Ah, the allure of a bike trainer! It promises a perfect solution for those rainy days or when you can’t hit the great outdoors, offering a convenient and controlled cycling environment.
But before you rush off to add one to your shopping cart, it’s vital to weigh its disadvantages alongside the perks. If you’ve found yourself Googling ‘What are the cons of a bike trainer?’, you’ve come to the right place.
This comprehensive article aims to unveil the lesser-known drawbacks of using a bike trainer, ones you might not have considered. From the hidden costs to the impact on your riding technique and even your mental well-being, we’ll dissect every angle.
By the end of this read, you’ll be fully equipped to decide whether investing in a bike trainer aligns with your mountain biking goals or if it’s an option you might want to reconsider.
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Bike trainers are among the best inventions since, well, the bike. Can you tell I’m a fan? Here’s why: I live in a state that boasts some pretty impressive winters. Now, although I do enjoy some lovely winter scenery, I prefer the warmth.
It’s not like I’m going to go biking in the ice and snow and ten below. However, I don’t want to lose my endurance, stamina, and leg power in the months of cold and frost.
Bike trainers help riders like you and me maintain our riding prowess throughout the winter. A dedicated exercise bike works, too, but I prefer to ride my bike. You know how it is, the connection between you and your bike. I’m guessing you’re reading this because you love riding your bike, too.
I’ve checked out several trainers, and I have to say there’s nothing as satisfying as getting to ride my favorite bike indoors when it’s cold and miserable outside. For more about budget trainers, please take a look at my video, where I go through a budget bike trainer review and setup.
In case you didn’t notice, I like using a bike trainer when the weather doesn’t permit me to ride outside. However, there are a few downsides to using a bike trainer. Primarily, there are four things that you need to know.
A good quality bike trainer, like the Saris H3 Bike Trainer, is not cheap. Sure, you can find more affordable models, but what you’ll save in price you pay for weird setups, noise, or tricky usage.
If you’re considering an indoor bike trainer, remember that you’ll need a good amount of room. Consider the total length of your bike and add anywhere from about 6” to 12” longer for many trainers. Furthermore, most have a wide footprint of about 20” to maintain stability.
If you wind up using a roller trainer(your bike is not fixed to these trainers, and you literally ride your bike on rollers), you’ll need a wall or something to steady yourself. These sorts of trainers do not hold your bike upright, so a level of balance and dexterity is a primary requirement.
Poorly designed trainers can be harmful to your bike frame. Furthermore, some trainers that come with their own hardware may not always have the same quality as your standard bike parts, resulting in potential problems with parts coming loose.
The more expensive trainers are generally better built than the cheap ones. Furthermore, the quality trainers are usually ‘smart’ or have sensors that enable you to integrate your favorite bike trainer app.
If you pick up a trainer that requires you to keep your rear wheel/tire on your bike, then you’re going to deal with a certain amount of noise. These types of bike trainers are notoriously noisy. According to one Reddit user, even being a smaller rider can still make a good deal of noise.
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Regular trainers like those that are just rollers are great to use in the winter and during inclement weather. However, they have one big problem: they cannot mimic hills and only simulate riding on a smooth, flat surface.
If you intend to work out, you’ll need to add some resistance, and that’s why I recommend a different type of trainer.
Smart trainers can typically control the ride much better by raising and lowering resistance based on a program. Integrate your phone or tablet with one of these bike trainer apps with your smart trainer, and you can simulate real rides in real locations.
There are two downsides to indoor trainers. First, as mentioned, flat-surface trainers, like roller trainers, cannot change resistance, so they only provide a bland version of the riding experience. However, they do demand a certain level of dexterity.
On the other hand, bike trainers like the Saris H3 may be ‘smart’ and control resistance, but they also hold your bike upright. So, it’s either practice balance but no change in resistance or change in resistance but no practicing balance.
When considering an indoor bike trainer, it’s best also to consider the psychological aspects of staying indoors. In fact, according to the student wellness center at McMaster University, two hours outside in nature per week has significant positive impacts on your health and well-being.
Riding an indoor bike trainer is fantastic for training, but it’s not like time outside. Furthermore, air quality indoors is known to be poor comparatively. According to the World Health Organization, 3.8 million people die each year due to illnesses attributable to harmful indoor air from dirty cookstoves and fuel.
If you’re wondering about alternatives to indoor bike trainers, consider a few things. First, consider taking a look at indoor bike trainer apps like Tacx Training, Vingo, or Zwift. Using these apps in conjunction with an indoor trainer can make the experience that much more fun. Read my article Elevate Your Training: Top Bike Trainer Programs for Maximum Gains for more information about indoor trainer bike apps.
There is no real alternative to riding outdoors. If you’re like me and you live somewhere that has harsh winters, consider a biking vacation. You could wind up discovering a whole new past-time of traveling to exotic locations for unique scenarios, culture, and thrilling rides.
Are you interested in new and exciting technology? If you don’t mind jumping into the world of VR, you can test out VZFit, a fitness game for the Oculus Quest VR headset. The app isn’t perfect, as pointed out by Mike Hume of The Washington Post, “its warped nature felt like someone was extracting my memories through some sort of neural jack.” VZFit uses Google Maps to piece together rides, so if you don’t mind Google Maps street view quality images, then you might like it.
Before investing in a bike trainer, it’s essential to consider not just the benefits but also the drawbacks. We’ve pedaled into the lesser-known disadvantages of using a bike trainer, from hidden costs to the potential impact on your riding technique and mental well-being.
You’ve got new valuable insights that help you make an informed decision about whether a bike trainer aligns with your mountain biking goals or not.
You’ve now got the complete picture of what owning a bike trainer entails—beyond the initial allure. While the indoor experience can keep you in shape during those bitter winters, it’s crucial to weigh the costs, space requirements, and potential downsides like noise and limited terrain simulation.
If you still find the pros outweigh the cons, go ahead and invest. But if you’re hesitating, maybe it’s time to explore alternatives like biking vacations or virtual reality setups for a more versatile riding experience.