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How can I use my thru axle bike on a turbo trainer?

Some indoor trainers are immediately compatible with thru axle bikes, others require that you buy an adaptor; here's what's what....

Fitting a bike with thru axles to a trainer is sometimes a little more difficult than using a bike with open-ended dropouts but it can be done as long as you have the right equipment. All the details of what's required with different trainers are in a table down below, but here's a quick roundup first.

Rear axle standards

Most road bikes still use open-ended dropouts and quick release (QR) skewers (below). The most common rear spacing (between the inside faces of the dropouts) for road bikes is 130mm. If your mountain bike uses QRs, chances are that the rear spacing is 135mm.

If you have a modern road or gravel bike with a rear thru axle (below) – where the dropout is closed and one side is threaded – it's likely to be 142x12. Other sizes do exist, especially on bikes a few years old, but 142x12 is the most common.

With mountain bikes, 135x12 used to be the most common size but 142x12 soon superseded it. The Boost standard is 148x12. There are other sizes out there but most mountain bikes use one of these.

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Types of trainer

You can divide trainers into two types: wheel-on and direct drive.

A wheel-on trainer (like the Tacx Booster, above) is most common. As the name suggests, this is where your wheel stays on your bike, you clamp the rear axle to the trainer's frame, and your rear tyre runs on a roller. 

With a direct drive turbo trainer (like Bkool's Smart Air Lite, above), you whip off your rear wheel and clamp the bike to the trainer via its rear dropouts. The chain runs on a cassette that's fixed to the trainer.

Compatibility 

Here's the big table of compatibility. We'll unpack it a bit further down the page.

The table refers to compatibility between 142x12 and 148x12 thru axle bikes and current trainer models from major brands. If you have an older version of any of these trainers, requirements could be different.

Make Model Style Thru axle kit included?
Elite Drivo II Direct drive Yes 142x12, no 148x12
Elite Direto X Direct drive

Yes 142x12, no 148x12

Elite Direto Direct drive

Yes 142x12, no 148x12

Elite Suito Direct drive

Yes 142x12, no 148x12

Elite Drivo Direct drive

Yes 142x12, no 148x12

Elite Tuo Wheel-on

Yes 142x12, no 148x12

Elite Zumo Direct drive

Yes 142x12, no 148x12

Elite Turno Direct drive

Yes 142x12, no 148x12

Elite Volano Smart B+ Direct drive

Yes 142x12, no 148x12

Elite Qubo Power Mag Smart B+ Wheel-on No
Elite Qubo Fluid Wheel-on No
Elite Novo Force Wheel-on No
Kinetic R1 Direct drive Yes
Kinetic Rock and Roll Control Wheel-on No
Kinetic Road Machine Wheel-on No
Minoura Kagura LSD9200 Direct drive Yes
Minoura Kagura LST9200 Wheel-on No
Minoura LR961 Wheel-on No
Minoura LR541 Wheel-on No
Minoura LR341 Wheel-on No
Minoura Mag Ride 60D Wheel-on No
Minoura Mag Ride 60R Wheel-on No
Minoura Mag Ride Q Wheel-on No
Saris H3 Direct drive Yes
Saris M2 Wheel-on No
Saris Mag Wheel-on No
Saris Mag+ Wheel-on No
Saris Fluid2 Wheel-on No
Saris Fluid Wheel-on No
Tacx Neo 2T Direct drive Yes
Tacx Flux 2 Direct drive Yes
Tacx Flux S Direct drive Yes
Tacx Vortex Wheel-on No
Tacx Flow Wheel-on No
Tacx Sartori Wheel-on No
Tacx Booster Wheel-on No
Tacx Blue Motion Wheel-on No
Tacx Blue Matic Wheel-on No
Tacx Blue Twist Wheel-on No
Wahoo Kickr Direct drive Yes
Wahoo Kickr Core Direct drive Yes
Wahoo Snap Wheel-on No

 

Things are simple if your bike uses a 5mm QR skewer to hold the rear wheel in place. For a wheel-on trainer, you swap the standard QR for a trainer-compatible QR (where necessary; that's one from Tacx below), you lock the bike in place and away you go.

It can be a little more difficult if your bike has a rear thru axle. You'll need an adaptor in order to fit a thru axle bike to a wheel-on trainer. You usually have to buy the adaptor separately.

Most direct drive trainers now come with whatever's necessary to use it with a thru axle bike.

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Adaptors

Adaptors for use with wheel-on trainers are longer-than-normal axles that you use in place of your bike's standard thru axle. They extend out far enough on each side that the trainer can firmly lock your bike in place.

