VIDEO: Rollers for Beginners

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What are rollers? How can rollers help your bike training? Learn how to use your first set of rollers without doing too much bodily harm to yourself.

By Dexter


Last year I was looking for something to keep me from going nuts when the snow came. I have a rowing machine, cross country machine, trainer, and a treadmill. I looked at ellipticals but the cost to get a quality unit was staggering and my basement is too short in height to accommodate one. I knew about rollers, but I had never seen them used…so it was off to YouTube. There were some scary clips, but also lots of good clips with guys doing one legged drills and no holds riding. My local bike shop had a pair of Minoura rollers in the window. Al (local bike mechanic legend) told me to take them home and try them out. I said, “OK, but I’ll check my insurance first!”


I read the directions. They said to start in a doorjamb or against a wall. There wasn’t a doorjamb in my basement, so I improvised. I took a large box with a height that put it at elbow level while I was on the bike on the roller. On the other side, very close, I set my weight bench sideways so I could grab the bar resting on the high supports. I loaded the bar and leg attachment with all the weight I had. This gave me two feet of support on the right side and four feet on the left side.

Now to get on…I switched my clipless pedals for simple platform pedals. I was pretty sure that unclipping was out of the question unless I wanted to be headed to the floor or wall. I wedged myself into my alleyway and stood astride the bike. I pressed one pedal forward and drove the bike over the front roller. The wheel turned perpendicular and stopped. I learned quickly to step on the side rail of the rollers, since you don’t have the clearance to the crossbar with the rollers bringing the bike four inches off the floor. I came out of that lesson alive and without an out of control ride into the wall. I started again, pushing a little slower, and got the back wheel going along with the front wheel. I brought the other foot up and got one revolution in, then wound up dropping the front wheel forward. Clunk. Foul, but no injury. I decided I would hold the box or weight bar, and hold the bike’s handlebars with the other hand. I learned to hold the front wheel straight, and kept working on getting more revolutions in. I was happy to complete five revolutions during my first session. Then I decided that was enough for the first day—there were no broken bones, so I left it at that.

The next time it started to feel more natural. I was able to ride two to five minutes with one hand on the handlebars and the other on one of my supports. Thankfully, I never fell off the back. Soon I was able to grab the bars with both hands. I started out for a few seconds, and then gradually I was able to do it longer. My first fall was to the side. I had to concentrate like a med student during his first operation, trying to focus on something dead center of the roller and the bike. Looking off a degree or two would send me off in that direction. I found out the TV was not dead center when I fell off to the right…though it wasn’t really a fall as much as a dump into the box. The bike just stopped, and then I was up and back on. I had only one out of control fall when I tried to look around to answer a question from the wife. She laughed very hard.

My next challenge was clipping in. If you are good with clipping in and out I suggest you start out that way. The pedal stroke is smoother and that translates to better balance. Clipping into clipless pedals allows you to pull up when you are first trying to get moving. Speed is the key, though both cadence and speed are important. I clipped my left foot in with the crank on the bottom, then pulled up backwards to get the thing going. I would then clip the right foot in after a few revolutions. I initially worried about falling from being clipped in, but I learned how to unclip fast and the right way.

My set of rollers has no resistance. I use the gears on my bike to change the workout. An easy ride is around 15 mph, while a tough one is 20 mph. I often use TV ads to interval train. I haven’t done any videos. These workouts have done a lot for my balance. You need a delicate touch on the bars, never steering too far. It’s kind of funny to watch NASCAR while using the rollers because, with the in-car cameras, you have tendency to lean into the corners and find yourself drifting that way on the rollers. There is plastic cap on the side that sounds different if you are drifting slowly to the side.

I have grown up and don’t have the roller wedged into an alleyway anymore. The rollers are now set next to my treadmill, which allows me to have support. You need to have something close to get on and off. I still can’t ride without holding the handlebars with at least one hand, but I can’t do that outside either, so no loss. I have a tendency to lean forward more so my hands go to sleep once in a while on long sessions. I have done up to two hours with short breaks. You need to stay more focused on the rollers. I love the workout and the feel of rollers. I got them to mix it up with the trainer, but so far I’ve used the trainer for only one workout this year—I’ll be using rollers for the rest of my inside cycling.

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date: December 3, 2008