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Can only buy one for winter: Trainer or Rollers???(22 posts)

Can only buy one for winter: Trainer or Rollers???Swat Dawg
Oct 7, 2002 8:10 PM
This is my first post, but I've been reading for a while, and have been impressed with the responses. I just got a road bike (previously all mountain biker) and am wanting to get in really good shape for the spring. I'm in college at Swarthmore in Pennsylvania, and don't have unlimited time to train. As it gets colder there will be days when I can't get outside, but would have 30 mins-1.5 hrs to ride in my dorm room. As a note, the trainer would be good because I can set a book on a stand and read while I ride, and it would be more transportable since I go and visit my Mom in WA state, and Dad in CT. The rollers would be good because the ideas of spinning smoothly, and good form are things I really need to practice. So, for the amount of time I have, and the reservation I have about each, which would be more beneficial to me? Also, whichever one you suggest, please give me an idea of which ones are quality products. But remember, I'm on a college budget (another term for poor).

Thanks for the help.
where is that FAQ when we need it most?collinsc
Oct 7, 2002 8:34 PM
this has to be the most often asked question on these forums.

use the search function. tons of info.
Am I the only one who'll recommend a trainer?cory
Oct 7, 2002 8:35 PM
Might be, because all your reasons for choosing rollers are valid. The reason I use a trainer is because all the reasons you gave for that are valid, too, and I'll actually USE the trainer--rollers take a lot of concentration, for me, and all my attention. I can't read or watch the news or whatever, and sometimes that's enough that I just skip it.
I think the role of rollers in learning to ride smoothly is overstated. After 30 years, I already ride as smoothly as I'm ever going to, and my balance isn't going to get any better over the winter.
I bought a Performance brand mag trainer (I forget the model; they change names all the time anyway) for about $115 three or four years ago, and I've had no trouble at all. I leave it set at max and just shift gears to vary the resistance.
Yessir, the best workout is the one you'll really do.dzrider
Oct 8, 2002 4:21 AM
I will ride the on the trainer and the rollers just seemed like too much trouble. Mindlessness is part of my enjoying aerobic exercise and barely possible for me on rollers. I sold them. My old Minoura trainer cost $89 and lasted 11 years. I got a new Minoura, but it didn't work well so I returned it and now use a Blackburn.
Look for rollers...hayaku
Oct 8, 2002 2:31 AM
That have the ability to attach a front fork stand. That way you have the best of both worlds, you can watch TV and not worry about where you're going, or you can use the front wheel and work on balance and pedal stroke and everything else.

I got a mag trainer last winter but it broke, while it was in being fixed my LBS loaned me a set of rollers which were cool. This year I am back on my mag trainer but wish I had the versitility of the rollers I have seen with an attachable stand.

Another thing to note is that mag trainers are loud, the marketing says they are not but they are. The rollers I used weren't.

It would be great to have your cake and eat it, and you can.
M.
Agree with roller plus fork stand.MXL02
Oct 8, 2002 6:21 AM
Best bang for the buck. Although in general I believe rollers are the preferred device, there may be times when you need to have a stationary bike, ie, doing one legged pedaling exercises, or just when you are tired of the rollers.
Rollersmass_biker
Oct 8, 2002 2:43 AM
Get the rollers. If you can, plump for one of the folding versions (takes up less space). I think TACX makes an affordable one. When I was in college, my (cyclist) roommate and I split the cost of one and used it religiously. After college, I found someone looking to unload a Kreitler and snapped it up. I live in New England and find rollers an important winter training tool. And they fit the bill for that open-the-leg ride the day/night before a big race when you just can't get out.

Why rollers? Maintains your spin, gives you plenty of HR work if you do intervals while on it (let us know if you need some suggestions for roller intervals), is a good counterpoint to strength training (I assume you'll be doing some lifting this winter in PA), and encourages you to keep those indoor workouts brief! Also, think of rollers as having a never-ending feedback loop. They (or the floor) will tell you very quickly if you ought to be paying more attention.

Mountain bikers are usually uncommonly strong on the road. Take that strength and add some finesse, and drop the competition. Get the rollers.

MB
another vote for rollers. I'm a huge fan for whatbill
Oct 8, 2002 6:47 AM
they did for me. Rollers helped me find power in my spin where I wasn't even looking. Whatever I have developed over the past two years began with getting rollers.
For someone who has been working on a road spin for thirty years, as one of our heroes mentioned above, I can see his point. After thirty years on the road (many fewer on a track bike), I could believe that you aren't going to get much out of rollers. But, if you're new to the road, and you're just starting to figure out where your cadence should be, and steady pedaling in circles, etc., I think rollers are sine qua non for all good things in life. All.
It also is simply not true that rollers don't contribute much to anaerobic fitness or power. You can do A LOT with rollers. If you're strong, think about the narrower diameter rollers or a resistance unit. I've got Kreitlers with the headwind thingie, and you can crank. You can't sprint exactly, but you can get plenty anaerobic.
Skip the fork stand, too. I've never used one, myself, but, with all due respect, the value in rollers (and, believe it or not, a lot of the fun, too -- I actually look forward to an hour on the rollers; not the same as the road, but it's not bad) comes from the concentration and balance required. Take that away, and you're bored and listless and just not doing that much for yourself. IMHO.
So when will I be able to use the things away from a wall?hrv
Oct 8, 2002 7:07 AM
Just started rollers (3 times). Have them set up in a doorway with one hand on a wall. Can let go but only for 2-3 seconds. Have this sinking feeling that I'll never feel safe enough to use them in the open. When does this feeling go away? Got cocky last night and ended up with my front wheel slipping and going perpendicular to my frame!

