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I know that using my road bike with a fluid trainer will wear out the back tire more quickly than regular road riding, but does it have the potential to actually damage my bike (frame, gearing)? While not a super expensive machine, I do like it quite a bit and it is my only bike.

While on the trainer, I notice (1) every little noise from the drivetrain and (2) some flexing of the (aluminum) frame as I pedal. It's quite possible that these things happen on the road, but it's too loud to hear them.

Should I think about getting a trainer-only bike?

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This is why I like rollers. No skewers to twist, and if you crash right your body protects the bike. Wait... –  lawndartcatcher Nov 9 '11 at 21:31

7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The only significant frame damage I can think of from this is your skewers -- the little nubs that grab on to the skewer and hold your bike inside the trainer have a tendency to scratch the hell out of the skewers.

As far as flexing goes, all frames flex. The only time I would be worried about it would be if there was a grinding noise coming out of the crank -- but that wouldn't be caused by your trainer, that would just be impending crank failure.

Oh, and rather than getting a trainer only bike, you should probably just get a stationary bike (if you do decide to go that route). They're typically much smaller because they don't have to have two wheels, and because they're designed for that use from the beginning they're typically much more stable when riding.

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The trainers I'm familiar with all come with their own skewers designed to fit into the clamps. Avoids damaging your road skewers and also makes for a guaranteed good fit. –  Brian Knoblauch Jun 20 '11 at 13:43
    
One thing to note is that most decent trainers come with their own skewers. You are supposed to replace the skewers on your bike with these while using the trainer in order to prevent scratching to your bike skewers. –  Jakobud Mar 9 '12 at 16:57

It is possible but quite uncommon. The trainer holds the bike upright while you throw your weight around, and the frame is not really designed for that. Bike fames are very strong with regard to vertical forces but nowhere near as strong for sideways forces. Twisting the bike between the rear axle and the handlebars is kind of ok (because it's designed to take a twist between the handlebars and bottom bracket) but it's something to minimise. You're more likely to see a fatigue failure than a simple overload.

If you are moving your upper body as you pedal you should try to learn not to do that. Wind trainers are all about sitting still and pedalling, not about practicing sprints. You should avoid getting out of the saddle, and try to minimise upper body movement. Or you may need to go with rollers rather than a trainer.

You definitely shouldn't bolt the trainer down - having it free to move almost guarantees you won't break your frame. The break I've seen was from one bolted to a concrete floor and the rider was out of the saddle when it broke.

As Billy said, your rear skewer will suffer cosmetic damage. Trainers often come with a cheap steel skewer for this reason.

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There is no risk to your bicycle from a properly fit and used trainer. Use the skewer which usually comes with the trainer, make sure your mount point is adjusted properly. The flex in the frame happens when you ride, too. You just don't notice it because you are paying attention to where you are going, rather than focusing on minutiae. (As is proper.)

Consider getting a trainer which has some VR functions built in. You'll find you focus more on riding, and less on the mechanical aspects of setting up the bike. www.tacx.com

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Trainers when used correctly are great, but they do in fact add wear and tear to your bicycle and its components. It is specifically adding kilometres/miles to your drivetrain and to your back wheel. Regular maintenance (cleaning, greasing, general lubrication) will aid in keeping your bike in great condition, but expect that with lots of use, you may need to replace certain components sooner than if you didn't use a trainer at all.

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I have a 2011 Specialized Roubaix and I too have been concerned as to weather or not trainers are hard on carbon fiber frames. I sent an email to Specialized customer suppport inquiring of such. Their comments were: Trainers are hard on bike frames. However riding a Specialized frame on a trainer will not void the warranty. In fact I've never personally heard of or seen any Specialized bike frame ruined or damaged from use on a stationary trainer. Just make sure to keep your receipt or proof of purchase and if by some chance you have an issue you can have it taken care of under warranty. I don't know about other manufactors but Specialized says it's not a problem and are willing to stand behind their products.

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Specialized seems to be confused on this issue. They're telling people via twitter that damage from trainers will not be covered under warranty. –  James Schek Jan 16 '12 at 1:05

Just like anything: consistent and repeated hard usage of a mechanical object will shorten its lifespan. How much? That depends.

So the best, short answer to Kevin's, the original poster's, question is a definite "Yes."

The long answer is more complicated.

Bicycle frames were and are never designed for, their technical specifications do not include, nor is any testing done to determine their suitability for or capacity to withstand repeated usage on a stationary trainer. Period.

Testing for use in a stationary trainer would not be difficult for major frame manufacturers, but it would change the design specifications and make bike frames harder to manufacture and even more expensive, and most bikes are ridden outside. So they don't do it.

I have personally seen metal frames fatigue prematurely, and all types of frames of different material types fail (i.e. break) from excessive use on a trainer. I've worked for a major manufacturer, a regional distributor and several different retail shops, so I've seen a lot of wrecked frames for a variety of reasons.

The lawn dart catcher is right on about rollers but there is no set of rollers made that is capable of providing the level of sustained high resistance to allow the development of high power required by most competitive cyclists. They are used by professionals for base building (endurance) workouts and to develop superior bike handling skills.

Damage resulting from sweat can and will occur if not wiped off, so that was also a useful response.

Other posters who talk about skewer damage are not answering Kevin's question. The skewer is not part of the frame.

Finally, the extent of frame damage will depend upon the rider's size and strength and their actual pedaling efficiency. Remaining seated as Moz recommends is really not a factor because it depends upon riding style. Many testing facilities have observed that talented and/or experienced riders who climb well produce lower lateral stress on the frame when out of the saddle. These riders inherently know or have learned how to apply torque where it really matters: on the pedals.

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One way that you really can damage your bike is through your sweat. You drip a lot of sweat on a stationary bike, and if you don't clean up the bike pretty thoroughly after each session, you can corrode the frame (if it's steel) and some parts. There are sweatguards for bikes for exactly this purpose, and they work OK.

I did have a single-speed beater that was my dedicated stationary bike for a while.

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