Bike Rollers vs Trainers : What Are the Differences?

Jan Poshenko
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Affordability – Rollers

And trainers are very close in price, though roller sessions are more affordable in the long run. Trainers tend to have a higher price tag and may require an investment in a more expensive model. While roller sets for sale look quite similar on the outside, they can vary widely based on their quality. For this reason, they are generally cheaper than well-known brand trainers.

Ease of Use – Trainer

Although bike rollers and trainers are basically the same thing, they are fundamentally different in one important way: ease of use. Trainers have a built in computer system that lets you “pedal while you work.”

The only thing that you need to do is to plug it in, turn on the computer, and if you want to, plug in your MP3. That’s it.

For best results, you should consult the manufacturer’s manual to determine the amount of watts you need to put out, the resistance level, and the watts per gear. Otherwise, you could end up with too much resistance and fatigue your muscles faster than you would like.

Trainer users can increase wattage as they get stronger and/or change gears when they get tired. They have the option of riding outside on the roads and trails or cycling indoors with a trainer. They also don’t have to worry about shutting down for the winter because trainers will allow you to train all year long.

Because of these advantages, trainers are very popular with fitness instructors and with professional cyclists who have to maintain fitness through the winter months.

Ride Feel – Rollers

Vs. Trainers

Both roller bikes and trainers have you riding on metal rollers. That is where the similarities end.

Bike Rollers

The basic bike roller simulates an indoor road bicycle environment at the most basic level. When you ride a bike on a trainer stand, you are essentially riding inside the trainer stand, right? The same goes for bike rollers.

However, bike rollers take the "inside the trainer stand" idea and expand on it. Bike rollers have a doghouse frame that is the stand. As you lean your bike (i.e., your left hand side or your right hand side) into the rollers, you are leaning your bike into the frame. As you lean your bike to the left, you are leaning it into the doghouse frame, which then leans into the ground. If there was nothing underneath the doghouse frame, you would dump the bike. But the doghouse frame is attached to a (usually) very sturdy metal frame that is welded and attached to the floor. The impact of leaning your bike into the doghouse frame is absorbed by this larger frame.

Trainers

When you ride a bike on your trainer stand, you are riding inside the trainer stand, right? The same goes for bike rollers.

Tire Wear – Rollers

A few years ago there were no bike rollers or trainers. Before the introduction of rollers and trainers, cyclists who wanted to work on sprinting and climbing techniques used rollers. In the last few years though, rollers have been replaced by trainers. The main distinction that many cyclists want to know is whether bike rollers or bike trainers are better. Comparing rollers and trainers is not an easy endeavor. A more important distinction which cyclists should know is the difference between the two and what each has to offer.

The Function of Rollers

The main function of a trainer is to keep a bicycle stable while the rider is riding. The bearing and motor that are built into a bicycle trainer does not allow the tire to move side to side. Rollers on the other hand can be adjusted much like a stationary bicycle. Rollers are useful because they allow a rider to do a large number of wind sprints and climb sprints. They keep the tire rolling so a rider can change gears without pedaling.

Tire wear is the biggest reason people ride rollers instead of trainers. A trainer will wear a bike tire out in a matter of months. Tire wear is not much of a problem when people have access to free rollers.

Training and Resistance – Trainer

It’s important to have an appropriate training tool at your disposal to improve riding skills, build strength and fitness, and prevent injury. The two most popular training tools are stationary computers and rollers.

Once the preserve of professional cyclists, training computers have now become affordable to anyone. All modern computers display the rider’s cadence, heart rate, and power output. A good computer is essential to monitor your fitness progress.

The other training tool is rollers, more commonly known as bike rollers. Rollers are general training tools for all Road, Triathlon and Track cyclists. Rollers are an essential training tool for any rider who wants to improve the strength and effort of their aero position and during sprints.

Rollers are ergo-based training devices for indoor cycling. They replicate the smooth feel of being on the road and are great for any cyclist who wants to develop speed and power in and out of the saddle.

You can use rollers to train on the rollers, on the floor, or on a turbo trainer. When using the rollers you get a better feel for the balance and agility of the bike, therefore always using the rollers is a great way to accelerate and decelerate on your bike, and practice spinning your legs without resistance from the bike.

Storage – Rollers

Can be easily stored if you don’t need them for four to six weeks or longer. Big roller burners can be a pain to store if you haven’t purchased a trainer stand.