If you own a wheel-on bike trainer or are looking to buy one, you probably wonder whether it can damage your tire and if you need to buy a specific bike trainer tire.
On-wheel bike trainers will damage your bike tire. It will flatten the tire due to the friction between the tire and the roller. You can avoid this by using specific bike trainer tires. You can still opt to keep your bike tire as long as you inspect it before cycling outside.
I started my indoor cycling journey with a wheel-on bike trainer a few years ago. I was alternating indoor and outdoor rides and noticed faster wear on the tire than usual. I did some research on the topic and used the experience from my fellow cyclist/triathletes friends to understand why. Let’s see in detail what I learned about bike trainers and tires.
Do bike trainer damage your tires?
Wheel-on bike trainers do damage your tires since the rear wheel is in contact with a roller at all times. As you pedal, the wheel will press against the roller and will drive it. The resistance transmitted by the roller to the tire will generate loads of friction and heat. This causes wear and thermal abuse to the tire.
Focus on the wear
The wear from the turbo trainer is not localized in the same area as the wear from riding outdoors. The wear on the turbo will tend to make your tire look flatter. It happens at the center of the tire and can be quite large. While outdoor wear is thin in the center and generally appears more on the tire sidewalls (from when you turn).
Focus on the thermal abuse
Some people also mention having issues with tire deformation or even getting black rubber residues on the roller. Hopefully, this is not very common but the heat generated by the rubbing between the tire and the roller could cause it.
If you are pushing really high watts there is a higher chance this can happen. It seems that people doing tough workouts are having more issues with it. But it depends also a lot on your tire (they are different in terms of rubber resistance to friction). And it is best to have the roller pressed hard against the tire to reduce the risk of this happening.
How fast does the tire wear on a bike trainer?
We have seen that an on-wheel turbo trainer will damage your tires. But is this really an issue? As a general rule, the tire will wear at least two times faster on a bike trainer compared to outdoor use.
The rate at which the wear develops on the tire depends on:
- the model of tire you use (the strength rubber can vary a lot)
- the model of turbo trainer you own
- the time you spend cycling indoors
The tire is actually a very important factor: expensive tires designed for racing will usually have a compound that is very elastic. This means the rubber will deform more easily to adapt to the road. These types of tires will wear much faster on bike trainers.
What are the benefits of a bike trainer tire?
- More durable
- Stronger (less prone to wear)
- Heat dispersion
- Heat resistance
- Noise reduction
Do you need a bike trainer tire?
It is not necessary to use a bike trainer tire. It depends a lot on your usage of the bike trainer. If your bike stays indoors for the entire winter, it makes sense to use a bike trainer tire. But if you still ride outdoors from time to time it is not very practical.
Changing a tire can be quite time-consuming. There is a chance you will damage your inner tube in the process. And bike trainer tires can be quite hard to fit on the wheel. Harder than normal tires. So it’s best if you only have to do it once (or once a year).
So let’s summarise:
Case 1: Your bike is staying on the trainer for a few months
Whether your bike is dedicated to the turbo trainer or you are not riding outdoors in the winter, this means your bike is staying for a few months in a row on the turbo trainer. And that’s great because it’s perfect to use the trainer in the best condition. Go buy a bike trainer tire if you are in this case! It’s quite cheap and you won’t regret it! And you only need to fit it once (a year). Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Home Trainer Tire does the job very well.
Case 2: You are using your bike both indoors and outdoors regularly
If you cannot leave your bike for a long period of time on the bike trainer, then it is complicated to go for a bike trainer tire, unless you have a spare wheel (see next section for more info). As you cannot ride outdoors on a turbo trainer tire – this would be very dangerous!! – your best option is to keep a normal tire on your back wheel.
The Gatorskin Conti is an all-year-round tire, very strong, which does not wear very fast even on bike trainers. I think it is a good compromise if you wish to use your bike both indoors and outdoors in the winter. On the trainer, you need the tire pressure to be at 100psi.
But don’t forget to check the wear on the tire before heading out for a ride! Finding out by falling at the first curve won’t be fun! And remember to clean your tire before putting the bike back on the trainer every single time. Dirt can damage the barrel of your trainer.
Should you get a spare wheel dedicated to your trainer?
If you intend to use your bike trainer regularly and can’t afford to leave your bike at all times on the trainer, the best solution is to have a spare wheel with a bike trainer tire on it.
This is the most expensive option but it can really be worth it. You don’t need to buy an expensive wheel. Remember you will also need a cassette on the extra wheel. It is best to have the same one as on your bike to have the same feeling when riding indoors (same gear ratios).
In comparison with trying to change a tire, switching a wheel every time you go out for a ride is very simple to do. Effortless! Plus it’s a great practice if you are not good at it 😉
When should you replace your trainer tire?
If you decided to use a bike trainer-specific tire for your indoor cycling, you will notice that it will age: it can crack, it can bubble and it can even explode. It won’t last forever. So when should you replace it?
You can use your bike trainer tire even with the cracks appearing. That’s not a problem. The issue is when it starts bubbling and explode. This is quite scary if it happens while you are riding. But it won’t harm you or your bike.
The recommendation for trainer tires is to check them regularly and replace them when you notice some bubbles appearing on the rubber.