You’ve probably seen them before at a race, ride, or event. Riding rollers is a way to ride your bike in place without having to hook it up to a trainer or other contraption. The drums the wheels rest on spin to keep the rider upright but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to ride. Just how is riding rollers done?
Riding Rollers – The Benefits
Rollers can be intimidating and may even evoke fear in the hearts of some cyclists. They’re simple enough but in the wrong hands, can be dangerous. Once you get the hang of rollers, you’re in for a ride that offers you benefits of balance, bike handling, and fitness.
Rollers Have Evolved
At least part of a new outlook on rollers comes from evolution. Contemporary rollers employ smaller drums and upgraded bearings that allow for more control. They’re overall easier to use than older, clunky rollers from the past.
Before starting a roller session, always check that the rollers are on a perfectly flat surface. You don’t want them to rock from corner to corner, tip, slope or tilt.
Check the Length
Check that the rollers fit your bike. Stand the bike on the rollers. Draw a visual line vertically down from your front axle. The axle should be just behind the apex or top of the roller. In other words, the position of the roller should be just longer than the wheel base of the bike. If not, the front drum is typically adjustable. The two drums in the back are not.
The Safety Net
Place an object on both sides of the rollers for you to hang on to. You can use two high-backed chairs, or something that you can brace yourself against. One option is to set the rollers inside a doorway and use the sides of the doorway for balance. Once you get on, you can lean your shoulders against the doorway to regain balance and prevent falling.
Check Your Gearing
Start with your bike in an easy gear so when you start pedaling you can quickly bring your wheels up to speed which is what will keep you upright. As you get rolling, you can then shift down to a harder gear for added resistance.
Getting on The Bike
To get on the bike, first place it so both wheels are on the rollers. Then if getting on from the left side, place your left foot on the roller stand so you can get high enough to swing your other leg over the back wheel and sit your butt on the saddle. With one hand on the bars and another on a chair or something else stable, bring your left foot to the pedal and clip both in.
Starting to Pedal
With one hand still holding on to something to balance and one hand on the handlebars, start pedaling slowly. Keep the front wheel straight and ideally in the center of the drums. The magic of balancing a bike happens because of the gyroscopic effect of the turning wheels which is what keeps you upright while riding rollers. It will be very difficult to balance while pedaling slowly so speed up by pedaling harder and shifting to a harder gear. You will feel the bike become less twitchy and more stable. Keep holding onto the support for a few minutes until you start to get comfortable.
Riding Without Support
Once you feel comfortable, start lifting your hand away from the support but holding it in the air just above it should you need it. As you get more comfortable you can move it closer to the bars and eventually completely on the bars. This will take some time and practice to get t0 and to be comfortable with so it’s alright if you can’t do this right away.
Keeping Your Focus
The good, or bad thing with riding rollers compared to a trainer is that you have to pay attention. If you don’t, you will ride off the side of them or fall over. Particularly when starting out, you will have to focus hard on staying in the center of the rollers and keeping your balance. As you get better and better your focus can drift.
One Minute Per Gear
When you get the hang of it, shift to the easiest gear in back while keeping a high cadence. A good starting workout for a beginner is to ride one minute in each gear, shifting to a harder gear after one minute. If you have ten gears that’s ten minutes, each progressively harder if you’re keeping an even cadence. If that’s not enough, repeat running through the gears for a total of twenty minutes. Three times through or thirty minutes could be something to work toward.
Getting Off the Rollers
To get off the rollers, stop pedaling and put one hand on whatever you’re using to balance. Then un-clip the foot opposite that you’re getting off on and then un-clip the side that you are getting off on. Place the foot of the side you’re getting off on onto the roller stand and swing your other leg over the back of the bike to get off. It may be awkward at first but you’ll get the hang of it quick.
- Set the rollers up between two objects: chairs, doorway etc.
- Use the right gears to start; easier is better.
- Focus a few feet ahead. Don’t look down just at your front wheel
- Don’t use a death grip or tense up. Hold the handlebars lightly.
- Use you hips to drive the pedals. If you get wobbly, add speed.