How to Set Up a Bike Trainer Space in Your Home

A dedicated indoor trainer setup will make your Zwifting infinitely more fun - and more bearable. Set up your paincave like this.

By Molly Hurford |

If one of your goals is escaping the colder months with enough fitness to make spring fun, setting up a bike trainer in a more permanent spot and creating an optimal habitat for your indoor cycling may be one little trick to stay consistent with your workouts.

Why? Taking your bike on and off the trainer, positioning it perfectly in front of the TV every time you go to start a ride, and staging everything you need (fan, towel, floor mat, and more) is time consuming and tedious. And it might make you skip your workout altogether because the setup is just too much trouble.

Photo: Emily Maye

So, how do you take a small corner of your home and turn it into a training paradise? We’ve got you covered. Here are our top tips on how to set up a bike trainer and other key gear, to help you create a perfectly dialled indoor cycling studio.

Claim Your Space

First, designate a trainer area in the house. You need a space that’s at least four-feet wide and eight feet long (about the size of a twin bed, or a single if you’re in really tight quarters) in order to have room for your trainer and accessories. The space should have a hard, level floor and nearby outlet if you plan on plugging in a TV, computer, fan, or your smart-trainer, and if possible, look for a spot near a window for easy temperature regulation.

Lastly, consider noise and what’s going on in your house during your standard training time. Are your kids going to be running around the room? Is your partner usually sleeping? (You may want to position your trainer far from sleeping quarters so that you can pump up the jams when needed.)

Get the Gear

Once you find the right spot, the next step is to get all the gear situated. Chances are you already have most of it, but here’s a quick rundown of what you need and where to put it.

Bike: The key to a happy trainer setup is a proper bike fit. When you ride outside, you’re dynamic enough that you can hide a lot of minor discomforts, but on a trainer, a slightly high seat post, handlebars that are tilted just a few degrees down, or a seat that’s jammed a centimetre too far back can make 60 minutes feel like pure hell. If your bike feels great, fantastic. If it doesn’t, consider splurging on a bike fit before you start adding up too many hours indoors, otherwise you may end up with injuries or saddle sores.

Trainer: Obviously, the trainer and bike are the two non-negotiable pieces of gear you’ll need for your indoor cycling studio setup, and the possibilities are endless. You can spend a couple of grand for a basic model, or spend 50k or more for one that will do everything but pedal for you. There are two basic types of bike trainers (apart from rollers, which we discuss below): direct-drive and friction.

  • Most friction bike trainers attach to your bike via the rear quick release (or thru axle) skewer. You may need to get a compatible skewer to obtain the best fit, though some trainers come with one. These trainers can be adjusted to securely hold the bike in place on each side of the skewer. The rear wheel sits against a small roller, which can also be adjusted to sit closer to or further from the wheel.
  • With direct-drive trainers, you remove the rear wheel and mount the chain onto the cassette that’s on the trainer. Make sure the trainer is compatible with your bike’s existing cassette (this is a more likely issue for older bikes), or you may need to do some cassette swapping, along with finding the right size spacer to offset the difference.
  • Another alternative is opting for rollers. You simply set your bike on top and go—but it takes some skill and good balance to stay upright.

Block: You can use a thick textbook (The Lore Of Running is the perfect thickness, just saying…) to prop up your front wheel, but a) that will throw off the feng shui of your setup, and b) your front wheel could damage the book or slip and slide if the cover is glossy. Spend a few bucks for a block that’s built to boost your front wheel just enough that your whole ride doesn’t feel like it’s going downhill. Your nether regions will thank you, too.

Fan: Unless you live in a massive mansion and can open the balcony doors for an easy breeze when you start to sweat, you’re going to want a fan to help you stay dry as you ride. Get a two-pack of clip-on fans so you can have one hitting you from the front, and one from the side (or placed in the window to pull in cool air) for optimal cooling. You could also opt for a larger, more powerful floor fan instead, or splurge on the Wahoo Kickr Headwind Fan—it’ll make you feel like you’re actually riding through the wind (kind of).

Mat: Seems slightly unnecessary, but this will save your floors from pools of sweat, and if you’re in an upper apartment, it will help retain the sanity of the tenants downstairs. A thin yoga mat is fine if you’re on the ground floor, but if you have downstairs neighbours, opt for a thicker, denser foam mat that will reduce vibration and noise.

Screen Setup: Using an iPad? Forget bike-specific accessories, just grab a cheap music stand to prop up your iPad—you can even clip a fan to the top of it easily. If you’re using a laptop or TV screen, make sure you have the proper accessories, i.e., an HDMI cable for attaching your computer to your flat screen for optimal Zwifting, or a shelf for your laptop to perch on while you pedal.

Bluetooth Headphones: There’s nothing worse than being tethered to your screen by wires, then sitting straight up at the end of the interval thus sending your iPad flying as your headphones yank it forward. (Yes, that has happened.)

Cycling Computer/App: If you’re using a smart trainer, you can likely use the corresponding app to record your workout. If you’re still using a standard trainer, you can use a cycling computer paired with your heart rate strap or power meter to record the workout.

Cycling Kit: Well, this seems obvious, but while the jersey is negotiable (you can simply opt for a lightweight base layer or nothing at all) while on the trainer, a comfortable pair of shorts or bibs is an absolute must. Pro tip: If you’re wearing bib shorts, pull the straps up, otherwise the chamois may miss the mark.

Water Bottle: While it’s tempting to set a glass of water on a table beside you, use riding the trainer as a chance to practice pulling the bottle out of the cage and putting it back in without looking at it. This will translate to smoother bottle breaks on the road. Get an insulated bottle so you have icy cold water to keep you cool.

Towel: A towel isn’t just for mopping sweat from your brow. Drape one over your top tube to prevent sweat from coating your bike—a few drops here and there won’t hurt it, but salty sweat (and tears if the interval is hard enough) can end up caking your frame and drivetrain after so many hours. Try an exercise-specific towel for optimal protection and a more stylish, neutral aesthetic if your trainer is sitting in the living room.

Headband or Wristbands: Heavy sweater? Throwback to the early nineties and grab a sweatband or a wristband to easily catch sweat mid-interval so that you’re not throwing off your ride by reaching for the towel every 30 seconds. Bonus: The Instagrams will be hilarious.

Kettlebell: If you want to take your trainer setup to the next level, add some resistance. You don’t need a huge assortment of weights to bust out an efficient set of squats, lunges, rows, and weighted sit-ups post-spin. For most cyclists, a 20- to 25-pound kettlebell is the perfect weight-training tool. Get one to keep near the trainer so you have no excuse to skip 5 minutes of weight training as part of your warmup or cool down.

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