After two years of owning a trainer, I finally bought a trainer mat. I was initially skeptical if I needed it, but after one season of use, I realized all its benefits.
A trainer mat is essential to protect the floor from sweat and cycling shoe cleats. It also severely reduces vibrations. Contrary to popular belief, the trainer mat does not make the turbo trainer quieter, although it seems that way due to reduced vibration.
The effectiveness of floor protection with a trainer mat is obvious, but I wondered whether the mat also impacts noise reduction. So I did a test with a loudness meter and got some interesting data.
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Is it necessary to use a mat under the trainer?
Cycling is an expensive sport. Apart from the obvious major costs (bike, trainer, wheels, rings, etc.), you often have to spend a few tens of dollars on various accessories, which add up to a considerable sum of money at the end of the year.
It makes sense to ask yourself from time to time wheater you really need all the accessories. A trainer mat is already one of them.
It is up to each individual to answer that question. I will present the advantages of using a mat and when I think it makes sense to buy it.
I used a trainer without a mat for two years. I was lucky enough to have a pain cave in my basement, which had tiles on the floor, so protecting them wasn’t really necessary. And because it was in the basement, I didn’t bother anyone with the excessive noise and vibrations.
After moving to my new flat, I no longer have a pain cave. I use a trainer in my living room with wooden flooring, and I have quite a lot of people living underneath me. So I bought a trainer mat to protect the floor and reduce vibration that might disturb the neighbors.
So, to answer the question in the heading. If you have a room where floor protection is not necessary and you do not disturb your neighbors with trainer vibrations, then using a mat is not necessary. If you’re not that lucky, I suggest you buy a trainer mat immediately!
Why should I use a trainer mat?
There are many benefits to using a training mat, but I would recommend it to any cyclist, mainly to protect the floor and reduce vibration.
After all, buying a mat is much cheaper than repairing the floor or fixing a bad neighborly relationship.
Floor protection is the main reason for using a trainer mat. Indoor cycling, even when using a fan, makes you sweat much more than outdoor cycling. As a result, a lot of sweat falls onto the floor, creating a real puddle under the bike.
If the floor is made of non-absorbent material (tiles, vinyl sheets), the puddle of sweat is not too big a problem. But it’s quite different if the flooring is wooden or even carpet. Wooden flooring, especially if the varnish has already been destroyed in certain areas, absorbs the sweat, and the wood starts to deteriorate. Over time, this will require replacing the flooring.
The carpet is probably even worse in this respect, as it absorbs a lot more sweat. This dampens the carpet, which is almost impossible to dry completely. In the long run, the carpet may start to mold, but even before that, it will cause a constant unpleasant smell of sweat.
The trainer mat does more than just protect the floor from sweat. It also protects them from cycling shoes.
Cycling shoes have cleats (plastic or metal) on the sole. Walking around the flat in them will quickly destroy the floor. That’s why most cyclists, including me, prepare everything for training by wearing socks and only put on cycling shoes on the trainer mat moments before sitting on a bike.
After training, taking off your shoes is the first thing to do. You put your shoes on the mat and continue around the flat in socks only. That way, your floor will last much longer.
Most people think a mat should be bought to lower the loudness of the trainer. I must disappoint you that the mat does not affect the volume of the trainer.
I did a loudness test of the trainer with and without the mat. I went from an easy ride to a sprint, measuring the volume right next to the trainer and one meter away from it.
I found that the volume was exactly the same whether I used the mat or not. The trainer was loudest when I was sprinting, with the volume reaching 80 dB right next to the trainer and about 70 dB one meter away.
Much more problematic than the loudness of the trainer is the vibration it produces. They are also the reason why your neighbors get annoyed by your cycling.
Here again, a mat proves indispensable. The trainer vibrates a lot when you ride, especially when sprinting when the left-right oscillations are even more pronounced. The mat under the trainer largely suppresses these vibrations. The thicker the padding, the less the vibration.
If you live in a flat, a trainer mat is essential. This is because vibrations are transmitted through hard objects, which means that your neighbors downstairs can feel and hear the vibrations of the trainer. Believe me, they will thank you if you put a mat underneath it.
Some cyclists point out that using a training mat should also improve comfort during the ride. I have to admit that I don’t feel any comfort increase. The ride is the same with or without the mat.
The mat is too thin to make a serious improvement in comfort. If you want your ride on the trainer to be more comfortable, you should buy rocker plates instead.
Cleaning the training mat is extremely easy. Thanks to the non-absorbent material, you can wipe off any accumulated sweat with a wet cloth and the mat is ready for the next workout.
Also, the mat makes cleaning the dirt and grease particles that fall off the chain easier. Grease is extremely difficult to remove from the floor, whereas it is much easier with a mat. It still takes some effort, but much less than on the floor.
Can I use a yoga mat under my trainer?
There are practically no disadvantages to using a trainer mat. The only reason why cyclists do not use it is the price, as it can be quite expensive.
Trainer mats from companies that manufacture trainers like Elite, Wahoo or Kinetic range between $50 and $70. That’s a lot for a piece of rubber, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Many cyclists are not prepared to spend that kind of money on just a mat. So they look for cheaper options.
A yoga mat is not the best choice for indoor cycling.
The common first idea is to use a yoga mat.
Although this is not the worst idea, the problem with a yoga mat is its width. It’s usually quite narrow, which prevents the trainer from standing fully on it. This causes instability, which makes the ride feel uncomfortable, and some of the power produced is lost. Also, the vibration damping is much worse.
A yoga mat is, therefore, not the right choice, but this does not mean you should now rush to buy an expensive trainer mat. You can find suitable and much cheaper solutions on Amazon. If you’re tight on money, buy a cheaper trainer mat or even a puzzle exercise mat.
The best trainer mats for you
If you want to protect your flat and maintain good relations with your neighbors, then buying a trainer mat is a must. Below are three mats that I recommend you buy.
Elite Trainer Mat
Elite Trainer Mat is the mat I use myself, and I’m extremely satisfied with it. The slightly firmer foam is great at damping vibrations, and the waterproof coating on the top makes it extremely easy to clean. The mat also does not slip and move during the ride.
Wahoo KICKR Mat
Wahoo KICKR Mat is an extremely durable mat that I have used in the past. I like that it is slightly longer (200 cm / 77.99 in), so it catches more debris that falls off the bike. The waterproof coating makes it easy to clean.
BalanceFrom Heavy Duty Rubber Mat
If you are not willing to spend money on official training mats from the trainer manufacturers, I suggest you buy a cheaper BalanceHeavy Duty Rubber Mat. This is made of a slightly lower quality material, but it still absorbs vibrations well enough and does not absorb sweat, making it very easy to clean.