Today’s questions are about how to place your rear wheel on rollers and stationary trainers so your tires don’t wear out…

Need to know whats the distance or how the back wheel should be placed on a roller? Because the way I have now it’s wearing my back tire, thanks

Hi I have a roller but it uses up my rear wheel pretty much, could it be the the two back rollers are too far apart? Is there a way to place the to back rollers for a better ride? please help

Riding indoors – whether on rollers or a stationary trainer – can destroy your bike tires in short order. That’s a sad life for nice tires.

Let’s talk about proper tire choice and placement/setup so you’re not wasting money.

Why Do Tires Wear Faster When Riding Indoors?

First, we need to see what the problem is. Why would a tire wear out faster from riding indoors?

Here are a few reasons why:

  • All the pressure is in one small spot.
  • Trainers produce a lot of heat buildup.
  • It’s easy to forget to inflate your tires.

When you lock your wheel into the trainer, there’s concentrated pressure from the little roller. It’s pressing on one little spot.

And even if you’re riding rollers, the tire usually stays upright, so all the wear is directly on the center of the tread. (You’re not weaving around or cornering like you’d do outdoors.) This makes it visible faster; there’s going to be a noticeable flat spot.

Plus, a lot of heat builds up in the trainer and dissipates into your tire. That makes your tire wear quicker.

Finally, you might not pay as close attention to proper tire pressure. Think about it. If you’re going out for a ride, you probably top off your tires before leaving the house. But if you’re just hopping on your bike on the trainer, will you check to make sure your tires are at the right pressure?

Tire Placement on Rollers

When it comes to setting up rollers, you can’t really change the back wheel position. On all the rollers I know of, the back two drums are set in place.

You can’t change the back drums, and there is no need to mess with them unless your rollers are defective. Your wheel is a circle and will naturally center itself between the two drums.

Keep reading for more tips…

Tire Placement on a Stationary Trainer

Stationary trainers are known for eating away at rear tires because of the pressure used to press it against the drum. Since the bike doesn’t move or lean like it would outdoors, all this pressure is concentrated on a very small portion of the tire’s tread, leading to a worn out tire.

You can’t completely avoid this, but setting up the trainer properly will help maximize tire life and riding comfort.

First, make sure things are clean. Wipe down the roller surface using isopropyl alcohol. Wipe down your tires, too, if they’re dirty.

Second, inflate the tire to a suitable pressure. This varies depending on the tire. A good rule of thumb is to use the same as what you’d use out on the road.

Third, tighten down the roller.

Typically you tighten things down until the roller is just tight enough on the tire that it doesn’t skip when you ride. It should be no tighter than is necessary.

Start out by tightening it down some, just until the drum touches the tire. Then give the tire a quick tug and see if it slips. You should pull in the direction of rotation, i.e. up and back when pulling from behind. If the tire slips, tighten a bit more.

Once the wheel no longer slips when yanked by hand, get on the bike and ride. If the wheel skips, tighten the knob a bit more. Repeat as necessary.

Lastly, after your workout, loosen the drum so it’s not pressed against the tire. If you leave it tightened down when not in use, the tire will develop a flat spot and will ride terribly.

The Best Tires for Indoor Training

You’re going to get tire wear. That’s the nature of the beast known as the indoor trainer. If you’re using a lightweight, expensive tire on your indoor trainer, that’s a bad idea! You’ll waste a lot of money!

Your best defense is good tire selection.

You could use cheap, heavy tires – like these ones I paid $5 for – because they’ll be made of really hard, durable rubber. Terrible for twisty roads, but perfect for the stationary trainer.

Did you know they make tires specifically for riding indoors? Yep. You could invest in a Trainer Tire that is made specifically to last long on an indoor trainer.

Which is better?

Cheap tires usually work well, last a long time, and save money.

Dedicated trainer tires are even longer lasting – and quieter. Unfortunately, they are more expensive (about $35), and they can be extremely difficult to mount on your rims. But it’s worth it if you need to keep the noise down.

Pretty much everyone makes trainer tires now: Continental, Tacx, Vittoria, Schwalbe, Kurt Kinetic.

Another cost-saving option is to save your sort of worn out tires for trainer use. If a tire is still usable, but not race-worthy, save it for use on the trainer. As long as it has some rubber left, it should be okay.

Consider a dedicated rear wheel for the trainer.

Especially if you’re using a hard-to-mount trainer tire, consider mounting it on a cheap wheel that can be ready to swap in anytime you hop on the trainer.

Or if you can afford it, get a direct drive bike trainer. You don’t need a rear tire – or a rear wheel at all – for these.

Put these tips into action each time you set up your indoor trainer and you should have less hassle, more comfort, and increased tire life.

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  1. I started using aluminum rollers to ride indoors this winter and noticed streaks left on the tires and black streaks on the rollers. Is this why there ar tires specifically advertised for use with rollers.

    • @Ebron

      I suspect that your tires and rollers could be cleaned and they’d look fine. But yeah, probably easier to use the specific trainer tires.

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