Switching to rollers - and why you should try too

Recently, I switched from training on the Tacx Neo 2T to the Elite Nero rollers on my road bike. After my first few months training indoors on the direct drive trainer, I found myself lacking in motivation and getting little joy out of my cycling. I no longer felt like I was actually doing what I loved which was training on the bike. Being glued to the trainer simply felt like a completely different activity to cycling in general. In addition, I found myself struggling with some knee pain, more than a few saddle sores, and shoulder aches - ailments I’ve never experienced before.

After taking a solid 6 weeks off the bike while focusing on running, I started to get the itch back. However, fearful of what the indoor training did to my love of the bike, I was hesitant to get back into it. My friend recommended that I try rollers instead of the trainer as he had great success doing so himself, and therefore, I decided to buy the Elite Nero rollers and try for myself.

So far - it has been revolutionary. Training is fun again, and I actually look forward to getting on the bike. The nature of riding rollers - balancing, stabilising, and shifting gears - keeps me engaged the entire time. While the cognitive load (and likely energy expenditure) is noticeably higher, I actually feel like I’m riding my bike. Since I’m constantly moving dynamically, I don’t get knee pain, saddle sores, or other aches to nearly the same extent. As a bonus, the inertia feel of the rollers is much “better”, which allows for a much less forceful and energy draining pedalling technique.

So - for anyone currently struggling with indoor training, I really hope you consider giving rollers a try. It definitely saved my winter season, and I look forward to training again. Hopefully this is insightful in some way!

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What saved me is riding my Kickr in Zwift or RGT, in sim mode, and simply following the prompts on my bike computer. Just like training outside. One way to train. And no inside/outside differences in ftp.

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Rollers rider (TruTrainer) here too for years now and also don’t use ERG mode at all. Ride in zwift and hit power targets by shifting and modulating my effort to the terrain…like outside! There’s no going back to a locked in trainer for me.

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Before zwift, I rode only rollers inside, similar to the benefits you mention above. Then I got zwift, used rollers and came off the rollers twice in a week. Previously I’ve come off the rollers once in 15 years. I love how they feel, but when watching the screen with turns, I just start leaning my bike into the turns a little…not worth the potential injury for me. Haven’t tried them with TR, probably work fine there.

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Part of your motivation is probably that it’s a new experience with a fun learning curve, but I 100% agree that it’s a much better experience than a stationary trainer. I’ve been using Inside Ride e motion rollers for over 10 years and upgraded to their smart version several years ago. There used to be a big premium in price over a basic stationary trainer. But with the cost of smart trainers, you can get smart rollers for about the same price. I guess that assumes you already have a power meter on your bike, but it still seems like it’s an option more should consider.

The biggest downside I see is putting wear and tear on a rear tire that doesn’t happen with a smart trainer. The upside is huge in my opinion. It’s very natural getting out of the saddle and rocking the bike. With the floating frame, you don’t have that rigid feeling front to back you have with a stationary trainer. There is a reason many of the smart trainers are giving options for movement/rocking, but none of them are going to be as natural as rollers. Basically, it’s just like being on the road from a pedaling feel. There is a short learning curve to get comfortable, but it’s very short. The only other negative I can think of is that the ERG mode wasn’t great for me when I tried it, a little slow to react. It might be the same way on smart trainers, I’ve never tried it there and I generally never used ERG mode (I was just trying it out for curiosity).

Zwift and/or TR on rollers is a dramatically better experience for me, but everyone is different and some people are probably a great fit for stationary trainers. That said, I think it’s madness that so many chose a smart trainer over smart rollers. It might be that I’m missing some of the downsides, but I suspect a lot of it is education and the false impression that rollers are hard to learn. Youtube videos of first attempts on rollers are just that - first attempts. The learning curve to be comfortable is measured in minutes, or maybe hours, not days.

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Yup, scenarios like that and general shaky handling when recovering from super hard VO2 & Anaerobic efforts make rollers “interesting” at times :wink: More than one close call for me in the season I spent riding them.

That stuff, along with my desire to get more capability of a smart trainer, is what lead me into the Rocker Plate world. I wanted most of the motion found in rollers, but minimizing risk & need to “steer” while gaining the benefits of comfort, control & immersion.

