too many times: Your legs light up like a roman candle and fizzle shortly thereafter. When you’re cranking out more watts than your aerobic system can handle, your muscles produce lactate for quick energy, which is great. But that process also creates acid, which is not so great. Enter Amp Human’s PR Lotion, which is formulated to deliver sodium bicarbonate, a muscle buffer, through the skin where it neutralizes acid buildup. The result: You can push harder into elevated lactate levels—and use that lactate for energy—without the acidosis that shuts you down. We started out pretty skeptical, but when testers used it before some hard rides with steep climbs, they were able to crank away longer than expected. In one double-blind study conducted by Source Endurance, cyclists using PR lotion were able to perform 25 percent more high-intensity intervals before reaching exhaustion than riders using the placebo were.
Roll Recovery R8
Easier than traditional foam rolling, Roll Recovery R8 offers a more passive—yet effective—self-massage experience. Pull the handles apart and roll it onto your quads (pull harder for less pressure, or let it clamp down for more). The variable torsion springs apply more force to larger muscles and less to smaller groups to break up muscle adhesions and help flush your legs.
Marc Pro Recover & Condition
This EMS machine stimulates your muscles to contract, pump out waste, and bring in fresh blood to facilitate muscle recovery and capillary development. It can take your legs from heavy and leaden to lighter and energetic after one session. Yes, it’s an investment, but based on your riding, it may be worth it, especially since it’s portable and holds a charge for longer than 10 hours.
This handheld vibrating massager is a powerful tool (and tester favorite) for loosening tight muscles and knots. It’s also the quietest massage gun we’ve tried—it went unnoticed when used during a staff meeting—and has a pressure sensor so you know just how much force to apply.
Floyd’s of Leadville Lavender Blend Recovery Balm
Smooth it on your thrashed muscles, sore joints, or niggling trouble spots after a hard workout. The soothing lavender aroma sends your brain to the chill zone while the active ingredients get to work. The 600 milligrams of full-spectrum CBD help calm inflammation while the hit of 4 percent lidocaine acts as a local anesthetic to numb pain.
Active Skin Repair by BLDG Active
This odorless hydrogel speeds the healing of minor road rash and skin abrasions by using hypochlorous acid, the same compound produced by your white blood cells. Plus, it’s nontoxic and kills 99.9 percent of bacteria and fungi, making it a first-aid kit essential.
Enzo’s ButtonHole Chamois Cream
Like Lycra and bib straps, this is one more item to add to the list of things you’ll wish you tried sooner. Chamois cream reduces friction between your skin and chammy pad so you can ride comfortably longer. Enzo’s formula is a favorite because it’s all-natural, long-lasting, and smells like mint cookies.
NormaTec Pulse 2.0 Leg Recovery System
You’ll see these high-tech compression leg sleeves in athletic recovery lounges around the country. Developed by a physician and bioengineer, these inflatable pants attach to a compression device and feature separate air chambers that fill in sequence, gradually compressing each muscle group in a pulsing manner similar to the kneading motion of a massage. This repeats from your feet to hips for several cycles over a set period of time (usually 20 to 60 minutes) to stimulate circulation, flush pooled fluid from your weary legs, promote faster recovery, and reduce pain and soreness. Your legs feel fresher and ready for the next workout when you’re done. They were first popularized in cycling by team Garmin, but now you can have your own personal set.
Tempur-Pedic Pro-Breeze Medium Hybrid
This mattress feels like a hug that lasts just long enough for you to relax and sink into the comfort of it. Firm upon first feel, it slowly gives, allowing you to settle into the perfect balance of softness and support. While some of the new all-foam beds-in-a-box can feel like marshmallows, and old-school spring options can poke you in the wrong places, the Medium Hybrid is built to please even the pickiest sleeper. This mattress features a three-layer system that remains cool through a full eight hours, which is especially important for athletes who get the night sweats thanks to their internal engines revving long after the workout is over. The unique breathable comfort layer releases body heat and humidity that normally gets trapped under the covers, while the pressure-relieving material (originally developed by NASA to absorb the G-force of astronauts during shuttle launches) keeps your body aligned. This all translates to a better, more restful sleep that supports recovery and, as a result, improves your performance overall.
Gym work, yoga, and other off-the bike exercise increase your overall strength on the bike while keeping your body strong and balanced. The products below will help you directly participate in these activities, or make your experience with them a little more enjoyable.
