Building/buying a dedicated trainer only bike. How would you design it?

I am seeking to remove the last impediment of biking on the trainer. Attaching and detaching the outdoor bike on the trainer. So I’m looking at buying/building a dedicated trainer only bike to attached to the trainer.

My current trainer is a Tacx Neo 2. I’ve looked at the Smart Bikes, but am reluctant to transition to a Gen 1 Smart Bike. See other threads and the owners FB groups for more details.

Drive Train: My current thoughts are going 1x drive-train to improve simplicity, decrease maintenance, and get rid of the front derailleur. I primarily ride in ERG mode, so gear range doesn’t matter most of the time, but I would like a setup to work for times in Sim mode, (i.e. Zwift races).

For a wide gear range on a 1x setup, I was looking at the Shimano Deore M5100 MTB Cassette (11-51T) [CS-M5100-11], Shimano Deore M5100 MTB Rear Derailleur [RD-M5100-SGS], with a Wolf Tooth Tanpan Shimano 11SPD Inline to use road shifters with mountain bike derailleurs. R7000 Shifters. Front Chainring 1x 48t or higher.

Frame: Similar stack / reach / touch points to my road/gravel bike. I’ll probably look for a used frameset or new frameset. Any pointers on frame materials, Carbon, Aluminium, Steel for a dedicated trainer bike?

Brakes & weight do not matter.

Any other pointers or feedback from others who have done similar builds/buys of a dedicated trainer bike?

I’m in the lucky situation that I was able to buy a new roadbike and re-purpose my old Ti bike as a dedicated trainer bike. Based on this, here is my recommendation:

  • Frame material: do with Ti if you can, and then Aluminum as a 2nd choice. Ti has the advantage that besides incorrect welding, the frame should be impervious. To clean my frame, I just wipe it down with clorox wipes. No paint to chip
  • Match the handlebar and seat you have on your primary bike. This is really key to making your trainer bike feel like your primary bike
  • If you are just going to use it for erg mode, than 1x is fine. If you are planning on doing any decent amount of Zwift riding, I would go with 2x setup
  • You don’t need to be too worried about stack / reach, so long as the trainer bike is the same size or smaller than your main bike. If it’s a dedicated trainer bike, who cares if you have a 130 stem with 50mm of spaces? Handling isn’t an issue
  • If I could, I would go with thru-axle over quick release. This is a really minor point. My rationale is that the thru-axle will provide a better (slightly) connection to the trainer

Cheers

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I don’t have a dedicated trainer bike, but went 1x on both of my road bikes almost 2 years ago. Front chainrings are 48s (used to be 46) and outdoors I use 11-36 cassettes. Indoors I have been using a 12-28 I think. I run trainer difficulty around 35-40% in Zwift and sometimes thinking about lower gearing or reducing difficulty only on the power line climb. The nice thing is if you don’t get the gearing low enough you can always adjust trainer difficulty until you’re good. I don’t think I’ve felt the need for anything higher than the 48x12 and probably don’t hit that too often.

For frame material, probably not steel just from sweat corrosion. I’d probably just go with what is cheaper because you don’t have to worry about harshness from outside riding. If you can get a frame with the same geometry as your outside bike, that would make it easier to match up the positions.

I second titanium, it should handle the stress and sweat of indoor trainer duty better than any other frame material. If you want to do it on the cheap, look into a used Motobecane Ti Le Champion. Decent quality, poor resale value. Makes for a great dedicated trainer bike.

I’d stick with a 2x. The expanded gearing is nice to have if you get into something like Zwift or Rouvy. Keeping it well adjusted should be a little easier indoors as well. And it’s not like you benefit from the weight savings of a 1x on an indoor ride anyway.

For bars and stem, either stick with lower end 6061 Aluminum or go all out with a nice ergonomically shaped carbon setup. And if you do stick to aluminum, make sure to inspect under the bar tape every few months.

IMHO you are overthinking and overcomplicating this.

I’d get a cheap second-hand bike that fits you like a glove, that resembles the geometry of your primary bike and still adheres to modern standards (for the BB and so forth). Most likely that means you’ll get an aluminum frame, but frame material is secondary. A CAAD10 would fit the bill, for example. I wouldn’t worry about 1x vs. 2x, you can convert any 2x to a 1x if need be, but on a smart trainer you will most likely just pick one gear and perhaps shift up and down a little if you want to vary the cadence quickly. Likewise, wide-range cassette is completely unnecessary on a smart trainer — unless you want to use it for Zwift as well. But if you did, a wide-range MTB cassette will give you a decidedly different feel.

By the way, you write road/gravel bike, are you talking about two different bikes here or do you have one bike that fulfills both roles?

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Listen to OreoCookie - don’t overthink the dedicated trainer bike

Have a good mechanically working drive train - seat - and something to hold on to - spend the rest of your hard earned money on your outdoors bikes

Mine is a early 2000’s Giant TCR beat up carbon frame - no brakes, Ultegra 6700 drive train (brifters, front and rear derailleurs, chain and crankset) and some old handle bars with pink bar tape as that was cheap

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Good point, a well-working drive train is of course part of the equation. 10-speed, 11-speed, doesn’t matter, as long as it is working reliably.

