I just couldn’t get over it! That first time I ever watched someone on YouTube hop on their bike on a set of rollers and spin like a pro. I was pretty much, well, petrified by the thought. I just knew if I ever tried riding rollers, I was going to crash off the rollers and end up in a pile with my bike on top and my head on the bottom. But still, I couldn’t stop thinking about it until I got my very own set.
Oh, I was still terrified, and it took me a good month of practicing to actually let go of the wall and ride for a meager 30 seconds at a time. It wasn’t until my smart trainer broke that I decided to dedicate two weeks to doing nothing but rollers and that was the secret! Lots of miles, lots of hours, and lots and lots of practice.
Riding rollers on your bicycle are a great way to get indoor training. Rollers will help you improve your balance, coordination, pedal stroke, bike handling skills, and most importantly, your confidence. It may seem scary at first, but you can do it!
So if you’re new to riding rollers, don’t let fear stop you from giving it a good hard try. And then try again and again until you’ve got it mastered. You WILL get it – just don’t give up. Here are a few ideas that might help.
- When you set up your rollers, remember that the front wheel sits on the single drum, and the back wheel sits on the double drums. You want the hub of your front wheel to be just slightly behind the drum. This gives you the most stable position.
- I like to take the extra stuff off my bike. Take off water bottles, saddle bag, etc. It’s just less to worry about.
- Set up your tires for rollers. First, don’t use your best carbon wheels, you don’t want to risk scraping them up if you slip off the rollers. Every tire has a range of tire pressure on the sidewall– when using rollers it helps to keep the tire pressure a little on the higher end of that range even if you tend to ride them at a lower pressure on the road.
- Make sure you are in a safe, comfortable spot. Many people like to use a doorway or small hallway so they can lean against one side or the other without falling. I prefer a countertop or very sturdy desk so I can just reach out and put my hand down. Also, you can keep a drink or snack there for when you get confident!
- Keep hazards out of the way. Stay away from dangling wires, pets, and keep your kiddos at least a few feet away so they don’t knock you down or worse, so you don’t accidentally fall on them.
- Don’t be scared of flying across the room. If you do ride off the front or sides of your rollers, you won’t shoot across the room and into the wall on the other side like a cartoon canon. As soon as drop off, you’ll lose momentum.
- Don’t look down! I know it feels like you are going to run right off the rollers and into the wall, but you won’t! It helps to look a few feet in front of you – about the same as you would be riding outside. Looking down will just make you wobble.
- Set your gearing. Remember physics – an object in motion tends to stay in motion – this is part of what keeps your bike upright when you’re riding outside, and the same is true for the rollers. In order to keep the bike upright, you need to keep the wheels spinning pretty quickly. However, in the beginning, you might find it easier to use a slightly low cadence for better control with a harder gear, so that each spin of the crank turns the wheel further. The wheels will spin faster and you’ll stay up a little easier. I like to use the big chainring in the front and a cog in the middle in the back. Once you get confidant, you can change gears and pick whatever feels good in the moment.
- Pedal smoothly. Keep those circles controlled and smooth. Any jerky pedaling motion will make you jerk around on the rollers. The smoother the better.
- Sit back on the seat. Weighting the back of the bike will give you better balance and a more steady pedal stroke. If you need to sit up more, hold onto the tops rather than the hoods of the bars.
- Practice with flat pedals. Even if you ride clipless pedals on the road, you might want to start with flat pedals so you can easily put your foot down. You can purchase inexpensive pedal covers which clip onto your pedals so you don’t have to change the pedals entirely. Then, when you’re ready, you can just pull them off and clip in.
- Take breaks. In the beginning, you won’t feel like you can move around much on the bike. You might feel crampy and sore after just a few miles – just take a break and shake it out and start again.
- Use a fan! Just look any other type of indoor training, you are going to get hot! Set up your fan to keep yourself more comfortable.
- Once you are confident you can start adding in other skills such as starting and stopping without holding on, taking a drink, riding one legged, one handed, and even no handed. These drills will make you more confident and efficient when you’re out on the road.
- RELAX. This most important – and hardest – part of riding rollers is to relax. If you are tense, your bike will be twitchy and jerk around on the rollers, making you more likely to fall. Just relax as much as possible and keep the legs spinning!
Now that I’ve gotten more confidant with my roller skills, I can text, watch GCN on YouTube, eat, drink, and play a few rounds of chess. Now if I could only get my chess game on par with my roller tricks I might stand a chance of winning once in a while!
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