How to Keep my Bike Safe on a Turbo Trainer

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By Robbie Ferri, Personal Trainer & Group Exercise Instructor.

One thing that makes cycling challenging for many of us is that it can be difficult to do it all year round. It’s a huge amount of fun in summer going out in shorts and not needing to worry about extra layers, but in winter, this is a completely different story. Base layers, arm and leg warmers, fleece-lined jackets, and thick gloves make riding uncomfortable and difficult at times. You also have fewer daylight hours, rain, ice, and big temperature changes.

Many of us cyclists turn to the turbo trainer. If you’re unsure what a turbo trainer is, this is a device you can put your bike on and replicate riding. There are two main types of trainers you’ll have to choose from; either a direct-drive indoor trainer or a wheel-on indoor trainer

Turbo trainers are incredible for giving you excellent structured workouts and also help with your bike fit and positioning. With modern bikes being made to be lightweight and aerodynamic, you have to be careful about how you put these bikes on a trainer. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about safely putting your bike on the turbo trainer and using it. 

Want to See it in Action? Check My Video!

YouTube video
How to Keep My Bike Safe on a Turbo Trainer Youtube Video

Why is it important to put your bike on a Turbo Trainer Correctly?

It’s vital that when you put your bike on the turbo trainer, it’s on correctly. Unfortunately, we have seen many people do this wrong and end up with hefty repair bills and even seen people have to order a new bike. Here’s our reason why;

  • To protect your bike: If your bike is not on a trainer correctly, you’re going to more than likely end up damaging it. The pressure the bike has to take, especially underuse, means that if something loosens, it will eventually cause problems.
  • To protect your turbo trainer: The same goes for your turbo trainer too, and if the bike isn’t on correctly, it can easily damage your investment. With turbo trainers now being quite expensive, it’s not something you’ll want to spend on again.
  • For a better experience: Training on a turbo trainer isn’t easy. When your bike is properly attached to a turbo trainer, it’s quieter and much more comfortable to ride, and you’ll have a lot more fun while training. 
bike installed on a turbo trainer

How to attach your bike safely on the Turbo Trainer

The first thing you’re going to need to do is get the bike attached correctly, as this is a common place where many people go wrong. Here’s our step-by-step guide to getting the bike on properly.

Step One: A clean bike is a happy bike

The first thing you need to consider before seeing a turbo trainer is having a clean bike. You’ll want to remove all the mud and grime off your bike before you start to train. So this starts with a deep clean and a complete degrease. After you have done this, you will want to put on some lube. Use the smallest amount possible, and we recommend using a dry lube such as the Muc Off Dry.

clean the bike before installing on a turbo trainer

Step Two: Prepare the Turbo Trainer

Now it’s time to prepare your turbo trainer. Ensure that you are on a nice flat surface and that the bike has space to be put on without any obstruction. Attach the cassette you plan to use. We recommend buying a second cassette for your turbo trainer to minimize the amount you have to swap parts on your bike. Once attached, ensure it is tight enough, spins freely on one side, and grips on the other.

turbo trainer correct installation

Step Three: Attach the bike

  • Direct Drive: Now it’s time to attach the bike, and we’re going to start with a direct drive. Start by ensuring you have the right adaptors for your axle, and then remove the wheel and attach it. We recommend ensuring it is nice and snug and at the correct torque if it is stated on the axle or turbo trainer and also ensure the chain line is running correctly.
  • Wheel On: Now for the wheel on trainer. When attaching the bike, you will want to ensure that you’re using the correct axle on the bike and the correct turbo trainer tire for the rear if you have one available. Ensure the bike is tight but not too tight that the frame is being crushed. 
clean turbo trainer

Step Four: Testing

Now it’s time to give the training setup a test. Jump on the bike and start pedaling; it should feel smooth and easy to ride with. If you hear any odd noises or heavy resistance without it being connected to an application, investigate for any issues. 

Our Top Tips for keeping you bike Safe on the Turbo Trainer

Next, we’ll speak about everything you need to do to keep your bike safe on the turbo trainer. These tips will make indoor cycling much more fun and protect your bike

Don’t move the bike with the trainer on

Bikes, especially ones made of carbon fiber, are incredibly strong but only in places they need to be. Naturally, these bikes are designed to be used on the road and on a turbo trainer, but they are not designed to be moved around like this. Many people who set up their trainers put them in a place that is often used. It could be your living room, bedroom, garage, or even kitchen. 

