Can You Use A Bike Trainer With A Mountain Bike? | PedalChef

Cold winters can make it hard to go mountain biking as much as you’d like, but what if you could bike inside? Can you use a bike trainer with a mountain bike?

Mountain biking is an exciting and entertaining way to get exercise any time of year. Still, if you live in a place with extra cold winters, all of your favorite trails will most likely be covered in snow, making them difficult, if not impossible, to ride on. So will you simply need to accept that you won’t be touching your bike until the spring comes again, or can a bike trainer allow you to use your mountain bike even in the coldest of winters?

Despite what you might think, not only can you use a bike trainer with your mountain bike, but it is simple and easy to set them up and a great way to keep yourself in shape until you can take your bike out on your favorite trails again.

Though nothing can match the feeling of cruising down a trail and feeling the fresh air hit your face, bike trainers are a great way to keep yourself on your bike, even if the conditions outside aren’t ideal. But are mountain bikes compatible with all different types of bike trainers? What different types of bike trainers are there anyway?

Growing up in Denver, I loved going into the mountains and biking all summer long, but winters filled with heavy snow always prevented me from biking as much as I would have liked. Unfortunately, it took me until I was an adult to realize that I could still get up and exercise on my mountain bike throughout the winter months, so I hope my experience can save you a lot of time and get you riding your bike all year round.



Different Types Of Bike Trainers

Essentially there are two different kinds of bike trainers, excluding stationary bikes,  that you can purchase. They are rollers and stationary trainers, and luckily mountain bikes are compatible with both.


Rollers are the oldest type of bike trainer. They basically only consist of three cylindrical rollers held together by a frame. They’re small and light, so they can be easily stored and transported, and they offer a more realistic ride than stationary trainers do. They are also no compatibility issues because you don’t need to physically connect the bike to the trainer.

Now, this sounds like a great advantage, and it can be. However, getting the hang of balancing the bike on the rollers so that you don’t steer or fall off can be difficult, especially at first. Because of this, I would recommend setting up and trying the rollers outside first so that you don’t do any damage to the inside of your house. At the very least, setting the rollers up in a doorway can help you maintain balance as you continue to practice.

That being said, despite the more realistic ride, the steep learning curve partnered with the potential for injury or damage to your home makes stationary trainers the superior option if you want to bike at home.

Stationary Trainers

Stationary trainers are exactly what they sound like. They keep the bike in a stationary position and allow you to pedal without any threat of falling or riding off. Most stationary trainers are compatible with most mountain bikes, but because the bike needs to be physically attached, you’ll want to make sure that everything is the right size and compatible first.

There are basically two types of stationary trainers, the difference being the way in which the bike is attached. Rear-wheel mounted trainers are exactly what they sound like. These trainers attach to the rear axle of your bike and allow you to save time and energy by not forcing you to remove and reattach your rear wheel over and over again.

However, it is important to note that you’ll need to be aware of the clearance specifications of the trainer you plan to buy, specifically for tire width and wheel size. After all, you don’t want to order a new bike trainer only for you to realize that your tires are too wide upon arrival. You can do this by contacting the manufacturer or simply going to their website.

Direct drive trainers, on the other hand, require you to remove the rear wheel because the trainer essentially takes its place. Once your wheel is removed, your bike's chain will drive a cassette that's connected to the trainer itself. Most mountain bikes are compatible with these as well. However, it is important to make sure that you have the proper adapters and that the trainer’s cassette is compatible with your bike's drivetrain.

Though they require a bit more work to set up and are usually a bit more expensive, direct-drive trainers offer a more realistic ride than their rear-wheel-mounted counterparts. Either way, as long as you know what to look for, you should be able to find a bike trainer that fits your mountain bike quickly and easily.

How To Make Biking Inside More Fun

It's not a secret that using a bike trainer is not nearly as fun as being outside on the trail. It is simply an alternative option if you are unable to go bike riding outside. Nevertheless, despite the fact that some people may find the prospect of biking inside to be boring, it can actually be a lot more fun than you think. In fact, if you know what you’re doing, you may even end up preferring to stay inside when the weather is too hot or cold.

Many stationary trainers are smart trainers. This means that they can connect to different third-party apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad. If you haven’t tried any of these apps out yet, I highly recommend them.

Zwift is my favorite of the bunch. By connecting your Zwift-enabled device to a smart trainer, you can ride through and explore beautiful virtual worlds either by yourself or with friends and other like-minded cyclists from all over the globe.

It doesn’t stop there either. Besides being able to ride through virtual environments, there is a great social aspect with the app that allows you to feel a little less like you’re riding a stationary bike at home by yourself. There are races, group rides, and organized workouts that happen all the time, so whether you want friendly competition or just another cyclist to keep you company along the way, there is no shortness of fun and exciting things to do with Zwift.

Once connected to your smart trainer, you’ll even be able to feel like you’re riding through the virtual worlds you see on screen, as the smart trainer can apply resistance depending on the terrain you’re supposed to be riding through. This allows for an incredibly varied and immersive experience that is about as close to riding outside with your friends as possible without actually doing so. In the end, there’s no doubt that smart trainers offer the best deal regarding affordability and immersion.