Riding the rollers – getting started

It being winter, and conditions being particularly atrocious at the moment, I’ve spent quite a lot of sessions on the turbo recently. I’m happy to cycle in the rain, but I don’t believe it’s smart to try to ride interval sessions in the spray, or to go on long rides when the pouring and gale force winds are so constant you can’t ride at a decent pace.

There is only so much turbo pummeling my legs can take – I realised it wasn’t just me that felt that way when I interviewed Hannah Barnes for a Total Women’s Cycling piece ( Turbo Training Like a Professional) over the weekend. Turbo trainers encourage you to power through, and sometimes you just need to spin your legs out between the mashfests.

That’s where rollers come in

Though a bit trickier to master than the turbo, rollers are a great alternative because:

  • Unlike the turbo, they force you to use your core, and to work on stability, balance, and pedalling technique – if you don’t hold your core or pedal smoothly, you’ll probably come close to tumbling
  • Using you core and balancing is good for bike handling skills
  • You don’t have the constant resistance of the turbo, it doesn’t feel so much like hard work. If you want an easier spin, they’re a good choice as this is very hard to achieve on a turbo trainer.
  •  Initially, the sheer concentration it takes to stay smooth makes the rollers more fun – I’m not sure that this lasts forever, but it’s a novelty for the first few rides

Unless you’re an absolute expert, rollers are not so great for shorter, harder intervals, keep them for steady efforts. Rollers can form part of a great winter training plan, but it is still a good idea to keep up with high power turbo intervals, and of course, the mysterious “riding outside” thing people talk about.

RideWriteRepeat and Rollers

You’ve all seen the girl make an omelette on the rollers, right? If not here it is:

I can reassure you, I’m not quite up to omelette making. I first used rollers around December 2012, I got on them rather nervously, admittedly starting in the doorway and clinging on for around 10 minutes, but within 20 minutes I was spinning away fairly confidently.

Then I never used them until about November 2013. They belong to my other half, they’re not really part of my routine, and it always seems easier to get on the turbo.

Remembering my last performance, I decided I was now ready to abandon the doorframe, cockily grabbed the handlebars, clipped in, began to roll, and… fell off the things TWICE in a 45 minute session.

Ouch. I don’t have footage, but it probably looked like this:

I could have been deterred by the performance, but decided not to be – so I got back on, this time managing a full hour with no falls. I can’t say I’m beautifully stable, but I’m now able to happily pedal my way along for an hour, pop in the odd high cadence minute, and take each hand off for a few seconds each.

In fact, here I am:

So admittedly, a bit wobbly – but certainly not falling of! What was different about the first and third successful sessions? Here’s my tips for starting out on the rollers:

Getting moving

  •  Start between two solid objects for your first few sessions– a doorframe is the best option by far – after a few sessions (so I’m told) you’ll be ready to move away from this security blanket
  •  Clip in with one foot, hold the back brake to steady yourself, and clip in with the other foot
  •  Personally, I hold onto the doorframe for a few seconds, with my right hand (I’m left handed, so keep that one on the handlebars), then start to pedal
  •  Once up to a comfortable cadence, it’s time to let go of the doorframe and settle the other hand on the handlebar

Once moving

  •  Stick to a low gear, and high cadence to start off, then flick through the gears until you find a pace your comfortable with
  •  Concentrate on pedalling smooth circles, thinking about every part of the pedal stroke
  •  Look ahead, don’t look straight at the front wheel on the rollers
  • The rollers are great for cadence sessions, so give this one a go once your ready:

    Warm up – 10mins steady
    3mins high cadence, 3mins steady low cadence
    4mins high cadence, 4mins steady low cadence
    5mins high cadence, 5mins steady low cadence
    4mins high cadence, 4mins steady low cadence
    3mins high cadence, 3mins steady low cadence
    Cool down – 10mins steady

Stopping

  •  Slow down gradually, until you’ve almost come to a halt
  • Put a hand out, hold onto the wall or doorframe and give the back break a squeeze
  • Unclip one foot, set it down securely, then do the other

If rollers sound up your street, and your looking for some to buy, I’ve been using these Cyclops Aluminum Rollers, which are currently on offer at £207.99 and I’d say they seem to do the job, and have lasted a year or regular use in our household.

rol

Generally, they start at around £100 and go up to over £1k, the difference being durability, and various extra features for resistance, quieter rolling and stability.

Whatever you go for, happy rolling, and enjoy!

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