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Do rollers really help you out that much?(33 posts)

Do rollers really help you out that much?rrjc5488
Jan 7, 2004 12:13 PM
I've read that rollers smooth out your spin, as well as keep up your fitness in the off season. But I also hear they're very hard to get used to. I've also got some extra christmas money (like biknben) and was wondering if performances rollers were worth the 130 bucks.

Any advice welcome, thanks!
re: Do rollers really help you out that much?Jon Billheimer
Jan 7, 2004 12:20 PM
I think they're well worth the investment. They'll improve your balance, bike handling skills, and spin. Initially set them up in a doorway until you get used to them. A couple of sessions and you'll be on your way.
re: Do rollers really help you out that much?Softrider
Jan 7, 2004 12:41 PM
Rollers are not that hard to learn. When I started, I set them up next to a wall, close enough that if I felt I was going to lose my balance I could stick out an elbow and get some help. After a few hours, you won't need the help.

Just remember to relax and don't over-react. They are a good workout, and much more enjoyable than a trainer.

I can't give you specific advice on the performance rollers, but for the price it would be worth trying. Rollers actually have a good resale value on e-bay. If you decide that you will use the rollers often, you could always sell the cheaper ones and buy a better set later.

I have the Minoura mag rollers and they are great. I think they retail for about $175
I think so......FTMD
Jan 7, 2004 12:41 PM
I believe they are worth the $. Last winter was my first on them, and I increased my cadence which gave me a smoother spin and my bike handling increased ten fold. Ride no handed? Check. Hold a line better? Check. Shoot, I can track stand now and I think I owe a lot of that to the balance I gained on rollers.

No, you won't be able to do a smash gear type of power workout as you would on a stationary, but I'm usually working very hard in the big ring.

The riding on ice sensation lasts thru about 3 rides. After that, it's good to go. I say go for it.
Jan 7, 2004 1:11 PM
Before riding rollers, I thought I could hold a line as well as the next guy. I would ride along the right side of the road and my tire would only move and inch or two off a white line I was following. Which I thought, hey that's pretty good. Then I rode the rollers everyday for 4 months before getting back on the road. Now, I plant a wheel next to the white line and it STAYS on that line. Didn't know how bad my handling skills were until I found the tool that illustrated it.

not as hard to get used to as you may think...loki_1
Jan 7, 2004 1:12 PM
I had the same fears about rollers but have found that they are not hard to get used to and do provide a good workout. They also do help with your technique, something that a trainer cannot do.

I also have the minoura rollers with the resistance unit. Very happy with them. I think i paid $170 including shipping for a new set on ebay.
Ditto the Minoura Mag RollersDale Brigham
Jan 7, 2004 2:02 PM
Having the variable resistance option is nice, especially since I ride a fixed gear bike on the rollers. You have to stop the bike to change the resistance setting (I just roll to a stop, lean on the chair back positioned on my left, and poke at the setting lever with my right foot, all without getting off the bike), but that's not such a big deficit. The middle to higher of the 7 (I think) resistance settings are pretty stout for my old gams. Plenty of workout in that unit.

I'm not sure how much rollers improve one's cycling form (I'd guess it depends where you start), but they sure don't hurt anything. They seem to help me keep my balance, smoothness, and spinning ability on the bike within acceptable bounds, but that's just my take.

The greatest benefit of riding rollers is that you can lord it over those who are stuck on trainers. Rollers take a bit of time to get comfortable with, and not everybody takes to them. Set your bicycle free of encumbering training devices -- ride rollers!

The truth.eyebob
Jan 7, 2004 1:42 PM
FWIW, I never understood the whole "bike handling" argument. It's never done anything for me. I'm thinking that it's because I have good/great skills to start with. I bought rollers after I'd been riding/racing for 5 years or so, used them for 2 Winters now without any noticible increase in my "bike handling" skills.

I rarely use them now because you cannot really train on them. At most you can get into 2,3, maybe 4 different gears but the cadence that you spin at is generally fixed. On a trainer, you can do anything you want to....sit, stand, spin at 120 rpm, back off, mash a huge ass gear, etc. So if you're looking to be able to train, don't get a set.

The one big advantage to the rollers is that they don't let you coast. I use them about once per week now on a day that I have programmed to ride "tempo" because it most accurately simulates that for me. I can get my HR to high Zone 3 and keep it there easily with the rollers. The rollers don't let me back off so I'm more or less forced to ride tempo.


