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In a previous question I asked what I need to know about turbo trainers, but several answers mentioned the use of rollers. What are the pros and cons of turbo trainers and rollers?

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2 Answers 2

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Turbo trainers allow you to alter the resistance, so they are good for interval style workouts. They don't require any skill to use as you're locked in place. But as most people will tell you, riding a turbo trainer gets very dull very quickly, and unless you really concentrate they don't do much for your "souplesse" (spinning smooth circles at a high cadence, the most efficient way to pedal) - it's easy to just stomp up and down on the pedals.

Rollers require you to balance and it takes a little to get used to them. On some models you can't alter the resistance, although you can of course shift into a higher gear to work harder. It's generally accepted that they are very good for your souplesse, in part because pedalling smoothly makes it easier to balance. They are also a lot less dull than a trainer - you can even get fancy sets of rollers that allow you to stand up and pedal.

Ideally you'd want both - a turbo trainer for shorter, intense interval style workouts against resistance to build speed and power, and rollers for spinning smoothly for longer periods of time to get in the miles and build endurance.

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I think you made a typo in your first paragraph 'rollers' instead of 'rollers' (I don't have the rep to fix it myself) –  Wilka Nov 26 '10 at 13:15
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Also, I have a set of rollers that does have resistance settings - only 3, but it does make a difference. turbotrainerreviews.com/bike-trainers/elite/… –  Wilka Nov 26 '10 at 13:17
    
@Wilka Thanks, fixed it! –  Chris Betterton Nov 26 '10 at 13:44
    
@Wilka, those rollers look pretty neat. How long does it get used to riding on them? –  Mark Ingram Nov 26 '10 at 15:18
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I don't think souplesse is the correct word; for one, it means flexibility, and it also refers to contortion, in addition, it is a French word that I don't think many would understand without looking up (as I did). –  David Nov 29 '10 at 2:44
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I would argue that there are few advantages to the trainers other than ease of use. Chris B's answer that an advantage of a trainer is the resistance is not valid since it is possible to change the resistance on rollers either by using a similar attachment like a magnetic wheel, or by using rollers with a smaller diameter.

Advantages to rollers:

  1. improve bike handling skills
  2. improve pedaling efficiency
  3. riding rollers is an impressive skill in and of itself

Disadvantages to rollers:

  1. Steep learning curve. Best to start in a doorway or next to a counter. However, parabolic rather than flat rollers make it easier to learn. See the answer to this question

Advantages to a trainer:

  1. easy to use
  2. holds your bike up when you get off

Disadvantages to trainers:

  1. clamping in the rear hub and pedaling hard stresses the bicycle frame
  2. can leave a flat spot on or all the way around your tire
  3. can spray rubber from tire onto carpet
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Thanks for pointing out my error on resistance on rollers, I didn't realise this was an option on some models. –  Chris Betterton Nov 29 '10 at 10:58
    
almost any model can be connected to one by looping the 'drive belt' rubber band around theunused side of a roller. Kreitler killer headwind is one classic alternative that is not available for a trainer. –  David Nov 30 '10 at 13:02
    
I've tried using rollers (briefly), and I question whether there is any handling benefit other than general balance improvement. My experience was that the rollers did nothing to activate the muscle memory I have for track stands and technical trails. The pedalling efficiency claim seems reasonable, I just don't think that the rollers provide more than small similarity to actual riding (that you're pedalling and can tilt to either side). –  Dana the Sane Dec 3 '10 at 15:59
    
@Dane, since they make the bike so much more sensitive to your movements, they train you to be able to hold a steady line. I wouldn't necessarily expect that they would help with track stands or other technical skills other than those related to maintaining a straight line and focusing your effort on forward motion, e.g. being able to ride with no hands, take clothes on/off, use your water bottle without swerving. –  David Dec 3 '10 at 16:14
    
@danethesane also try riding with no hands, at a high cadence, at a low cadence (20 rpm with high resistance)then take a jacket on and off, then juggle. Ride with your eyes closed. Bike handling will improve. –  David Feb 17 at 19:13
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protected by Gary.Ray Jan 21 at 13:24

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