Bike Rollers – Pros and Cons

Guest poster Don Blount rides in bad weather — indoors, on his rollers. He discusses some of their pros and cons.

I feel fortunate to live in a part of the country where outdoor activities can be done year round. I fully appreciate that, having grown up in Philadelphia and living in Denver for several years.

Where I live now in Northern California, the rains have settled in. Other parts of the country are dealing with snow or high winds during winter. Out here we get rain, fog, wind and much lower temperatures. I’ll ride in cold weather. I’ll ride in the dark, in fog and other inclement weather. But I have my limits. And although I’ve gotten caught in the rain, I won’t go out for a ride in the rain. I’m not that hard core, or crazy. But instead of curling up next to the fireplace with a good book or the television, I’ll still ride. Instead of riding outdoors or in a spin class or a stationary trainer, I’ll ride on my bike rollers.

I purchased these rollers in the fall of 2008 for a few reasons: 1) To ride when the weather was too bad to go on the road. 2) To practice technique and handling skills.

I’ll admit that I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into. It took me some time to get used to the rollers. I started out riding in a doorway and took my share of tumbles before being able to move to less confined places. One fall caused my wife to come rushing out to the garage to see what the problem was. I fell in the opposite direction what I had to grab onto. It is a sinking feeling to see something that could save you from going down slowly float out of your grasp. Fortunately by the time my wife arrived I was on my feet, with some of my dignity, claiming that nothing had happened. Later I found that I had bent my derailleur hanger.

What I’ve found that makes rollers most awkward (aside from learning to balance) is getting on and off. The rollers elevate you several inches off the ground, so getting on, moreso off, can be challenging because you just have this little skinny rail to balance your foot on. Miss that and whoosh, slipsville. I’m considering building a small platform to solve that problem.

I can now ride with a chair or counter, something that I can use to steady myself, next to me. And  I have gotten proficient enough that I can stand and pedal. I have begun working on clipping in and out of the pedals, although I won’t be doing anything close to what this guy does.

What I like about rollers is that I can still ride without going out in inclement weather. It helps conditioning, technique and handling skills. If your pedal stroke isn’t smooth while riding rollers, you’ll know because you’ll bounce around. Sprints, intervals, cadence work, all can be done on rollers.

What I don’t like about rollers is that they can be incredibly boring. Even wearing headphones and listening to music or watching television. Then again that just provides more incentive to ride outside once the weather calms. And after a few sessions on the rollers I can do that while working on my handling skills, technique and without losing too much conditioning.

Don also points us to this video by cycling coach Marc Evans, who demonstrates how to ride rollers.

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8 thoughts on “Bike Rollers – Pros and Cons

  1. I’ve never ridden rollers or a trainer for that matter. Looking at the pics, and the video, I wonder if it might be worthwhile to build a small platform, with a rectangular hole in the middle for the rollers, out of plywood and 2×4’s. That way you sit the rollers in the hole so they’re flush with the top of the platform and it’s just like you’re riding on the ground.

  2. I am crazy enough to go for a fun ride in all sorts of weather. Including rain.

    In fact, after looking at http://www.icebike.org/ if I find myself in a place with snow and ice, I’m not likely to let that stop me, either.

    Actually, I’m crazy and I don’t like rollers. But it’s mostly just that I’m crazy.

  3. I purchased rollers last fall and have only now started using them regularly (although I don’t ride as often as I should). They’ve already improved my bike-handling skills and balance. My pedal strokes are much smoother. I’ve moved out of the doorway now, but I still am more comfortable if I have something on either side of me to hold onto to get started or if I get wobbly. I totally agree about getting on and off being tricky. I think that’s the hardest part. The small platform to stand on is a good idea. I’m not to the point yet where I can stand and pedal. And if I want a drink of water, I have to stop first. But I’m making progress. I really recommend the rollers. They’re so much more fun (once you get used to them) than the stationary trainers. The rollers are more like riding outside. Thanks for the great post.

  4. I am trying to talk my husband (who is 61) into riding RAGBRAI this summer with me. He’s actually a damn good athlete and kicks butt on his 3 speed Huffy from Good Will. We jumped on our bikes (I have a nice 15 or 20 speeder) this fall and did a 76 miler. We were exhausted afterwards but psyched. I want to get rollers for us to train on. Would it be suicidal (or homocidal!) to try two rollers side by side while passing the time watching something mindless on the boob tube? Where do you recommend getting rollers for cheap?

  5. Pingback: Trainers Vs. Rollers « Cycling

  6. Nice write up. I don’t find rollers all that bad. I just started using them again. I had a set way back when in my early 20’s that I used to ride on. I aquired a set about a month ago and they are great since this time a year it’s tough for me to get out during daylight hours because of other commitments. They do require a slight learning curve but once you learn to relax the upper body and not “steer” you are good to go. When you are starting out, the closer you keep your hands to the stem the better. After you are confident then you can move your hands out a little bit at a time to normal riding positions. I prefer rollers over a trainer. Larger drums are easier to ride but smaller radius drums provide more resistance (pretty close to the actual road). I also recommend visiting your LBS and picking up a set of entry level rims and putting some trainer tires on.

  7. I totally recomend the rollers. I have the cycle opps aluminum and wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. I am “riding my rollers back to health”!
    I also recomend the cycle opps rollers! Awesome customer services and a lifetime garuntee!

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