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Rollers vs. Trainer(28 posts)

Rollers vs. TrainerSteepndeep
Jan 15, 2002 9:02 AM
I bought a LeMond road bike and am looking to keep up with my workouts during the Utah winters. What do you recommend...rollers or trainers? What brands should I look at? Is buying used a smart option? I've heard that rollers will help me with my balance and I misinformed?
Get the rollersScot_Gore
Jan 15, 2002 9:51 AM
I'm recently back into to road riding this year and decided to try to keep the summertime legs over the long Minnesota winter and faced this same choice in the fall.

Since my goal was to keep the legs used to going round and round, I had pretty much decided to get a stationary trainer. During my search for a good sale on stationaries I lurked on this board and read about trainers vs rollers. (this thread comes up about every 5 weeks or so, search the archives, lots of good info).

The vast majority were recommending rollers, with a caveat about the frustration experienced during the learning curve. The good stuff being said about rollers got me to re-think my decision, but the cautionary parts scared me. So,I borrowed a buddies rollers before making a big investment.

Boy am I glad. The rollers give me plenty of workout for the legs and the benefits for balance, getting the feel of your bike, and evening out your stroke are real.

Also, the frustrating learning curve is real. The first couple of times on the bike I never let go of wall and didn't feel like I ever would. After about about 6 sessions I got the hang of it. Now, I'm rolling with confidence, and enjoying it.

Lot's of people tell you how boring it is, that's not totally un-true, but at least with the rollers, they remind you that your bored and not paying attention by occasionally threatening to throw you to the floor.

So, like I said in the header, get the rollers.

Scot's right, but I still bought a trainer...cory
Jan 15, 2002 9:58 AM
I agree with everything he said, including the learning curve. Still, I sold my rollers and bought a trainer. This may not apply to you (I'm not all that serious anymore; I'm just trying to maintain enough fitness that I don't barf on myself in April), but I found that the rollers required so much concentration that I couldn't do anything BUT ride the rollers, and it was so boring (after the initial horror) that I wouldn't do it at all. The trainer is boring, too, but it's simple enough to ride that I can watch Jeopardy or even read, so I ride more often.
If you can make yourself use the rollers, or get good enough that you can watch the news while you do it, I'm sure they're a better workout. Not for me, though.
Different tools, but...tempete
Jan 15, 2002 10:26 AM
The trainer is probably more suited to high power output. One can do intervalles and resistance or even pure power exercises. Forget about the balance and open the throttle on the go juice.

The roller requires attention and is more suited to flowing stroke, speedy and consistant pedal output. Somehow a more realistic ride, plus you gain some technical skills.

I choose the roller. I got Quebec winter so it's the same. No real ride outside. Why the roller?

Indoor trainig ride is boring to me. So I choose to do intensity (high effort intervalles) on a gym machine (cross-trainer with Polar monitor), and I do my LSD (long slow distance) running and cross-country skiing. I leaves me the roller for pure technical purposes. I can still roll on it for increased period as sping comes, but I don't get bored with it. If I have a roller and end up doing intervalles, AND distance, AND technical on it, I'll go crasy.

Now, I could still keep the trainer and do all the other stuff... But a roller is better for the technical stuff (speed/cadence, roundness of the stroke, balance)
Too much concentration AND boring?Kerry Irons
Jan 15, 2002 5:33 PM
Sorry, I can't understand that one. Anyway, you should be able to watch TV or read while riding the rollers, no problem. Rollers are by far the best way to go for most riders. Smoothing out your pedal stroke, learning to spin, and becoming more stable on the bike are extremely valuable skills - ones that far to many riders don't have. You can get a fine workout on the rollers and become a better cyclist. Win-win.
Too much concentration AND boring?tempete
Jan 15, 2002 8:35 PM
Yes my friend, I too choose the roller. That's exactly my point.

In my case though, I find it boring to stay on the roller long. I explain clearly my choice of the roller over the fixed trainer bike and I mention to the initial poster that I try to vary my workout during the off season so I don't over do the basement roller thing. Yes I have a video, yes I listen to my music... I just prefer to do other things. I also find tv boring as it is. It works for me.

