Special or Normal Tire on a Bike Trainer? What to Use & Tips for Choosing The Best

All products are independently selected by our editors. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission.

By Robbie Ferri, Personal Trainer & Group Exercise Instructor.

Cycling is an excellent sport that offers so much. It helps you explore nature and can be an excellent way to improve your fitness. One thing about cycling that is challenging is that many of us can’t train all year round outside due to weather and limited daylight. There is a solution though, and that comes in the shape of a turbo trainer.

There are two types of turbo trainers on the market you will find. A direct drive turbo trainer and a wheel-on turbo trainer. With a direct drive trainer, the bike goes on without the rear wheel and a wheel-on trainer the whole bike goes into.  

When it comes to wheel-on trainers, a question we get asked a lot at Girl Bike Love is about special turbo trainer rear tires and if they should be used. In this article, we’re going to tell you about special turbo trainer tires, if you should be using one, we will recommend some for you and tell you what to look for when buying one.

Want to See it in Action? Check My Video!

YouTube video
Special or Normal Tire on a Bike Trainer YouTube Video

What is a Special Turbo Trainer Tire?

A special turbo trainer tire is very different compared to a normal tire. You will find they have some very unique properties compared to a standard tire. Here’s what you can expect from a turbo trainer tire.

  • Durability: Turbo trainer tires are made of a better compound compared to a normal tire. This means they are much more durable and can last much longer on a turbo trainer than on a normal tire. You can expect a standard racing tire to last only a few months maximum or as little as a few weeks on a turbo trainer. 
  • Stiffer: Turbo trainer tires are made to be a lot stiffer than your typical tire. This makes them better to ride and prolongs the tire’s life much further than you would expect. Tires like this don’t need to be flexible to take corners, so they are made to hold a much more solid form.
  • Heat Resistant: Another feature many people don’t know about turbo trainer tires is their incredibly heat-resistant. Turbo trainers generate a lot of heat on the tires, which can easily destroy a standard racing tire. A turbo training tire has an incredible ability to withstand high temperatures, which gives it a lot more resistance to being broken down. These characteristics also help dissipate heat, which can even prolong the life of some turbo trainers.
  • Better Indoor Performance: A turbo trainer tire doesn’t require groves for poor weather conditions or need to be grippy to be used outdoors, so the tire can have a full contact patch onto the trainer. This means in aggressive sprints. The tire will grip better and offer better performance on the trainer.
  • Noise Reduction: Another great feature of a turbo trainer tire is that they are designed to reduce noise. The compound makes the bike much quieter, and this makes a huge difference in making training a little easier on the ears.
  • Low TPI Rating: Turbo trainer tires have a very low TPI rating. TPI stands for threads per inch, and this is what holds the tire together. A turbo trainer tire has very few threads which are thicker than normal tires. Less thread means more rubber compound, making it a stiffer, more durable tire.
turbo trainer tires thicker than normal tires

What happens if I use a normal tire on a Turbo Trainer

Although many people use a standard tire on a turbo trainer, it isn’t an ideal situation, and you can expect a few things to happen over time. Here’s what you can expect.

  • Wears out quickly: A normal tire isn’t designed to be on a turbo trainer. It’s not designed for the heat, constant wear, or to be ridden on the same wear point. This means you can expect it to wear out pretty quickly and won’t just be useless on the turbo trainer but also on the road too.
  • Noisy: Normal tires are very noisy on turbo trainers. When they get up to speed, they make a fair amount of noise, which can be annoying while on a turbo trainer. Riding a bike on a turbo trainer is hard enough without the replicated sound of a turbine behind you.
  • Won’t perform as well: A turbo trainer tire is designed to have more traction on the roller than a normal tire. There’s a certain amount of slip you can get from a normal tire compared to a turbo trainer tire. So when you go into those sprints, it connects much better without slipping.

Our Recommended Tires

When it comes to turbo trainer tires, you have so many you can choose from, and this can make it challenging as they can be quite expensive. Here are our recommended tires that are currently available.

Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Home Trainer Foldable Tire

Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Home Trainer Foldable Tire Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Home Trainer Foldable Tire
4.6

Zaffiro is one of the leading manufacturers when it comes to bike tires, and their Zaffiro Corsa tire is one of the most popular tires to come on road bikes and is often seen in pro races.

  • Cost: $43
  • Color: Red
  • Size: 700 x 23c
  • TPI: 26
  • Weight: 270g

The Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Home Trainer Tire is one of the most popular turbo trainer tires on the market and is used by many cyclists who choose a wheel on trainer. It comes in a bright red, and it’s definitely a tire you won’t mistake for a standard road tire. 

It has a TPI (Threads per inch) rating of 26. This means it is not very flexible but has a lot of rubber compound, making it a seriously tough tire that is going to give you a huge amount of training miles.

Tacx Trainer Tire

Tacx Trainer Tire Tacx Trainer Tire
4.5

Tacx are known for making some of the best turbo trainers on the market, such as the Neo and the Flux. They are experts when it comes to home training, and they also make a tire for wheel on trainers.

  • Cost: $50
  • Color: Blue
  • Size: 700 x 23c
  • TPI: 60
  • Weight: 244g

The Tacx Trainer Tire comes in about $40, it is a vibrant blue and has a TPI rating of 60, which makes it less stiff, but it does soften some of the noise you get from the trainer. The tire’s weight is 244g which is very light, meaning it is easier to get it spinning, and it offers a huge amount of grip, a slightly more flexible compound.

