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Bike Trainer vs. Rollers: What’s the Difference?
If you want to ride your bike indoors, there are two basic options: a bike trainer or rollers.
Riding indoors was once a torturous idea that was only considered for the worst weather climates or athletes recovering from injuries. Within the last couple of years, indoor training has become commonplace and some coaches prefer that their athletes ride intervals indoors to eliminate variables. Bringing your ride inside allows you fit a ride into your schedule no matter the time of day (or weather) and you never have to worry about traffic. And thanks to indoor cycling apps you can take on famous courses, climbs and group rides.
But what are you going to ride inside?
If you want to ride your own bike indoors, there are two basic options: an indoor bike trainer (either of the basic or smart variety) or rollers. Both come with many different levels of resistance and accessories to fine tune the experience. If you are not a racer nor a very experienced cyclist, an indoor bike trainer is the very best choice for you. Your bike attaches to a trainer, which makes riding inside very stable and safe as opposed to rollers which require you to balance on top of metal drums all while pedaling your bike. Centrifugal force will help you stay upright, but grabbing a water bottle can be very difficult. To give you an idea of how hard riding rollers can be, just search the term “roller fails” on YouTube.
However, this balancing act is one of the best attributes of rollers. If you want or need to work on your pedaling form and efficiency while holding a straight line, you can’t get a better option than rollers.
A stationary bike trainer will not penalize you for a lumpy spin pattern or lack of focus. Your mind and body will always be alert when you are on rollers, even during light efforts or active recovery rides.
For more vigorous, sprinting workouts, a bike trainer will allow you to stand and attack with all your leg strength. Trainers are also available with a fully integrated resistance unit that can sync to indoor cycling apps. For example, a M2 smart trainer will make you work as hard in your basement watching a climb up Mont Ventoux as you would summiting that historic peak in France. Rollers are compatible with training apps and other trainer-tainment, but there is no direct resistance option.
You should also consider when, where and with which bike you want to ride. You can ride any wheel size on rollers. Road, MTB, fat bike (it wouldn’t be the first time), thru axle, quick release - just set-up and ride. Check each bike trainer for compatibility if you ride something besides a standard 700c road wheel. If you ride at home while roommates or family are home, they might appreciate it if you choose rollers or a quiet trainer like the Fluid2. No workout is completely silent, but choosing a quiet unit can help keep the peace.
Finally, what are your needs for storage and travel? With trainers, travel is a snap. Simply fold flat and hit the road. On the other hand, rollers fold and store nicely under a bed, but they might not fit as easily into your vehicle. However, if you have been training hard at home for a major event, warming up on rollers in a parking lot will surely impress your peers and intimidate your competition.
In short, bicycle trainers excel at hard, out of the saddle bursts while rollers are best for long and steady efforts. You cannot make a wrong choice, as both will give you an incredible workout indoors. Before you pull out your wallet, be sure to weigh the pros and cons to find out which indoor training product works best for you and your goals. And as always, if you need any help with your decision or have any questions our customer support team is more than happy to help.
- PRO – Stable for efforts both in and out of the saddle.
- PRO – More compatibility options for indoor cycling apps, like ROUVY.
- PRO – Very easy to store and transport.
- PRO – Incredibly realistic road feel.
- CON – Some trainers may or may not be louder than a set of rollers.
- CON – Does not correct poor pedaling form.
- CON – Not compatible with some frames and wheel options.
- PRO – Helps you improve pedaling form (i.e., smooth stroke and holding a straight line).
- PRO – Engaging both physically and mentally.
- PRO – Set-up is very simple.
- PRO – Light and moderate efforts are more entertaining.
- CON – Requires a higher level of skill and practice.
- CON – Less stable for hard, out of saddle efforts.
- CON – Easy to store, a little harder to transport.