Do Bike Trainers Work With Mountain Bikes? All You Need to Know

As a cyclist who enjoys both mountain biking and indoor training, I often get asked “do bike trainers work with mountain bikes”.

The answer is yes, bike trainers can work with mountain bikes, but it depends on a few factors. Firstly, the type of bike trainer you have will determine whether it is compatible with your mountain bike.

There are three main types of bike trainers: wheel-on, direct drive, and roller.

  • Wheel-on trainers are the most common and can work with most types of bikes, including mountain bikes.
  • Direct drive trainers are also compatible with mountain bikes, but require a cassette to be installed.
  • Rollers are less common and can be tricky to use with mountain bikes due to their wider tires.

Another factor to consider is the tire size and tread pattern of your mountain bike. Most bike trainers require a slick tire for optimal performance, so if your mountain bike has knobby tires, you may need to switch them out for a smoother tread.

Additionally, if your mountain bike has 29-inch wheels, you may need to purchase an adapter to make it compatible with certain bike trainers.

Setting Up a Mountain Bike for Indoor Training

While the front wheel bike trainer is considered the best for a mountain bike, we will explore the back wheel option and provide you with a step-by-step outline on how to set up your mountain bike on a rear-wheel trainer.

To set up this trainer with your mountain bike, you will first have to remove your bike’s rear-wheel and then mount your bike on the trainer.

The advantage of using direct drive trainers is that they are compatible with the varieties of mountain bikes. But to ensure that the mountain bike and the direct drive trainer integrate properly, you must invest in the right adapters.

To set up your mountain bike on a trainer, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • First, make sure that your bike is clean and dry before placing it on the trainer. Dirt and moisture can cause damage to the trainer and your bike.
  • Next, adjust the tension on the trainer to match your riding style and fitness level. This will ensure that you get the most out of your workout while minimizing the risk of injury.
  • Finally, consider using a riser block to level out your bike. Mountain bikes often have a more aggressive geometry than road bikes, which can make them feel unsteady on a trainer. A riser block can help to stabilize your bike and make your ride more comfortable.

Removing the Rear Wheel of the Bike

You will first shift to your smallest cog before starting, loosen the skewer. To remove the wheel you must push on the bottom pulley of the derailleur. This move will loosen the chain and enable you to pull the body of the derailleur out of the way.

Some mountain bikes come equipped with a button that enables them to keep the derailleur open and the chain loose and which should be locked into place.

Shimano drivetrains are characteristic of a clutch lock on the derailleur and which should be adjusted to the off position when the wheel is to be removed. The rider must also be sure to turn it back on before they ride their trainer.

The next step is to place the bike onto the trainer with the adapters and then line up the dropouts with the holes. At this stage, the rider must also ensure that the chain has been set at the smallest cog of the trainer cassette. They will then fasten the rear thru-axle or the skewer and then proceed to test it out.

Tires for the Bike Trainer

When riding the trainer it is always advisable to use the trainer-specific type of tires, and which are not exactly easy to find.

The road tire is not an option for the mountain bike, but you can always invest in a slick mountain bike tire such as the Maxxis Refuse.

The above is not a trainer tire but obliterates the unnecessary tear and wearing out of your tires.

Riders and training enthusiasts might also want to purchase an extra set of tires for their bike and obliterate the need to switch the tire back and forth.

Mountain Biking on Bike Trainers

There are some risks and precautions to keep in mind, as well as some specific set-up requirements.

Risks and Precautions

One of the biggest risks when using a bike trainer with a mountain bike is damaging the rear axle.

Mountain bikes often have wider rear axles than road bikes, which can cause issues with certain trainers.

It’s important to make sure that the trainer you choose is compatible with your mountain bike’s rear axle.

Another risk is wearing down your tires faster than usual.

Riding on a trainer can create more heat and friction than riding on the road or off-road, which can cause your tires to wear down more quickly. To avoid this, consider using a tire specifically designed for use on a trainer, such as the Maxxis Refuse.

Types of Bike Trainers

When it comes to picking the right trainer for your mountain bike there is no one size fits all kind of trainer, the more reason why you should take your time in finding one that resonates with your riding style and the specific style of mountain bike.

Below is an outline of some of the bike trainers that you will find in the market.

The Fluid Trainer

The fluid indoor bike trainer has been designed to offer a wide range of resistance.

It is also known for offering a quiet and consistent ride coupled with a real road-like feeling.

The trainer comes equipped with an easy-to-store frame, and it is compatible with Zwift among other indoor training applications.

Fluid trainers have low noise levels ranging between 68-72 decibels and that is at a speed of 20mph.

The trainer comes equipped with a resistance knob and leveling feet that facilitate easy adjustment on uneven ground.

The manufacture of the bike has incorporated a cooling system, an external self-cooling mechanism and has also equipped the trainer with a patented fan design that ensures the unit performs better and for a longer time.


Rollers are available in the form of cylinders, in isolated occasions they are availed in the form of drums so that they can help balance the bike.