PS If you're debating about getting a smaller cylinder roller vs. a larger cylinder roller, go with the larger diam. size. They're easier to get used to.
I have to disagree with a few things you say -- you say that youbill
Jan 7, 2004 2:08 PM
can't really train on rollers. Certainly, there are a couple of things you can do more easily with a trainer than with rollers, like very high resistance, very low cadence muscle tension stuff or screaming sprint simulation, but that's really about it, and your skill with rollers can bring even that stuff sort of in reach. The ability to use rollers at lower cadence is an acquired skill, for sure, but you can go about fifty rpms, and I'm not sure that you need to go lower. And, with a resistance unit, going very, very hard is doable. I believe that I've tested my max on rollers in a way that I'm not sure I've ever hit on the road, and rollers are all but made for LT intervals, because you have to maintain form or end up on the floor.
While some of these exercises as pure stressing exercises are more difficult, I'm not sure that trying to do some of this more difficult stuff on rollers doesn't itself have a benefit. You have to maintain your form.
Don't understand: 'The cadence you spin at is...fixed'. Explainhrv
Jan 7, 2004 3:02 PM
I've spun at 40 on up. The top roller racer guys spin at 220 to 300. What do you mean?

With full understanding that rollering is a skill that you don'tbill
Jan 7, 2004 3:22 PM
necessarily need to be a great rider, I think that our hero just never really developed on rollers to the point that he was able to vary his cadence very much. When I got the resistance unit, and the bike's "speed" went from 25-30 to 15-20, I had to learn rollers all over again, because it's that much harder to keep the bike up with the wheels spinning slower and less gyroscope effect. Same is true of reducing cadence.
We have a great rider on our club -- Cat 2, years of experience. He thought that he would climb right back up on rollers after not having a set for ten years. Wrong. He had to learn it all over again.
I think a lot of people think that rollers are more limited than they are. Remember, people, it's all they had for years.
While you don't need rollers to be a great rider, rollers can bring outsized improvement to those of us who are not great.
220-300 rpms? Really?eyebob
Jan 8, 2004 11:52 AM
Hmmm, either that's a typo or that's just wrong. If you're talking wattage output, i'd say yeah, but rpm's, hmmmm.
Here you gohrv
Jan 9, 2004 7:58 AM
From :

Paul Webb from Perth Western Australia told me about the time he was roller racing, using 92" fixed he covered a standing start kilo in just 37 seconds. That is an average speed of 97kmh and a cadence of 220rpm, and just think there was no wind to cool the high friction parts.

From :

Roller Record September 16, 2000 Berne, Switzerland:

44 year old Manfred Nüscheler has set a new speed record for riding on stationary rollers,clocking 164.1 km/h. The record was set using a 54x11 (10.49 m) gear on a standard bike (Moser frame with Campagnolo gear) on Minoura rollers. The old record was 160.4 km/h. During the attempt, Nüscheler rode at between 269 and 284 rpm, demonstrating that leg speed is not necessarily lost as one gets older.
Un-freaking believable. Truly.eyebob
Jan 9, 2004 1:03 PM
I'm not sure that I could touch 160 on the road or in a stationary trainer for any length of time, let alone 220+. Excellent post and link. Gracias.

Yes. Yes. Yes, they do. They really do.bill
Jan 7, 2004 1:50 PM
Everyone mentions that rollers will help you smooth out your spin, but the importance of smoothing out your stroke to your riding is difficult to understand until you go through it. I think it is the single skill that has most improved my riding. When you smooth out your stroke, you can apply force through more of the pedaling arc. I have no science to support this, but I'm convinced, and I'm the guy doing the pedaling.
Do it. I really kind of enjoy rollers. They are an inferior alternative to training outside, but as a substitute when the weather sucks or you don't have the time to go outside (like when you have to watch the kids -- well, not watch, but monitor whether they're burning the house down), they're really very not bad. They're also more efficient than going outside in a lot of ways -- very controlled, no coasting.
Yes. Yes. Yes, they do. They really do.eyebob
Jan 8, 2004 12:01 PM

There would be a way to "scientifically" test whether your stroke is smoother because of your rollering. If you were on a computrainer (or some similar device) that can map your pedal stroke to show you how efficient it is before and after getting used to rollers and then re-test it you'd see whether you're more efficient or just plain stronger. I'm not saying that this hasn't happened with you but what many consider "more efficeint" is really just being stronger. I'M NOT AN EXPERT AND THIS IS JUST MY OPINION, but if you're really interested in improving the actual stroke you have to know what's right and wrong and (hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong) the only way to map it is via a computrainer type machine. (By the way, I don't work or own stock in that company)

I think that rollers make people stronger and perhaps more balanced, but nothing that can't be done on a trainer.

re: Do rollers really help you out that much?cyclinseth
Jan 7, 2004 2:46 PM
I don't know why some people say you can't hammer as hard on rollers as you can on a trainer. When I rode them, I would do intervals, frequently at 90-95% of theoretical max hr (220-age). In other words as hard as I could possibly go.

