Rollers are good fun, the minutes fly 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…)
With a set of rollers you don’t have to worry about the weather or going out in the dark. There’s always some way to keep yourself ticking over.
Reasons to get some rollers
1. Look outside at the weather
- You can practise high cadence pedalling. Consistently pedalling 100rpm takes considerable concentration. There are different opinions about optimum cadence, but it’s a good skill to have the ability to cycle higher cadence and a nice fluid pedalling style.
- You can try to maintain a straight line on the rollers. This is almost impossible to do, but you can spend hours trying to do it.
- If you ever ride the track, rollers make excellent practise in terms of both bike handling and high cadence pedalling.
- It’s marginally more fun than a turbo. This is probably the main reason I bought a set of rollers. I though I might be marginally more likely to do indoor training sessions with rollers than a turbo. When I just had a turbo, I used to max out at about 30 minutes. Last winter I did a couple of two hour sessions on my rollers – including one at threshold pace on TT bike. I’m not sure how I managed that though.
- 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 it 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.
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.
Tips on Using Cycle Rollers
If you’ve never used cycle rollers before, it’s a bit like learning to ride a bike all over again. When you first get on – you can become nervous about letting go. It seems really difficult – as if you are cycling on ice. But, when you finally let go and cycle normally, you wonder what all the fuss was about in the first place. Before you know it you are riding with one hand and seamlessly shifting all over the rollers.
Getting started if it is your first time
- When starting having something to hold onto. – A door handle for example.
- 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.
- Like rollers, you need a fan
- Be patient, it will definitely get a lot easier to use rollers with time
- I found this youtube video helpful for getting started:
Pros and cons of 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.
TOP TIP: To get a higher effort rate / power output on rollers with the same gear, you can let a bit of air out of your tyres – it creates more resistence. 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.
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. There might be a way to ride rollers out of the saddle, I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to find out. 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.
Using a timetrial bike on rollers is even more challenging. But, it makes a good work out for trying to hold your TT position and getting used to the bike. I will be getting my TT bike down from the loft fairly soon. I know I need to start riding my new TT bike, but I’m reluctant to take it out on wet salty roads. So it will make a good choice for the roller sesion.
Rollers are noisier than most modern turbos. 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’
TOP TIP – you need a flatish surface to use a rollers.
A difficulty of using rollers to warm up for races is that you need somewhere reasonably flat to warm up. Here I’m trying to get some rollers to work by using energy bars to prop it up.
Using rollers to warm up for a race
Generally, I like to use rollers to warm up for a race. However, if you want to be very scientific about warming up and do some race pace sprints, you are probably better off on a turbo. For important hill climbs, I did use a turbo for warming up last year. But, sometimes I just prefer to take rollers.
TOP TIP. If it is raining, you may find you can’t use rollers at all. When it’s wet, it is too slippy. If you rely on rollers to warm-up, it is worth bearing this in mind.
Elite Ghibli parabolic
Elite Ghibli rollers at Wiggle – £140.99
These are the rollers I bought. They are easy to set up. Easy to use. Works 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. The main drawback is that you can max out at 270 watts – and that is with spinning pretty furiously.
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.
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. If I had unlimited funds, I would probably upgrade to these, but at the moment, I can’t really justify the extra cost for the limited times I would actually use the feature.