Concentration is needed for someone starting on these things. Maybe I am not as good as you are, or maybe I can show some empathy for others, as I once was a beginner too.

Concentrate and read again?
I actually like my roller-ing. I listen to the a.m. news andbill
Jan 15, 2002 10:40 AM
crank away for about forty-five minutes; right now I'm just sort of trying to maintain some aerobic fitness (keeping the heartrate at about 75% of max, give or take), but a little later in the year I'll start doing interval training. I have the standard-sized Kreitlers, which, in the right gear, give enough resistance so that, at 90-95 RPM's, or more when I'm up for it, I'm working hard enough to get a perfectly respectable workout.
Disadvantages: getting out of the saddle is, for me, a nearly impossible achievement. I have been out of the saddle for a few nanoseconds, but, you know. So your butt gets sore, and your time on the rollers is limited (I couldn't afford more than about forty-five now, anyway). And you cannot do low rep, high resistance. Even pushing a 53-11 requires fairly heavy rep's to really get a good HR (90% plus) going.
Advantages: Pedal stroke. Balance. Pedal stroke. You will find heretofore unknown power in your pedal stroke. You will understand what it means to pedal in circles. You will develop a smooth stroke in ever-higher cadences. You will attain the next level of cycling (I'm not really kidding, either). You also don't have to worry about flexing your frame or notching your headset. And you become a real cycling man (or woman -- if the shoe fits). And it's less boring.
Rollers are real. Trainers will help with strength in a way that rollers can't (for example, you can simulate hill-climbing as you can't with rollers), but, for most of us looking to develop general skills and fitness and not sophisticated enough to break up our training into narrowly specific skills, particularly in the off-season, rollers are going to do what they're supposed to for your fitness purposes and what you haven't even imagined for your skills.
re: Rollers vs. TrainerIseemo
Jan 15, 2002 10:54 AM
Please, if you're new to cycling, do yourself and all your ride buddies a good turn and get the rollers. It will help you with form and fitness better than anything. Eventually, you'll be able to remove yourself from the side of the hallway wall and watch basketball, or cycling videos, or whatever. And then....when you really get bored you can ride from the left edge of the roller to the right edge and see how close you can get with out being jettisoned off of them!
Rollers. Period.Andy M-S
Jan 15, 2002 11:12 AM
Rollers will help with everything--balance, stroke, and strength. Ride in the small ring in a 16 or so for gentle spinning--then when you want a workout, switch to the big ring and a 12. Probably not as heavy a workout as on a windtrainer, but enough.

Rollers are a good deal more exciting than a trainer, and you do have to keep a bit of an eye on what you're doing, but after five or six sessions you no longer feel like you're going to die.

You should have a good fan set up so you have a headwind, otherwise you're going to sweat your bike to death, and some form of entertainment.

I have mine set up in front on a monitor and it as an excuse to watch movies--watched Yellow Submarine this morning!

I hear the Kreitlers are the rollers to get--or, for that matter, any good ones with aluminum (instead of PVC) drums. I have a very cheap pair of Nashbar folding rollers that I got used a few years ago, and they do the job for me,
Generally speaking...Largo
Jan 15, 2002 11:12 AM
If you are following some sort of a structured training program, chances are that this time of year you are getting in bulk miles at a relatively low heart rate (unless you are planning on peaking early in the spring)
Rollers give you more than enough resistance for this, and give you something you can't get on a stationary, good form.
If you are going to get just one, get rollers, as you only really need intensity once a week this time of year (unless you are peaking early for whatever reason) and joining a spin class once a week is a fun way to get it.
Try skate skiing if you can to break up your aerobic bulk training.
learning to keep your balance on rollersTim
Jan 15, 2002 11:32 AM
If you want to get used to rollers faster - start with your chain on smallest front sprocket and largest rear sproket - this way your wheels spin slow, and you don't get thrown off balance quickly.
hmm. I've got to weigh in with the opposite opinion. I thinkbill
Jan 15, 2002 11:57 AM
that it's actually pretty hard to roller in a really short gear. Your legs are spinning fast, with very little resistance, so that it's hard to keep a smooth stroke (a little more resistance smoothes my stroke, anyway) and the wheels are going slow, so that there is little gyroscopic force keeping the bike up. I find it much harder to stay steady and upright in the small ring.
I recommend staying in the big ring pretty much for everyone, particularly beginners (non-beginners have no reason not to).
hmm. I've got to weigh in with the opposite opinion. I thinktempete
Jan 15, 2002 12:07 PM
Same here; more wheel speed = more stability.
higher spin frequency = more wobble (specially beginner)