Have a trainer and can do intervals on that.

Thanks,
hrv
After about two weeks, it tends to get a little easier. But,bill
Oct 8, 2002 7:25 AM
don't get cocky. Even when you start feeling like an expert, after about a month or two, you can't ever get cocky. A healthy respect is always warranted.
For about the first half-dozen times, though I thought just as you that I never would get it. I thought it was wasted money, wasted time, and all a very bad joke. But you'll get it.
Trust the bike, Luke.
So when will I be able to use the things away from a wall?Jon Billheimer
Oct 8, 2002 7:37 AM
Keep at it--and keep pedalling until you actually fall into the door jam or ride off the rollers. It's amazing what a few harmless bumps will do to motivate you to maintain your balance. Remember learning to ride your bike without training wheels? Didn't take long, did it?

I crashed about five or six times when I was learning, then things started smoothing out. One of the keys is learning to relax your arms, hands, and upper body. Remember that if you're relaxed the bike, just like a ski, will tend to want to come back under you. Also, pick a visual reference point a few feet ahead of your bike and look at it rather than down at your front wheel. That'll help keep you centred on the rollers. Good luck.

By the way rollers are one of the best ways for improving power. Doing workouts such as ladders will build power and lactate tolerance. Try--when you've mastered the basic skills--spinning up at say 115 rpm through all your gears, 30 seconds to 1 min. each gear, then all the way back down in reverse sequence. For anyone who thinks rollers can't give you a gonzo workout, that should disabuse them of the notion. Why do you think trackies like rollers so much?
Plus learning stupid roller tricks is fun.MB1
Oct 8, 2002 8:45 AM
I posted this list about the same time last year.

Just something to do to pass those winter days away.
1) Drink from your bike mounted waterbottle.
2) Ride no hands.
3) Stand up and sprint.
4) Ride with only l leg in the pedals.
5) Take your shirt off while rolling.
6) Bunny hop off.
7) Bunny hop on.
8) Ride backwards. (Ride with the front wheel between the 2 rollers).

It can take a long time to master these skills (some call them dumb). Give you something to work on while maintaining fitness.

And yes, in my foolish youth I could do all of them.
if only one I'd pick trainerDougSloan
Oct 8, 2002 8:57 AM
The only thing the rollers have over a trainer is that it helps with balance. Everything else you can get on a trainer, plus on a trainer you can get very strenuous interval and hill simulation workouts, which you can't really do on rollers. Try jumping out of the saddle and mashing hard to get your hr up to 95% on rollers until you are wasted and ready to pass out. I wouln't recommend it. You can certainly "work on your spin" on a trainer the same as rollers. Plus, on a trainer you can focus on riding hard and not worry so much about running off. On a trainer you can watch television or read a book -- not so easy on rollers. In my opinion you can get a vastly better and more varieties of a workout on a trainer, and you'll be in much better shape come spring.

Don't worry that if you ride a trainer exclusively over the winter that you'll turn into some idiotic clod who can control a bike next spring. Rollers will help to perfect balance, but let's face it, who among us can't keep a bike in a straight line so badly that we need to practice some circus act to regain our sense of balance?

Sure, rollers are fun and I like to ride them, too, but if only one or the other I'd pick the trainer every time.

Doug
I think if I really wanted to improve fitness I'd get a trainer.MB1
Oct 8, 2002 9:29 AM
I really think that you should focus on your indoor workouts no matter which type you get and not just zone out.

Rollers force you to stay focused. If you can stay focused the variety of workouts that can be done on a trainer is much larger and can include some real strength training. I've always been able to ride outdoors and only used rollers as a fun diversion for rainy days. If I really had an off season or wanted to do major interval training in the winter I would use a trainer.

Now we just need to come up with some stupid trainer tricks....
focus / stupid trainer tricksDougSloan
Oct 8, 2002 10:32 AM
Yup, rollers make you stay focused, but on what? Your focus tends to be on staying on the darn things, not hr, power, or effort. Similarly, when you are riding on a narrow, rain soaked road, with cars whizzing by you, are you focused on training or on staying alive? I think it's sort of the same thing. Actually, I see nothing wrong with zoning out a bit while training; heck, I do it on the road. Sometimes on the road I'll "wake up" and cannot for the life of me recall what I've done the last 10 minutes.

