Ever wondered what the difference is between using a turbo trainer or rollers for training? If you’ve been cycling a while on a fixed turbo trainer and have always been curious as to what rollers have to offer, then here’s a quick gear guide:
1. Rollers Help Find flaws In Your Pedalling Technique
One important advantage of using rollers is the spinning is very ‘smooth’. Any qwerk in your pedalling style and you’ll be quickly bouncing and weaving. Rollers tend to be excellent therefore for technique training because you have to be steady – so they can iron out any pedalling flaws, - unlike the turbo trainer where you’re fixed in and the bike never moves much beneath you.
2. Engages Core Muscles As You Cycle
Rollers are very close in feel to riding out on the road, even more than the best turbo trainers. One of the reasons for this is you can engage all your cycling muscles on rollers (meaning your muscles that stabilise you whilst you cycle along) = often neglected on a turbo and why it takes longer to adapt back to the road from a turbo trainer than rollers. In other words, the natural cycling from rollers helps lessen the drop in form you might otherwise notice when transitioning from months of turbo training to the road.
Mind you, there are some top-notch turbo trainers that do a good job of simulating the road, albeit they tend to be much more expensive than rollers.
3. Quick To Set Up And Get Going
Another advantage of rollers is you can throw the bike on and off the rollers, so it is quicker to get going: no fixing the bike into a turbo A-frame etc. This is one big reason why track riders love them: easy to jump on and off with the same bike and always teach you good spinning technique.
What Are The Drawbacks of Rollers?
1. You Have To Learn To Balance On Rollers
The drawback with rollers is you have to learn to balance on them, but it doesn’t take long to learn if you keep persisting for a few sessions.
Beginning roller cyclists get nervous that if they come off the rollers, the bike will go zooming across their living room….not so! . If you come off the rollers for any reason, the bike just stops dead on the ground – and you topple over. For this reason, have something soft to land on either side when starting out, or have someone close by to hold your saddle whilst you get enough momentum to cycle unaided.
2. It Requires More Concentration Than Turbo
Rollers DO demand a novice rider to concentrate and this can be tiring and ‘may’ detract from the quality of the workout. This is why complete novice cyclists ideally should start off with a fixed turbo trainer - just to get used to basic indoor cycling. So if all you are doing is watching a DVD, then a turbo trainer is probably your best option.
If on the other hand you’ve been turbo training a while and want to do more focused cadence training and know how to carry out intervals well indoors, then rollers could be better.
3. Harder To Drink From Bike + Stand up Out Of The Saddle
With rollers you have to pedal all the time. You can freewheel a little, but not much. This is a good thing as it makes you continually cycle. But it can have its drawbacks in that it is difficult to relax/stretch tired muscles making you easily overdo it.
Getting out the saddle is tricky and takes much practice. This means then that in the beginning, it’s hard to alternate muscle groups when working hard, which ‘can’ lead to leg cramps (this has happened to me!).
Also letting one hand down to grab a bottle can also seem impossible to begin with. But with good practice, you’ll be able to do these things without even thinking!
Final Verdict: Which Is Best For Training?
When it comes down to fitness training, either will do. There’s a slight advantage going towards rollers because of the above points. However, we are splitting hairs here. You can still get a very good technique workout on a turbo trainer – no question about that – and definitely the way to go if you’re a complete newbie to indoor cycling.
There is absolutely no reason to hold back just because elite track racers use rollers! At the very most they will help you sort your pedaling technique and certainly give you a new dimension or variation to your indoor cycling!
Bottom line is, if you’ve been using a turbo trainer a while and are curious about rollers – give them a go this autumn/winter you have nothing to lose and everything to gain 🙂 .