Does a bike trainer damage your bike?

When stuck inside, most riders will look for a good trainer so they can ride indoors. Typically they are looking for a good resistance unit with realistic road feel that’s fairly quiet. And maybe they’ll look for add-ons like virtual reality racing.

But rarely does anyone take the trainer’s clamping mechanism into account. That mechanism is arguably the most important part because that’s what clamps your frame.

So if the trainer will be connecting to your $5000 carbon bike, you do not want to skimp in this area!

See, cheap trainers come with cheap clamps, and cheap clamps have poor designs that damage your bike. By design, the force required to keep your bike in place also happens to be enough force to chip the paint off your frame.

Here’s a picture of my frame’s dropouts after being clamped into a cheap magnetic trainer:

frame paint chipping off

frame paint chipping off

(And yes, I was using the supplied steel QR skewer, and only clamping as hard as necessary.)

The chipped paint was only aesthetic, and it’s barely noticeable, but given the choice – I’d prefer no damage. And who knows what kind of structural damage you could do to a fragile, superlight dropout.

It’s kind of like getting a bike with incorrect cable routing that ends up gouging your fork crown and paint job. Structurally, everything is fine. But the damage is still there and definitely hurts resale value.

To sum things up: Either stick with rollers or buy an expensive trainer, even if you won’t use it often. It only takes one ride on a cheap trainer to damage your frame.

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  1. Some good trainers come with crappy clamps too. Check out the Cycleops recall they had recently.

  2. @B

    Good point. I guess a little paint damage is better than having a clamp that loosens while riding, causing me to fly off the bike and hit the floor.

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