How to Set Up a Bike Trainer?

Setting up a bike trainer? Here are some of the most commonly asked questions. If you are lucky enough to live in an area of perpetual sunshine and pleasant evenings then the idea of a bike trainer may well be laughable.

Unfortunately, not all of us are so lucky. (Just check the weather in London in February if you are unsure what I mean!) As such, many of us turn to some indoor training, and our bike trainers.

Whether you are just thinking about it,  have just purchased your first trainer, or you have finally decided to make the most of the one gathering dust in the garage, here are some quick and easy tips to help you get the most from it.


How Does a Bike Trainer Work?

In essence a bike trainer enables you to turn your outdoor bike into a home exercise bike. The vast majority use a skewer through the rear axle to hold the bike in place.

An Aldi Bike Trainer

The rear wheel rests against a cylinder that is designed to spin as you pedal. This allows adjustable resistance, just like a traditional exercise bike.

Are There Other Types of Bike Trainers?

There are. A direct-drive turbo trainer will require you to remove the back wheel and hook the chain into the trainer itself. There are also rollers, which are akin to a treadmill for your bike.

Can You Use a Mountain Bike on a Trainer?

Yes. You can use your mountain bike on your bike trainer. Nearly all will fit a mountain bike as easily as a road bike. Although do double check the specific trainer, just in case.

Is a Bike Trainer Bad for Your Bike?

Trainers are likely to wear down your rear tire quicker than road cycling. There are various options to counter this. The first is to purchase a turbo-specific rear tyre, these are designed  for bike trainers and should be quieter and last longer than a standard tyre. The second is to simply get a cheap spare tyre to fit when you are training.

Kinetic Smart Control Trainer

What Equipment Is Essential?

The only absolutely essential bits of kit you need are your bike, your trainer and your block. Hopefully the bike and trainer are self-explanatory. The block is required for comfort.

Generally trainers require the rear wheel to be lifted from the ground, tilting the bike forward unless the front wheel is also lifted, via a block. The block will allow you to level your bike, and some can even be set to simulate a climb.

What Equipment Is Highly Recommended?

Although a large crossover with outdoor riding, there are some considerations that are unique to indoor cycling. As the trainer is stationary then it is important to try and generate an air-flow to stop you overheating on the bike. The best way is with fans. Place one at a 45 degree angle to the bike for maximum impact, and another, if you have two, for your back.

If your trainer is in a carpeted area then ensure you have a mat underneath, to protect the carpet, give a smooth ride and reduce the noise. A towel is also important. This is not just to wipe your face but also to wipe down the frame which sweat can cause to corrode.

three cyclists using kurt kinetic trainers

What Other Accessories Are Recommended?

One of the most common complaints cyclists have about indoor workouts is boredom. It’s easy to overlook but you are certainly less likely to use your trainer if you do not enjoy your ride. Depending on what motivates or entertains you then it is worth considering a screen and/or wireless headphones.

If this is not your bag then you can also make use of the variety of cycling apps available, which can introduce a measure of competition and fun into the ride.

Where to Set Up?

This is one of the most important aspects to your trainer and can often mean the difference between regular use and your trainer gathering dust. In a practical sense you will only need a space roughly 4′ by 8′. That said, if you can find a place where you will not need to take it apart after every use you will save time and effort on every ride.

Bicycle Mounted on a Blue Bike Trainer

Try to find an area with hard floors, near a window and with an electricity outlet nearby. The flooring will help stability and comfort, the window provides temperature control and the power is for your chosen entertainment system. Garages are the top of the list of recommended places, but if this is not an option then you still should be able to find a spot that hits as many of these criteria as possible.

When to Train?

It is easy enough to think that you should simply use your bike trainer when you would normally be on an outdoor ride. Do consider, however, that training indoors may have more impact on those around you. If your partner snoozes on a Sunday afternoon then maybe setting up next to the couch is not ideal.

Likewise neighbours downstairs may not take kindly to a late evening ride. It is often a case of training when you can, but if you have options in this regard, then do put some thought into your schedule.


Common Mistakes

For all the considerations a bike trainer requires, it is essential to remember to treat your rides at home as you would a normal outdoor session.

Make sure you are well fueled and snack about an hour before you start your work out. Be aware that you are likely to require more hydration when training due to heat and have water bottles in easy to reach places.

Kinetic Smart Control Trainer for indoor biking

Warm up and warm down. Most of us subconsciously do this on the road but on the trainer it is easy to jump on and go. You should spend about 10-15 minutes at the start and end of each session at a steady, easy pace to get yourself in and out of the workout.

Pace yourself. When on the road we are often forced to stop at lights, junctions or to chat. Indoors you do not get these little rest periods so it is important to factor in the relentless nature of the ride when planning.

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How to Set Up a Bike Trainer?: Frequently Asked Questions — Bike Hacks