Bike rollers are a great way to shake up your cycling training.
And, especially now with everyone staying home, you might want to try something new.
But, what exactly is a bike roller and how is it different from a trainer?
We’ll answer that question in the buyer’s guide and even tell you how bike rollers differ from each other.
Best Bike Rollers in 2020
BEST VALUE FOR MONEY
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BEST FOR BEGINNERS
|Feedback Sports Omnium||
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AFFORDABLE AND SUPER QUIET
|Kreitler Alloy Rollers||
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BEST SMART ROLLERS
|Elite Arion Smart Digital B+||
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1. Tacx Galaxia
The rollers have a patented swing system and have conical rollers like its other models available.
The swing system makes sure that the rollers can swing forward and backward while you’re biking. When you decide to speed up or slow down or even stand in the pedals the roller system absorbs the sudden movements you make. And, it ensures that you won’t derail during your workout.
As mentioned before, the rollers have a conical shape to them, which keeps the bike in the middle of the roller while you’re riding. This makes riding on the rollers easier and safer, especially for beginners.
The roller can accommodate all bikes with a wheel diameter between 26-29 inches.
Triathletes who have bought the rollers like them because it teaches them how to improve their balance and pedal stroke. The set up is fairly simple and similar to other Tacx rollers. The bike stays in the middle of the rollers and most recommend putting some type of sheet under the rollers. There isn’t any built-in resistance which is the one complaint that was the most common among triathletes.
I’d recommend this roller if you want a simple one that helps keep you in the middle of the roller.
2. Feedback Sports Omnium
The progressive resistance can handle up to 1060w of activity before it “poops out”. And, you can bet the ride on the rollers is quiet since the resistance is magnetic. This would be great to use if you’re traveling for a race or work. You can set up the roller in your hotel room and disturb anyone.
Speaking of traveling, the bike rollers easily fold up and can fit in a tote bag (included) so you can travel and still train.
The fork mount is height adjustable so it is compatible with many bikes and wheels sizes.
The magnetic drums give riders a progressive resistance and not one has said that they needed more power from the rollers. Compared to flywheels, rollers won’t create as much inertia but it will improve your pedal stroke.
The lack of inertia highlights any “dead spots” in your pedal stroke. Whenever you feel the rollers speed up or slow down, it’s because your pedal stroke is uneven. Over time, your pedal stroke will become more consistent and your speed will even out.
Since the rollers expose what park of your biking needs to improve, you’re in for a good workout.
Triathletes who have bought the bike like it because it provides an impressive amount of resistance and it is quiet so that it won’t disturb others in your hotel. It’s easy to pack it up and set it up so it’s always ready when you are. Triathletes have also noticed that the rollers help them improve their pedal stroke. The rollers expose their dead spots and over time they change their habits.
I recommend this roller if you want one that can travel with you easily and can help improve your pedal stroke.
3. Kreitler Alloy Rollers
The Kreitler Alloy rollers have alloy end caps which are heavier than the polycarbonate you’d find on other rollers. But, this material creates a more realistic momentum feeling on the rollers and you’ll feel the coasting effect strongly.
The rollers were made with high-quality shield bearings that give riders a very smooth and quiet ride. And, it’s one of the quietest rollers you can buy and you and your housemates will be thankful.
The frame of the roller is made from steel that was welded into exacting fixtures and black epoxy powder coated to give a polished look. The steel frame is durable and you can depend on this roller for years to come.
If you want, you can buy a fork stand with the roller, which turns it into a roller-trainer hybrid. The fork stand can fit most bikes. The forkstand stabilizes the front wheel and it makes rollers less intimidating.
When you’re done with winter training, the roller folds up easily and can be stored wherever. And, if you want, it’s possible to travel with it.
Triathletes who have bought the roller like it because it is durable and has the option to have a fork stand. The fork stand makes the rollers more versatile and just gives triathletes another “tool” to make training more interesting. On the rollers, triathletes report that the ride feels silky smooth.
I’d recommend this roller if you want one that is easy to travel with and can be “converted” to a trainer-roller hybrid.
4. Tacx Antares
This makes riding on rollers not only easier but also safer for you.
The roller can accommodate any type of bike as long as the wheel diameter is between 26-29 inches.
The set up of the roller is fairly simple and its compact design makes it very easy to store after winter training is done for the year.
The roller has a Skyliner front wheel support, which elevates the front of the bike to mimic an outdoor riding position. This is ideal for beginner rollers since it feels safer as they learn how to ride on rollers.
However, the downside to the Skyliner front wheel support is the momentum. It’s very hard to build up momentum on the bike. And, if you want to go fast or stand in the pedals the rollers aren’t best suited for it.
In fact, the company itself recommends upgrading to a more “advanced” Tacx roller model.
Triathletes who have bought the rollers like them because it is easy to assemble and doesn’t take up a lot of room when it’s put into storage. Everyone says that on the rollers the “ride” feels smooth and is quiet. Changing gears adds or lessens the resistance on rollers. And, building up more momentum indeed takes more effort, but most report that their pedal stroke improved after using the rollers.
I’d recommend this roller if you want to work on your sprint and want a lot of resistance to building up momentum.
