If you use your bike on a turbo trainer, does the warranty still apply? The answer is: it depends.
This issue reared its head on Twitter recently when Specialized (@iamspecialized) said:
“We do not design or test bicycles for trainer use and do not recommend carbon-fibre bikes on a trainer which is rigidly attached.”
That’s interesting because a whole lot of us use carbon-fibre bikes on trainers, especially during winter, and it’s becoming ever more popular thanks to apps like Zwift that make the experience more interesting.
Trainers are also useful for warming up and cooling down at races. You’ll always see Team Sky riders on Pinarellos fixed to Wahoo Kickr direct-drive trainers, for example, within minutes of finishing a race – although they don't need to worry about warranties.
So are we taking a chance by fixing a bike to a turbo trainer or not? And does it make a difference whether that bike is metal or carbon-fibre?
We asked some of the biggest bike brands.
It makes sense to start with Specialized. The US brand has just added an addendum to its Bicycle Owner's Manual: “There are lots of different trainer types available, including wind trainers, magnetic trainers, fluid trainers, trainers that attach directly to the bicycle, rollers, and others. Depending on the trainer type and use, it may potentially apply unusual forces on your bicycle, wear parts, and/or weaken or damage your bicycle. Use a trainer at your own risk.
“This is especially true for composite or carbon-fibre bicycles rigidly attached to the trainer. Improperly mounting your bicycle in a trainer or using an incompatible trainer may also damage it. Always follow the trainer manufacturer's instructions and consider using an old bike with a metal frame and components you are not using on the road.
“If you use your Specialized bicycle on any type of trainer, your Authorised Specialized Retailer should conduct a periodic safety inspection. When you take your bicycle off the trainer and back out on the road, always conduct a Mechanical Safety Check and make sure nothing is loose (eg wheels are correctly secured).
“Warning! Specialized does not design or test bicycles for trainer use. Using your Specialized bicycle on a trainer may compromise the safety of the bicycle and may void your warranty.”
Trek doesn’t specifically rule out turbo use for bikes made of any material, but it points out that frames are designed to move and flex.
“As soon as you start to clamp them down it limits how they're designed to move,” says Trek’s Jez Loftus. “This generally isn’t a problem but factors like how tightly the clamp is adjusted come into play.”
A common issue is under-tightening the clamp, causing the bike to bounce about, according to Trek. Overt-tightening can cause issues too.
“We use all our demo bikes in fit classes on turbos and they've been fine,” says Jez Loftus. “Thru axles probably help as well.”
If a bike used on a trainer does get damaged, Trek direct you to register a claim through one of its dealers, preferably the one from which you bought it.
If the dealer is unsure they'd send the bike back to Trek for examination and the brand would make the call. If the damage is deemed to fall outside of the warranty, Trek would offer a crash replace frame which comes with a reasonable discount.
Giant doesn’t have a blanket ban on the use of its bike on turbos either.
“If there was an issue it would be taken on a case by case basis looking at the type of trainer, the skewer that was used and also what the damage is,” says Giant’s David Ward.
“We have an extended thru axle for our disc brake road bikes so they can be used on a turbo. Not using this on a thru axle bike would be a definite issue.”
Cannondale’s policy is set out in its owner’s manual.
“If you ride a trainer that requires the removal of the front wheel and clamps the fork dropouts: Be sure your fork quick release is tight! Relative movement will wear parts, weaken and damage your bike.
“If you ride a trainer that holds the bike up by clamping the rear quick release between two cones: Take off the nice, lightweight quick release that came with your bike. Substitute a heavy, classic all steel quick release and clamp it tight! Relative movement will wear parts, weaken and damage your bike.
“Be particularly cautious with a carbon frame or fork. Carbon is relatively soft, not abrasion resistant. If there is any relative movement, carbon will wear quickly.
“If you ride a trainer a lot, consider using an old bike. Corrosion from sweat will take its toll. Weight is irrelevant. Save wear on your expensive components.”
Merida says that using its road frames for indoor training does not affect the warranty as long as there is no mechanical contact between the frame (chainstays, seatstays, dropouts) and the turbo trainer.
Boardman Bikes is very clear.
“Does a Boardman warranty apply if a bike is used in a turbo? The easy and short answer is yes,” says Boardman’s Jamie Mitchell. “To us it's a big part of training all year round, so providing people use the correct QR or adaptor the bike will be covered by its usual warrantee.”
Canyon’s official line is clear too, but it’s very different.
“Strictly speaking using our bikes in a turbo trainer are not consistent with intended use,” says Canyon’s Nick Allen. “Unfortunately, any damage or breakage as a result would not be covered under our standard warranty terms and conditions.”
There's nothing in Bianchi's owner's manual to say a bike isn't warrantied against turbo trainer damage.
“I think the only issue would be if someone gets too excited in a sprint and falls over," says Bianchi's Andrew Griffin. "That would be a crash and therefore not covered under warranty.”
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.