Rollers or turbo trainer…?
21 May 2015
Rollers and turbo trainers are both great tools for young riders. They can provide training opportunities in the winter when it’s dark outside, they can fill in between club training sessions, and give options for those too young to ride on the road.
Mark Wyer helps you choose which is best for your child, and looks at which types of riding each is best suited for.
Ultimately, if your child is serious about their cycling they will need both pieces of training equipment, but let’s have a look at which one they will need first, and what they can do with them.
A set of rollers is a great tool for developing excellent balance, learning to pedal smoothly and efficiently, and for warming up for hard track events.
There are lots of skills and tricks that riders can learn to perform on rollers. Some of those are directly related to racing techniques whilst others are just fun to learn, and they can help a rider’s general confidence and cycling ability.
Skills with rollers
Here’s a list of skills you can learn on rollers. The list isn’t exhaustive, and you may be able to come up with others or find them on YouTube.
- Riding one-handed.
- Taking your bottle out of the bottle cage and having a drink.
- Riding no-handed.
- Taking something out of your jersey pocket and putting it back again.
- Starting off without holding on to something at the side (e.g. a chair).
- Looking behind you or over your shoulder.
- Putting on or taking off a rain jacket, arm warmers, or a cycling jersey.
- Riding one-legged.
- Riding one-legged and no-handed.
- Standing up out of the saddle.
- Coming almost to a complete stop.
- Riding with as fast a cadence as possible (“revving out”).
- Sprinting in an aero position.
- Reading a cycling magazine.
- Checking out Youth Cycle Sport on your tablet or phone… 🙂
Why a turbo trainer?
A turbo trainer is great for a harder, more controlled workout. With the need taken away for the rider to balance, riders can focus on working hard.
There are many examples of turbo training sessions in books, online or from cycling coaches.
For warming up
Turbo trainers are also great for warming up. Let’s have a look at which device suits which discipline best for warming up. It may depend on whether there is suitable flat ground or whether or not the bike you are using has road/slick tyres on.
Rollers are preferred so that you don’t have to keep swapping your bike into and out of the turbo trainer between events. Of course you could take a road bike as well and put that in a turbo trainer but there is often restricted space in the track centre.
There’s usually space on the inside of the track to ride your bike without the need for either a turbo trainer or rollers.
A turbo trainer is better because you can just swap a back wheel with a road tyre fitted into your cyclocross bike. In addition, it may be difficult to find flat ground at an event to set up rollers on.
Road racing and time trialling
Either rollers or turbo trainer work fine.
A turbo trainer is easier, especially if the ground is uneven, but again you will need a spare wheel with a road tyre.
Turbo trainer, especially if there is uneven ground around the track. However you will need a road bike to put onto the turbo.
Benefits of each
Advantages of rollers
- Essential for warming up for hard track racing or training.
- Great for developing good pedalling technique.
- Superb for developing balance skills.
- Excellent for recovery sessions.
- Quicker to set up for a session or warm-up.
- Usually quieter than a turbo trainer (but both can be noisy).
Advantages of a turbo trainer
- More (and often variable) pedalling resistance for interval sessions.
- Keeps the bike stable so you can focus on working hard.
- Some models are cheaper than rollers.
- Usually easier to transport than rollers.
- Easier to setup on uneven ground.
So that leaves the question of which is the first priority for young riders. My feeling is that rollers are more important for younger cyclists.
Having fun learning new skills is more important for Under 12s than working hard on a bike. The turbo trainer becomes more important when older riders need to do interval sessions or replace a road ride when the weather is poor.
Some turbo trainers and rollers cater better than others for the very short wheelbase bikes or smaller wheeled bikes often ridden by the youngest riders.
See our two YCS Facebook posts here for a discussion of which models are most versatile:-
YCS tested the innovative and unique Fusion Sport Mini-rollers earlier this year. They’re intended for a pre-race start-line warm-up. Check out the review.
For reference, here’s a link to British Cycling’s own 20-minute warm-up routine.
Don’t just follow this without thinking about whether it’s suitable for your rider’s individual situation though – a structured 20-minute warm-up might not be appropriate for an Under 10 rider for a road race lasting 10 minutes!
Fun on rollers…
You’ll find a lot of demo videos on YouTube about learning to ride rollers. And if you want to do tricks, cook an omelette, or dance to Beyonce while riding your rollers, well, you’ll find videos for that too…