Sponsored feature in association with Wahoo
Over the last few years, a turbo trainer has become the go-to indoor training aid for cyclists. That’s been helped by the development of smart trainers like the Wahoo KICKR, with direct drive, power measurement and automatically variable resistance, along with a whole infrastructure like the KICKR Climb to make the trainer experience more realistic.
It’s also thanks to immersive training environments like Zwift, with the opportunity to challenge yourself and race against others or machine-generated avatars. The global Covid pandemic has sometimes made indoor training the only option available as well.
But before turbo trainers developed and became so sophisticated, rollers were the go-to indoor training option. They’re still a good alternative, with a realistic ride experience and characteristics which complement those of the turbo trainer and many cyclists use both in their training.
The roller experience
Classic rollers consist of two sets of rollers, a pair under the rear wheel and one under the front, with a drive band connecting the two sets so that the front roller is turned by the rear one.
There’s usually no support for the bike, so getting on and off the bike and staying on the rollers while riding takes an advanced level of skill. It’s a nervous experience for the beginner, usually meaning balancing in a doorway until you get the feel of riding. You also need to keep alert while riding to make sure that you stay in the centre of the rollers and don’t fall off the side. If you want to see what happens if you get it wrong, take a look at these YouTube roller fails (opens in new tab).
Many sets of rollers offer limited resistance and most don’t let you vary this as you ride and are not interactive, so riding rollers has always tended to be good for spinning and fast pedalling technique, rather than letting you work on your power output or do an interval routine. There aren’t many rollers you can hook up to Zwift.
On the other hand, it’s easier to set your bike up on rollers than a turbo, as you’re not having to bolt your bike in place or (with a direct drive unit) remove the rear wheel. You don’t need to worry about having the right adapter for your axle or your bike’s drivetrain’s compatibility with the trainer’s cassette either.
Wahoo ROLLR offers a great middle ground
The new Wahoo ROLLR trainer gives you the roller experience without the downsides. Since the front wheel is held in place by the support, you’re never going to fall off the side, however hard you ride. That also means that the rear roller can be a lot narrower, saving you space.
Like a traditional roller, it’s really easy to set up - just plug it in, lock your front wheel in the clamp, climb on and start to ride. It’s easily adjustable for bikes of different wheelbase lengths, so you can use it with all your road or gravel bikes.
With the Wahoo ROLLR you get all the benefits of the Wahoo KICKR trainer too. The ROLLR has a 4.8kg flywheel, so there’s plenty of inertia which gives a realistic ride feel. Plus, if you’ve got a power meter on your bike, the Wahoo ROLLR will work with your power measurements, so you can work on drills and intervals that are out of reach on standard rollers.
Like Wahoo’s other trainers, there’s Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, along with the option to use a Direct Connect dongle which gives you a reliable wired connection to the internet. That means that you can automatically connect your Wahoo ROLLR to your POWRLINK ZERO or other power meter, then you're ready to connect the ROLLR to your ELEMNT bike computer, a smartphone, a computer or a tablet. You can either manually set the resistance or use Zwift and other training apps to follow pre-configured routines and intervals.
The Wahoo ROLLR has just been launched with a price of $799.99 /£699.99 / €799.99. There’s also the option to purchase it along with the new Wahoo POWRLINK ZERO single sided pedal power meter, with a bundle price of $1399.99 / £1,199,99 / €1,399.99, giving you the complete interactive roller experience. It’s a great middle ground between traditional rollers and a turbo, giving you all the benefits of each training tool.
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Paul started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2015, covering cycling tech, new bikes and product testing. Since then, he’s reviewed hundreds of bikes and thousands of other pieces of cycling equipment for the magazine and the Cycling Weekly website.
He’s been cycling for a lot longer than that though and his travels by bike have taken him all around Europe and to California. He’s been riding gravel since before gravel bikes existed too, riding a cyclocross bike through the Chilterns and along the South Downs.
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