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Can I use a Mountain Bike on a Turbo Trainer?

Can I use a Mountain Bike on a Turbo Trainer?

Cycling itself is a fun activity, and mountain biking provides both fun and adventure. But sometimes, we can’t go into the hills and enjoy an adventurous ride because of many different reasons. A turbo trainer is a replacement in situations like these and a great way to practice at home. However, if you haven’t used a mountain bike on a turbo trainer before, consider these tips so that you have the best times indoors.

Short answer: Yes, you can. But you will need a trainer that fits the specs of your bicycle. Many trainers are flexible and can fit many different types of bikes but with high adjustability, comes a high price. Make sure you do your research before buying a trainer and see if the specs fit with the bike that you want to use on it and if it is suitable for the purpose you want to use the trainer for.

What is a Turbo Trainer?

Turbo trainers are static devices that let you attach your bike to them and then pedal on the spot. They are a sort of treadmill for bicycles. The basic ones are inexpensive and technically, that is all you need. It clamps on a rear axle and the tyre spins on a drum.

However, there is no limit to how much you want to spend to make your experience enjoyable and immersive on a turbo trainer. You can get the most expensive turbo trainer costing hundreds of pounds and then add a ton of accessories to it.

The most advanced ones have a lot of features that make the cycling experience as close to the real world as possible. These trainers have resistance mechanisms such as magnets and fluids depending on the budget. Further addition of sensors for information like speed and cadence can be done as well. In short, the more money you spend, the sweeter the experience you get.

Why use it?

There are a few reasons which we think make turbo trainers worth considering.

Training aid

The real purpose of a bike trainer is to provide aid in training. Turbo trainers allow targeted training which helps improve specific areas of your fitness and performance. They allow intense routines without having to worry about interference from traffic, junctions, etc. that you normally encounter on the roads.

Staying Safe

While mountain biking is fun providing you with an adrenaline rush from time to time, there is always a risk of injuries. Let’s say you have a race coming up and you want to practice hard for it without the risk of an injury that might stop you from participating in the race. A turbo trainer would be a viable alternative in a situation like this.

Pre-race Warm-up

Turbo trainers are a great way to have a pre-race warm-up. If you are participating in a competitive race, you don’t have to waste your time going for a warm-up somewhere and then coming back. You just hop on a turbo trainer and start your warm-up session.

Bad Weather

Sometimes, there is heavy rain or snow on the mountain hills making them either closed for activities or unsafe to cycle through. But that might be interrupting the flow of your practice or being an obstacle in fulfilling your urge to cycle in the mountains. This is where a bike trainer is a great alternative.

Types of Turbo Trainers

When you go out to buy a turbo trainer for yourself, you will come across different types of trainers that may get you confused about the one you should be buying if you don’t have any prior knowledge about what options are available on the market. Here is a general categorization of the types of turbo trainers you will come across when you go out to buy one:

Rear-Wheel Attachment Trainers

In these types of trainers, a screw goes through the rear wheel of your bike and is pressed against a cylinder which provides resistance to the wheel. The resistance can be magnetic or using a fluid depending on the budget. There are many variations of these trainers. The fluid ones are expensive and provide a more realistic experience increasing the resistance as you pedal harder.


In direct-drive or smart trainers, you remove the rear wheel and mount the bike onto the chassis of the trainer. These trainers are becoming increasingly popular. With these trainers, the biggest advantage you have is that the tyres of your cycle won’t wear out.

Furthermore, they are better than regular wheel-on trainers. They provide a more realistic pedalling feel, power accuracy, and stability. But, of course, all these features come at a price which makes these trainers more expensive than the others.


These trainers use cylinders or drums. One sits under the front wheel and the two around the rear wheel making them the simplest form of trainers. They provide the most realistic feel as you also have to balance the bike by yourself.

However, they are hard to handle and can cause you to have a brutal crash if you are not careful with them. There are plenty of videos online to testify this. We laugh at these videos usually, but they provide a valuable lesson on how not to use rollers. They are more suitable for advanced users.

What Trainer should you use for MTB?

The good news is that trainers from cheapest to the most expensive can be used with mountain bikes. Even though the direct drive is expensive, it is the easiest with many providing a range of axle options suitable for most mountain bikes. It saves swapping tyres as well.

If you are using a basic wheel-on trainer, you should change the rear tyre from knobbly to slick. You can use an old wheel with a slick tyre for indoor sessions. While any slick tyre will do, turbo-specific tyres make less noise and last longer making them a smart investment. A second-hand setup can be much better than some expensive ones in some cases if you know what you are doing.

Accessory Requirement

Once on the trainer, all you have to do is pedal. Looking at a wall constantly while riding can be boring. You can add a screen to your setup, a stereo, or headphones to add some music or podcasts to avoid boredom.

Many apps can provide information about your riding style informing you about speed, power, and areas to improve. Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, Sufferfest, Bkool, and FullGaze are a few examples of popular training apps. They can be used with phones, tablets, or PCs. They may sound gimmicky but they keep you engaged and make training fun.

You may also want thru-axle adapters. They come with trainers but you may have to get one if it is not compatible with your bike. Furthermore, wheel blocks can simulate hills and different bike geometry. They are elevated platforms with slits for the front wheel that allow riding through different terrains.

Use training mats because trainers vibrate and make a lot of noise. Mats absorb that noise making the trainer much quieter and allowing you some peace throughout the session. They also catch sweat instead of letting it drip on the floor providing you with easy cleanup.

Full-Suspension or Hard Tail?

There is no point in using a full-suspension on a trainer because there won’t be any hard terrain. A hard-tail is more preferred on a trainer. It is more rigid allowing for smooth pedalling. A full-suspension bounces slightly.

However, if there is only full suspension, then you can lock up the suspension on the trainer to have smooth pedalling. The advantage of this is that more power will be transferred to the pedals instead of dissipating in the suspension. But since you will ride with a full-suspension on the trail, it will give you a more realistic feeling on the trainer.

Can I use a Mountain Bike on a Turbo Trainer?