Beware, though, that if the adaptor screws to your bike the two thread pitches need to match – hence Kinetic's Traxle adaptors coming in three different versions. If you don't know which type of thru axle your bike uses, ask the manufacturer or the shop where you bought it.

Could you use Brand A's trainer with Brand B's adaptors? Potentially, although Brand A might say that its own adaptors provide the most stability. Kinetic says that its Traxles are "specifically engineered to work on Kinetic trainers [but] the system also works with most other trainer brands."

If in doubt, you're safest sticking with one brand. We give links to the relevant adaptors when mentioned down below (just click on the name).

Elite 

Interactive Trainers

Elite's Interactive Trainer range comprises:

Drivo II
Direto X (below)
Direto
Suito
Drivo
Tuo
Zumo​

Elite Direto X (2)All of these except the Tuo are direct drive, and are supplied with 142x12 thru axle adaptors. If your bike is 148x12, you need a different adaptor that's not supplied with the trainer.Elite Tuo (1)

The Tuo (above) is a wheel-on design that comes with an adaptor that allows you to use 10mm or 12mm diameter thru axles up to 148mm.

Smart Trainers

This range comprises:

Turno 
Volano Smart B+ 
Qubo Power Mag Smart B+ 

The Turno and Volano Smart B+ are direct drive and include adaptors for 142x12.

The Qubo Power Mag Smart B+ is a wheel-on trainer. You'll need to buy an Elite adaptor (£24.99) if you want to fit a bike that uses a thru axle system (the adaptor is compatible with bikes with 10mm and 12mm diameter thru axles up to 148mm).

Classic Trainers

Elite's Classic Trainers are:

Qubo Fluid (below)
Novo Force

These are both wheel-on designs. An adaptor is required to use these trainers with thru axle bikes.

Tacx 

Smart trainers

This range is made up of:

Neo 2T (below)
Flux 2
Flux S
Vortex
Flow
Sartori

The Neo 2T, Flux 2 and Flux S direct drive trainers are directly compatible with 142x12 and 148x12 thru axle bikes (you can use your own axle). If you have a 135x10 or 135x12 bike, you need Tacx's T2835 direct drive quick release with adaptor set

Earlier versions of the Flux 2 and Flux S (prior to the fourth quarter of 2019) require the T2835 adaptor for use with 142x12 and 148x12 systems.

The Vortex, Flow and Satori wheel-on trainers require adaptors for use with thru axle bikes. Tacx offers a range that replace your standard axle skewer.

Basic trainers

Tacx currently offers four wheel-on Basic Trainers:

Booster 
Blue Motion (below) 
Blue Matic 
Blue Twist 

These all require adaptors for use with thru-axle bikesTacx offers a range.

Wahoo

Wahoo's Kickr (below) and Kickr Core are direct drive trainers. They both include adaptors for use with 142x12 and 148x12 bikes.

The Kickr Snap wheel-on trainer requires an adaptor for use with a 142x12 bike. The thru axle kit (£44.99) comes with three axles with different threads. It is not compatible with a 148x12 system.

Saris 

Saris currently offers one direct drive smart trainer: the H3 (below). It is thru axle compatible for rear hub widths of 142mm and 148mm; you don't need to buy any extra parts.

The other Saris trainers are:

M2 
Mag 
Mag+
Fluid2 
Fluid

These are all wheel-on trainers. Adaptors are required for 142x12 and 148x12 bikes. 

Kinetic 

The R1 is Kinetic's only direct drive turbo and it is compatible with bikes that use 142x12 and 148x12 thru axle systems. You use your bike's stock thru axle; no Traxle (see below) is necessary.

The Kinetic Rock and Roll Control and Road Machine (above) are wheel-on designs. Bikes with rear thru axles require a Kinetic Traxle thru-axle adaptor (£23.99) for use with these. Various versions are available.

Minoura 

The Kagura LSD9200 is Minoura's only direct drive trainer (Minoura's UK distributor is not currently bringing Kaguras into this country). It is compatible with 142x12 and 148x12 systems and all the required parts are included.

Minoura Smart Turbo Kagura LST9200.jpgThe Kagura LST9200 (above) is a wheel-on smart trainer. You'll need an adaptor (£11.99) if you want to use it with a thru axle bike. 

Minoura offers loads of other wheel-on trainers such as the LR961, LR541 and Mag Ride 60D. All of these will require an adaptor for use with a thru axle bike.

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