Stable = slightly high gear, 80 rpm ??? Start from that?
A thought....Geof
Jan 15, 2002 9:17 PM
It depends on the roller diameter you have. I use 2.5's and I can spin just fine in "easier" gears. There is more resistance on smaller roller pins. If your running the big one's, I agree with the above.
Jan 15, 2002 11:48 AM
There's no doubt that rollers do more for one's cycling. Sadly, I had a much harder time getting myself to ride them so I sold mine to a buddy and went back to the trainer. I pedal with one leg to work on smoothness and play all kinds of mental games to keep my mind occupied while I ride in the dark basement listening to fast music. For me, the best workout is one that I'll do.
if only one I'd get a trainerDog
Jan 15, 2002 12:18 PM
The advantage of rollers is improving balance, fluidity, and some boasting value. "I ride rollers" is sort of fun to say.

But, if you want to really do hard intervals, build power, or mindlessly put in a couple of hours, a trainer is the way to go. You cannot do standing power intervals on rollers. Not enough resistance, and you'd run off the things.

I think it's important to keep your power up over the winter. No use in having great balance and a fluid stroke if you get dropped on the first hill come spring.

Ideally, get both, or get rollers that have a fork stand option. Most of them do, now.

Among trainers, there really are only a few things to really think about, the resistance device, adjustability, measuring things, and wheel contact.

Fluid trainers are smoother at high resistance levels than magnetic trainers. It's nice to have a remote resistance lever, so you can adjust while riding and not have to stop. Also, some have readouts showing how far you've ridden or the power being produced. I have one and I like it. It's something objective, showing how hard I'm working. I prefer the kind that spring load the roller against the wheel, rather than a simple threaded adjuster. They seem smoother.

Use old or cheap tires on them, no matter what you get. They eat up tires.

Now, if you're Dog, maybe you couldn't abide being dropped inbill
Jan 15, 2002 1:23 PM
February by anyone, but the other way of looking at it is that you build your base in the winter, and, in Febuary, maybe a couple of guys have worked a little harder a little earlier, maybe they drop you early on, but, because you've got a base, you can work hard come March, put that edge back on, and, when the other guys are just tired of working, kick butt in mid-season. And, the other thing I'll say is that, if you do anything at all over the winter, you've got it over a fair number of guys.
With all apologies to my fabulously and famously intense friend, I think that for most people, the power can wait until you actually can get outside in a bit of daylight and do those hill intervals. I think a fluid stroke and great balance is well worth getting dropped in February, actually, particularly if you haven't been cycling for the mondo years in which you may have developed some of this stuff without rollers. For just about anyone other than long-time cyclists, who know better than to listen to me (and who really aren't looking for advice on this stuff anyway, because they know the score and can make up their own minds) I'll vote rollers again and again and again unless you have a very specific training plan that calls for the type of indoor work Doug correctly states is easier and better on trainers.
pretty much agreeDog
Jan 15, 2002 1:36 PM
Maybe I'm being a bit ego- (or geo-) centric. With the hills around here, I think it pays to keep up the power a bit over the winter. If you don't, you really suffer in the spring.

I think you can put in base miles and keep some power, too. It's just a matter of emphasis, not exclusivity.

Plus, with a trainer, it allows you to do specific, targeted, controlled power and anaerobic workouts throughout the year, not just in winter.

One Alternative -- Trainer for Power, Fixie For SpinGreg Taylor
Jan 15, 2002 2:07 PM
Or at least this is how my collection of equipment has evolved. The trainer is good for doing high-wattage work, while I like riding the fixie to improve my leg-speed and spin and, well, get in some high-wattage work on the hills.

