There was a period where bike rollers were the go-to indoor bike training tool. This all changed when bike trainers came to the scene.
Having said that, bike rollers still have its advantages over trainers as it allows you do some things that are not ideal on a trainer such as sprinting. It also takes away the question of bike compatibility.
If you’re in the bike rollers camp and planning to get one then you’ve come to the right page.
- Should you get traditional vs parabolic rollers?
- Smart of non-smart rollers?
- Are they worth it?
Here I’ll guide you through the things to look out for in a bike roller and share with you some of my recommendations.
A Quick Glance : Our Favorite Bike Rollers
Picks for Beginners
Feedback Sports Omnium
This hybrid bike trainer is highly packable and compact for on-the-go or small living spaces.
Made with high-quality machined aluminum rollers, they offer a completely smooth ride. It incorporates a progressive resistance curve that simulates outdoor conditions such as rolling hills and wind resistance.
Easily mount the front fork of your bike and start pedaling away. With the front fork mounted, you won’t have to worry about staying balanced and focused. That makes these rollers perfect for beginners who want to jump on and start a workout easily.
- Pros : Compact and easily packable for travels if needed.
- Cons : Can be unstable for high-intensity/sprinting sessions.
Compact Sized Picks
Tacx makes some of the highest quality bike products on the market, and the Antares is no exception.
These rollers use parabolic drums, which will keep you stable in the center of the drums. These are perfect for refining your coordination and technique for when it’s time to get back outside.
Incredibly, they are retractable down to 80 cm (a little over 2.5 feet). If living in a small space or having a packable option are considerations for you, then these stylish and minimalistic rollers are the perfect match.
- Pros : Parabolic drum design provides stability and keeps you centered.
- Cons : Be prepared to pay more.
Picks for High Intensity Sprints
Another superb product coming from Tacx is the Galaxia, a super-powered version of the Antares.
These possess the same parabolic drums that keep you well centered and stable. They are also retractable down to 80 cm for easy storage or transport for race day.
What sets this roller a cut above the Antares is its patented swing system. This innovative system allows it to swing forward and backward through tough efforts.
Many athletes upgrade to these when they need to step up their sprints. They’re perfect for track riders who need the flexibility to get up and out of the saddle for big sprints.
- Pros : Ideal for high-intensity and sprinting workouts.
- Cons : Not suitable for beginners.
Best Road-like Experience
Made in the USA with only the highest quality materials, Kreitler embodies superior quality. The drums are constructed using aircraft aluminum sitting in a steel frame. Due to alloy sealed cartridges, it’s one of the smoothest and quietest indoor trainers on the market.
The ride quality will make you feel like you’re spinning atop melted butter. It has a fan that’s connected to the front drum. This fan is what sets the variable resistance. When it’s closed, it has no resistance. When it’s wide open, it gives even the strongest riders a challenge.
These are for those who value high-quality construction and want to simulate an outdoor ride quality without compromise.
- Pros : Aluminum drums provide a very realistic road feel.
- Cons : Product availability might be a challenge at times.
Trutrainer are the invention of two aerospace engineers from Indiana. They set out to devise one of the highest quality and realistic indoor trainers. By using only high-quality, durable parts, they achieve their goal by a wide margin.
They were also able to create rollers that simulate riding on a road outside. This is accomplished by adding a flywheel inside the drum, which adds a resistive during acceleration and propulsion during deceleration. It takes a little bit to get up to speed and takes a little while to stop, just like on the road outside.
This roller is perfect for those who want true to road feel and don’t want to compromise quality.
- Pros : Very high-quality overall build.
- Cons : Not widely available.
Smart Rollers Picks for Zwift
Elite Arion Digital Smart B+
The Elite Arion takes indoor training to a whole new level.
Those looking for an advanced and virtual experience will need to look no further. The Elite Arion uses magnetic resistance controlled electronically by a device (laptop or smartphone), depending on the training program you choose.
All of your training data and control of is through ANT+ FE-C or Bluetooth. With a connection to many different training programs, your favorite is sure to be supported.
You’ll be training up mountain passes and hills or coasting through plains on these interactive rollers. They’re unique, interactive, and make for a great training experience.
- Pros : Smart functionalities dynamically adjust the roller’s resistance levels.
- Cons : Costs a much as a smart bike trainer.
Types of Bike Rollers
The simplest and most basic rollers are the conventional type, such as the ones from Tacx.
Conventional rollers consist of two round drums at the back and one at the front.