Apple Airpods Pro
The amount of remarkable tech packed into these little silicone buds makes them an indispensable training tool and a legit option for riding outdoors with some limitations. Two microphones allow ambient sounds (like cars approaching) to pass through so you remain aware of your surroundings, but the next-level noise-canceling mode means you can zero in during indoor workouts and block all distractions if you choose. The 4.5-hour battery will see you through the epic rides.
NOBULL Trainer Shoes
These are the shoes that will take your off-the-bike training to the next level. A little stiffer and noticeably more comfortable than other training shoes we’ve tested, they’re almost as stable as weightlifting shoes, but still flexible enough for dynamic and explosive exercises like box jumps. The seamless one-piece upper is constructed with an extremely durable, breathable, and abrasion-resistant material. The first time we deadlifted in them, we knew they were winners.
Lululemon The Reversible Mat 5mm
Whether you use it for yoga, some postride stretches, core workouts, or all three, this is the best mat for the job. The natural rubber base is cushioned enough to keep knees, hips, and elbows from digging into the ground, and the absorbent polyurethane top layer is the stickiest we’ve tested. (It’s designed for super-sweaty activities, so the stickiness engages best with damp skin.)
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells
Think of these like an entire weight rack in a compact package that fits any small space or home gym. Simply turn the dial to adjust from 5 to 52.5 pounds in 2.5-pound increments (up to the first 25 pounds) for all your strength training needs.
Fitbit Aria 2 Smart Scale
Get a more accurate and fuller picture of your health (beyond just your weight) and track toward your goals with this smart scale that syncs wirelessly to computers and over 200 leading iOs, Android, and Windows devices via your home WiFi. It tracks weight, body fat percentage, and lean muscle mass and provides easy-to-digest trends and charts via the Fitbit app.
Mission Max Cooling Towel
Stash one of these at your indoor setup: wet it, wring it, then snap it to feel cooler instantly so you can push through that last interval without overheating. It stays cool up to two hours—perfect for those long workouts through Watopia.
Our test team and staff tries dozens of nutrition products each year. We race, ride, and train on and off the bike, and then we stuff our pockets and pack our gym bags with different foods and drink mixes to fuel each workout, aid recovery, and support our systems. We do all this—well, because we just downright love it—but also in an effort to cut through marketing confusion and simplify nutrition science to determine which products make the biggest impact. Taste is subjective, but every item in this section has been thoroughly tested by our guts, and then analyzed by a panel of registered dietitians and nutritionists who work with cyclists. Each product here represents exceptional performance, formulation, taste, or a combination of all of those traits. Simply put, this is the stuff that works.
Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix
Clean ingredients like real fruit, cane sugar, and salt offer enough carb calories and electrolytes to power your everyday rides.
ProBar Bolt Chews
These chews provide quick-digesting carbs, don’t stick to your teeth, and are easier to eat on the go. Plus, they taste like candy.
Maurten Drink Mix 320
With up to three times the carb content of a standard sports drink (80 grams) and 500 milligrams of sodium, this mix fuels your longest, hardest, sweatiest rides without upsetting your stomach.
Clifbar Endurance Cubes
These real-food energy bites have 42 calories per cube to help you evenly pace your fueling—like your fave nut butter and jelly, but elevated.
Gu Roctane Energy Gel
The little kick of caffeine and amino acids in these amped-up energy packets helps you avoid bonking over the course of long rides and intense efforts.
UnTapped Pure Vermont Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a dual fuel, providing both glucose and fructose for athletes who want a natural source of energy. These packets are perfectly portioned for your pockets.
SIS Go Isotonic Energy Gel
The formulation of these gels doesn’t require water to dilute them, and athletes report they like the flavor, tolerance, and mouthfeel. We do too.
Bobo’s Oat Bars
Like oatmeal in a bar and loaded with whole grain carbs, these make a great breakfast on the go an hour or two before a long ride. They’ll also help fuel middle miles when your palate craves something other than a gooey, sugary option.
Perfect Bar Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter
The balance of carbs, protein, and fat in these bars make for a great postride refuel. Real peanut butter and whole-egg powder pack in muscle-repairing protein without that gritty, chalky protein powder taste.
While it’s not a substitute for real fruits and vegs, think of this as a multivitamin in real food form. It can help meet the high nutritional demands of athletes on the go when paired with an already-healthy diet.
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