This is a google search I have made at least 100 times in the past year, and to be honest I cannot seem to find an answer which sets my mind at rest.  During the winter months especially with the dark evenings and mornings, the ability to get out on the road isn’t always possible.  Even during the summer months, with a young family, a quick cycle at 9:30pm isn’t always possible!  I have tried to find the best way to train indoors on the bike, still getting the motion through the legs and time in the saddle.  With anyway you train indoors, it is never going to be the same as the road, unless someone invents a way to physically bring the road indoors.

This typically leaves two methods of training, training with a turbo trainer or rollers.  I’m obviously ruling out spin classes or an exercise bike.  There are positives and negatives for both, this is coming from slight experience but I’ll come to that in a minute:

  • Turbo trainer:
    • Range of prices and two main types, one that you lock the rear wheel in to and one that you remove the rear wheel and simply connect the drive train to.  These are slightly more expensive than the lock the wheel in range.
    • Disadvantage:
      • The time to set up, if you are like me you want to get going as quickly as possible, not spend 10 to 15 minutes setting up.  You have to lock the wheel in the turbo on most versions with the disadvantage being you have to either remove the wheel and use a spare wheel or use the wheel you have currently on the bike with the risk of wearing out your rear wheel very quickly.
      • When the tyre wears out, and it will, it causes a little bit of a mess requiring tidying up!
      • The noise, I purchased a turbo trainer which was ‘quiet’, it wasn’t!
    • Advantage
      • Set yourself up in front of the tv or with your iPad/computer close by and put on a film, tv show or football game and pedal away while you are watching it.  Given the noise you will need a pair of headphones or no one else in the house as you will need to turn the volume up
      • Just get on and pedal.
    • As you are locking the frame in to a device, I have always been concerned am I doing any damage to the bike.  Again after many google searches I can’t find anything that definitely says yes or no however I can’t image using a turbo trainer for 3-4 hours a week constantly is going to be great for a frame.
  • Rollers:
    • Basically no difference in any version bar some models have different resistance settings.  Simply three cylinders and you put your bike and go.
    • Disadvantage:
      • It isn’t just sit and go!  Learning to use a set of rollers take practise and I will come to the advice in the next section.
      • You can fall off and do yourself some damage!
      • You can’t turn on your favourite programme or football game and watch, you need to concentrate!
    • Advantages:
      • Simple to be up and running in 5 minutes.
      • No changing of wheel, simply flatten out the rollers (if they fold up), put the bike on and go!

Before I give my opinion of which is best, how to ride on rollers.  There are plenty of videos about how to ride on rollers, my advice watch them, however here are some tips and a video of how I got on 10 minutes after unpacking them:

  • Position yourself either between a door frame or against and a wall.  Have a chair or something you can hold on to on the other side.
  • You are going to be quite high so a small stool to help you on to the bike is helpful.
  • Make sure the bike is not in a high gear.
  • I wore my cycle shoes however some people don’t on their first go.
  • Once you are on the bike hold on to the wall or the chair and start building up speed.
  • Focus on a point ahead of you, don’t look down.
  • The bike will move side to side, similar to the road.
  • Once you have enough speed and starting to feel your balance, let go of the chair and place both hands on the handlebars, if you start to feel you are losing balance thats what the chair and the wall are there for!

Heres my attempt literally 10 minutes after I unboxed the roller.

The following morning I managed a 35 minute session on the rollers.

So which is best, basically it depends upon you.  However after one week with the rollers I believe it is a more realistic experience, you have to keep cycling and moving meaning there is no chance to simply spin or ease off, you have to keep your cadence up or your balance will go.  Having to work harder and keep balance is bound to make me a better cyclist…I hope!