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While most people think of bike trainers when they want to use their bike indoors, it’s not the only kind of equipment available to do the job. A bike roller is less popular than fluid or magnetic trainers but those who have it are huge fans. The best cycle training rollers do more than just give you an intense workout. They help you work your core muscles and improve your cycling technique and balance.
A trainer works by clamping the back of the bike to keep it stationary while you pedal. This means you never have to worry about keeping your balance – not quite what is needed on the road. Road bike rollers are made up of a simple frame with three spinning drums that support both the front and back wheels. The back wheels sits on top of the two rear drums, while the front wheel is on a single drum in front. There is nothing to keep the bike from falling off the rollers except the rider. You’ll need to concentrate and keep your balance throughout your workout and this means engaging your core muscles in addition to the leg muscles. Pro racers use rollers for bike training to improve their balance and riding technique. They tend to be more portable than most trainers, so they’re also good for pre-race warmups.
Some cycling enthusiasts find working out on a trainer to be quite boring unless they have an expensive smart trainer that allows you to use preset programs and virtual cycling routes. This isn’t the case with indoor cycling rollers, as the rider has to concentrate to keep from falling off. Those who don’t like rollers say that you can’t do sprints on them and can’t get as much resistance as you would on a trainer. However, experienced users can do the former – it just takes practice. To get more resistance, you can select a roller that comes with smaller diameter drums and there are some models that allow you to change resistance over a few levels as well. Otherwise, resistance is controlled by the bike’s gears. If high resistance and power is most important to you, then stick to a fluid trainer.
- 1 How to Choose the Best Rollers for Cycle Training
- 2 Compare the Best Cycling Rollers on the Market
- 3 Best Bike Rollers for Beginners
- 4 Indoor Bike Rollers for Experienced Users
- 5 Cycling Rollers with Resistance
- 6 How to Cycle on Rollers
How to Choose the Best Rollers for Cycle Training
If you’re a beginner, you may want to get rollers that come with parabolic shaped drums where the edges are slightly larger in diameter than the center. This makes it a bit easier to keep the bike wheels from drifting off the edge.
A step or raised frame edges provide a way for you to get on or off the bike without leaning too much to the side to get a foot down.
Keep in mind that smaller diameter drums provide higher resistance, which is more difficult for beginners to get used to. If you just want to get in the miles during your workout or achieve a high RPM, you can select a model with larger drums. Some models come with a pack of different sized drums or you can buy additional ones to switch out. Some allow you to adjust resistance by using some sort of additional mechanism, like magnets or smart features that connect to a virtual riding app. However, bike rollers with resistance will cost you more.
The wheelbase size should be adjustable so that your bike fits properly on top of the drums. The wheelbase is measured from axle to axle and some rollers don’t have a very wide range of adjustment.
Select a model that is high enough off the ground, especially if your bike has smaller wheels, because the back wheel should not scrape the ground. If you place the rollers on carpet, it will sink into the pile at least a little once your weight and the bike’s weight is added to it. It’s best not to place the rollers on thick pile carpet.
Most indoor bike rollers are less noisy than trainers, but if this is a concern, then choose a model that has sealed bearings and drums made of composite plastic instead of metal.
Most rollers fold up so that they take up very little space for storage, but if you need to transport the unit, check its weight as well.
For those that are beginners, we have included a video farther down this page that gives you tips and techniques to get you going and become comfortable using them. If you think that trainers are better for you but don’t know what kind to get, take a look at our bike trainers buying guide. Otherwise, read on for our bike roller reviews.
Compare the Best Cycling Rollers on the Market
|Product||Rating (out of 5)||Dimensions||Wheel base range||Drum diameter||Price|
|Elite Arion Home Trainer 2016||3.8||55.5" x 19.5" open, 28.75" x 19.5" closed||37 - 44 inches||parabolic, 85-100 mm||$$$$|
|Nashbar Parabolic Rollers||4.8||17.5" x 50.5" open||37 - 43 inches||parabolic, unknown||$$$|
|Conquer Indoor Bicycle Cycling Roller Trainer||4.3||22" x 22" closed||38.2 - 42.9 inches||parabolic, unknown||$|
|Tacx Galaxia Roller 2016||4.5||53" x 19.7" open, 31.5" x 19.7" open||38.5 - 42.5 inches||parabolic, 100-110 mm||$$$$|
|Kinetic Z Rollers||4.4||21" x 20" closed||38.2 - 43.3 inches||90 mm||$$$$|
|Kreitler Kompact Challenger Rollers||4.5||unknown length, 15" width||38 - 42 inches||57 mm & 76 mm||$$$$$|
|Nashbar Reduced Radius Rollers||4.6||50" x 18" open||35 - 42.5 inches||85 mm||$$|
|Elite Arion Mag Home Trainer 2016||5||55.5" x 19. 5" open, 28.7" x 19.5" closed||37 - 44 inches||parabolic, 85-100 mm||$$$$|
|CycleOps Rollers||3.5||unknown||37.5" - 44.5"||82.5 mm||$$$$|
|Elite Arion Digital Smart B+ Trainer||4.5||unknown||37 - 44 inches||parabolic, digitally controlled resistance||$$$$$|
Best Bike Rollers for Beginners
Elite Arion Home Trainer 2016
If you’re new to using rollers, one excellent option is the Elite Arion Home Trainer. The trainer is made of a polyamide and reinforced with fiberglass, and it’s easy to set up and use. It weighs just about 15 pounds, and it folds down to 73 by 49.5 by 22 centimeters.