For those that can’t or don’t want to take on the full challenge that rollers present, a rocker plate or similar item can be a good middle ground. They can be setup quite stable to nearly as loose & demanding as rollers.

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I’m using an InsideRide e-flex with the Kickr. Love it.

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That looks like a great design, especially if you have already made the investment in the smart trainer. Gives you the forward/back float which is critical to comfort in my opinion and lacking in many (if not all) of the rocker solutions.

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Yep, there are definitely some spots in zwift that requires a little concentration (or just ignoring the screen for a second). The “squiggles” section in France is probably the worst. The inside ride rollers have little roller/bumpers that you can ride up against before going off the edge. They work well, but I have come off the rollers once in Zwift (been riding Zwift since it was beta). It’s something to consider, but not a problem with experience. For me, the bigger challenge is watching sports on TV while doing easy/mindless Z2 work. I’m riding right in front of a big screen and your eyes (and bike) tend to follow the play. Again, the bumpers usually save me, but you can go off if you hit them hard enough and can’t get your weight back inside to save it. I’ve come off the rollers maybe a handful of times in 10 years, maybe less. My bike handling is nothing to write home about, so I don’t think I’m doing any better or worse than average.

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Switching to a model with a flywheel (trutrainer) helped me a lot with that. There’s enough inertia that I can coast for awhile at the end of a hard interval similar to what I’d do outside.

However, the erg mode on my rollers I’ve never been especially comfortable with.

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Yeah, I would bet a decent flywheel and proper spindown time (legit doube-digit seconds at least) helps a ton. I have always wanted to hack my old CycleOps Powerbeam Pro resistance unit onto my DIY motion rollers. Get some aspect of “smart” control, but mostly for the flywheel effect.

Still have to steer a bit though and I have those moments now where I basically collapse on the bars after some intervals.

** Cries in triathlon aero bars **

I already have enough trouble with just base bars, aero bars are quite the challenge on rollers

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It’d get into the double digits. I haven’t specifically tried to coast it to a stop straight off a hard interval but 10 seconds would be pretty easy, 20 may be possible and 30 seems unlikely.

I did set up my space so that the consequences of failure are pretty minimal though. Finally comfortable riding hands free on them partly as a result.

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As a rollers user (Elite nero), former Kickr user, and kreitler rollers back at the turn of the century… for me, the downsides of rollers is they are not great for a) as @mcneese.chad mentioned, the super high-intensity efforts where your vision narrows, and b) as @PhilippePhlop mentioned, getting aero but also, more broadly, spending 2, 3, 4, or even 5 hours getting in that long IM workout (or just a Z2 spin where you want to zone out) while watching movies. It’s probably just me, but besides not wanting to get aero on rollers, I also don’t want to reach back and get used to grabbing bottles off the back while tucked, manipulating the straw in front, etc. Two hours is my limit on rollers. But that’s just me. I’m soft.

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I love the feel of rollers. I hate the feel of crashing. Accordingly, my rollers mostly collect dust.

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Once I switched to a direct drive trainer and added a rocker plate with fore/aft movement I prefer to ride indoors for a good workout. Outside for me is for group rides and fun. Inside is to go hard. I am inside typically twice a week minimum each week. Living where it is often cold helps the mindset to learn to like inside though.

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For anyone afraid to tip over or ride off them, I can highly recommend installing one of these bad boys next to the rollers…instant pole to grab and correct your balance if you feel yourself tipping.

Security pole

I rather enjoy the ERG mode on my Elite Real e-Motion rollers. I try to ride them at least once a week.

Free post!

Here’s me with my Corgi on the rollers! (yeah, wearing flip-flops) :slight_smile:

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Funny enough, I just bought some used rollers online for basically this reason.

I had a NICE set of Minoura rollers back in the day (the big ones), but sold them after I bought my first smart trainer.

I figure I will use them for endurance rides, since having the bike be able to move around will make being in the saddle more comfortable and reduce the boredom of easy indoor rides.

I will also finally have some rollers I can warm up on before races.

That might be the biggest Corgi I have ever seen!

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