Stupid trainer tricks? Hmm. The ones I can think of require some feedback, and aren't nearly so daring as rollers.

*see how high you can get your hr
*max out watts sprinting (if you have a watt guage)
*see how long you can ride standing
*see how high you can get your rpms
*test your bottom bracket and crank stiffness
*see if you can actually ride in your sleep
*ride a century

Ideally, get both, even if it's just a cheap set of either. I'm not saying rollers are worthless, but I value training more than finesse (finesse won't get up you that long climb with your buddies next spring).

One more advantage to a trainer -- it doubles as a solid dynamic workstand. I often put my bikes on the trainer to test gear setup under power, being able to look down at what's going on while shifting, or testing aerobar setup, those sorts of things. This works much better on a trainer than rollers.

Doug
Doug, I have to disagree with you about rollers -- they are notbill
Oct 8, 2002 12:42 PM
limited in every way you suggest. It is true that you cannot explode in an out of the saddle sprint until your eyes roll back in your head. Short of that, though, you can do almost anything. I do anaerobic intervals, getting HR up to 90-95%, threshold intervals, etc. You can train just fine.
Rollers are good for a lot more than balance. They are key to developing a steady cadence and a round pedal stroke, with power throughout the stroke, which is not unrelated to balance, but is a lot more than balance.
You have years of experience. For somebody who doesn't, rollers provide opportunities for development that a trainer does not. A trainer is about moving your legs. Rollers are a whole body thing, which, if you haven't figured it out yet, is a revelation.
Just from my experienceDougSloan
Oct 8, 2002 1:17 PM
I can't ride out of the saddle, on aerobars (for training position and different muscles), or do super hard intervals on rollers. Maybe if I spent a lot more time on them I might be able to; I don't know. That's just my experience, though.

Rollers require more balance. That's the only difference I can think of vs. trainers. The "smooth stroke" is only related to balance. I can't think of any other way rollers help with pedaling except balance.

I don't want to say that rollers are not helpful or fun. I just think that most people, particularly those at the early stages, will fare much better with something that gets them in better shape vs. something that helps them with balance.

I just don't think that rollers are entitled to this "mystical" "zen-like" status that some riders attribute to them. They are a challenge to ride, and mastering them does impart some degree of prestige. The day I saw a racer warm up for a road race by flopping his rollers down in a bed of rough grass on the side of a hill and bunny-hopping on them sideways and ride off with no hand, frankly, I was a bit intimidated. I still believe that given a required choice, though, you can get in much better shape on a trainer. If the critical factor is ultimate conditioning, I'd go with a trainer; if you want to sacrafice some conditioning (still acknowledging that you indeed can get in shape on rollers) in favor of balance, go with the rollers.

Doug
That's the rub....your experience....and lots of it!!!Scot_Gore
Oct 8, 2002 1:54 PM
Doug,
Could be wrong, but, don't you think at your level of performance on the bike, all the leasons rollers have to teach are old news to you?

Here was my experience. Been riding bikes since I was a teenager. I don't race, it's a hobby. I'd always thought that I could hold a line and keep my bike going straight as well as the next guy. I get a set of rollers and rode them everyday all winter. Spring arrives and I'm back on the road. Suddenly, I find I'm able to plant my wheels next to the shoulder line and keep it there, like I never could before. I always wandered around an inch or two in previous years. I bet you learned this lesson in say... 1981, it took rollers for me to get it.

Scot
That's my point. Rollers helped me turn a page, they reallybill
Oct 8, 2002 2:02 PM
did. This same page can be turned in different ways, and if you've turned it already, then the benefits, I can believe, will diminish. I remember talking to a guy who can ride a fixed gear like mad about my experience with rollers, and he said that he wanted to give them a try. I had to say, they probably are not going to give you the same boost they gave me. You're already rounding out your stroke, or you wouldn't be riding next to me.
makes senseDougSloan
Oct 8, 2002 4:20 PM
Don't get me wrong -- I think everyone could likely benefit from them to some degree. I guess it boils down to this question -- where do you get dropped? :-)

Doug
re: Can only buy one for winter: Trainer or Rollers???peter1
Oct 8, 2002 9:38 AM
I've set up a pocket-sized "inspiration station" in our study for the winter. I've got my trainer, an old color TV with a headphone jack, and a vcr with lots of surfing and biking tapes. Maybe you could do that in your dorm room!

The trainer takes up very little space; I just leave my bike attached to it and hop on in the mornings. Can't do that with rollers.
re: Can only buy one for winter: Trainer or Rollers???flying
Oct 8, 2002 10:10 PM
Get the rollers
The Tacx folding small diameter drums version is nice & inexpensive.
LaBiciletta has them for around 100.
If you want/like to ride/train get the rollers.
If you need to zone out ...read books...watch TV while you ride/train then get the trainer.
IMO YMMV