Are Trainers Really Bad For Your Bike? Know the Facts

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The popularity of indoor cycling is gaining traction thanks to it being able to overcome many natural boundaries that can get in the way of your passion, like bad weather and nighttime. And it is also fun to boot.

So far, professional cyclists have been the most benefited, and slowly, but surely, these bike trainers are making their way to the homes (or garages) of many regulars as well.

Are Trainers Bad For Your Bike

This popularity also comes with certain safety concerns from the users, and rightly so. You do not want to damage your four-figure bike frame as a result of just wanting to cycle indoors.

While the problems aren’t deal-breaking, using bike trainers has introduced a whole new set of variables that impact your bike that would otherwise be just ignored if you simply rode your bike outdoors. Some of these include:

  • Bad trainer setups
  • Lateral forces on the frame
  • Salt corrosion

And a few others.

We will be looking into these issues in detail, and hopefully, be able to provide you with some logical solutions to keep your mind at ease if you do end up getting yourself a bike trainer.

Let’s get into it.

Factors That Can Possibly Make Trainers Bad For Your Bike

1. A Bad Setup

The problems usually arise during setup. Let’s look at a few and their possible solutions.

Hub Tightness

For your typical wheel-on trainers, it is good to keep your eye out on how tightly the rear hub of the bike is connected to it. The wheel should be able to spin freely. If not, then it means that you have over-tightened it and it may lead to significant damages to the hub over time.

Solution: Regularly push the pedals with your hand to spin the wheel as you tighten the skewer on the hub. Keep going until it feels snug.

Bent Hub Skewers

Speaking of skewers, using the regular skewer that comes along with your bike during your training session may put a lot of stress into it. This may make it eventually bend causing your bike’s frame to slip out and damage it.

Solution: You will be getting a skewer from the manufacturer when you purchase a trainer. These are sturdy and specific to the trainer that you have just purchased and will be able to withstand more stress on the trainer. Use it instead of putting it back into the box!

Note: Use a quick release skewer for convenience.

Bent Hub Skewers

Wearing Out Tires

Your rear tire undergoes constant pressure on a wheel-on trainer. With continual use, you can see the grips of your tire quickly fade away. It can be a big blow if you are using expensive tires or get caught unawares when you hit the road.

Solution: Get yourself a cheap trainer tire to replace your rear wheel. These have virtually no grip and are made with bike trainers in mind.

You can overlook this problem if you have a direct drive trainer or with a bike with a through-axle.

Wearing Out Tires

It is a good idea to use trainer tires for the rear wheel

Do Not Ignore the Front Wheel

Not the wheel itself, but at what height and how stable it is.

Using a trainer can raise the rear end of your bike a bit. With your front wheel resting on the floor, the bike will be unnaturally skewed. As you go for a more vigorous ride, the angle of the bike will not only cause you discomfort but also put unwanted pressure on the frame, possibly bending or damaging it.

Solution: Raise your front wheel with the support of books or bricks to achieve an even leveling. Some trainers do come with front tire blocks to do just that, and also to keep your front wheel stable. You can also buy this accessory for yourself.

Consider watching this video to see how to properly set up your bike to your trainer:

How To Fit A Road Bike Onto A Turbo Trainer

Do Not Ignore the Front Wheel

2. Lateral Tension

The trainer, by nature, holds the bike rigidly upright. While this may make the bike more secure on the trainer, it will also make it extremely stiff.

As you pedal harder and throw your weight around, the frame of your bike experiences lateral (sideways) forces on its frame.

Lateral Tension

The rear wheels are clamped tight

On an open road, your balancing capabilities stabilizes these extra forces  . But on the trainer, as the bike is being kept so upright, the frame will experience high lateral stress, leading to bend and damage to the frame and rear triangles.

Solution:

  • Learn to keep your upper body as still as possible. Minimize raising yourself out of the saddle and try to fix yourself to a stable position.
  • Do not bolt the trainer down. Allowing some movement space for your trainer will help dampen some of the forces.
  • Look for trainers that come with stabilizers. But they will cost you.

3. Salt Corrosion

Whether you are using an alloy frame for your bike or a carbon one, a highly reactive electrolyte like sweat will give rise to corrosion.

This is a rising problem for indoor bike trainers as there is no natural wind to cool off your skin or blow the sweat away. Thus a salt build-up can be seen in this situation. The corrosion is not going to be only paint layer deep, with time it can prove to be very damaging.

Solution:

  • Install a fan near your bike to help cool you down and also dry you up faster.
  • Keep a towel on the top tube and handlebars to catch the sweat.
  • Wipe your bike down after every session.
  • Try using anti-corrosion products.
Salt Corrosion

Using a fan for indoor cycling is always a good idea

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Will a roller bike trainer damage my tires?

Ans.: Compared to using either a wheel-on trainer, rollers won’t wear out your tires as much.

The drums that your tires are in contact with are made up of smooth plastic or aluminum, so you can expect low stress on your tires.

If you are still worried, you can go get yourself a trainer wheelset. These are generally cheaper but provide almost the same feel as regular tires.

➥ Check more detail information about our best selections of Roller bike trainer that will improve your bike handling skills.

Q2. Can any bike go on a trainer?

Ans.: Roller trainers are the most versatile when it comes to accommodating different bike wheel types.

Wheel-on trainers are a tad more difficult as you may have to keep in mind the specifications of the wheel and tire diameter, especially for mountain bikes.

As for direct-drives, while it may seem any bike can be fit into it, it is not always the case. You may need to get yourself some extra adapters to get a perfect fit.

But keep in mind that the best trainers will always be able to accommodate any type.

Q3) Can I lose weight by indoor cycling?

Ans.: Any form of cycling provides a cardio heavy workout (the highest form of energy burn of any type of workout). That paired up with a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle, you can see yourself losing weight in no time.

Final Words

The only real way that you can truly damage your bike on a trainer is by being ignorant.

By arming yourself with the appropriate knowledge of your trainer, and your bike alike, and following the tips we have mentioned above, you can be sure to avoid much of the headaches that many experiences.

While issues may still appear, they will still be easily managed with a proper understanding of the mechanisms, and mostly just by being aware.

My name is Dion Lewis. I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions. In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally. Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

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