5. Saris Aluminum Rollers
You’ll improve your balance, pedal stroke and overall control over the bike after adding rollers to the routine.
This specific roller gives riders a silent and smooth ride because the roller drums are made from aluminum.
The frame is made from steel which makes it durable and a tool you can use for years to come and even take to races with you. Under the steel frame, there are rubber foot pads that keep the frame in place while you’re riding.
The rollers can be adjusted so that you can dismount and mount your bike on whatever side feels more natural to you.
When you’re done with the rollers, you can either fold up the rollers and put it somewhere convenient. Or, it has “stand on end” capabilities so it can be stored that way as well.
To get resistance, the resistance roller uses a magnetic resistance technology that doesn’t use any moving parts. This means that you can quietly ride the rollers indoors. This will be welcomed by your housemates and neighbors.
Triathletes who have bought this set of rollers think that they’re getting a good value for their money. Riders get a good “spin” workout from the rollers during the winter. Most report that they not only get a good workout but also an effective one that really teaches them above their core and upper body strength in addition to improving their balance and pedal stroke.
I recommend this roller to those who want a roller with simple resistance technologies for a silent and smooth ride.
6. Elite Arion Magnetic Roller
The roller has some connectivity capabilities but a sensor is required and must be bought with the train for it to work.
The Misuro B+ sensor is compatible with Elite’s E-training. And, this sensor directs each workout and records your power, cadence, heart rate, speed, time, and data.
The sensor is also compatible with training apps such as TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, Zwift, and Stava. The sensor is the “gate” to more interactive and complete training, which lets you analyze your metrics, “interact” with other riders online, and much more.
The rollers themselves work with both road and mountain bike wheels. The front-wheel roller, like other Elite rollers, can be adjusted to ten different positions. This range is suitable for any size bike, which is good news if you fall on either extreme of the height spectrum.
The roller is very light and folds up easily for transport or storage. You can take this to triathlons or bike races to warm-up on.
Triathletes who have bought the rollers like them because it is very light and compact when not in use. And, it’s quiet when they are using them. All say that the roller is easy to adjust and didn’t require too much time. The resistance is good and the sensor is great if they want to hook up the roller to a power meter or training app. Most say the trainer lasts a long time and if anything the bolts might need to be tightened over the years.
I recommend this roller to those who want a roller that will last long, fit any size bike, and is somewhere between a regular roller and a “smart” one.
7. Elite Arion Smart Digital B+
The interactive roller has an automatic resistance adjustment that is electronically managed to whatever type of training or course you’re following.
For the interactive inner resistance, you’ll need ANT+ FEC and Bluetooth Smart technologies for it to work. The ANT+ FEC can be synced up with your cadence or heart rate monitor and send those metrics to your bike computer or training app. The Bluetooth Smart is used for training apps such as Zwift which will control the amount of resistance.
The “smart” part of the roller is compatible with any app, software, computer, and the device no matter what operating system they have.
The roller itself is compatible with any road and mountain bike wheels. And, the front roller is adjustable to ten positions so you can get the “perfect” feeling on your bike.
When you’re not using the roller, it can be folded up and stored in the back of your closet. It’s very light and takes up little room when you’re using it.
Triathletes who have bought the rollers like it because it is easily used with Zwift and is easy to set up for any sized bike. Riders like the interactive part and that it can be used with training apps. It makes it more realistic when the rollers can adjust the resistance themselves.
I’d recommend this roller if you’re looking for one that has “smart” capabilities and wants a different type of workout. You might find that you enjoy the roller more than your trainer, especially with a training app involved.
8. Elite Nero
Elite has taken components and features from Elite Quick-Motion and Arion Digital Smart B+ interactivities to create the Elite Nero roller.
It’s one of the first rollers that uses two flywheels to give you a very real and fluid riding experience. It’s sure to be a fun time even if you’re looking at a computer screen or basement wall or out the window of your home.
The interactive part of the poller is compatible with nearly all apps, software, computers and devices no matter what operating system they have. The roller can wirelessly sync with the software and devices so you can pick from a range of training sessions.
The roller adjusts its resistance based on whatever training session you pick. And, the roller uses ANT+ and Bluetooth wireless communication tools so that all your metrics are instantly sent to your training apps, programs, and software.
The Nero rollers have put two flywheels in the rear rollers, which makes the ride feel very realistic and as if you’re outside. And, when more resistance is put on, you’ll feel like you’re on a hill.
To make the transition to roller riding easier, the Nero Roller has built-in an “integrated step” which provides a base. This base is used when you start riding or are ending a training session.
The rollers have a floating system, which helps absorb any abrupt movements you make on the bike such as out-of-saddle pedaling and reaching for your water bottle. This helps athletes gain confidence on the rollers and won’t be afraid to ride them.
Triathletes and cyclists who have bought the roller love it because it is very beginner to intermediate level friendly. And, most find it easier to become comfortable on this roller than others they have had in the past. The integrated block is a nice touch for those who are still improving their balance. They can do longer workouts without the fear of falling when they’re done.
