Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist as well as being a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.
Indoor cycling trainers are a great option for beginners
How to Convert a Bicycle to an Exercise Bike
There are a large number of factors which stop us all from exercising more. In the case of cycling we're often limited by available light, which combined with cold weather can form a decisive barrier to getting more exercise.
By converting a bicycle into an exercise bike through the use of cycling training rollers or an indoor bike trainer (sometimes called a "Turbo Trainer") you can potentially use your bike as a stationary bicycle trainer for your workout needs.
Whether you're an avid cyclist who wants to improve their fitness over the cold, dark and wet winter months or a time crunched parent looking for an exercise option to fit into your busy schedule- Indoor cycling can help to address your fitness needs.
Creating your own stationary bike at home- Rollers or a turbo trainer?
One of the most important decisions to make for beginners to indoor cycling workouts and experienced riders is whether to use a bike trainer or a set of cycling rollers. The decision is one that has baffled and captivated cyclists for years and debate will continue to rage onwards. Below is a little more information that may help you decide which is a better option for you as well as an insight into what bike trainers/ turbo trainers and cycling rollers actually are.
Why consider using a turbo trainer for cycling workouts?
A turbo trainer/ bicycle trainer is effectively a metal frame which holds your rear wheel in place against a resistance unit which will sit against your bicycle tire.
As you pedal when your bike is attached to a bicycle trainer the tire will sit on a roller which is attached to a resistance unit. The motion of your rear tire against the roller is smoothed out by the use of a flywheel to help balance out your pedal stroke.
Turbo trainers are especially good options for beginners as the bike is effectively held into place by the frame which means a user doesn’t have to worry about their balance and can simply pedal away. Many turbo trainers feature variable resistance units so the rider can make their cycling workout as hard or as easy as they choose. Alternately some trainers feature a progressive rate of resistance allowing the user to tailor his or her resistance level based on their cycling speed which can therefore be manipulated by pedalling cadence or the gearing on their bike.
Using a turbo trainer at home
Instructions to use your bike as an exercise bike using a cycling trainer
- Beg, borrow or buy yourself a bicycle trainer. It could be one of the best cycling related health and fitness investments you ever make. It's always good to try one out first before you commit to a purchase or you could find yourself a bargain on eBay.
- Open out your bicycle trainer on a flat surface such as a garage floor. If you're creating your stationary bike in a room which has carpet or wood floor it would be a recommendation to purchase a sweat resistant mate which will protect your floor/ carpet from harm while you workout as sweat can be very acidic.
- Most turbo trainers come with a specific quick release rear wheel axle. Always fit this to your bike as the clamping mechanism of your trainer will be specific to the ends of this axle to hold your wheel in place.
- Ideally you should have a smooth road cycling tire fitted to your rear wheel. The knobbly nature of a mountain bike tire will cause excessive resistance and a really rough ride on a trainer If you have a road bike you can specifically purchase trainer tires which feature a heat resistant rubber compound however these tires are not designed for the roads so go for a slick road specific tire like the Vittoria Zafiro tire featured below.
- Fix your wheel inside the frame of the bicycle trainer. The trainer will either have a quick release sliding system you simply push until the clamp locks in place (as found on Tacx trainers) or it will have a screw in system. Always make sure the relevant fixings of the quick release axle fit into their coordinating point on the trainer as this will physically hold you into place safely during your workout.
- Push the resistance unit towards your rear wheel until the roller sits firmly against your slick bicycle tire. The resistance unit usually is adjusted by a screw or paddle system.
- Always text the system before you ride to ensure your rear wheel is locked in place with your trainer. A good measure of this is to stand aid your bike when it is fitted to the trainer and place sideways generous pressure against the saddle fore and aft.
- Attach the resistance lever or console unit (if any) to the handlebars.
- You're ready to ride and use your bike as a stationary bike for cycling workouts at home.
Slick tires for a mountain bike
Cheap slick road tires to use on a bicycle trainer
Cycling Training Rollers Are Great For Pre-Race Warm-Ups
Using your bike as a stationary bike using cycling rollers
Cycling rollers have been around for years and while not as popular as a turbo trainer they offer a significantly different cycling workout which is more structured towards riding technique and balance.
Cycling rollers look completely different to a turbo trainer as the rollers do not attach to the frame. The bike actually sits upon a set of three rollers which are connected by a belt which effectively creates a rolling road for the cyclist to ride upon as shown in the video below.
What to expect from your first time on rollers
What do you think will be best for your needs? Trainer or cycling rollers?
What do you think? We're always looking for your feedback.
Have you ever ridden cycling rollers? Or have you always used a cycle trainer? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Liam Hallam (CyclingFitness on Hubpages)
Tony Capon from Upminster, Essex, United Kingdom on May 24, 2013:
Thanks for the insight Liam. I built my own wheel on this occasion, onto a Power-tap hub with a strong aero ali' Mavic rim and sapim double butted spokes (32). I took plenty of time to get-it-right in all 3 planes as I planned to use the wheel for TT-ing where I didn't want to use a disk. I also use a wheel building methord which, in part, relies upon tuneing the spoke tension by sound (plucking the spokes with a plectrum).
in the winter I tend to use part-worn tyres for the turbo.
Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on May 23, 2013:
Tony- as your tire effectively follows the natural course of the wheel as you ride I would potentially expect any areas which have excessive wear to be out of true. Either the wheel isn't totally round (which is possible) or is out of true.
I've tried a trainer tire although don't have the luxury of a separate wheel or bike for the turbo only so found it to be inappropriate for my uses. It was fine for turbo training although realistically I don't see the need for a specific tire- I found the tire worked but the contact wasn't as secure as a traditional tire on a metal roller from a turbo.
Tony Capon from Upminster, Essex, United Kingdom on May 22, 2013:
A further thought. I've never used a "turbo tyre", instead I have used semi-worn slicks, but I have noticed that the further wear is not uniform around the whole tyre! I just can't figure why not and this happened to a Veloflex Master tyre. Any ideas? Would this happen to a turbo specific tyre?
Tony Capon from Upminster, Essex, United Kingdom on May 22, 2013:
Hello Liam. I use a Turbo, but I don't love it!
PS. I kept my old Turbo stand (minus the turbo unit). It makes a good bike stand for maintenance.
Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on May 22, 2013:
Thanks Dan- it's often difficult for beginners to decipher between the two. Before Christmas I had a work colleague telling me her partner wanted a set of 'rollers' so I leant him some to try out. When I took them into work the response was 'what are they! They're not what he was looking at!' Turns out he'd wanted a trainer! He tried the rollers but couldn't get on with them which is a common issue amongst beginners who often don't have the specific balance.
Dan Human from Niagara Falls, NY on May 22, 2013:
Ahh, so that is the difference between a roller and bike trainer. I started researching this earlier this year because I was planning on using one of my bikes as a stationary bike in the basement. Then I inherited an old exercise bike that someone was getting rid of. It isn't pretty, but it keeps the muscles pumping.
As always - great information here CF.