They require you to balance yourself while you ride, benefitting your balance and pedaling form. You’ll need to manually adjust the resistance by changing to a harder or easier gear, depending on the effort you’re doing.
Depending on the drums’ size, some resistance is offered for strength building, but mostly its smooth operation allows you to go all out regardless of gearing. Due to their simplicity, most conventional ones come pre-assembled.
Just set the correct length for your bike and start riding, easy as that.
These are a hybrid between rollers and trainers, such as the Feedback Sports Omnium. There are still two round drums at the back, but the front is immobile.
Your front wheel must be taken off, and the front fork fixed to the machine to use hybrid rollers. This immobilization is great for those who aren’t comfortable balancing on conventional rollers or need a more intense workout.
Due to the absence of a front drum, hybrid rollers are typically lightweight, foldable, and portable for easy storage or race day use.
Geek Tip : Hybrid rollers are ideal if you’re just starting out, as the balancing part is taken care of by the fixed front fork.
Smart rollers are for those that desire a unique way to experience indoor riding. They connect to your laptop or smartphone via ANT+ or Bluetooth to give you power readings and complete control of your resistance settings.
Read More : 4 Popular Apps to Analyze Your Power Readings
More excitingly, you can have an immersive virtual riding experience by pairing it with a training app like Zwift. You’ll feel like you’re smoothly riding down a hill or chugging through a strong draft as the rollers change their resistance on the fly.
You’ll get the same immersive experience that you do on a trainer but with the freedom of using rollers. After using smart rollers, you’ll begin to forget the difference between indoor and outdoor training.
The Elite Arion is one of the best with resistance with smart power measurement and connectivity to apps such as Zwift.
Geek Tip : Smart rollers are the best option if you want to do your workout in apps such as Zwift and Trainerroad.
Bike Rollers Buying Guide
1. Construction Quality
As with anything that you might potentially purchase, construction quality is an important consideration. That’s especially true for a piece of equipment you’ll be using for your intense training sessions.
Rollers must be able to hold the weight of you and your bike for an extended period, all while moving. The main components are the rollers themselves, the frame, and the belt (if using one).
The rollers themselves are the most important parts to consider, and most high-quality ones are made from aluminum. High-density polyethylene rollers can work just as well and can reduce noise even if they add a bit of vibration.
For conventional models, having a durable belt will keep your rollers functioning for years. The most sturdy frames are made of aluminum or steel, but high-density polyethylene works even if it is a bit unnerving to balance on plastic.
2. Wheel Base
Rollers only need to be adjusted once, unlike wheels-on trainers, which need to be adjusted every time you ride, especially the tire pressure and tire-drum interface.
Most are simple to set up and can be adjusted to your wheelbase in no time. A well-constructed model will be able to accommodate nearly any type of bicycle.
All you need is a wrench and a few minute’s worths of time. Simply put your bicycle on the rollers and adjust the front drum so that it’s just slightly forward of the front hub. This is to avoid you from riding off in front!
Even if using hybrid rollers, setup is a breeze.
First, it needs to be adjusted to the size of your frame like conventional rollers. Then the front wheel needs to be removed and connected via the fork to the built-in dropouts. These rollers can accommodate most bikes and include adapters for different types of forks.
3. Storage and Packability
Packability is a welcome feature on any roller.
Being compact and easy to carry eases transport for warm-up on race days. If space is an issue and storage is necessary, then getting compact model is the right choice for you. Since this is an additional feature for many models, expect a slightly higher price tag.
Packable models typically fold in half at the center between the front and rear drums. Others, such as the Tacx Antares, retract down to an even more compact size.
Some conventional models, especially if built of more solid construction, have nearly zero packability. Those made out of hard plastic usually offer a more packable and compact form for storage and easy transport due to their lightweight construction.
Hybrid models typically come in the most compact form due to a lack of a drum at the front.
4. Drum Design and Materials
Different models have different drum designs and materials.
Drum shape is either parabolic or completely uniform. Drum size also plays a role in the amount of resistance created.
Drums are made out of alloys such as aluminum or hard plastic such as polyethylene. The type of training you’re doing and how you ride make these important factors to consider.
Parabolic rollers such as the Tacx Antares, and Tacx Galaxia is larger on the outside near the frame and smaller in the middle. This shape helps keep your bike towards the center so that you don’t come off the rollers.
The size of the rollers is what determines the resistance. The larger the drum, the lower the resistance. Less resistance means you can easily keep the wheel speed high without too much effort.
Having smaller drums creates more resistance (and bike tire wear). Small drums are for those who want to do intervals or sprint warm-ups, such as the ones from Kreitler.