I recommend this roller if you’re looking for a “smart” one with more resistance and doesn’t use too much power. The roller is beginner-friendly with its integrated block which can help improve your balance as well.
Bike Rollers — Comprehensive Guide
Bike Rollers vs. Trainers
For starters, rollers are made of three cylindrical drums that are connected with a belt, which allows them to rotate while you’re pedaling on the bike.
Riding rollers require more balance than riding a trainer since your wheel isn’t connected to anything. Most riders will start their roller workouts in a door frame so they won’t fall down.
While trainers have two components to it. One is where you stabilize your back wheel and where it spins while you pedal. And the front wheel rests on a “bock” while it’s not being used.
Generally, rollers are more simplistic and are cheaper since they don’t add “extras” to it. There are some “smart rollers” but even those are still low tech compared to smart trainers.
Remember, some bike trainers can get expensive and some even have technology integrated into it or can be hooked up to a smart TV or laptop.
Best Workouts for Bike Rollers
Another question you might ask is what type of workout can I do on a bike roller that I can’t do on a trainer.
Of course, you can use rollers for whatever bike workout you’d do on the trainer.
However, if you’re doing a high cadence, tempo training workout or an easy ride, then a roller might be a better option.
And, if you bring a roller to a race, it’s a great warm-up since you don’t have to replace a wheel and skewer or drivetrain. It makes life simpler.
Differences Between Bike Rollers
All bike rollers look the same and there isn’t much that changes between brands.
However, some components change the price point.
For example, the roller’s compactness, ease of ride, and resistance are variables that change.
A basic “beginner” roller is made from steel and the rollers are made from polyurethane.
An intermediate can have conical-shaped drums and sometimes dip in the middle, which helps the bike stay in the middle for the entirety of the workout.
A small step up from a roller that dips is one with a “swing system”. This system lets riders swing forward and backward which absorbs the motions you feel when you speed up and slow down.
Some rollers have a stand that clamps onto your front wheel. This gets you used to riding on the rollers without the fear of always falling out.
Some rollers that have electronically controlled resistance, which uses ANT+ that send metrics such as power and speed to bike computers. And, the roller can be synced with apps such as Zwift that can imitate climbs and descents.
“Real-life” Feel on Rollers
Remember, on the trainers, you’re always looking for the “real-life” feeling as if you’re on the road.
And, on trainers, it’s hard since your bike isn’t moving at all since the back wheel is attached. This creates a “lab” experience that isn’t like riding on the road at all.
On rollers, you must maintain your balance so that the bike can move well on the rollers. The bike has some lateral movement that mimics outdoor riding very well.
This real-life feeling might keep you more focused during the winter months. And, it can even improve your handling skills in addition to your balance and pedaling techniques.
On bikes, you stand up and sprint which is something you can’t do on a trainer since it would damage the bike frame.
Tire Wear and Rollers
This might be a no brainer, but direct drivetrain bike trainers are favored if you don’t want your tires to wear out quickly.
On rollers, both your tires are in contact with the roller drums, which allows the bike some movements on them. And, since the bike is free to move it doesn’t have any specific pressure spots on the tires that eventually develop into heat spots.
Rollers and Resistance
Bike trainers do “win” in the resistance category since they can be programmed to imitate hills and their resistance. Or, even be programmed to follow a specific route you might do outside.
Rollers do have resistance because it’s all derived from whatever gear you’re riding in. Of course, smart rollers can change resistance via a training app.
Rollers and Price
Rollers are cheaper than trainers since they have such a simple design and don’t come with flywheels or “smart” functions found on some high-end trainers.
Some “smart” trainers have a similar capability to smart trainers, but they are very few to choose from.
A trainer will cost between $100-$300 on average.
What to Consider Before Buying Bike Rollers
Quality of Materials and Construction
The quality, like anything you buy, should be seriously considered when you’re shopping.
For rollers, look for ones that can handle the weight of your bike and you for a long time.
The rollers themselves, which your wheels go on, should be the most important component to consider. And, it’s best to look for ones that are made from aluminum. Other rollers might be made with high-density polyethylene which can work and even reduce noise and vibration.
Roller’s Wheel Base
Rollers need to be adjusted once and most have a simple set up that can be completed quickly.
Look for a roller that can fit nearly every type and size of bicycle. This will save you money so that whenever you upgrade your bike, you don’t have to worry if the bike will fit on your roller.
To adjust the rollers to your bike, all you need to do is adjust the front drum so that it’s slightly in front of the front hub. This will ensure you don’t ride off the rollers. For this process, you’ll need a wrench as your tool.
For a hybrid roller, you need to set it up like a simple roller but then the front wheel is removed. After, you’ll put the front fork into the built-in dropouts.
Drum Design and Material
Drum shapes are either parabolic or the same. And, the size of the drum affects the resistance that can be created on the roller.
Parabolic rollers dip in the middle of the rollers and tend to be larger on the outside and smaller in the middle. This shape keeps your bike in the center of the rollers.
Rollers are made from either aluminum or hard plastics (polyethylene). Depending on your training and how you ride will determine which material is more suitable for you. It’s best to take your local bike store to help you decide this.
The larger the drum size, the lower the resistance that will be created on the roller.