I have been asked if it is safe to use a turbo trainer with an expensive carbon framed bike. Short answer to “Will a Turbo Trainer damage my Bike?”…NO… But surprisingly carbon fiber bikes are at risk during intense indoor cycling because of sweat! Read on to find out how to prevent this.
People who use carbon bikes in turbo trainers regularly.
First let’s get out of the way your worry over stress fractures. There are many people clubs and professionals who yes their bikes in cycle trainer stands regularly with no damage to their bikes.
As you may have seen at sporting events, professional riders use turbo trainers with their race bikes before and after races… They would not do this if they thought there would be a chance of failure during a race making them unable to finish it. I know they are not bothered about the cost of their bikes but still they don’t want to damage them.
I have also come across references of gyms using carbon fibre framed bikes permanently in cycle trainers. These do fail but not due to stress fractures in the frame as you would expect but from the handle bars corroding from sweat.
See the great video below which explains why sweat is a threat and also confirmation that this carbon cycle repairer has had no repairs due to carbon fiber bike being used on an indoor trainer.
Avoid damage – Set your bike up in the trainer stand correctly.
Follow manufacturers instructions… Yep sounds daft and obvious but people just like to do things their own way. Over tighten Carbon and it will split!
Still more things to note:
- Make sure the skewer in the wheel is a positive and secure fit in the mounting points which holds the wheel above the roller. This apart from the tire is the only contact to the trainer.
- Use a skewer (usually provided with the bike trainer stand) if not you can find one here. Use this skewer only if you have plastic nut covers or if yours does not fit securely in holders. You do not need this if you do not have a quick release spindle and just have metal nuts which keep your wheel on.
- Don’t over tighten the roller against the tyre. Test the resistance by spinning the wheel after you have tightened the trainer to the tire. The wheel should spin freely, if not you have over-tightened the trainer to the hub which over compresses the hub bearings and can lead to significant damage if you ride on it
Still concerned over stress fractures?
For peace of mind there are some turbo trainers which do have side to side movement, which does give you a better and more natural experience but with the added bonus that they also reduce the stress forces places upon your bike. Check out these types of cycle trainers here.
To reduce your worries even more you can tailor your training style to reduce side to side sway, don’t do out of the saddle practicing sprints or hill climbs. However your carbon frame should be able to cope with these anyway.
Carbon frame care tips and proof from a Professional carbon frame repairer.
Check out this excellent video I found on YouTube of an interview with a carbon frame repairer, who explains why your carbon frame may fail because of training in a turbo trainer. A must watch for anyone with a carbon fiber bike.
Protect your bike against sweat corrosion
If you have not watched the video above (and I recommend you do) it was explained that where carbon is in contact with alloys, for example handle bar mounts, water bottle fittings, break fittings and more… that these contact points are the makings of a battery. Add an electrolyte like sweat and you get corrosion of the alloy leading to a broken bike.
There are things you can do to prevent this from occurring.
- Sweat less… Body heat is a problem when training indoors and many people help keep cool with fans and simply opening the window.
- Sweat nets… These are and do what it says on the can, stretched between the saddle and handlebars they protect the cross-bar from sweat. With the bonus that many come with a mobile phone pocket also. Check them out here.
- A towel… It is recommended that you place towels over the handle bars, also I have seen in racing warm ups that riders also place towels over the front wheel.
Which is best turbo trainer for carbon fibre bikes?
You have an expensive state of the art bike I would suggest that you do not fit it to a budget basic cycle trainer stand, and instead buy one that reflects your investment in your pride and joy.
Unfortunately I have not found any turbo trainers dedicated to carbon fibre bikes, but for those of you who still want peace of mind free from stress fractures you could look at the flexible Kinetic Rock and Roll Smart Bike Trainer. It is a free-moving fluid trainer with intuitive app-based power training. It has a quiet, smooth, progressive resistance provided by Kinetic’s patented fluid resistance unit. And as a bonus it also works with Kinetic Fit, Zwift and TrainerRoad on Bluetooth-connected smart phones, tablets and laptops. For more details check it out here
However I have seen that the CycleOps race team use the cheaper and more basic CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Trainer for warm ups. Find out about it here.
Have there been cases of bikes broken in Turbo Trainers?
The only breakages of carbon frames due to turbo trainers that I found came from forums where people claiming that theirs broke in a trainer… However I could find no photos of broken frames due to trainer stands.
Turbo trainers are a fantastic way to keep your fitness levels up during the cold wet months when you wouldn’t want to go out on the roads. For sure you don’t want your expensive and best bike to be damaged while you exercise and are not out in the open air but from my research I believe that it is OK to use a carbon fibre frame in a turbo trainer
Will a turbo trainer damage my bike?
If you are still not convinced you could buy a cheap metal bike purely for exercise, which can be permanently locked into your turbo trainer. Save your best bike for the road.
Have fun and keep fit.