Come springtime you'll wonder how on earth your buddies ride while drunk, because you'll see them wobbling all over the road.

One suggestion, get a cheapo pair of tires to use on them.
re: Do rollers really help you out that much?Fender
Jan 7, 2004 3:05 PM
Sure they do.

I would do short intervals when I lived in S.F. Since I could not find any flat sections of road with no traffic lights. I would set them in resistance level #2 and just hammer out. They did help my handling skills a bit, although nothing dramatic. As far as improving your spin, they did also help.

I own a pair of Minora (sp?) with the resistance unit. Paid about $100 on ebay including shipping.

Haven't used them since I moved to San Diego.
re: Do rollers really help you out that much?owmynads
Jan 7, 2004 3:51 PM
Here's a "FWIW" from a first-winter cyclist:

I got my Minoura rollers on ebay for ~$160. Crashed on the floor the first time on them in my cellar. My wife laughed even harder than I did. I'd like to say that was my last unscheduled meeting with my cellar floor, but alas, it has not been. What I've learned:

1. Look forward, right where the wheel of that stronger rider would be in a pace line. Works like a charm.

2. I've got a Cateye Astrale 8 which gives you a cadence reading. Without resistance on, I need to keep the rpms at 75 at the very least or I'm going to be kissing pavement.

3. If someone approaches you from the side, and says, "Honey...?" Don't turn your head really fast to say, "Huh?" or you'll be horizontal faster than a monkey on a banana.

4. You can't coast, but you can let the rpm wheedle down there a bit. As I've said, let the rpm drop to 75, recover, then HAMMER ON over 100 and you've got a great training opportunity- intervals!

5. As many others have said, you should put the rollers near something you can reach out and grab should you start to go down. I put mine near a lolly column in the cellar. I can reach out and really get my hand around it and stop many would-be tragedies.

6. Also, to echo what many here have said, I am certain that this is helping me to even out my pedal. If you hammer too hard on the right, the bike lurches to the right. If you hammer too hard on the left, it goes left. This is very scary, at first, when you only have 18" of roller real estate separating you from certain crashing.

7. Don't try to adjust your forward/aft position on the seat too quickly when you're first getting used to the rollers. I've "jumped" the front roller. Quick brake hands stopped me from sailing into the wall in front of me. I now ride parallel to walls, as a result.

8. At first, don't reach for anything- water, an itch, wipe sweat, etc. It will send you "sailing". Instead, put your hand on the wall/doorway/pole/chair and coast slowly to a stop. Get that drink, wipe that sweat, and then hammer on.

I hope this helps. From one noob to another, I'd definitely make this purchase again if I had to, and I'd advise anyone to get them. They do help. You've just got to be willing to discipline yourself. I also have a stationary trainer, and I use that for long distance hammering. I'm very glad I've got both.

Happy Winter,

re: Do rollers really help you out that much?owmynads
Jan 7, 2004 8:44 PM

Got on the rollers tonight for the first time in two weeks. I forgot to add this advice:

When you want to get on the rollers, first, put the bike in a low, easy-to-spin gear. Easier the better. Then, when you start off, be VERY aggressive and hammer like your life depends on it. I forgot, and made the mistake of attempting a "gradual" start. Oops. Hello, floor. I didn't see you lying there...

But once you get hammering, there's no stopping you.

Jan 9, 2004 8:14 AM
Colorful description but it really shouldn't be that dramatic. Relax the upper body, look ahead, and keep the rpms up. I'd disagree with your "easier the better" suggestion on gearing. Yes, you should start in a gear that allows for a reasonably quick wind up, but a climbing gear just won't turn the rollers all that much (which means that you'll need a very high rpm indeed, which, I'd imagine for a newbie, might make you a little shaky).

