Bike trainers guide

How To Turn Your Bike Into A Stationary Bike

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Billy Hughes
August 13, 2021
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You love cycling outdoors, but maybe every now and then you think about how great it would be to be able to take your cycling sessions indoors.

If you want to be able to work out on your bike in the comfort of your home, which is a big plus on rainy days, you should consider purchasing a bike trainer.

What’s a bike trainer? A bike trainer is basically a stand that enables you to keep your road bike fixed in position so that you can use it indoors.

This essentially turns your bike into a stationary bike, and it’s a total game changer for your fitness routine. It also means you don’t have to spend money on buying an indoor bike. 

What Are The Different Types Of Bike Trainers? 

There are different types of bike trainers available and they each have their own pros and cons. Let’s check them out!

Fluid Bike Trainer

fluid trainer

A fluid bike trainer makes use of a hydraulic substance to control the bike’s resistance. When you pedal faster, the fluid will cause the resistance to be increased, so you don’t have to manually adjust the bike’s resistance.

Pros

  • A fluid bike trainer is easy to store and use. 
  • It’s quiet – in fact, it’s quieter than what you’ll experience with many other types of bike trainers. 
  • This bike trainer is the best at stimulating the experience and feeling of cycling outdoors.

Cons

  • This bike trainer’s fluid can leak, although that is a rare occurrence. 
  • It’s more expensive than other types of bike trainers, such as magnetic trainers. 

Magnetic Bike Trainer

magnetic trainer

This type of bike trainer makes use of opposing magnets so that resistance is produced. You will have to manually adjust the resistance to get the optimal amount you want, though.

Pros

  • A magnetic bike trainer is easy to store and use, much like a fluid bike trainer. 
  • It’s more affordable than what you’ll pay for a fluid bike trainer, though, so that’s a plus.  
  • It can last you a long time and is generally reliable.

Cons

  • A magnetic bike trainer is usually louder than a fluid trainer.

Roller Bike Trainer

roller trainer

Pros

  • It’s really easy to set up in your home. 
  • A roller bike trainer will mimic your outdoor cycling experience as a result of how your bike can move around. 
  • This trainer works well to either maintain or improve your cycling form.

Cons

  • A roller bike trainer doesn’t offer a great range of resistance, as we already mentioned. 
  • You require a good level of coordination and balance to ensure you don’t fall off.

Direct Drive Bike Trainer

rear wheel trainer

Pros

  • A direct drive bike trainer prevents pressure from being placed on your bike’s tire, therefore preventing damage to it over time.  
  • It provides a good connection with your bike, and this is mainly because of how it doesn’t need tire friction to create resistance. 

Cons

  • A direct drive bike trainer is expensive. 
  • It’s also quite heavy and bulky. 

Smart Bike Trainer

apps for bike trainer

A smart bike trainer shares many similarities with other types of bike trainers, but it can connect to on-bike sensors and third-party apps. Some even come equipped with power meters. 

Pros

  • A bike smart trainer comes with a built-in power meter, which is convenient. 
  • This type of bike trainer usually has a direct drive format. This is practical and convenient because you don’t need to use a trainer tire.

Cons

  • You will have to spend a lot of money for this trainer – high-end smart bike trainers will cost over $1,000
  • You might encounter connectivity issues. 

Bike Trainer Vs Stationary Bike: Which One Is Better? 

If you want to start working out on your bike indoors, you will have to decide if you want to use a bike trainer or invest in a stationary bike. Here are some things to consider.

Bike Trainer Pros

A bike trainer has many advantages to consider. Let’s take a look at them.

  1. A bike trainer mimics the outdoor cycling environment via third-party software. A fluid bike trainer also helps to simulate the feeling of outdoor cycling, as we mentioned earlier.
  2. A bike trainer is convenient because you can use your own bike. This is also useful for you if you’re training for a cycling event and don’t want to use a different one.
  3. Bike trainers don’t usually come equipped offer a digital console, but you can find smart bike trainers that allow you to sync to your television or a tablet so you can get pre-programmed workouts.
  4. A bike trainer is lightweight and portable, while saving space in your home.

When Are Stationary Bikes Better Than Indoor Trainers?

training simulation

While an indoor trainer has many pros, it also has some drawbacks. These include the following.

  1. You have to set up the bike trainer whenever you want to use it. A stationary bike, by comparison, will always be ready for you.
  2. If you don’t follow some important tips, such as ensuring that your bike trainer is cleaned regularly and set up correctly, you could damage your bike.
  3. Some bike trainers, especially those that are of the magnetic variety, can be noisy. This is not always ideal in the home, especially if you live in a small apartment.
  4. Although most road and mountain bikes will be compatible with bike trainers, you will have to ensure that you check to make sure to avoid disappointment. You might also need to invest in extra accessories to ensure a secure fit. 
  5. By comparison, here’s where stationary bikes have an edge over indoor bike trainers so you should choose them if the following points matter to you:
  • You have a few members in your household who use the bike. Stationary bikes are easier to manage if you have many cyclists in your household. Indoor bike trainers sometimes require you to install a different bike when you want to change riders. This can be frustrating and be time-consuming, as opposed to simply jumping onto a stationary bike whenever you want to use it. 
  • You don’t want to set up your bike. Stationary bikes require less time to get set up in the home when you purchase them.
  • You want to keep your outdoor bike separate from your indoor cycling bike. 

