You can pay thousands of dollars to buy an exercise bike like those at the gym. For a cheaper, more flexible alternative, buy a stationary resistance trainer on which to mount your road bike. Resistance trainers lack an exercycle's electronic bells and whistles, but they can deliver a full range of training loads, whether you are Lance Armstrong-lite or just pedal to keep fit. Set-up and use are uncomplicated, and it's easy to decouple your bike from the trainer when you want to hit the road again.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Stationary bike trainer
- Climbing block
- Floor mat
- Bicycle pump
- Bike computer
- All-in-one bicycle tool
- Bike thong
Learn about the six types of resistance bike trainers: wind, mag, magneto, fluid, cetrifugal force and electronic. (See “How to Buy a Cycle Trainer” in Resources.) Each offers specific features and levels of resistance, so honestly assess your own exercise needs and abilities to find the best match.
Buy one of the many brands of resistance trainers on the market to suit your training needs and budget. You will also need a climbing block and a floor mat to protect your floor, reduce noise and keep the set-up from shifting during use.
Spread the mat in a suitable, roomy, well-ventilated space; set your trainer and climbing block on it.
Remove your bike's rear-wheel skewer and replace it with the manufacturer-supplied or -recommended skewer, if any.
Loosen the trainer's axle cones and resistance unit knob to allow enough clearance for the rear wheel. Place rear wheel of the bike between the axle cones and tighten both axle cones evenly until the bike is secure in the trainer frame.
Tighten the resistance unit knob until it's hand-tight and does not slip on the resistance unit. Make sure your tires are properly inflated for best performance and minimal tire wear.
To adjust ride height on a trainer with built-in height adjustment, turn the front leg knobs evenly to get the rear wheel to the desired height. A low ride height (as low as 1/4 inch) is best for stability and overall feel. Make sure the rear wheel does not touch the floor mat when you sit on the bike.
Set the bike's front wheel in the climbing block to level out the bike or elevate the front. Stack up more climbing blocks to simulate steeper uphill climbs.
Attach a bike thong (aka "sweat net") to the frame to prevent sweat from dripping on and damaging your bike's finish and mechanical parts. Draping a towel over the frame also works.
Attach a bike computer to the bike's handlebars to track your distance, mileage, speed, elapsed time, pedal revolutions, etc. Some models will even let you track your heart rate and calculate calories burnt.
Mount up to try out your new set-up, make any adjustments, and then get going!
Tips and warnings
- Keep your tires properly inflated for the right "road feel" and to keep tires from wearing out prematurely.
- As with any bike, keep your chain, derailleur, freewheel cogs and chain rings clean.
- When mounting your bike in the trainer, be sure to follow the instructions that came with your kit.
- Be sure your bicycle is securely mounted in the stationary trainer before each use. To do otherwise can result in serious injury to you or to bystanders.
- Until you test out the stability of your new converted indoor bike, make sure breakable items are not in range of a tip-over.
- Avoid bike rollers, another type of bike converter, if you want a stable exercise platform. They are difficult to control the bike on and can be dangerous to all but expert cyclists.
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