When it needs to be moved out of the way, it’s easy just to drag it, but this is terrible for the bike though, and we have seen cyclists over time on carbon bikes weaken the chainstays to the point of damage that is noticeable. We recommend not moving the trainer and the bike together and think it’s best to disassemble them. 

Keep Sweat Away

Sweat is your biggest enemy when it comes to the turbo trainer, and if not kept at bay can cause you some serious issues. Riding outdoors means that the sweat dries quicker, meaning less goes on the bike, and also, it means the bike gets washed more often because it gets dirty. Inside, it doesn’t. It sits on your bike and has the ability to corrode through your components. We have seen many people break handlebars due to them being weakened by their own salt.

using a sweat catcher and a towel when you are training

We highly recommend using a sweat catcher and a towel when you are training. Depending on how much you train indoors, you will also want to take the bike off and wash it down with soapy water regularly to ensure that salt doesn’t have the ability to stick and start damaging your components. If you find your handlebars start to smell, the bike is well overdue for a cleaning.

bike handdlebars

Look after your Wheels and Tires

When using a turbo trainer, you must ensure your wheel and tires are well looked after. On a wheel on a trainer, you should use a turbo trainer tire and ensure the tension and the tire’s PSI level are correct. 

On the direct drive trainer and wheel-on trainer, you will want to rotate the front wheel every so often to ensure you don’t get a misshapen tire or put uneven pressure on one part of the wheel for too long. Also, keep an eye on the PSI on the tire, so you don’t end up banging the rim in those super sprints.

Don’t go Silly

When you watch people in Zwift Races online, you see them at the final sprint going crazy. They are pulling the bike from side to side and giving everything for that win. This isn’t ideal when it comes to your bike, especially your carbon fiber bike. A bike isn’t designed to be thrown side to side in a rigid block, which can damage the bike under heavy load.

Many companies state in their manuals if you use the bike on a turbo trainer, the warranty becomes invalid. We highly recommend that if you are on the turbo, do not be shy with the wattage but try not to damage your bike by swinging it side to side like a professional heading up a climb in the Tour de France.

Check for Wear

Although when you train inside on a turbo trainer, you typically avoid wear on your wheels, tires, and other places on the bike, you do put a huge amount of wear on some of the drivetrain components. The chain, cassette, and chainrings take a huge beating, and you will find that using modes like ERG will keep you in the same gear for hours on end.

We highly recommend using a chain checker regularly and switching to different gears to ensure even wear and that you stay on top of the components. If your gears ever slip or you find the bike jumping cogs, it needs to be seen sooner rather than later. 

Lubrication

Turbo trainers get through lubrication very quickly for some reason. We recommend staying on top of this at all times. This helps give you free wattage and keeps the bike quiet and the chain protected from as much wear as possible.

The best lubes to use are a dry lube and ensure after application that you clean it off the slides of the chain to ensure that none gets on the turbo, as this can cause belt issues if it gets inside. 

lubricated turbo trainer

Conclusion

Following these simple steps will ensure that your bike and turbo trainer stay in tip-top condition when you train indoors for winter. They are very easy to do and can save your bike and turbo from being replaced long-term.

FAQs

Can you leave a bike in a Turbo Trainer?

You can leave your bike in a turbo trainer, and it shouldn’t cause any harm. We don’t recommend moving the bike when attached to the trainer and instead removing the bike for transport. Also, if you are training on it regularly, take it off and clean it every so often.

Do Turbo Trainers damage carbon bikes?

They can if you don’t use the trainer properly or don’t have the bike installed properly. We recommend checking with the manufacturer before installing your bike for advice on how to do so.

Is cycling on a Turbo Trainer good for you?

Yes, it’s a great way to challenge the cardiovascular system with structured training and also a great way to stay in shape when the weather is bad.

How to Keep My Bike Safe on a Turbo Trainer Featured
Robbie Ferri

A Personal Trainer and Ultra Cyclist living in King's Lynn in Norfolk, UK. From Ultra Cycling World Records to Bikepacking Races and a huge amount of time on the gym floor training myself and clients my experience when it comes to Health and Fitness is vast.

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