Here's what I like about doorways or narrow corridors for folks who are starting out (or re-learning). Once you are past the initial "just cannot do it" moment, it's really good to have a way to steady yourself WITHOUT letting go and grabbing something. Flaring out the elbows against a doorpost or wall allows you to steady yourself while maintaining your spin and your position on the bike. This allows the rollers-as-biofeedback-device to do their thing--it's training as opposed to bailing. Once you are comfortable on the rollers, you won't need this, but getting started it's incredibly useful.
Great visuals. LOL. nmpedalAZ
Jan 8, 2004 8:52 AM
yes. they really can help.aaroncvc
Jan 7, 2004 4:42 PM
first and foremost, they do a good job of pointing out problems in your pedal stroke. most people can benefit from getting on the rollers every now and then to check their efficiency and pedalling technique.

secondly, they can improve your balance quite a bit. being cylinders, they're much harder to balance on than pavement. add to that, you have to ride something about 12-16 inches wide, and it's really unnerving when you start to slide towards the side, and you have a great mechanism of improving your balance.

it doesn't stop at teaching you how to ride a straight line with your hands on top of the bars, but how to do that while getting a water bottle out of it's cage, drinking it, replacing it... or switching from the tops of the bars to the drops... or when you're accelerating like mad.

the minoura mag units give you the ability to do tempo, and threshold training.... elevate the front of the unit to simulate seated climbing. no you can't get out of the hammer and stomp on the pedals like you're going for the line, but compared to the mind-numbing stationary, it's worth it.
Canadians like rollersEric_H
Jan 7, 2004 6:52 PM
Well at least I do! I used to live in Edmonton, pretty long winters with no riding outdoors for months at a time. So, I got very used to riding indoors. I have both a fluid trainer and rollers, and the fluid trainer has always lost out. I like the interactivity of riding rollers, I actually have to pay attention and focus. Just mashing out an interval on the stationary trainer seems so boring. Rollers definitely help develop a smoother leg spin, and they can help you to ride a higher cadence. In terms of resistance, I find the 3.5" drum of the Kreitler Dyno-Lyte to give me enough resistance in my biggest gear for any type of interval except for a muscular strength session.

Since moving out west to the Vancouver area, I find I don't ride indoors too much any more. I can do most of my training outdoors, however during the winter months I always make an effort to ride rollers for 30 minutes 2x per week at a high (100+ rpm) cadence. I am often guilty of big gears and diesel leg speed and I find nothing helps me as much as rollers. Lately, I've been spending a lot more time indoors on rollers as we have had a decent run of snow, ice and cold.

There has been lots of good advice given here, but I'll add my "essentials":

- use the door frame to start out as it provides support on both sides. Start in a gear like 53x17 or 39x15. If the gear is too small it is actually harder to start because the higher speed of your legs will throw you off balance.

- pump up the tires and try to use tires that are very round. The more bumpy the tire, the noisier and rougher the ride. This is especially important if you are riding on a non-ground floor, like in an apartment. If you are riding in an apartment above ground floor, be prepared to tick off some neighbors!

- learn to stand to relieve saddle pressure. 53x12, stand up slowly and keep the cadence low and smooth. It's not that hard once you get the hang of staying smooth during the transition and this is vital if you want to ride for any duration of time. I stand for one minute every 10-15 minutes.

- get a fan, the bigger the better. Keeping the body cool (relatively) is important for indoor riding. And, I recommend something like the Blackburn Sweat Net, a towel-like thing that runs across the top tube from the handlebars to the seatpost. It will help to keep the sweat from landing on your bike, and it provides a place to wipe sweaty hands. Sweat is very hard on the bike (picture seized threads, aluminium corrosion, etc, etc).

- as with any indoor training, make the training efficient and don't try to do long rides. For most of us, doing long indoor rides can lead to mental burnout. Warm up, do some specific training, cool down and get off. I NEVER ride for more than 1 hour. One winter I did longer sessions indoors and it definitely reduced my enthusiasm towards the bike for a while.

- if the roller drums are PVC, don't leave them out in the hot sun too long. Years ago, I killed a set of Tacx rollers when I left them out on a balcony in summer and went out of town for 10 days. The UV warped them into "Paris-Roubaix rollers". I used it as an excuse to upgrade to some Kreitler Dyno-Lytes.
They really do help.jtlmd
Jan 7, 2004 8:51 PM
I've been riding rollers intermittently for over ten years. I still enjoy them more than the stationary trainer. It really does smooth out your spin. You can do intervals easily. You just learn to be very smooth.