So, Should You Buy A Bike Trainer? 

There are times when you should choose an indoor bike trainer. These include the following:

  • You want a portable solution. Indoor bike trainers are easy to move around and generally portable. You can find bike trainers that are foldable for greater convenience. 
  • You’re on a tight budget. By purchasing a bike trainer, you can use the same bike you already own to cycle indoors, which can significantly reduce your costs. An indoor bike trainer is inexpensive. You can find ones for approximately $100. If you want bike trainers with more features and frills, you will have to pay more for them. 
  • You don’t have much space. An indoor bike trainer will be much smaller than a stationary bike, so it’s ideal for saving space in the home. 

Benefits Of Cycling At Home 

Although you know how great it is to cycle outdoors, sometimes you want to take your workouts into your home. Here are some advantages of doing so.

  • You don’t have to take outdoor factors into account. You don’t have to deal with low-visibility conditions, the danger of cycling on busy roads, or the unpredictable weather!
  • You don’t have to purchase extra accessories for cycling outdoors. For example, you won’t have to worry about a helmet, or reflective clothing. 
  • You can treat your body with TLC. Indoor cycling is low-impact exercise. This means it’s gentle on your joints. It’s also ideal if you have health conditions or are recovering from an injury.
  • You can avoid interruptions. When cycling outdoors, it can be difficult to complete your training session because of various interruptions that can occur. These will be prevented when you take your cycling indoors.
  • You can keep your cycling progress going strong. Linked to the previous point, indoor cycling is structured and consistent so it will help you to better achieve your goals. 
  • You can have better control of your ride. Feel like connecting with other cyclists while cycling in your basement? You can do that with a cycling app. In fact, you can do a lot with one of these apps, such as virtual cycling, uploading your outdoor cycling route for use indoors, and more. To find out more about cycling apps, read our guide, “Best Indoor Cycling Apps To Take Your Workout To The Next Level.”
  • You can sneak in some cycling any time. If it’s late at night, you might not be able to grab your helmet and head out into the city to ride, such as if the weather’s bad or it’s unsafe. With indoor cycling, you can ride whenever you feel like it.
  • You can boost your mood. A study found that just 15 minutes of cycling on a stationary bike can lower the body’s levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in people experiencing depression.
  • You can improve your endurance. When you get onto your stationary bike, you’ll be able to improve your cardiovascular fitness. The edge that indoor cycling has over outdoor cycling is that there aren’t any times during the cycling session when you can coast on your bike – you have to pedal throughout the session. This builds strength and endurance.  

What To Look For In A Bike Trainer

bike trainer stands

When you’re ready to purchase a bike trainer for cycling indoors, you will have to ensure that it has some important features. These include the following:

  • Connectivity. If you want real-time feedback on your cycling session or the chance to enjoy virtual riding, you’ll have to ensure that your trainer has wireless connectivity so that you can connect it to training apps.
  • Compatibility. Although bike trainers can be fitted on a variety of bikes, such as road and mountain bikes, you always need to check that your specific bike model is compatible to avoid disappointment.
  • Noise. While any indoor bike is going to be a bit noisy – or you’ll just notice bike noises more than when you’re cycling outdoors – if noise is a concern for you then you must choose a bike trainer that doesn’t produce a lot of it. So, for example, you should consider a fluid bike trainer instead of a magnetic one. 

Related Questions

Do you need a skewer for your bike trainer?

It’s always a good idea to use a skewer for your bike trainer as it keeps it secure. Regular skewers that come with your bike aren’t strong enough for this.

Can you put a bike trainer on the carpet?

You can put your bike trainer on a carpet as long as it remains stable. That said, since bike trainers are heavy they will leave marks and impressions on the carpet. 

Conclusion

If you want to start enjoying more cycling sessions at home, you’ll want to get a stationary bike. But that’s not the only option available to you.

You can turn your road or mountain bike into a stationary bike by purchasing a bike trainer. In this article, we’ve looked at its pros and cons, as well as how it compares to a stationary bike.

Whether you decide to buy a bike or adapt your current one, there’s no doubt that cycling at home has several benefits, which we’ve also outlined. 

Sources:

Billy Hughes

Billy Hughes is a fitness trainer based out of New York. She has registered success in training clients at multiple fitness centers and thus aims to establish her module relevant to the post-pandemic era. Her space, Cerevellum.com, is an attempt towards encouraging and educating more people on the scope of indoor fitness. She believes the power of fitness can transform attitude, personality, and way of living. She also finds it rewarding to help people achieve their goals and make their lives better.