Are you facing the same problem as many other mountain bikers in winter—losing motivation? Maybe you watched your fitness start withering away the previous winter bringing us to the question, “Can you put your mountain bike on a trainer?”
The short answer is yes, you can place your bike on a turbo trainer, but you’ll need to find the correct trainer to fit the specs of the bike. While the best trainers offer a flexible fit for a bicycle, many of them do not correspond to the mountain bike.
There are so many different MTBs, and makes perfect sense to find one accommodating your style of bike. For this reason, it helps to find an ideal trainer where you will be spending hours turning those pedals on your bike.
We want to help you find a suitable trainer to fit in with your lifestyle and needs, particularly your bike.
What indoor trainer should you use?
Personally, the best bike trainer is one with a front mount offering you a free-floating rear wheel. The Feedback Sports Omnium is an excellent option as one of the best available. The bike trainer works with wheel sizes 26-inches to 29-inches and boosts capable of using with 110mm front forks.
The bike trainer has a lightweight design making it easy to maneuver or take with for travels to keep you riding at all times. The device functions with a front-wheel mount and offer a free rear wheel. With the design it lessens stress on the rear of the bike.
For this reason, it works with a thru-axle or skewer style to use with a mountain bike. Another problem you may find as a mountain biker using trainers is that many brands are switching to boost. What it means is that the fork with the rear triangle is wider.
On the other hand, you can find boost kits available but need to buy it extra to use with your bike, and the Omnium is perfect as it comes with all accessories included for the bike. All you do is push in and pull out the front mount to match your bike. With the trainer, it adapts to most styles, and you can remove your bike on/off the trainer.
The most significant disadvantage is that it is not a smart trainer and need a power meter to use separate from the trainer. Having a smart trainer helps transmit your power data, changes your resistance to feel as if you are climbing hills, and works well with the Zwift app to calculate the power based on the speed of your rear wheel.
So, be prepared that the energy gets lost in the transition from the legs to the pedals and wheels.
Types of Turbo Trainers
While researching through all the trainers can take time to get the right one—we want to help you with the outlined types you can find on the market. By checking the types of turbo trainers available, make sure it works with your bike.
Rear Wheel – here a skewer goes through the rear wheel and locks into place. The wheel presses up against a cylinder providing you with resistance through a fluid or magnet.
Fluid – the trainer is expensive compared to a magnetic model and works quieter providing you with progressive resistance allowing you to pedal harder.
Wheel-Less – the direct drive trainer removes the use of the rear wheel and mounts directly onto a cassette mount on the drive trainers. The device holds the bicycle in place and beneficial as there is no friction resistance saving you wear and tear on the tire. The direct drive trainer offers you 3% power accuracy, but you pay the price for it.
Roller – to help balance the bike, it works with cylinders or drums. The one drum sits under the front wheel while two sit around the rear wheel. As the wheel/drums rotate, your bike remains in one place, enabling you to pedal. For this reason, you get a real feeling, as you need to balance at the same time as if riding on the road. However, it does have a disadvantage, and that is completing intervals balancing on the rollers.
Can you use a normal tire?
Here we can help answer two questions simultaneously—is the turbo trainer terrible for your bike? If you use a direct drive trainer for indoor training, the rear wheel spin on a cylinder creating friction and, with time, causes damage to the tire.
On the other hand, using a mountain bike tire will become extremely loud, making it non-worthy to cycle outside. You can use a standard tire on a turbo trainer. But, you need to make sure you get a trainer specific tire such as the Continental Home Trainer Folding Tire. Sometimes finding the tire is difficult and placing a road tire onto the bike becomes problematic at times.
The next option is a slick tire such as MAXXIS Refuse, available in 700 x 40c or 27.5 x 2.0. The tire has a smooth design, and you will not have a buzzing sound or wear out the knobby tires. Alternatively, it helps to have an added wheel for the bike, giving you a quick release when using a turbo trainer and want to cycle outside.
Can you get a trainer for your 29er?
