Previously on cyclinginfo.co.uk, I may have given the impression that indoor turbo training is a form of cruel and inhuman punishment only suited to someone with a worrying obsession with cycle fitness. I’d now like to place on record that with rollers this is completely untrue and rollers are the best cycling invention since John Dunlop’s invention of the pneumatic tyre back in nineteenth century Scotland.
Rollers are tremendous fun, the hours slide by and it’s a great way to improve your cycling fitness and cycling skills from the comfort of your own garage. (However, for reasons which may become apparent later – don’t use rollers in your greenhouse…)
There are some forms of cycle training which suggest it’s good to take it easy over winter; they suggest if it’s raining or cold – take a day off and put your feet up. Maybe go down to the gym and do some of that exotic sounding ‘cross-training’. But, with a roller tucked away in your garage, you don’t have to follow these lame excuses any-more – There is always that inviting set of rollers, just around the corner – waiting for you to get on and pedal away.
Tips on Using Cycle Rollers
- When starting having something to hold onto.
- It is useful to have something to stand on next to the rollers. This makes dismounting easier.
- When cycling, look ahead, it’s easier to keep balance.
- Be patient, it will definitely get easier to use rollers after a few weeks.
How to Use Rollers
I found this youtube video helpful for getting started:
Using Cycle Rollers
- You can’t put out as much power as on a turbo. Yesterday I did an hours threshold training on my rollers. After a warm up, I put it into 53*13 – second biggest gear (highest gear wasn’t working). My heart rate was 170, after 30 mins spinning 90rpm at 52*13 – my heart rate steadily rose to 180. In a ten mile time trial, my heart rate is something like 181-187.
- Basically, with rollers, you might not be able to do that really high intensity / high power interval training. To get near your peak effort, you have to be spinning pretty fast – a bit like a track cyclist.
- TIP: To get a higher effort rate on rollers with same gear, you can let a bit of air out of your tyres.
- If I had my bike in top gear, with a little lower air pressure and spinning 100 rpm – it would have replicated a 10 mile time trial – but not really a hill climb interval.
- They are a great opportunity to practise high cadence pedalling – helping you to achieve a nice fluid pedalling stroke.
- I’m quite proud of my mastery of the rollers. It’s a good skill to learn. However, this hasn’t stopped me making quite a few ‘undignified dismounts’ from my bike (i.e. falling off). When you’ve had a really good threshold session, it needs an added concentration to get off the hamster wheel.
- Rollers make it very difficult to do out of the saddle efforts. One thing is that after one hour glued to the saddle, your posterior is sore. If you’re doing very long roller sessions, you might consider getting off after 30 minutes to give yourself a rest.
- I haven’t yet tested on my time trial bike, I imagine it will be fine, but a little more difficult than road bike.
- There might be a way to ride rollers out of the saddle, I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to find out.
- Rollers are noisier than most modern turbos. I really like the idea of warming up for a race on rollers rather than a turbo. But, I’m worried rollers may get me into trouble with that small print you sometimes have on CTT startsheets ‘don’t use noisy turbos to warm up – most people at 6am are still in bed and don’t want to be woken up by cyclists’
I bought this fairly low spec rollers.
- Elite Ghibli rollers at Wiggle – £131.99
These are the rollers I bought. They are easy to set up. Easy to use. Works very well. I like the fact that you just put your bike on. No fixing, no stress on bike. No changing wheels just to use a roller – good for pre-race warm up.
Taxc Antare rollers – £141
These Taxc antare rollers are very similar in design to the Elite Ghibli. In fact rollers really haven’t changed much in the past 20 years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The only real technological development to come into the roller market is the ability to set greater resistance – enabling you to do more power.
Like these Cycle Ops – resistance rollers – £255.
I didn’t want to spend the money to get the option of resistance. I’m happy doing high cadence threshold training. If you want to do the full range of intervals, it may be worth a try to get resistance.
Reasons to Get Some Rollers
- You can practise pedalling.
- You can practise high cadence pedalling. Consistently pedalling 100rpm takes considerable concentration, especially given I’m more used to chugging a big gear (is chugging a word or did I just make it up?)
- You can practise moving from one position on the handlebars to others.
- You can practise trying to take off a jacket whilst still pedalling on the rollers. This is much more tricky than it may sounds. But, if you’ve ever used rollers, you will know there is no easy task of changing clothes whilst still pedalling away. So far I have only fallen off my rollers three times- twice because my discarded jacket got caught in my rollers. I was unharmed, though I am considering wearing my Media Helmet for future indoor roller sessions.
- You can try to maintain a straight line on the rollers. This is impossible to do, but you can spend hours trying to do it. It’s like a dog trying to straighten out his tail. He never manages it, but it’s good fun trying.
- It’s more fun than a turbo.
- Did I mention you can practise pedalling?
Do You need Rollers and a Turbo?
If you want to do all your training indoor, you probably do. Turbo for high intensity, big gear efforts. Rollers for developing smoother pedalling style and helping indoor hours pass quicker.
If I had to Choose between Rollers and a Turbo?
I would choose rollers. But, I like do hill intervals on hills – even if it’s raining.