The rollers are compatible with both road bikes and MTBs. To help ensure that your bike will fit without trouble, the front roller can be set to 10 different positions. The minimum wheelbase that will work with the Arion is 37 inches, and the maximum is 44 inches.
There are three drums that are 85 millimeters in diameter in the center but curve to 100 mm towards the edges, and are designed to help keep the bike wheels from veering off the unit. The frame is supported on a base with eight feet. This gives you the stability you’ll need, and it’s especially important to have as much as possible when you’re first getting used to rollers. There’s also an integrated step, which makes mounting and dismounting easier.
To help keep the noise and wear and tear on your tires down, the rollers are completely smooth and are coated in an anti-static plastic material.
While there are no major bells and whistles associated with these rollers, they’ll do exactly what you expect them to, and they’re a great choice for roller beginners.
Nashbar Parabolic Rollers
Designed specifically to help you stay on and keep your balance, the Nashbar Parabolic Rollers are an excellent choice if you’re looking for basic rollers or are new to them. The drums are shaped to ensure that you’re able to stay in the middle of them, and they’re also designed to be as quiet as possible. Nashbar recommends that you use the smoothest tires possible to keep noise under control.
You do have to set up the rollers and the unit, but it’s a fairly simple process and mainly involves screwing in some pieces. Once it’s built, it measures 17.5 inches wide by 50.5 inches long, and it’s designed to fit wheelbases as small as 37 inches and as large as 43 inches. Thanks to the fact that the rollers are held a few inches off the ground, you should be able to use the system on a carpet.
There’s nothing exceptional about these rollers, but they do their job and is the best bike roller trainer for the money. The materials and base are durable and quiet, and while you’ll need to get the hang of the rollers, the parabolic shape makes that easier. The only real downside to these rollers is that you don’t have a step to help you get on and off your bike.
Conquer Indoor Bicycle Cycling Roller Trainer, Foldable
If you’re looking for an affordable and basic set of rollers, consider the Conquer Indoor Bicycle Cycling Roller Trainer. These rollers feature a ramped edge, which helps you keep your balance and make it easier to stay on than many other rollers. Bearings are also sealed, which helps you keep a smooth pedaling action. The setup also features a step, so you can get on and off your bike with minimal effort.
The downside to these rollers is that they aren’t as high quality as other rollers. They won’t break or crack, but they do tend to be louder than some other options. The unit is also a bit heavier than some higher priced roller systems, and the unit, when assembled, weighs over 20 pounds. Further, it’s only designed to be compatible with wheelbases between 38.2 and 42.9 inches. It may work with other sizes, but that’s not guaranteed.
However, for the price, these rollers are an excellent deal. If you’re not sure if rollers are right for you or you’re making a purchase on a budget, these rollers can provide what you’re looking for.
Roller Tacx Galaxia 2016
Designed to adjust to the natural back and forward motion of cycling, the Roller Tacx Galaxia 2016 will help keep you from riding off its rollers. The system prevents you from running into trouble if you start to change speeds or stand. There is a tension spring that lets you adjust how much swing you want. The drums are also conical, which means that you naturally stay towards the center of them and don’t have to worry as much about wandering off the edge.
The rollers are about 3.9 inches in diameter, and the unit can fit bikes with wheelbases between 38.5 and 42.5 inches in diameter. This means that you won’t get the highest resistance in this list just from the roller and the largest bikes won’t fit well either. Folded up, the unit is a mere 31.5 by 19.7 by 5.31 inches, and it weighs just over 18 pounds. The unit is also far enough off the ground that you should be able to use it on a carpeted surface.
There are few drawbacks to these rollers but one is that it is difficult to get it to change sizes to accommodate different bikes. However, the rollers themselves work very well and are a great option if you’re struggling to keep your balance on other rollers. The instructions to assemble it are also a bit sparse but a quick search on YouTube will show you how. Overall, these are some of the best bike roller trainer for beginners.
Indoor Bike Rollers for Experienced Users
Kinetic Z Rollers
Designed to accommodate bikes with wheelbases ranging from 38 to 43 inches, Kinetic Z Rollers are a solid choice if you’re an experienced rider looking for a durable set of rollers. Thanks to being made of lightweight aluminum, the unit only weighs about 23 pounds. It folds down twice to a mere 21 by 20 by 8.8 inches, which is small enough to fit into a travel bag.
The aluminum rollers are 3.5 inches in diameter and are precision-machined. There’s no assembly required, and you simply have to unfold the unit to start using it. While there’s no step on the unit, it is grooved on both sides, allowing for a left- or right-side mounting and dismounting. The rollers are also high enough off the ground that you should be able to use the system on a carpeted or tiled floor.