One drum is positioned under the front wheel, while the remaining two are positioned under the rear wheel. The above is so that when the wheels and the drum rotate the bike stays in place facilitating seamless pedaling.

The roller works quite differently when compared to other types of bike trainers, with the rollers riders are compelled to balance the bike the way that they normally would while riding on the road. Roller enables a real road-like experience.

Direct Drive Trainer

The direct drive trainer is deemed as one of the most accurate trainers, and to exploit its full potential you must first remove your bike’s back wheel so that the trainer can take its place. And then the bike’s chain will drive a cassette that has been connected to the trainer.

The Rear Wheel Attachment Trainer

This type of trainer has been configured to integrate with a skewer designed to go through the back wheel and which leads the trainer to bolt the rear wheel into place.

The wheel will then be pushed against a cylinder and which enables resistance via fluid or magnets.

The Wheel-less or Direct Drive Trainers

The Wheel-less or Direct Drive Trainers have been established to offer a realistic riding experience at least when compared to the wheel on trainers.

The turbo trainers are smart and come equipped with an inbuilt power meter.

This trainer retains the bike in its place obliterating any chances of friction resistance consequently minimizing the wear and tear of your bike tire.

Choosing the Right Bike Trainer for Your Mountain Bike

As a cyclist who enjoys mountain biking, choosing the right bike trainer can be a bit challenging. Here are some things to consider when selecting a bike trainer for your mountain bike.

Direct-Drive Trainers vs. Wheel-On Trainers

Direct-drive trainers and wheel-on trainers are the two main types of bike trainers.

Direct-drive trainers are more expensive but offer a smoother and more realistic ride.

Wheel-on trainers, on the other hand, are more affordable and easier to set up. However, they tend to be noisier and less accurate compared to direct-drive trainers.

Fluid Trainers vs. Magnetic Trainers

Fluid trainers use a fluid to create resistance, while magnetic trainers use a magnetic flywheel.

Fluid trainers provide a more realistic road-like feel and are generally more quiet compared to magnetic trainers. However, they tend to be more expensive.

Magnetic trainers, on the other hand, are more affordable, but they can be noisier and less durable.

Resistance and Power Output

Resistance and power output are important factors to consider when choosing a bike trainer.

The resistance level determines the difficulty of the workout, while the power output measures the amount of energy you are producing.

Some trainers come with adjustable resistance levels, while others have a fixed resistance level.

Rear Wheel Attachment Trainers vs. Wheel-Less Trainers

Rear wheel attachment trainers require you to attach your bike’s rear wheel to the trainer, while wheel-less trainers do not require any wheel attachment.

Rear wheel attachment trainers tend to be more stable and provide a more realistic ride. However, they can be more complicated to set up and require more maintenance.

Wheel-less trainers, on the other hand, are easier to set up and require less maintenance. However, they tend to be less stable and may not provide a realistic ride.

Compatibility with Rear Axle and Thru-Axle Systems

Finally, it’s important to consider the compatibility of the trainer with your mountain bike’s rear axle and thru-axle systems.

Some trainers are compatible with both quick-release and thru-axle systems, while others are only compatible with one system.


In conclusion, bike trainers do work with mountain bikes. However, compatibility can vary depending on the type of trainer and bike. It is important to consider the benefits of using a bike trainer, such as the ability to ride indoors and the variety of workouts available.

When it comes to compatibility, direct-drive trainers tend to be the most versatile and can handle a range of mountain bike sizes and drivetrains. Adapters may be necessary for certain setups, such as a rear wheel attachment trainer or a wheel-off design.

Setting up a mountain bike on a trainer requires some adjustments, such as using a quick release skewer or ensuring proper bike fit. It is also important to consider the wear and tear on the bike and to take precautions to prevent damage.

When it comes to the riding experience, fluid and direct-drive smart trainers tend to provide a more realistic road feel and simulate outdoor riding. Connectivity options such as Bluetooth and cadence tracking can enhance the workout and help cyclists track their progress towards their fitness goals.

Using a bike trainer with a mountain bike can be a great option for off-season training, indoor workouts, and improving endurance and leg muscles. With the right setup and adjustments, mountain bikers can enjoy a variety of workouts and performance benefits using a bike trainer.


Why are direct drive trainers expensive?

The direct-drive trainers are expensive because the internal drive system features a more complex design, generally, the parts of the drive trainer are what makes it expensive.

Which is the most reliable bike trainer?

The modern smart bike trainers are the best because they can integrate with an app that will give you information on your performance.

Patrick Flinch

Patrick Flinch is a professional cyclist, according to him, cycling is a sport that also helps people stay in good shape. Cycling takes many forms, and styles and so does the cycling equipment, however, this information is not available to everyone and that is why Patrick thought it wise to consolidate the most important information about cycling on “For the Bike Magazine.” Beginner, intermediate and professional cyclists will be furnished with useful insights. They will be able to understand the differences and benefits of both online and physical cycling. Apart from Cycling, Patrick is a family man, he is passionate about cycling and when not on duty, he loves to enjoy biking with his crew.