When I was in school we used to get together 1-2 times a week in the winter to ride the rollers as a group. This is when I learned to ride no handed, standing, while drinking, and eating. It definitely helps smooth out the spin and help your balance.

I still haven't mastered slowing to a stop, bunny-hopping off and riding away. Someday.
re: Do rollers really help you out that much?bc165
Jan 7, 2004 9:31 PM
I bought the $109 Performance rollers and thought the quality of the unit was fine. Everyone should try rollers just to experience the first 10 minutes of riding on ice... it's a hoot... more advice - get your rpm up around 80 asap and consider using plain pedals instead of clipping in for your first few rides! I think my skills are pretty good, but the rollers do help to refine your technique. That said, I returned them to Performance - one of the advantages of buying there in the first place - and exchanged them for the Mag trainer and I have to say that unlike most of the others I prefer the trainer. I can stay on the trainer longer, watach TV easier, do one-legged workouts and cruise easy for a few minutes without worrying about a crash. Good luck and have fun!
whats the best way to start in the middle of a room...komatiite
Jan 7, 2004 9:48 PM
without any support/crutches? I just got a set of SportCrafters rollers and absolutley love them! 3.25" drums Al drums. smooth riding. Noticing an improvement on even pedal strokes, but i am having a hard time starting from the middle of the room without any sort of aid. anyone have any suggestions on this?

Standing start with no supports: Very, very hard for me...Spunout
Jan 8, 2004 4:38 AM
I get in the 53x12 with one foot clipped in and the other resting on the roller frame.

One big push should get things spinning, but now how to get the other foot clipped in? Trying to chase the pedal around (usually flipped upside down) and you can't really stop pedalling to wiggle in (Looks) is always a challenge.

I gave up and pulled a chair over and support with a hand while getting both clipped in to start.
I have never managed this. It's a mythical, cosmic goal. nmbill
Jan 8, 2004 9:29 AM
re: Do rollers really help you out that much?JetSpeed
Jan 8, 2004 1:57 AM
I have Cyclops Fluid trainer and it's great for hammering a good workout, but I start and end each session w/ a 10 min. warm-up/cool-down on my crappy CyclePro PVC rollers.
I enjoy riding my rollers and agree it has helped my spin and balance a bit.
I'm currently in the market for the Sportcrafter Rollers I love riding them so much!
They can be hard at first, but it's an incredibly steep learningdjg
Jan 8, 2004 7:01 AM
curve. At least it has been for me and others I've talked to. I don't think any special talent or coordination is required--I don't know anybody who has made a sustained effort to learn to ride rollers who has failed.

I ditched rollers for a number of years. When I came back to them, I seemed to have forgotten everything. For the first minute, riding didn't just seem difficult, it seemed impossible. I think that some who run into this feeling give up and spread the word that riding rollers is very difficult. It's not. In my own case, the first 10 minutes were hell the first time back. The second time, the first minute was hell and the first 5 were very shaky. At the end of a week I was pretty comfortable, and I don't think I gave it more than 30 minutes per session in that first week (and a good bit less a few times).

In any case, I like them. I have mid-sized Kreitlers--the poly-lytes--and I find them to be a very good tool and not at all difficult to use. I had cheap pvc-drummed rollers years ago and, although they definitely weren't as nice as the Kreitlers, they worked just fine.

If you get them, there are lots of posts about how to get started you can search out. I'm a big fan of the doorway technique, as it gives you pretty good transition points between riding just fine and failing entirely.
Wax on, wax offbw77
Jan 8, 2004 8:33 AM
Some new tires have a thin coating of wax on them. When I put a new tire on my rear wheel last week, I noticed that things got really bumpy, and when I checked, there were little globs of wax on the rear roller. I scraped them off, and it took several days until all the wax was off the tread. Next time I would ride a new tire outdoors to get the wax off.
Woohoo! Rollers....xrmattaz
Jan 8, 2004 8:45 AM
I bought my Kreitler Challengers...with the Killer Headwind from my LBS buddy last week! One hundred dollas..!!
Frame is a bit rusty, and will someday be replaced, otherwise in perfect shape! These rollers are perhaps 15 years old, we think. Bearings and such are smooooth.

Boy, what an experience the first few riding!
I've now been on 'em five or six times, probably a total of 1 hour. A wall on my left side and a super-size jumbo beanbag chair on the right helps. And, I learned NOT to hold tightly to the handlebar. I'm still not comfortable on 'em...but getting better. They always put a smile on my face, tho!

I need to do a search for "beginner roller technique". Anyone have a link?