The rollers are both very quiet and durable, but you should be aware that there is no step and the drums are not curved. If you haven’t used rollers before, this may make using this set either very difficult or practically impossible. However, if you’re experienced, it helps you improve your balance and technique.
Along with an affordable price for rollers of this quality, they also come with an unconditional lifetime warranty from the manufacturer. While it is a quiet unit, you will get a small rattling noise if your wheel drifts too close to the edge.
Kreitler Kompact Challenger Rollers with Alloy Drums and Poly End Caps
Kreitler Kompact Challenger Rollers are available in 2.25-inch and 3-inch drum sizes, which means you have a choice of resistance. Be aware that both these sizes are small and are meant to provide exponentially more resistance than most other models, so experienced bikers will love the challenge. No matter which size of roller you purchase, you’re getting durable and well-made aluminum drums with a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects or flaws. This brand makes their rollers in the USA.
Drums are turned on a CNC lathe to ensure that they’re completely smooth, so they provide a quiet and even ride. The frames are made of steel and coated in black epoxy powder, which ensures that the frame is able to resist abrasion, corrosion and general wear and tear.
The frame is designed to fit bikes with wheelbases ranging from 38 to 42 inches, and it’s easy to change the size of the frame without using tools. The unit weighs about 30 pounds, and it’s designed to fold up easily to take up the least amount of storage space possible.
Rollers are held a few inches off the ground, so you should have no problems using them on any type of flooring. In fact, they even perform respectably on slightly uneven surfaces. The rollers are durable, don’t require any maintenance and are pretty close to perfect. If anything does go wrong, it’s almost certainly covered by the warranty.
Nashbar Reduced Radius Rollers
The unit also features sealed cartridge bearings, which makes for a quiet and smooth ride. While the rollers aren’t silent, you can easily watch TV or listen to music while riding. The frame itself is 50 inches by 18 inches, and it comes with three sets of feet that keep the rollers far enough off the ground that you should be able to use them on a carpet. If you’re using them on a hard floor, non-marring plastic finishing on the bottom of the feet should protect it.
The system is designed to work with bikes that have wheelbases that range from 35 inches to 42.5 inches, so this may be the option for you if you have a small bike. It’s easy to adjust the frame to fit your bike since there are nine pre-set adjustment points. As with other roller systems that aren’t parabolic, you’re going to fall off if you’re not experienced. The other downside is that this system isn’t as portable or light as other options, but it’s still a solid choice based on the price.
Cycling Rollers with Resistance
Elite Arion Mag Home Trainer 2016
If you’re interested in a roller system that allows you to change the resistance level, consider the Elite Arion Mag Home Trainer 2016. This system features three levels of resistance, which are no resistance, a moderate level of resistance and high resistance. Riding with no resistance is like riding any other standard set of rollers of the same drum size, which in this case is 85 mm in the center. You change resistance with the help of an easy to use slider that’s situated to the right of the two rear drums. This engages inbuilt magnets that increase or decrease resistance. Be aware that you can’t change resistance while on the bike.
In addition to allowing you to change the resistance, the system is also lightweight and easy to fold down to be stored or transported using the integrated handle. It is easy to get on and off the bike because of the incorporated platforms on each side. The rollers have a parabolic shape, which helps you stay on and gives you greater control while you’re on them. An anti-static composite plastic material on the rollers keeps them quiet and protects them from wear and tear. Overall, this unit is affordable, durable and easy to set up and store, and it really doesn’t have any major drawbacks.
With CycleOps Rollers, you have the ability to choose from five levels of resistance. Rollers in the system are 3.25 inches in diameter, made of precision-lathed aluminum and are designed to offer a smooth and very quiet ride, although it is not completely noiseless. Resistance is added via a magnetic bar in the rear drum which can be manually controlled by a dial.
The system can be stored by standing it on its side or folding it in half, and it only weighs about 20 pounds. It’s designed to work with bikes that have a wheelbase between 37.5 inches to 44.5 inches.
While the manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty, getting replacements in a timely manner seems to be hit and miss. Additionally, it appears that some people have run into problems where they started to hear loud grinding noises when using their rollers. Still, the majority of people have had no problems, and the system often performs exactly as promised.
Elite Arion Digital Smart B+ Trainer
When you’ve got some money to spend and are interested in one of the best and most advanced roller systems on the market, take a look at the Elite Arion Digital Smart B+ Trainer. These rollers work with ANT+ Trainer software and apps and devices that are Bluetooth Smart Ready. The software allows you to change your resistance while you’re on the rollers and you can then measure your speed, cadence and power over whichever app you’re using.
The levels of resistance are handled using magnets, and you can also adjust the slope you’re biking on by as much as 6%. Rollers on the unit have a parabolic shape, which helps increase your control as you ride. Bikes with wheelbases between 37 and 44 inches can fit on the frame with a minor adjustment to its length.
While the features work and the unit itself is solid, you will need to handle some setup, which will include assembling the unit and setting up the app. How difficult it will be will generally depend on how comfortable you are with Bluetooth and app configuration. In addition to the unit, you also get a 12-month trial of the Elite My Entraining App.
How to Cycle on Rollers