Guide for using a hybrid bike with a smart trainer


Turbo trainers, including smart trainers, are generally viewed as indoor training devices for road bikes. We have seen them used by pros cyclists on world grand tours, and it’s generally advertised for road cyclists. But does that mean you can’t train indoor with a hybrid bike?

You can train indoor with a hybrid bike by mounting your bike on a smart trainer, as road cyclists do. The shape of the bike won’t affect your training: power is power, heart rate is heart rate, whatever the bike you use.

Let’s see in more detail how you can use your hybrid bike with a turbo trainer. Are there any specific requirements to set it up on a turbo compared to a road bike? You will find all the information you need to train indoor with your hybrid bike in this article.

Can you use a hybrid bike on a turbo trainer?

You can use a hybrid bike on a turbo trainer. With a wheel-on trainer, you will have to make sure to have a smooth tire, like a road bike tire, to put in contact with the roller. With direct drive trainers, you just need to make sure the cassette is compatible with your bike drivetrain.

Hybrid bike on a wheel-on trainer

How does a wheel-on trainer work and how it affects hybrid bikes

Wheel-on turbo trainers are a type of turbo trainer where you directly clamp your bike from the rear axle onto the turbo trainer. Your rear tire will end up pressed against a roller drum. When pedaling, your rear wheel will rotate and make the roller drum spin. This drum is connected to a resistance unit that can be controlled (smart or manual) to increase or reduce the resistance you feel when pedaling.

Hybrid bikes can be mounted on such turbo trainers. But we have seen that the way these smart trainers work is based on transferring resistance between the roller and the tire via friction. It works best when you maximize the surface in contact.

Therefore, a slick tire is ideal to put your bike on the turbo trainer, like a road bike type of tire.

Non-slick tires will make a lot of noise when riding on the turbo, and the power output won’t be accurate at all.

How to check if your tire is compatible

In order to set up your hybrid bike on a smart trainer, you need to check your rear tire.

Hybrid bikes tires generally can be categorized into 3 types of tires: smooth tread, recessed tread, and external tread tires. Smooth tires might be ok for the turbo trainer but the other two types are definitely a no. You will need to buy a new tire.

Hybrid bikes tire types

Which tire should you buy?

You can either buy a road bike tire or a turbo trainer tire. It is best to use a turbo trainer tire but if you have road bike tires available that’s fine too. To find out more about turbo trainer tires, you can check this article I wrote on the topic.

Example of a trainer tire

Hybrid bikes generally come with 700c wheel diameters, like road bikes. The tire width can vary between 28mm and 50mm depending on the frame of your bike and what’s been mounted on it. In comparison, road bike tire width is generally 23mm, 25mm, and some bikes can also accommodate 28mm.

So which tire for your bike?

For a trainer tire:

  • Buy a trainer tire with the same wheel diameter as on your bike.
  • Pick a tire width that’s available (doesn’t matter)
  • Check that your inner tube is still compatible with the new tire width (some can accommodate different size, others are specific to a tire width) -> you might need to buy a new inner tube.

Trainer tires can be easily found in 700×23 and 700×32 for instance. If your hybrid already has 700×32 tires, buy the same dimension, you won’t have to change the inner tube.

For a road bike tire:

Same rules as for a trainer tire except that it is best to go for a tire that can be used easily outside. I would recommend going for a 28mm tire width. This is quite versatile and perfect for a hybrid bike to use on road to commute or go to the market.

I find Continental Gatorskin tires to be very efficient on the turbo trainer. The rubber does not wear very fast on the trainer.

Hybrid bike on a direct-drive trainer

Specificity of direct-drive trainers with regards to hybrid bikes

With direct-drive trainers, you must remove the rear wheel and connect your bike to the trainer like if you were setting it up on a different wheel. Indeed, direct-drive trainers have a cassette on which you connect your bike.

Therefore, to connect your hybrid bike to such turbo trainers, you need to connect it to a cassette.

Example of a cassette on my turbo trainer

Which cassette do you need on your trainer?

I wrote dedicated articles to help you select the right cassette and set it up on your turbo trainer:

All you need to know is that it is best to use the same cassette on your trainer as on your bike, when possible.

Things you need with your smart tra...
Things you need with your smart trainer

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