So you are looking for a way to continue training on your bike regardless of the weather outside, but you are concerned about wearing out your bike tires on a trainer. Well, there is another option for you! You can consider getting a roller which can also provide a challenging training experience without putting a lot of strain on your tires.
Do rollers ruin my bike tires? Rollers will not cause your bike’s tires to wear out as much compared to using a trainer. True, both of your tires will be in contact with the roller drums, but they are made of smooth aluminum or plastic that will not really put too much pressure on your tires.
Do you think a roller is for you? Read on to find out the advantages and possible disadvantages of using a roller apart from saving your tires.
What is a roller and how is it different from a trainer?
Both a roller and a trainer requires you to use your bike, unlike an indoor or spin bike which is pretty much a stand-alone exercise bike.
Rollers have been around for a long time now so you might be familiar with it. In fact, long before the bike trainers became the norm, rollers where the first indoor bike trainer in a sense.
Rollers usually have three drums or cylinders–one in front and two in the rear. As you pedal your bike, the rear wheel of your bike spins the two rear drums. There is also a belt that connects the middle drum with the front drum so it will cause the front wheel of your bike to also spin as you are pedaling.
On the other hand, you need to attach your bike frame and press the rear wheel against a small roller in a bike trainer.
This means that you have to do that balancing act while you ride on your bike on the rollers, unlike in a trainer wherein your bike is fixed in place. In that aspect, riding your bike on the rollers is more akin to riding outdoors.
With a roller, you can practice on improving your balance, and bike handling skills as well. Also, you can further enhance your pedaling stroke by training on rollers.
On the downside, riding your bike on the roller needs a little getting used to. Also, you must be always stay focused while working out since you need to keep your balance. Sorry, no book reading while riding on the rollers (but you are free to watch the television if you are an expert already).
Do I need special tires for my rollers?
One downside of using bike trainers is that the rear tires wear out easily due to the constant friction and heat from the trainers. This is why most indoor trainer enthusiasts recommend that you use a trainer specific tire for your wheel. Trainer tires have low tread and has smoother texture compared to regular tires.
Some indoor cyclists use their old bike tire for their trainers to save some money, which pretty much works for the purpose. But they may not last as long as the brand new trainer tire.
On the other hand, it will not be necessary to use trainer tires on your bikes if you plan to use them on the rollers. So just hop on your bike and ride away (or ride in place to be accurate).
However, if you prefer, you can also use a pair of old bike tires for a smoother (and quieter) roll.
Some companies sell a roller specific training tire, but I feel it is not really necessary given that the tires do not wear out as much. But it’s totally up to you if you want to get one.
Just a word of caution when using old tires. Clean them up and make sure that there are no dirt or hard things lodged in between the treads because they could possibly wear your rollers.
Can I adjust the resistance on my rollers?
As most serious cyclists already know, trainers have built-in resistance control. Personally, I like having the option to adjust the resistance for my training.
At certain times, I just like to ride my worries away so I am not compelled to set the resistance on my trainer on high. But when I am into a serious workout mode, that resistance knob on my trainer matters a lot in helping me achieve my training goals.
If you are leaning towards getting a roller for your indoor bike training, however, keep in mind that most rollers do not have resistance control built-in.
If you also want to be able to adjust the resistance on your rollers, you have to be ready to fork out more money as these are a little more expensive than the regular rollers.
This Elite Arion Folding Rollers have three magnetic resistance levels: no resistance for easy recovery rides or warm-ups, low and high resistance for tougher workouts.
Are there any Smart Rollers?
For some cyclists on the roller camp, one thing that they like from their rollers is its simplicity. No bells and whistles, no need to attach anything. Just unfold it and they can start rolling.
However, we are now in a highly digital and connected world that even some trainers have smart capabilities, which to me are are very useful in monitoring my performance and stepping up my training.
But if you want the simplicity of the roller yet also likes modern things, having rollers with a smart capability isn’t a bad idea at all.
Lucky you, because I found this Arion Digital Smart B+ Interactive Rollers on Amazon which features ANT Wireless Console. This roller can interact with any app, device, or computer which can manage resistance on the roller depending on the training or course.
You will get a 12-month free subscription to My E-Training software which manages your roller. But you can also use other indoor cycling apps if you already have a paid subscription with them.
Of course you will pay a little more for this kind of roller, but at around $650 dollars, it is a fair enough deal.
How to be a roller master?
If you are used to working out in a trainer, it can be tricky at first to get a hang of the rollers.
To help you start out with the roller, you can set it up between the doorway. This way, if ever you lose your balance while pedaling, you can lean on either side for support.
If you are a bit more confident, you can try setting it up beside a wall. Practice a lot until such time that you are ready to ride the bike without the fear of falling. By that time, you are ready to roll in an open space. Always keep your focus and try to stay in the middle of the barrel.
Also, don’t grip the handle bar too tight. I know it is the initial reaction when you feel that you are going to tip over. But doing that may cause you to be lose your balance more. So relax those hands. Who knows, with enough practice, you can even ride your bike hands-free.
Compared to a trainer, a roller will not wear out your tires that much, so you don’t have to worry too much about your tires. If you are afraid of using your brand new tires on the roller, then an old set will do and might even be less noisy , and better option for you.
Riding a bike on the rollers is an excellent way of training to improve your balance and pedal technique, and also a good aerobic activity. You need to get used to it though, specially if you have been using a bike trainer before.
Can you ride mountain bikes on a roller? Yes, you can ride most type of bikes on a roller. You can adjust the position of the front drum to fit the bike. Just make sure that the front wheel is just slightly behind the drum.
Which is better for your tires, aluminum or plastic rollers? I personally don’t have a comparative study done to test which one is better. But Cycle Ops, a company which manufactures trainers and rollers, did some tests. According to them, aluminum rollers will likely give a longer life to the tires because they cool down much faster than plastic. Read the full explanation in this post from Bike Rumor!