If you are planning for a race or live in a region with poor weather, a bike trainer can be a lifesaver. Trainers provide easy indoor biking by turning your regular road bike into an indoor training bike.
A bicycle trainer is basically just a frame with a clamp to hold your bike in place as you ride with a roller that presses against the rear tire, creating resistance.
Bike trainers can be used with nearly any bike, which provides some advantage in race training, as it allows you to train on the same bike you’ll ride during competition.
A trainer can wreak havoc on your rear tire, though, throwing off your bike’s balance and traction.
Does a bike trainer wear out your tire?
Unfortunately, a bike trainer will wear out your rear bicycle tire more quickly than bicycling on the road or a similar flat surface.
You can even see this damage in the debris the trainer leaves behind on the floor. After a few sessions (or even just one if you’re going hard and regularly accelerating), you’ll likely see black specks under your trainer that have flaked off of your rear tire during use.
That’s why it’s good to use an exercise mat under your bicycle trainer. A mat will keep debris from your bicycle tires of of the floor. Unfortunately, it will do nothing to protect the tire from damage.
The Dangers of Uneven Bike Tires
The main concern with the wearing of your bicycle tire from a trainer is that it wears down the back tire at a much greater rate than the front tire, giving you uneven tire tread.
The tread on your tires is your main source of traction when riding outside. Even tread will provide better traction and prevent skids, while uneven tread may cause your back tire to slide more than the front, resulting in a potential spin-out.
Uneven tread will also make your back brake less effective, and it’s never a good idea to have your brakes working at less than optimal condition and out of alignment with each other.
Bike Trainer Tire
The good news is there is a simple fix that will protect your rear road tire from damage and that something is another tire – a trainer tire to be exact.
Bicycle trainer tires are made specifically for use with bicycle trainers and are designed to endure the pressure and friction placed on them by a trainer better than a standard tire will.
Other Advantages of a Dedicated Bike Trainer Tire
Along with preventing wear and tear on your road tire, trainer tires also reduce the noise that your bicycle trainer makes. This is due to the type of rubber used in the tire, the smooth tread, and the better grip the tire gets on the trainer roller.
These same features eliminate excess slippage, which prevents the same mess caused by a standard tire.
Trainer tire rubber also withstands the heat generated by a trainer better, which can prevent blowouts. Blowouts are one of the biggest potential dangers of using a road tire on a trainer. This is especially true if you’re doing hours-long training sessions.
How long does a trainer tire last?
Trainer tires can last years if they are used properly under good conditions.
The most common causes of early wear on trainer tires is incorrect tire pressure and lack of humidity.
Incorrect Tire Pressure
Trainer tires will lose air as they are used, so they should be checked regularly. Like road tires, trainer tires should be inflated to 10-20 psi below maximum tire pressure at all times.
Another good indicator that a trainer tire is getting low on air is if starts to make more noise against the roller. An under-inflated tire tends to be a noisy tire.
Lack of Humidity
Dry air is a harder thing to control. Living in an arid environment, like the desert, or using artificial heat during the winter reduces the moisture in your home. Dry air will dry out the rubber in your trainer tire just like it does in a regular tire.
A trainer tire will still last years, but it won’t last as many years as it would in a more humid environment.
On the plus side, low humidity means less damage to the metal parts on your bike, so it all evens out in the end.
Do you need a special tire for a bike trainer?
No. You don’t technically NEED a special trainer tire for your bike trainer. You can use a regular road tire on a trainer.
A road tire is prone to blowouts on a trainer, though, due to the heat the roller creates. A blowout will destroy the tire and potentially damage both the bike and the trainer.
A trainer tire is the best way to protect your road tire from excess wear and tear and keep both you and your bike safe.
image credit: Glory Cycles/Flickr, CC2.0