'A bit like ice but twice as slippy': A love letter to my rollers

We’ve been on a roll since that first, heady spin…

Simon Fellows holds Tacx rollers
(Image credit: Future)

This article is part of a series called ‘A love letter to…’, where Cycling Weekly writers pour praise on their favourite cycling items and share the personal connection they have with them. 

The below content is unfiltered, authentic and has not been paid for.  

It was love at first sight. Me, dressed in skimpy, skin-tight Lycra. You, stretched out taut before me on the vinyl mat, the glossy sheen from your aquamarine rollers glinting in the golden evening light. 

At first, clumsy and awkward, I could only perform for a few minutes before an involuntary dismount brought our union to a premature end. But, with time, I began to love your little foibles – the noise, the vibration, the way you move beneath me as I ride you. Now, steady and rhythmic I can last 30 mins or more, the thrum of rubber on nylon carrying through the steamy, sweat-drenched air…

OK, enough already, I’m inadvertently channelling Jackie Collins, which is rarely a good thing. Full disclosure, I wasn’t always in love with my Tacx Galaxia rollers, I bought them because I found them languishing unloved in a summer sale. A cheap date, if you will. 

Nevertheless, as our relationship blossomed, I developed a guarded affection for them of the kind, I suspect, that BASE jumpers hold for tall buildings in breezy cities. 

Tacx Galacia rollers

(Image credit: Tacx/Garmin)

It wasn’t an easy start. Those horror stories that friends love to recount with such enthusiasm after learning you’ve just bought a set of rollers? The snuff-style roller movies that litter YouTube? They’re all true. Believe me, the blood and bruises are real, none of it’s faked.

The first ride is the worst, it just feels ludicrously perilous. Like riding a giraffe at full pelt on a surface that’s a bit like ice but twice as slippy. In truth, the second ride is just as bad but, and it’s a big but, after a sweaty ten minutes of flailing and falling it does dawn on you that you might just get the hang of this. Eventually.

After two seasons, I no longer need a doorway for support, just a single wall within easy grabbing distance as a substitute comfort blanket. I can roll along in Zone Two for 30 minutes or more without a break, while occasionally changing gear and repositioning my hands on the bars. I can’t yet drink from a water bottle, ride no-handed or skip, unlike this cool lady on YouTube, but then she does have youth on her side.

Additionally, I can’t sprint, do max efforts or intense intervals. So, what’s the point? Why not just buy one of the best turbo trainers and be done with it?

Well, there’s rarely a dull moment with rollers, as any tedium is guaranteed to be punctuated by moments of sheer terror. In this regard they beat the tiresome, joyless grind of a turbo trainer hands down. Rollers provide that authentic feeling of riding your bike because, well, you really are riding your bike.

Training regularly on rollers has done wonders for my pedal stroke, which I now modestly consider smooth, consistent and efficient in both, yes both, legs. Pedal awkwardly and at best you’ll generate a lot of whine and vibration, at worst you’ll suffer an unrecoverable wobble that, believe me, is a lot less fun than it sounds. That’s the genius thing about rollers, they provide instant, unignorable feedback about your pedalling souplesse. It’s a beautifully tactile experience with real-world benefits. Learn to ride more efficiently and you’ll go further, faster and with less effort.

My balance has improved immeasurably too, which means I’m less of a liability in group rides. I’m still half a dozen short of a six-pack, but riding rollers has got to be a better core strength workout than sitting on a turbo.

Some people complain that it’s impossible to get your heart rate up on rollers. Ignore them. Mine exceeds 90bpm just easing myself precariously on to the saddle, and that’s before I’ve even clipped in. Indoors, with no breeze, I can quickly build up a real sweat – more from effort than fear, thankfully – making a powerful fan a must. And, when I do pick up the pace, the Galaxia’s patented rocker motion really does help to even out any sudden acceleration.

Finally, the Galaxia is so easy to live with. There are no wires, expensive subscription packages or clumsy, heavy rocker plates. It’s just the two of us. When we’ve had enough of each other I just retract her arms to a petite 80cm, and shove her under the stairs. Perfect.

Yes, we had a rocky start, but these days I wouldn’t part with her for anything (except, a set of Elite Nero rollers – you know, the ones with all the bells and whistles – but let’s keep that strictly between ourselves).

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