Turbo trainers are the most common tools, but rollers for indoor cycling can offer variety and a certain amount of simplicity – once you’ve mastered the technique.
Rollers generally consist of three cylindrical drums, connected via a belt which allows them to rotate beneath the wheels of the bike.
Riding the rollers requires balance. Learning to do so is often a journey that begins between two door frames (where there’s nowhere to fall), with the rider gradually reducing their reliance on the support of a solid surface as confidence grows.
Most cyclists need quite a bit of practice before they can complete their toughest interval sessions on the rollers, and when it comes to high resistance efforts, the turbo trainer still rules the roost for all but the most talented roller riders.
However, using rollers can add variety – they’re ideal for high cadence sessions, tempo training, easier recovery days – and not having to attach the wheel or drivetrain means they’re great for pre-race warm ups.
The shape of rollers doesn’t change that much between brands – but there are a few variables. Differentiating factors include how compact they are when put away, how easy they are to ride (some have grooves to help you out) and the amount of variability in the resistance on offer.
Here’s a look at a few pairs available, at various price points….
Best rollers for indoor cycling
LifeLine RT-01 Roller Trainer – RRP £129.99
A basic, entry level set of rollers, that you can probably find reduced to under £100 without too much trouble.
The body is made from steel and plastic, rollers themselves are Polyurethane and the feet have rubber covers. Each roller is slightly raised at the end to help make it harder to ride off the edge.
There’s a good amount of adjustment to allow for a variety of wheelbases, the bearings are sealed (ideal for sweaty Betty’s) and these come with a spare drive band which is a nice touch.
Tacx Antares Rollers – RRP £159.99
The Tacx Antares rollers are particularly popular because of the conical shape of the drums – they dip in the middle, so the bike remains in the middle of the drum pretty much the whole time.
If you’d like more assurance, or perhaps a ‘half-way-house’ in learning to use the rollers, Tacx also has a ‘Tacx Antares Rollers Support Stand’ you can purchase for an extra £47.99. This clasps the front wheel and lets you get used to the feeling on the rear before going all the way.
The rollers are collapsible, and have several wheelbase adjustments.
Tacx Galaxia Rollers – RRP £209.99
Go one step up the rungs with Tacx and you can get their Galaxia rollers. These feature a patented ‘swing system’, which allows them to swing backwards and forwards very slightly. Disconcerting as this may sound, it allows the roller to absorb some of the forward motion when you accelerate, change speed, or otherwise stamp on the pedals.
All the rest still applies – and both Tacx pairs retract (rather than fold as most do) to 80cm.
CycleOps Aluminium Rollers – RRP £208
This author’s own, personal choice, these rollers are still fairly basic, but highly resilient.
The frame and drums are aluminium, and designed to stand up to being tossed into the car, set up at race HQ car parks, and whatever else you might do to then. The feet have rubber covers to protect your floor.
The drums on this set aren’t dipped like many others, so they’re a little more glass-like to ride. However, perfectly easy once you’re accustomed and there’s five levels of resistance available via the yellow handle on the rear. Wheelbase can be adjusted and the belt can be set up on the left or right.
Feedback Sports Omnium Rollers – RRP £294.99
Something a little different. The Omnium Rollers from Feedback Sports are ideal for taking to races – they weigh just 6.21kg and fold up to 66cm (L) x 18cm (W) x 20cm (D).
The roller itself aims to offer a real-life feel, thanks to the use of ‘Internal Progressive Resistance’. You could use this trainer for full indoor sessions, but it really shines when it comes to race warm-ups and the like.
A steel frame offers support up front. This works with both standard QRs and thru-axles, and your wheelbase can be anything from 840mm to 1200mm. The set up comes with a heavy-duty, padded tote bag for transport and storage.
Elite Quick E-Motion Rollers – RRP £374.99
Elite hangs much of the praise of its Elite Quick E-Motion rollers on the way the new floating frame ‘absorbs inertia generated by the rider’s movements and compensates the centre of gravity travel, making training on rollers even more natural and intuitive’.
A realistic ride quality is certainly appealing – but we reckon the fact that the folding mechanism takes them down to less than 50 per cent of the full size is equally inviting.
Alone, they’re not smart training app compatible, but you can use Elite’s Misuro B+ (£51.59) sensor to enable Bluetooth and ANT+ transmission.
The magnetic resistance unit is integrated at the centre of the roller, with three levels available.
Elite Arion Digital Smart B+ Rollers – £499.99
Rollers are often seen as the slightly old school, traditional option- but they’ve come of age with the Smart option from Elite.
These rollers offer electronically controlled resistance. ANT+ is utilised to send power, speed and cadence data to computers, whilst Bluetooth connectivity means that you can use indoor cycling apps like Zwift and Trainer Road – these can even simulate climbs
The rollers themselves are parabolic, with a slight lip at the edge. They’re capable of managing up to 1100 watts, and the resistance unit is Electro Magnetic. Like all the others, they’re foldable and feature several wheelbase adjustments.