It comes in a 23c in size and is very easy to mount onto a wheel ready for the trainer. From user reviews, they wear down quicker than other turbo trainer tires but offer a huge amount of grip and are very quiet.

GORIX Bike Trainer Indoor Tire

GORIX Bike Home Trainer Tire GORIX Bike Home Trainer Tire
4.3

If you're looking for a more budget-friendly turbo trainer tire, then look no further than the GORIX. They are not a well-known brand, but their turbo trainer tires have become one of the most popular on the Amazon marketplace. 

  • Cost: $35
  • Color: Red
  • Size: 700 x 23c
  • TPI: Unknown
  • Weight: 350g

The GORIX tire is a 350g strong rubber compound tire with a resistant compound to protect your turbo trainer. They don’t tell us a TPI rating, but it’s a solid tire heavily designed towards reducing turbo trainer noise.

It’s made to be very hard wearing and lasts for a long time, so you don’t worry about having to replace it often. We highly recommend it, but some riders do struggle with installation. You have to ensure it is on properly and pumped to the correct PSI for it to work properly.

bike trainer tire 1

Tips for picking the right trainer tire?

So none of these tires takes your fancy, but you’re not sure what you should be looking for when buying a trainer tire. Here are our top tips;

1. Brand

Although you don’t need to go for a top-end brand, you will get more out of investing in them. Companies like Tacx and Saris put a lot more time and research into trainer tires, and although they cost a bit more do last and perform well.

2. Cost

Typically when it comes to turbo trainer tires, you get what you pay for. Spending less than $20 will get you a tire that will work, but it won’t last long, and you’re not going to get an amazing experience from it. Spending $40 or more will get you a tire that will last for years and give you a great experience.

3. Performance

It’s important not to underestimate the performance that a turbo trainer tire will give you in a Zwift race. A lighter tire will be less weight you have to move around on the rear of the bike, and better grip means less slip in the sprints.

bike trainer tire on a wheel-on trainer

What if I want to use a normal tire?

So just say you want to use a normal on your turbo trainer and don’t use it enough to warrant using a turbo trainer tire. Here are our recommendations for prolonging the life of the tire.

1. Keep it clean

Before you start training, the first thing to do is to ensure the bike and the tire is clean. Having a clean bike is important, so you’re not throwing dirt around your training area or into the turbo trainer itself. 

2. Keep the sessions short

The next thing is to keep the sessions shorter rather than longer. Light sessions under an hour should be fine, but if you plan on being on the turbo for two or more hours, you will find that it is going to heat the tire and wear it very quickly. This can affect the compound of the tires, and it can lose its puncture resistance when you take it outdoors later.

3. The cooler, the better

When you’re using a turbo trainer, you need good airflow not just for yourself but also for the tire too. The cooler you can keep the tire, the less wear it is going to take and the better it will perform and last over time.

4. Avoid slips

You’ll also want to do your best to avoid super short, powerful sprints. A normal tire doesn’t have as much grip on a turbo trainer as a turbo trainer tire would. This means it’s possible the tire can slip easily, and it just makes training uncomfortable.

bike trainer tire installed

Can you use a turbo trainer tire outdoors?

With all these advantages that an indoor trainer has, many people ask if you can use them on the roads outdoors. When searching the internet, you will get a lot of mixed advice on if you can or can’t. Here are our thoughts on it.

Unfortunately, it’s highly advised that you don’t. The companies who make these tires recommend not using these outdoors. This is because they are not designed for roads. They don’t have the handling ability, and they are not made for the rough tarmac of the roads.

Many cyclists say they make great puncture-proof tires, but although they might do a good job at stopping a thorn or two, they have very few other advantages unless on a trainer.

Conclusion

When it comes to the discussion between using a turbo trainer tire or a normal tire, we highly recommend using a turbo trainer tire. They last longer, perform better, reduce noise, and even reduce slipping on the roller. We highly recommend our choices and feel they are some of the best.

bike trainer tire 2

FAQs

Why do Turbo Trainer Tires have bright colors?

Turbo trainer tires are typically made in very bright colors and made to stand out. Companies do this, so you don’t mistake a turbo trainer tire for a new tire and end up going out riding on it instead. Typically different brands will use different colors. Tacx uses a blue tire, MyElite uses a red tire, and Saris uses a yellow tire.

How do you know when you need to change a Turbo Trainer Tire?

You know when you need to change a turbo trainer tire when the surface starts to bubble, or you start to get small slits in the tires. The sooner you change the tire, the better, and eventually, it will just wear through to the inner tube, and then it will just go flat.

Can I use a mountain bike tire on a turbo trainer?

You can, but it won’t be very good. It will make the bike very noisy, and it will destroy the tire very quickly. You can get away with a hard-wearing road bike tire, but it’s far from ideal on mountain bike tires.

Can you use tubeless on a wheel on turbo trainer?

It’s not advised. A tubeless system firstly isn’t designed for a turbo trainer, and the special compound of the tubeless tire will break down a lot faster than a normal tire.

Do bike trainers damage tires?

The wheel on bike trainers don’t damage tires, but they do wear them down very quickly and can affect the amount of puncture protection you get after frequent use on a turbo trainer. We don’t recommend using them unless for short periods of time or bike fitting.

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.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.