Trainer Tech - Your Questions Answered

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I've had several people contact to ask for more information about my "trainer" and how it works. I guess that I take the idea of it for granted - I just assume that folks know what I'm talking about and how it works. Since trainer season is nearly over (it was 70F this weekend, although incredibly windy - steady wind speeds of 25mph and gusts up to 35mph), it may be time for a little "Trainer 101."

There are two basic "styles" of trainers - stationary and rollers. A roller is quite an animal - there's nothing to stabilize the bike as it essentially sits on "canisters" that roll as you pedal. Here's an example of a typical roller:


Rollers typically don't offer any type of resistance, although you do have to pedal like a madman to stay upright. Lose your concentration for a moment or two and you could tip over. Rollers are also quite large and heavy.

So, rollers are a nice training tool, but for most folks, they aren't incredibly practical. As mentioned earlier, the other type of trainer is a "stationary" trainer - and that's what I have.

A stationary trainer attaches to the rear skewer (or "axle" if you will) of the bike; the tire then rolls against a metal cylinder that's attached to some type of resistance "motor." The motor can offer resistance via a magnet, fluid, or a fan assembly.

Here's what my stationary trainer looks like:


As you can see, the trainer has stabilizing legs that jut out on either side. This provides stability so that the bike won't tip while riding. You can also see that the rear wheel is held in place by two spindles. Here's a close-up of how the spindles attach to the rear skewers:


The spindles are adjustable so as to accommodate bikes of various widths. You adjust the spindles so that the bike doesn't rock or have any lateral movement - you really crank them down.

With the bike secured in the trainer via the skewer/axle/spindles, the next step is to bring the resistance cylinder into contact with the rear wheel. The motor is on a spring-loaded hinge-like device, and by turning a large screw assembly, you can bring the cylinder and motor into contact with the rear tire as shown here:


The goal is to set the tension so that the tire doesn't slip or slide on the cylinder, but at the same time, you don't want so much tension that the tire overheats. There are special trainer tires that resist the higher temperatures that come with trainer use, but they're pricey, and you can't use them on the road.

As I mentioned earlier, there are typically three types of motors: magnetic, fan, and fluid. My trainer uses a fluid/magnetic motor, which consists of a series of magnets that are attached to an impeller that spins inside of a fluid. The fluid helps cool and quiet the motor and also adds resistance.

As I pedal faster, the resistance increases; as I shift up into a higher gear, the resistance increases. So, if I attempt to maintain a 20mph pace in say a high gear, the motor will offer a significant amount of resistance. Believe me when I say that 20mph on the trainer requires some effort.

The beauty of the fluid/magnetic trainer is that it's quiet, offers realistic resistance, spools up nicely (accelerates), and allows for some coasting. Part of the reason for these benefits is thanks to the flywheel, as shown here:


Put it all together, and you get a "treadmill" for the bike. While it's not a perfect solution, it does offer the opportunity for me to ride when the weather might otherwise prevent an outdoors ride (i.e. during the winter or when it's raining too hard). At the very least, it keeps the legs moving.

Here's the whole set-up, complete with a "climbing block" which you can see under the front wheel - it levels the bike when it's in the trainer.


So there you have it. I probably didn't do a super great job of describing how it all works, but you should get a general idea of how it all works. I can't wait for the weather to come around a bit - I'd love to get out on the road and ride "for real" - it's been far too long.


love the blog!!! You look great and have done incredible for yourself!! It's reunion time... can you believe it?? Would love to reconnect and see you there if it fits your schedule! Please send your details (address at least) to ...

postive thoughts and hugs... Jan

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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on April 5, 2010 10:04 PM.

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