How to Turn Your Bike Into A Stationary Bike

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A man working on turning bike into stationary bike

While cycling is, for all intents and purposes, a social sport, there is also a multitude of reasons for turning your bike into a stationary bike. 

After a pressured workday, having to brave traffic and pollution to meet up with your cycling club might put you off heading out onto the road. But exercise is such a good way to clear your head and bring your mind back into focus for intense concentration. Poor weather is another factor that may lead you to turn your bike into a stationary bike, or if you’re using cycling apps such as Zwift to reach your personal targets.

In this article, we’ll help you to understand the purpose of a trainer, as well as go through several trainer options and outline their pros and cons to help you choose the right trainer for you and your bike—since not every bike fits on every trainer. 

What is a Stationary Bike?

Most cyclists have ridden stationary bikes, or at least been exposed to them. But in case you haven’t, stationary bikes are used in gyms and at home—enabling you to keep fit without having to brave the outdoors. Simply put, they function as regular bikes, allowing you to train at different levels of intensity.

The stationary bikes at your local gym, however, don’t have gears. Rather, they apply brakes to the flywheel to allow for increased intensity. 

What is a Trainer?

A trainer is a piece of equipment. It enables you to cycle on your own bike with no forward motion, by either:

  1. Elevating your drive wheel
  2. Replacing your drive wheel
  3. Allowing both wheels to function as normal on rollers

Why Would I Need a Trainer? 

A trainer enables you to cycle indoors, without having to balance your bike, and stops you from knocking over your furniture in the process. It eliminates the likelihood of you landing in a heap on the floor with your bicycle on top of you.

Is There Another Solution? 

Another option is to purchase a stationary spin or recumbent bike. But that seems rather wasteful if you already have a great bike set up to your specific preferences.

Types of Trainers

There are three main types of trainers:

  • Direct-drive
  • Flywheel
  • Roller

What is a Direct-drive Trainer? 

If you select a direct-drive trainer to turn your bike into a stationary bike, note that these are usually the most expensive trainers. When using a direct-drive trainer, you remove your rear or drive wheel and attach your bike to the trainer.

The resistance of a direct-drive trainer can go up to around 2000 watts. They’re also relatively quiet compared to other trainers. And they’ll give you the most real-world feel when juxtaposed to cycling on the road.

In addition, you’ll find that some virtual reality trainers use the direct-drive system, for example, the Wahoo KICKR. These trainers have the additional benefit of simulating rides using apps like Zwift, which automatically increases resistance while climbing or reduces it with descents.

What is a Flywheel Trainer? 

A flywheel trainer is also known as a rear-wheel trainer. To turn your bike into a stationary bike with this trainer, you place the rear wheel of your bike on a heavy flywheel, with a stabilizing rod. The flywheel creates the resistance you might find on the road. There are various types of flywheel trainers:

  1. A fluid trainer contains a thick, silicone-like liquid that creates resistance
  2. A magnetic trainer uses magnets to mimic the feel of resistance
  3. A pivot trainer allows the rider to rock the bike to the side to simulate corners
  4. Some virtual reality trainers use the flywheel trainer system, like the Tacx iGenius Virtual Trainer and the BKool Pro Trainer

If you opt for a flywheel trainer, you need to be sure that it has a resistance of at least 1,500 watts for that real-world feel. Usually, you can do manual adjustments through a lever, with software, or by using an app. 

Also, if you want to increase the resistance, you simply pedal faster. While the flywheel trainer is not as stable as the direct-drive trainer, it’s a reliable option if you have a slightly lower budget. But you may find your tires wearing more than usual.

What is a Roller Trainer?

A roller trainer is a metal frame around the length of your bike. The rear wheel balances between two parallel elevated cylindrical drums, while the front wheel rests against a third.

This trainer comes with no fancy add-ons or software, but you’ll be hard-pressed to stay upright and will need strong core muscles. So, if you’re aiming to work on your balance, this is the one to go for.

What is a Wind Resistance Trainer?

When you turn your bike into a stationary bike, another trainer option is a wind resistance trainer. This is like the flywheel trainer. However, with this trainer, your pedals drive a fan that creates resistance to the rear wheel. So, the faster you pedal, the more wind resistance you generate. A downside is that the trainer not only generates wind resistance but also a lot of noise.

What is a Virtual Reality Trainer?

These trainers are becoming increasingly common, but, of course, they come with the associated—and probably expected—price tag. These are also known as smart trainers.

Choosing the Right Trainer

Before you turn your bike into a stationary bike, it is probably wise to check its compatibility. Not every bike is a perfect match for every trainer.

That may still be the case even if you opt for one of the more expensive trainers. So, you probably want to have your bike with you when selecting your trainer.

What Should I Check for When Choosing a Trainer?