You can find a wide selection of the turbo trainer models available that support the 29er mountain bike for indoor training. Feedback Sports is an excellent example as it has a small knob allowing you to adjust the length to accommodate the rear wheel to fit on the drums.
The back of the trainer offers you a roller, and need not worry about the wheel size when you have a rear suspension. Now, if you prefer a standard rear-mount trainer, then research to find out if the turbo trainers you choose fit a 29er.
If you already have a turbo trainer and it does not seem to fit your sized wheel, you’ll need to switch it out with a slick tire to use your trainer.
Is a full-suspension or hard tail better ?
For using the smart trainers, having a hardtail is better as you are not encountering rough terrain. The bike has a rigged design for pedaling smoothly compared to bouncing with a full suspension bike.
Now, do not get us wrong; you can still use your full-suspension bike without problems. However, you’ll need to lock out the suspension for a smoother enjoyable ride. Doing this allows you to have more power transferred into the pedals.
Here are some accessories you may need?
You’ll need a mat as you are going to sweat and want to keep the floor dry. On the other hand, you may need wheel blocks to help simulate hills and a towel for your workout. Further, you may need a fan to keep you cool while working up a sweat.
Most importantly, some turbo trainers may come with a thru-axle adapter, and some do not. The mountain bike has a thru-axle, and when you buy a turbo trainer, it does not have a design made for thru-axle bikes. Therefore, keep this in mind when investing in smart trainers.
What about smart trainers?
The TACX Neo 2T is one of the best smart trainers that generates its power supply. The trainer comes with an electromagnetic drive unit simulating up to a 275lbs flywheel with 2200W resistance and 25% incline without the need to use the mains power.
The more you pedal, the higher the resistance and comes with a power cord for getting a realistic spin down. Furthermore, it can simulate different surfaces as found on trails and can feel rocks underneath you when cycling. On the other hand, it comes with axle adapters and boosts hub spacing.
The trainer has a direct drive design compatible with 142 x 12 thru-axle bikes. However, if you have a 135 x 10 or a 135 x 12 bicycle, you will need the direct drive quick release and adaptor set.
Explaining the Modes
The trainer offers you electronic features; you can choose how to work out, and the resistance controlled automatically. You can find two modes available:
Resistance Control Mode – the ERG mode and automatically controls your resistance according to your workout profile. The important thing is to set your gearing for smooth, even power in all the power zones.
Resistance Mode – the method works similar to a magnetic trainer using a linear power curve. You get variable resistance that adjusts electronically. Here it helps if you changed gears as riding outdoors.
The recommendations to use ERG mode for most of your training sessions as it automatically adjusts your resistance to match the target power without shifting or cadence adjustments. Therefore, you can focus on your workout. However, there are times you do not need to use the mode FTP testing intervals and Sprint intervals.
Before you start your workout, you need to pair it with your device, and once set up, you can begin changing your available modes.
Adding a resistance unit to your bike
Now, there may be days that you can go riding outside instead of using the turbo trainer. To add more resistance, it helps to get your hand on the AIRhub when cycling on the road. So if you are a type-A athlete, you want to get the best training when capable without using the turbo trainer. Check out my post on whether cycling a bike can help build leg muscle.
The AIRhub is a Bluetooth smart connected device you fit the front wheel for applying resistance like using your turbo trainer. What the tool does is replace the front wheel and measure more than power as it applies force.
Therefore, the hub applies a resistance load to maintain a lower speed, increases the power output similar to a turbo trainer. For example, you and a friend are training together, and you push 225W going at 20MPH, and your friend makes 185W going 17MPH.
Your friend will take longer and falls off the back. With hub equipped, it allows you to apply resistance, slowing you down to match the speed of your friend.
The hub has a carbon-fiber structure with an electric motor, self-generates power, and needs no charging of batteries. On edge are fins that release energy and similar to brakes. The main disadvantage is price and expensive compare to using the turbo as trainers.
While using a turbo trainer does not give you the same rush as cycling outdoors, it will be worth it. Using a smart trainer or any other form of trainers indoors will pay off when spring arrives. Maybe you do not enjoy using one, but one thing sure you will be fit when the time comes to go outside.