I’ve previously written about how it is safe to use your carbon bike on a trainer. (Read the linked article for more details, but in summary, I agree with many industry leaders that there is insufficient evidence to support the idea that trainer use places undue stress on carbon frames.)
Given the huge number of bikes being used on trainers, it is also true that some frames will inevitably fail while being used on a trainer. What happens then? Will your frame be replaced under warranty, or will you need to pay for a new one?
User Error vs Defect
First, it is important to note that there is a difference between “user error” (such as a bike crash) and manufacturer defects (defective carbon layups, etc).
On a trainer, “user error” typically involves using the wrong skewer, or improper tightening of the skewer or skewer clamps. These mistakes can allow your bike to disengage from the trainer (especially under hard efforts) and the resulting chaos can cause real damage to your frame.
No one would expect bike makers to warranty damage caused by user error. In this case, it is common practice for manufacturers to offer “crash replacement” frames at a steep discount.
Manufacturer defects, though, are outside of the rider’s control and should be warrantied whether they are discovered outside on the road or indoors on the trainer. But sadly, some manufacturers don’t see it this way.
Which Brands Allow Trainer Use?
There is no clear answer to this, but I’ve created two lists below of brands which, based on my research, are friendly or unfriendly toward trainer usage. If you have personal experience with other brands, or your experience contradicts what my list shows, please comment below.
The brands below either explicitly state in their warranty or manuals that trainer usage on carbon frames voids their warranty, or their manuals are unclear but additional research has shown that they do not warranty damage which occurs during trainer use.
- Seven Cycles
Marketing vs Reality
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the current situation is most (if not all) of the “trainer-unfriendly” manufacturers actively market their products with trainers:
- We see pro teams on trainers before and after races
- We see trainers in use in local bike shops or at manufacturer’s headquarters
- Some manufacturers (including as Trek and Canyon) sell trainers on their websites
- Canyon, Specialized and Trek have all partnered with Zwift on various major events
If trainer use voids the warranty, marketing efforts should not encourage trainer use.
What’s the Solution?
It’s time for manufacturer’s to explicitly include trainer use as part of the warrantied “normal use” of their bikes. This is a move that would put the customer first, and I applaud the manufacturers who have already done it.
In the market for a new bike? Make your voice heard: ask if trainer use is covered under the warranty. If it isn’t covered, let them know you are disappointed and will be purchasing another brand. If it is covered, give them your business. Dollars talk!
- Added Parlee as a “Trainer-Friendly Brand” to after this Twitter conversation