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I have not ever done any bike specific indoor training other than a stationary bike.

I have a rough idea what smart trainers do when it comes to simulating load and terrain.

I am curious though what is the training benefit to riding on rollers?

From what I can tell it does not allow you to vary the load you are working against like a smart/dumb trainer right?

Has anyone who trained with rollers felt like it was time well spent?

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    I’ve never been on rollers but I’d imagine if you want to increase the load you go through gears and vice versa. I’d imaging you need good balance also so it would be good for core workouts – Dan K Jan 10 at 14:53
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    I don't have time to give a full answer at the moment. Rollers do impose limited load at the pedal compared to other types of trainers, but there's a lot more to training than high pedal loads. Rollers reinforce coordination needed to pedal at high pedal speeds, and promote other neuromuscular pathways, especially balance. They're portable, don't require electrical current to run, relatively cheap, and relatively quiet so until the 1980's they were the main way to do indoor training. – R. Chung Jan 10 at 16:06
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    And, you can vary the load in exactly in the way you vary the load with a dumb fluid trainer: by varying wheel speed. That said, they have a load vs. speed curve much more like magnetic trainers (i.e., they have a much "flatter" load curve, which is why they allow for much higher pedal speeds. – R. Chung Jan 10 at 16:25
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    @TudeProductions: it will be a little worse than the road but not nearly as bad as a stationary trainer. Regular trainer the wheel is pressed hard against the roller unit, but on rollers you just sit atop them. – whatsisname Jan 10 at 17:54
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    Please try to limit imagination-based answers and comments. Rollers don't work like you think. – ojs Jan 10 at 18:01
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While stationary trainers are used primarily to train for raw strength and power, rollers provide training for form and balance.

Because the bike is free to move and weave on the rollers, the rider must keep the bicycle centered while riding. You can't just space out like you can on a regular trainer. Imbalance between right and left legs will often cause you to drift one way or the other, so it provides some feedback to work on that. Pedaling at high cadence also tends to make people start to rock the bike, which will be amplified on the rollers, thus requiring the rider to focus and learn to keep their balance and form.

Regular rollers do provide some resistance training, approximately proportional to wheel speed, but not as much as a stationary trainer. They also don't appreciate sudden bursts of power in sprints, if you blast too hard you can come right off the rollers.

There are 'smart rollers' i.e. computer controlled resistance rollers, but just like dumb rollers, they are limited in how much resistance they can provide. Example is the Nero Elites, which I understand to be the best offering, can only provide 830 watts of resistance. Comparatively, I would expect even the cheapest smart stationary trainer to be well above that. 830 watts is plenty of resistance for just about everyone for steady-state training, but it's not going to work for all-out sprints.

When you are riding around on the street, try to ride right on a line, e.g. the white shoulder line, without moving off of it. See how far you can go. If you can't, riding rollers can be good training for that. It's a surprisingly difficult skills to ride in a perfectly straight line on a bicycle, especially under hard power. That's an important skill if you are riding in a peloton where constantly weaving back and forth, even a small amount, will both slow you down, and make the others around you nervous. With a few hundred hours practice on rollers, you should be able to keep both wheels right on that line virtually indefinitely.

Lastly, they are also a great source for comedic videos of people falling off of them. It happens to us all.

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  • "They also don't appreciate sudden bursts of power in sprints, if you blast too hard you can come right off the rollers." sounds odd. Have you ever ridden rollers, or is this imagined? – ojs Jan 10 at 17:55
  • @ojs: I've done it personally. It's probably why the mentioned nero elites have the back and forth suspension aspect in them. – whatsisname Jan 10 at 18:23
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    I've sprinted on my rollers without coming off them. (OTOH, if I'm not paying attention, I've come off the rollers while noodling along at 100 watts). I've known riders who can't take one hand off the bars to grab a water bottle or who can't sneak a look behind them without wobbling a bit. I often wonder whether rollers would help train them to hold their ?!%&# line. – R. Chung Jan 10 at 18:31
  • @ojs: relevant: youtu.be/XTWGFWL2UdA?t=34 It shouldn't take much imagination to see how one can come off when violently sprinting if you're not careful. – whatsisname 23 hours ago

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