I collected the most interesting and tricky bike trainers’ FAQ to debunk some myths, help you decide whether or not bike trainers are worth it, how to make them quieter, and many more.
In this article, you will find the answers and other useful tips for indoor cycling.
Let’s get into it.
- Are Bike Trainers Worth It?
- When to Buy a Bike Trainer?
- Is a Bike Trainer Bad for Your Bike?
- Can You Put Any Bike on a Bike Trainer?
- How to Make a Bike Trainer Quieter?
- Can You Change Gears on a Bike Trainer?
- Should You Change Gears on Zwift?
- What is ERG Mode?
- Bike Trainers vs. Rollers: Which Is Better?
Are Bike Trainers Worth It?
Yes, bike trainers are worth it. Let me explain why.
- They allow you to train indoors when there is bad weather outside.
- They are time effective so if you don’t have much time for outdoor workout, you can do a quick indoor workout.
- They are interruptions-free and safe. This means that you don’t have to stop on traffic lights, intersections, etc. You also avoid potencial crashses caused by other drivers, your errors, or any other causes.
You don’t have to spend $1000 on a high-end trainer right away. If you just want to spin your legs from time to time, you can buy a budget wheel-on trainer that starts at around $100.
If you decide to take your indoor cycling to the next level, you can buy a smart or smart interactive trainer. These bike trainers can transmit your ride data to third-party training apps that improve your indoor training experience. Smart interactive trainers can even adjust the resistance based on the training app.
The following table shows the estimated costs for different bike trainers.
|Up to $300||Low-end wheel-on bike trainers
|$300-500||Smart wheel-on bike trainers
Rollers with resistance
|$500-1500||Direct-drive bike trainers|
|Above $3000||Bike simulators|
When to Buy a Bike Trainer?
The best time to buy a bike trainer is during spring and summer. In these times, the demand for bike trainers is the lowest, and retailers often discount them to free up space in warehouses for new models or other products.
PRO TIP: If your budget is tight, check out online marketplaces. People often sell their trainers after a season or two for a fraction of the price.
Is a Bike Trainer Bad for Your Bike?
The trainer itself is not bad for your bike. With the increased popularity of indoor cycling, manufacturers started to implement new testing protocols for their bikes. They ensure that their frames (especially the rear triangle) withstand the forces put on the bike in a trainer without any issues or damage (source).
You can damage your bike in a bike trainer with your sweat. Some parts like the handlebar, headset, seatpost, and bolts can corrode (more about this topic on Zwift Insider). Make sure to double-check them before you start riding outside after winter.
TIP: Prevent sweat from damaging your bike using a sweat guard. It is a cheap but useful bike trainer accessory.
Can You Put Any Bike on a Bike Trainer?
No, you can’t put any bike on a bike trainer. You have to double-check if the trainer is compatible with the rear axle of your bike or whether there are adapters for it.
Some direct-drive trainers may not be compatible with your bicycle due to the design of the rear axle. Therefore, double-check the trainer’s compatibility before your purchase to avoid an unpleasant surprise.
Here is an example of a bike compatibility disclaimer from Wahoo’s website.
Generally speaking, if the bike’s rear axle is compatible with your trainer, it doesn’t matter if you use a road, mountain, gravel, hybrid, or any other bike for your indoor training. Road bikes are the best for wheel-on bike trainers thanks to their smooth tires that are quieter than knobby MTB tires.
Are you struggling with choosing the right indoor bike trainer? Check out my guide on how to choose a bike trainer.
How to Make a Bike Trainer Quieter?
1. Use Trainer Specific Tires (Wheel-on Trainers)
Trainer-specific tires are made of different materials than standard bike tires. They make riding on a wheel-on trainer much quieter. They also provide a better grip so they won’t slip off the trainer’s cylinder.
2. Use Trainer Mat
Trainer mats absorb vibrations, protect your floor against scratches and sweat, and also make using your trainer quieter.
3. Lube Your Bike’s Drivetrain
Riding indoors doesn’t mean you don’t have to take care of your bicycle. Make sure your chain and other parts are properly lubed.
Read this article to get more tips on How to Make a Bike Trainer Quieter.
Can You Change Gears on a Bike Trainer?
Yes, you can change gears on your bike when using any bike trainer (wheel-on or direct drive).
Budget wheel-on trainers usually have several resistance levels that you can change using a remote. Smart interactive trainers can adjust the resistance automatically based on a training app.
To learn more about changing gears on a bike trainer when using Zwift (or similar apps), read the following Q&A.
Should You Change Gears on Zwift?
Changing gears when using Zwift differs depending on the trainer you use. Generally speaking, you can and should change gears on your bike based on your preferred cadence or cadence required by your training plan.
If you use a dumb trainer, you can either change gears on a trainer or your bike. However, when setting up Zwift, the app will recommend setting a certain resistance level on your bike trainer.
To maintain a power output, you can change gears on your bike to make pedaling more or less difficult.
You may need to change gears on your bike trainer as well to get sufficient resistance. This is beneficial when you train sprints, for example.
Smart Non-Interactive Trainer
These trainers can transmit your ride data but can’t adjust the resistance based on a training app like Zwift. So, you will need to change gears on your bike and eventually also on your bike trainer.
Smart Interactive Trainer
Smart interactive trainers can adjust the resistance based on the gradient in Zwift. This means you will probably need to change gears on your bike depending on the required effort.
What is ERG Mode?
In ERG mode, you set a target power, and the trainer will adjust the resistance to keep you at the set power output regardless of your speed or cadence. This mode is beneficial because you can fully focus on your effort, and you don’t have to think about changing gears or cadence. Keep in mind that you need a smart interactive trainer with ERG mode to use this feature.
If you want to learn more about using ERG mode, I recommend reading this article on smartbiketrainers.com that explains it in detail.
Bike Trainers vs. Rollers: Which Is Better?
It depends on your needs. Bike trainers provide you with enough resistance, stability, and interactivity element* but are more expensive and less portable.
*Smart interactive trainers only
On the other hand, rollers are more portable, affordable, and improve your pedaling technique but are not as beginner-friendly.
I wrote a fully dedicated article on bike trainers vs. rollers to explain the benefits and disadvantages of both in-depth. Make sure to read it if you are not sure which one to choose.
I hope you found the answers to your questions and that you now have the motivation and information needed to start with indoor cycling.
If you have any other questions, leave them down in the comments section, and I will add them to this list.
Preview picture source: Kurt Kinetic