By the way, I've ridden with Bill. He knows whereof he speaks on training issues. Strong dude.
fixie pretty much does it allDog
Jan 15, 2002 2:22 PM
I've actually ridden nothing but fixed this year, and no trainer or rollers since September. I go out in any weather or darkness no matter what.

In one fixed gear ride last weekend, my rpms varied from 30 to 160, and my gearing makes it about 100 rpms at 20 mph on the flats. If you ride on rolling or hilly terrain, you get it all, whether you want to or not, on a fixie.

I've not touched the trainer this year either...but our weatherGreg Taylor
Jan 16, 2002 6:00 AM
on the East Coast isn't as nice as yours. There WILL be some days this year when I won't be able to get out, and then I will hit the trainer. 'Til then, I'll ride the fixie.
Ahh, Mr. Taylor flatters me. What he doesn't know is the painbill
Jan 16, 2002 8:12 AM
I've experienced trying to keep up with his spirited clan. There also is a reason why he hasn't seen me in awhile. Because I've been hiding my seriously-dimmed-by-low-winter-mileage light under the proverbial basket. Those bike commuters/enthusiasts/you-mean-you-guys-don't-race-you-just-do-this-for-fun? types can kick a guy into shape, but it'll have to be a little later in the season.
I agree w/ Dog, I have both, and 9 times out of 10 Im on thedidier justivo
Jan 15, 2002 4:45 PM
trainer. Ive raced many seasons and its just a great, mindless workout that allows you to stand at will whenever your butt aches. I dont think the rollers do much for balance, nothing normal riding doesnt give you. You can also spin on the trainer. It just doesnt force you to like the rollers.

One great thing about a trainer: Instead of doing squats in the winter, try grabbing the rear brake lever while on your 53,11 and do 3 sets of 10 pedal strokes as hard as you can. MUCH more specific to cycling than squats. Builds great strength in calves and quads.
Standing while on the trainer?!?!?! Is that good????I Love Shimano
Jan 15, 2002 5:25 PM
Won't that put too much stres on the frame? I've also read about people doing standing sprints on the trainer, I imagine the frame will snap eventually. Are my fears correct? Or should I drop it and do standing sprints on the trainer like all you guys do?
Get a 40 pound yardsale gaspipe beater for $10, and stand. nmscottfree
Jan 16, 2002 6:41 AM
re: Rollers vs. TrainerWoof the dog
Jan 16, 2002 5:34 AM
rollers are all you need. with rollers you don't put stress on your super-duper alloy frame, you have way more fun, you develop a much better spin, balance, riding in a straight line. Get rollers with smaller drums if you don't have enough resistance. Rollers are the best in the offseason where you try to keep the intensity lower. You get to look more professional riding rollers before the race, they are great for warm up and easier than having to stick your bike in the trainer and often replace rear wheel for some sh!tty one because you think your tubular 24 hole 700 gram rear won't hold up.

Get it?

woof man
I'm a roller convertDuane Gran
Jan 16, 2002 5:52 AM
I spent last winter logging time on a fluid trainer and was content, but this year I am doing the roller route and am much happier. Where I live I can often ride outdoors most days of the week and snow is fairly rare. That said, I know that I can build strength outdoors on hills & such. I use rollers to maintain fitness and improve form.

If you just bought the bike and you are still working on your road handling skills, the learning curve will be harder on rollers. Most people who use them have been riding seriously at least a year, and I imagine it would be doubly hard to use rollers if you are getting started. Should that be the case, follow the good advise of setting them up in a narrow hallway. You might even use sneakers instead of bike shoes at first if it makes you feel more comfortable.
had both and then ...CT1
Jan 16, 2002 7:13 AM
Although I've used rollers for over twenty years I bought a stationary trainer about two years ago. I eventually gave the trainer away as I just never liked the "feel" of it.

BTW: If you can push a 53X12 gear at 100 RPM for more than a 1/2 hour then you will know the meaning of "work". I also find that I'm much more comfie on my bike while on the rollers.

Once you get the hang of it, you can even do out of the saddle sprints. I usually put my brakes on ever so slightly while do this trick. Warning, this does take a good deal of practice!