As a rider taking part in sportives or using a bike as a means to stay fit and healthy, the prospect of using an indoor training device such as rollers may seem pointless. However, I’m a big fan of rollers, and I believe they can help everybody’s riding.
The small detail of needing to balance on them makes rollers more entertaining than a turbo (although competitive cyclists need both) and they can help improve several different things. With rollers, you can work on your position on the bike, improving set-up. They also benefit pedalling cadence and the smoothness of pedalling (i.e. round in circles, not up and down), and you can also use rollers for skills and core body exercises. This article is going to explain how to get started on rollers, so that they can become part of your training.
John Scripps is a full-time coach working for British Cycling’s Olympic Talent Team programme
Borrow a set or buy cheaply
Most of the UK population has a piece of exercise equipment that has become a clothes hanger or is permanently stored in the loft. Before buying a decent set of rollers, try to get a cheap second-hand set or, even better, borrow from someone. You can then see if you are likely to put rollers into your bike riding routine. Some people just don’t get on with them.
You’ll need someone to help with this. Put the bike on the rollers, and get a helper to hold your seatpost and head tube. Get up on the bike and start pedalling. Again, it’s important to relax. Pedal normally, with a relaxed upper body, and focus your vision on something static in front of you.
As you start to feel more comfortable on the rollers, your helper can begin to reduce their grip on your bike. They should start with removing their hand from the head tube while keeping a grip on the seatpost. As your confidence builds, the helper will be able to remove their hand from the seatpost without you realising. After a short while, you’ll soon be riding the rollers independently.
Starting and stopping independently
After a short while of riding rollers on your own, you’ll be really satisfied and wonder what all the fuss is about. Stopping is as simple as slowing down, unclipping your favoured foot and stepping down off the bike. Getting going again without needing a helper can be done in two ways. For beginners, place your rollers next to a chair or a wall and use this for support to get up on the bike. It is possible to get on rollers without support, but we’ll look at this in a future issue.
Once you’re able to get on and off the rollers and ride them happily, it’s worth spending a little time practising some basic skills which you’ll use during your normal bike riding. Try slowing your cadence, taking a hand (left or right) off the handlebars, or reaching down to your bottle cage and taking a drink. This will help you in future sessions on the rollers.