There’s a lot of talk comparing the noise level of various “direct drive” trainers. While the trainers themselves obviously make a noise, it’s often drowned out by the transmission of the bike that’s sitting on it. It doesn’t matter if you’re using FulGaz, Zwift, TrainerRoad or any of the other apps out there. They’ll all run into the same problems. Let’s look at a few things that can be done to fix it.
First, the basics
Sit the bike on the trainer straight
A common mistake is not to make sure the bike is sitting on the trainer nice and straight. To check this, undo the quick release and rock the bike from side to side a bit until you can definitely feel that it is sitting on both sides of the axle. Once you’ve found that spot, do the quick release up.
Do the quick release up tight
The forces applied at the rear of your bike are higher on the trainer compared with the open road, so make sure you’ve done your quick release up tight. If you have one of the old black quick releases with the external cam, lube every moving part or ideally replace it with a quick release from Shimano, Campagnolo or the steel ones that come with many trainers (the newer, chrome KICKR quick release is great). Your bike and your trainer will love you for it.
lube your chain
The KICKR can tend to act like the sound box in an acoustic guitar, amplifying any sound in the drivetrain. An easy first step to reducing this noise is to lube your chain.
Stuck in the wrong gear? stop pedalling
If you find yourself in a gear that’s way too hard for the terrain, don’t keep pushing and crunching the gears, stop pedalling completely. FulGaz and the KICKR will then give you a 5 second break before applying any resistance again. This will give you time to change down while not under load.
Depending on the cassette being used, this can be out by enough to make gears that work well on the bike sound like a noisy bag of bolts on the KICKR.
Before you measure anything, make sure the central bolt that holds the cassette body in place is firmly tight. You don’t need to jump on it, but I’ve seen this work loose, ruining the cassette alignment in the process.
The measurement in the photo below should be the same on the KICKR as the wheel that came out of the bike. Typically it’s around 3.8mm from the end of the axle to the base of the teeth. With 11 speed transmissions, anything over about 0.2mm difference will start to add a lot of noise, or prevent smooth gear changes in one direction.
Making that gap the same on the KICKR can be tricky because washers don’t generally come in thicknesses of tiny fractions of a millimetre. Often the gap is a bit too big, so adding a 1.0 mm spacer behind the cassette and a 0.7mm one behind the axle locknut usually fixes this. This also provides a bit more space between the derailleur cage and the body of the KICKR.
Gear hanger alignment
This is often the tweak that makes the biggest difference. Have a look and see if the rear derailleur cage is parallel with the belt cover on the KICKR (See photo below). If it’s not, it’s a good indication that the gear hanger is bent. To straighten this you need a proper gear alignment tool. Do not attempt to straighten the hanger with anything else.
If you’d like to know anything else about KICKR setup and maintenance, or you have some tips of your own, please comment below.