  • Bike size
  • Tire size
  • Bike style
    • Quick-release skewer or thru axel
  • Bike type
    • Mountain bike
    • Road bike

If a bike isn’t compatible with your chosen trainer, you can get adapters or cassettes.

What Trainer is Easiest to Set Up?

Both the direct-drive and flywheel trainers are relatively easy to set up. And, if you’re a beginner, you probably don’t want your first trainer experience to be on a roller trainer.

What Trainer is the Quietest?

Ordered from the quietest trainer to the loudest:

  1. Direct-drive trainer
  2. Flywheel trainer
  3. Roller trainer
  4. Wind resistance trainer

How to Connect Your Bike to a Trainer

When you purchase your bike trainer, the manufacturer’s setup instructions will guide you through the exact process of how to turn your bike into a stationary bike. This will be specific to their trainer. However, below, we’ll give you an idea of what to expect.

Step-by-step Instructions to Set Up a Stationary Bike Trainer

Setting Up a Direct-drive Trainer

Check the cassette speed. If you have an 11-speed bike, be sure you have an 11-speed cassette, otherwise, your chain won’t fit.

  1. Put the chain onto the smallest cog
  2. Pull the quick-release lever
  3. Slide your bike’s rear wheel out 
  4. Lower the bike into place on the trainer
  5. Put the chain onto the smallest cog
  6. Place the bike onto the quick-release skewer
  7. Ensure the pedals turn smoothly, otherwise, check the alignment
  8. Tighten the quick-release skewer, it should be neither too loose nor too tight—too loose and it could come off the trainer, too tight and it could cause damage

Setting Up a Flywheel Trainer

So that you don’t wear out your rear tire, swap it out for a training tire with no tread. Also, if you have a disk brake bike, you’ll need an adapter.

  1. Ensure the tire is neither too hard nor too soft—you should be able to indent it a little when you squeeze it with your fingers
  2. Put the chain onto the smallest cog
  3. Lower the bike into place on the trainer
  4. Pull the quick-release lever
  5. Swap the skewer with the device from the trainer’s packaging—mounting the bike onto the triangle 
  6. Ensure the pedals turn smoothly, otherwise, check the alignment
  7. Tighten the quick-release, it should be neither too loose nor too tight

Setting Up a Roller Trainer

A rubber mat beneath the frame will reduce noise and vibration, but ensure it doesn’t restrict the movement of the rollers.

  1. Lay the roller frame on a flat, level surface
  2. Move the front roller along the frame until it’s just in front of your front axle
  3. Fix the front roller in place
  4. To aid with balance, it helps to focus on an object approximately 1.5–2 bike lengths ahead of you—physical or imaginary

Setting Up a Wind Resistance Trainer

To set up a wind resistance trainer, follow the flywheel trainer setup instructions.

Using Your Own Bike as a Stationary Bike

When you’re turning your bike into a stationary bike, you may have a few questions. Like, “How do you achieve a real-time feel of riding a road bike?” This can be achieved through the use of several apps. Or, you might want to know if trainers will damage your bike. 

Software You Can Use With Your Trainer

When you turn your bike into a stationary trainer, you can use one of several apps to enhance your training experience. While we won’t go into too much detail, here are a few you can look at:

Do Trainers Damage Your Bike?

Some cyclists believe trainers can damage your bike, however, Zwift Insider explains how to combat these problems. 

In the case of titanium or aluminum quick-release skewers, using a trainer may result in it bending. This can cause your frame to disconnect from the trainer, which might cause major damage. The solution to this is to use a stronger steel skewer when you’re using a trainer. This is not a problem in thru-axle bikes.

Also, when using a flywheel trainer, your rear tire will probably wear a little faster than during road training. How you can combat this, however, is to use a smooth-treaded, rubber training tire.

Because your front wheel won’t be moving, the pressure on one point of the wheel will significantly strain the weight-bearing spokes. To combat this, turn your wheel a quarter of a turn before each ride. 

Benefits of Cycling at Home

You’ve probably already figured out the benefits of cycling at home, but it largely boils down to time and convenience.

In this rat-race world of ours, most of us have to multitask just to accomplish our day’s activities. This often includes our exercise routines. So, good on you for going the extra mile to find a home solution to keeping active.


Whatever your reason, it’s not always possible to head outdoors for your cycling training. This can be down to work pressure, traffic, pollution, time, weather, or family obligations keeping you off the road.

We put together some options that will help you to keep your training going, enabling you to maintain your fitness level at those times when you just can’t get outdoors. 

This included explaining exactly what a stationary bike is. We also gave you some reasons why you might want to turn your bike into a stationary bike and whether there’s another option. We’ve discussed how to turn your bike into a stationary bike, as well as what types of trainers you can choose from and how each can help you.

We’ve also discussed how you can reduce the risk of damage to your bike when you’re using it as a stationary bike.

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