Also, I wax my chain. While this makes the drive train a bit chattier, it is perfectly clean and AFAIK lowers wear on your drivetrain components.

Yup, that’s exactly what I had in mind, too.

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I put my old HT MTB on the trainer a while back. I also now wax my chain.
I have made sure the seat height matches my road bike and the reach to the centre portion of the bars is similar so the saddle to bar drop is the same. I use ERG mode all the time and when my road bike was on I always used the small ring.
@OreoCookie and @MikeMckinney are spot on. You need something that works well enough and gets you into the same/similar position…

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Hi My Pennies worth.
I had an old Carbon fiber bike (Old Focus) , X2 chain ring 50/36. I do most of my training in ERG mode, So I use the 36 ring and sit in the Mid rear sprocket that keeps the chain fairly aligned. Normal maintenance of the drive chain , some dry lub and clean as it looks like it needs it.
Static training i find, my Butt takes it a bit more , i use the same make of saddle , but Fizik make a version of the saddle with 20mm extra padding, that helps me.
Hand hold position , i added an extra padding on the bars.
I Put grease on all the Bolts to protect from sweat, I also wipe down after every workout, sounds excessive. Your Bike will likely sit indoors and its warm humid atmosphere , so sweat and warm conditions will corrode stuff quickly.

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If you have two similar bikes, do most people keep one dedicated to the trainer? The perfectionist in me says to ride your primary bike on the trainer as well so you’re training to do work in the proper position/geometry. I can ride my old bike on the trainer, but think I need to adjust to the new bike and the trainer seems a good way to do that… just curious here. May sell my old bike, or may just mount it on the trainer.

I’ll echo most sentiments, but someone said something along the lines of not worrying about handling so a super long stem, etc doesn’t matter.

Totally true, but if it were me I’d try to get something as close as possible to your outside bike, so if it’s ever in the shop you can take the trainer bike, put on the right tires and keep riding.

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I agree - that’s why I’m hoping the gen 2 wattbike atom gets some good reviews.

Although I’ve ended up with a spare cracked carbon frame that I’ve kept hold of because it would be ok to re-purpose as a trainer-only setup.

I was thinking going for a 1x group because even on zwift you don’t need a massive range due to being able to set the trainer difficulty to 50%. Probably get a long cage rear mech though.

Carbon bars might be a good idea as aluminium doesn’t like sweat.

I’d go 2x for riding in zwift, I don’t like big gear jumps though, it’s kind of a preference thing too. I actually have 3x10 on my bike so I don’t need to change the trainer difficulty in zwift.

I’d run cheaper shifters than 105, like 2x10 tiagra will get you the same range as a 11 speed 1x, but closer steps. Cheaper chains and cassettes too. 3x8 or 3x9 is even cheaper to run long term, almost doesn’t make sense to clean or wax 8 speed chains they are so cheap.

I’m putting together a trainer bike around an frame with a small crack in the chainstay. Have a similar saddle and bars to my main bike, just don’t have brakes on the frame. It’s a carbon frame so I don’t worry about sweat corrosion or anything like that. Seatpost is well lubricated. I don’t tape my handlebars since it seems that is where the most corrosion happens, and unwrapped it’s easy to wipe down when finished. I just drape a towel over the bars when I ride and find its more than comfortable enough. I throw it in the wash every few rides. I have one of those thong shaped things to cover the stem and top tube. Another towel on the floor too, keeps everything pretty clean.

good idea - hadn’t thought of doing that. Easy to wipe clean afterwards.

Thanks everyone for the great feedback and ideas. Lots of good insights.

As @OreoCookie said.

I went on ebay and bought a CAAD 8 with a Sora group set.

I had done a previous professional bike fit for my road bike. Went to the same guy to adjust for a slightly more forgiving position.

All together £250.

With the saved money buy an extra fan - you don’t know yet that you need one more… until you try it! There is no such thing as too many fans

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I don’t have a lot to contribute to this because my dedicated trainer bike is just my old road bike, but…

Use wax instead of chain lube! If that bike never leaves the trainer the wax lasts a long time, it’s quiet, and it’s completely clean to the touch.

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Agree 1000000% - but do need a dust buster to sweep up the wax flakes :slight_smile:

I used to like in Ireland and it was quite normal to have a winter bike. I used to leave that on the trainer in summer. Now I’ve moved to New Jersey I don’t ride in the really cold weather and the bike lives on the trainer year round.

I recently removed the wheels, brakes, old campag group set kit and sold it all so I could buy a new 105 crank. All I have now for the trainer is the most basic bike:

  • 105 front crank (new)
  • no front derailleur
  • cheapest front wheel ever
  • chain (new)
  • 105 brifters (take off a gravel bike)
  • no brakes

All this sits on the wahoo kickr and I use trainer road in erg mode. If I want to get into other platforms I’ll just buy the front derailleur.

It seems a bit stupid to have a dedicated bike but honestly I find it totally convenient. The geometry is different but I have different bikes which are all different anyway. As other have said the contact points matter.

Don’t sweat the details - find a good second hand bike or buy what you can afford and ride. If money is no object - get a custom made Ti frame but remember your next race bike will have a different geometry anyway.

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Another vote for just buying a cheap used bike with similar geometry. I bought an aluminum bike and set it up like my primary bike. That way you can use it as a backup or rain bike if needed.

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