Jun 30, 2023

Best Bike Rollers 2023

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Improve balance, boost confidence, and stay fit in the off-season with one of these cycling rigs.

The first time you see someone use a set of rollers, there's a bit of magic to it; the bike and rider are balanced perfectly and working energetically, but nobody's going anywhere. Truthfully, it looks a lot harder than it is. Novices think that riding rollers is like doing a "trackstand" where the rider balances upright without moving at a stoplight, but that's not the case. Once in motion, the gyroscopic effect of the spinning wheels goes a long way towards keeping you upright and riding. Getting started? That's a bit tougher—but most riders learn it quickly. You won't need to be a cycling wizard to use a set of rollers.

The majority of bike rollers work the same way: your bike's rear wheel sits between two metal rollers, one of which is mechanically connected to a third roller under your front wheel. When you pedal, your wheels turn both rear rollers, which in turn spin your front roller, which spins your front wheel. There's usually no resistance added: rollers are different in that regard from cycling trainers, which apply a load to the rear wheel.

Used properly, rollers will improve your balance, teach you a smoother pedal circle, and generally increase your sense of confidence on the bike while also keeping you sharp during the off-season or in bad weather. We’ve selected nine of the best out there; choose one and let the good times roll.

Rollers are simple devices, but they're under a lot of stress and pressure. Most of them weigh under 20 pounds but they are intended to be ridden by 275-pound bike-and-rider combinations for long periods of time at high speeds. So you’ll want to be conscious of build quality and parts availability, particularly for the belt that transfers power from the back rollers to the front. Get the best you can afford.

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It seems obvious that you’d want magnetic or flywheel resistance on a set of rollers, right? Not so fast. Unlike bike trainers, which fix the bicycle in place and offer a broad variety of resistance, rollers are meant to enhance your balance and pedaling circle. They help make you smoother, not stronger. And unless you’re an experienced cyclist, a bit of resistance can make it much harder to ride them safety and well. Don't add resistance until you’re absolutely comfortable with free-spinning rollers.

You’ll want to know both the size of your wheels and your bike's wheelbase before looking at rollers. Measure from the front axle to the rear; that's your wheelbase. Not all rollers fit all bikes. And if you’re only going to ride a standard road or gravel bike, don't bother getting a one-size-fits-all set of rollers. It won't offer any benefit.

We spoke to several top amateur and pro riders in multiple disciplines to find out what they wanted in a set of rollers, then solicited feedback on various rollers in the market to winnow out questionable choices and focus on rollers with a solid record of performance. We then made sure to include rollers from multiple segments of the market; not everyone wants to spend $1,000 on an occasional-use item, but some cyclists put nearly as much roller time in as they do road time, so it's important to consider what would work best for those riders and all the riders in between.

If you’re not sure if rollers are right for you, the Antares will let you dip a toe in the waters. Compatible with most basic road and gravel bikes, Garmin's entry-level product features conical rollers to help keep you centered while riding. Extended, it's 4.5-feet long, but you can collapse it down to about 3.5-feet.

If you’re ready to take your indoor training seriously, but don't have a lot of room, Minoura's trainers are a good bet. Made in Japan and designed with storage in mind, the Liveroll is only designed for conventional 700c road and gravel bikes—but it's adjustable for a wide range of frame sizes. A wooden step helps build confidence when getting on and off the rollers. Expect it to last just about forever.

Not ready for Kreitler's Kat 1? The Kompact is simpler and easier to store at less than half the price. But it's still a full-quality, pro-grade roller set that is easy to maintain and repair. Make sure your bike fits before you buy: because the Kompact has a shorter frame, it's only compatible with wheelbases from 38 to 42 inches.

Z-fold rollers aren't as stout or smooth as full-frame standard rollers, but if you’re in a small apartment they’re a massive improvement over not riding at all. ROCKBROS offers a wide variety of adjustment to include mountain bikes and smaller frames. The parabolic roller design helps to keep you centered, although the effect isn't as strong as it is with conventionally tapered rollers.

Some riders aren't happy unless they have some resistance during indoor training: the Arion offers three levels of magnetic resistance in an ultra-compact folding roller set that can handle both road and mountain bikes. The plastic parabolic rollers are meant to assist stability. At 17-pounds, this folding roller set can go almost anywhere.

Large-drum rollers are easier to ride, and Minoura rollers are known to last a long time. This budget-minded combination of these two qualities should please roadies who want to put in hours at a time over the winter. No frills, although a magnetic-resistance accessory is available directly from Minoura.

This unusual product is the brainchild of BMX pro Alec Bob. One of the most successful African-American pro riders in the sport's history, and a multiple collegiate champion, Bob is known in the sport for his thoughtful, intellectual approach to racing. The Rexer is an example of that. TSA-approved and ready to ride anywhere, these rear-wheel-only rollers will give you a chance to warm up before events or in your hotel room.

BI: What size drums should I get?

JB: Most riders will be happiest with 3- to 4-inch drums, with Minoura's 105mm "big drum" at the high end of that range. A few manufacturers offer small rollers of 2.25-inch diameter—but unless you really know what you’re doing, those should be avoided.

BI: Aluminum or plastic rollers? Parabolic, conical, or straight?

JB: When in doubt, choose straight aluminum rollers because they’re most suitable for a full range of bikes and rider skill levels. Parabolic and conical rollers slightly unsettle me—they have a self-centering effect—but that's likely because I started using rollers back when straight drums were the only option. Novices should feel free to start with parabolic or conical rollers.

BI: I want to have success with my rollers. What should I do?

JB: If you have a basement with support posts, consider putting your rollers next to a post. Use the post to balance yourself at the beginning and end of each ride. If that's not a possibility, ask a friend to stand with you as you get comfortable. A lot of riders learn faster, and with fewer incidents, using flat pedals and non-cycling shoes. The clip-out motion can be tough to do if you’re just getting used to rollers.

Finally, don't get too tired in your early sessions; until you truly know what you’re doing, the end of the ride is the time when you’re most likely to fall off.

Jack Baruth is a writer and competitor who has earned podiums in more than fifteen different classes and sanctions of automotive and cycling competition, in both amateur and professional capacities, as well as an enthusiastic hobbyist musician and audiophile who owns hundreds of musical instruments and audio systems. His work has appeared in Bicycling, Cycle World, Road & Track, WIRED, Wheels Weekly, EVO Malaysia, Esquire, and many other publications. His original design for a guitar, the Melody Burner, has been played by Billy Gibbons, Sheryl Crow, and others.

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The Expert: BI: What size drums should I get? JB: BI: Aluminum or plastic rollers? Parabolic, conical, or straight? JB: BI: I want to have success with my rollers. What should I do? JB: