Is Your Training Plan Complete?
For many cyclists who live in epic, warm-weather cycling locales with big climbs and bomber descents, winter brings frigid temps and unfavorable conditions. Those of us in these areas often have other seasonal activities such as skiing or fat biking to enjoy. However, many of us still pine for long, sun-soaked days in the saddle and so we slave away on our stationary trainers in these dark months in the hopes of making those far-off days even better with Froome-like fitness. Some of us compliment this training with gym time aimed at building power, combating future injuries, or simply to mix it up. Increasing fitness and building strength in the off-season definitely pays dividends come spring, but those elements are only two-thirds of the trifecta of training. The capstone of a complete training program is improvement of technique – and no single piece of training equipment builds proper form and technique as effectively as rollers.
Introduction to Rollers
Rollers have been used by serious cyclists for over a century, well before the advent of the stationary trainer. In fact, Charles Minthorn Murphy, the first man to ride one mile in one minute, used rollers in his training all the way back in 1901. Consisting of three drums, a frame, and belt connecting the front and middle drum, rollers are brilliantly simple. Their simplicity is a big reason they’re still the preferred warm-up tool for many road and almost all track cyclists. They simply unfold the roller set on a flat surface, set their bike upon them, and go, no fussing about with the axles, dropouts, or anything else. Rollers are much easier to move around than stationary trainers, and Kreitler Kompact rollers can be folded and slid underneath many couches or chairs. But despite their simplicity and convenience, they provide a rich array of benefits to users.
“No single piece of training equipment builds proper form and technique as effectively as rollers”
Benefits to Form
Whether it’s impressing motorists with your ability to track stand through long lights (we all try), your skill in slow, technical terrain, or even your comfort in riding within a group, balance is a key component of high-performance cycling. The act of riding on rollers quickly highlights any inherent imbalance you have in your form – whereas a stationary trainer does not. In fact, on a trainer your form can be so imbalanced and out of whack that if you tried to replicate it outdoors on a real bike, you’d be on your butt in no time! Awful balance won’t fly on rollers either and you’ll be subconciously engaging your core to combat it – tightening up your technique and physique.
If you’re “pushing squares” instead of “spinning circles” you’ll know immediately on rollers. They reward a smooth, even pedal stroke with a planted and stable feeling in the saddle. Conversely, a choppy pedal stroke results in bouncing, shaking, and overall instability in the saddle. Riders can work over time to alleviate their dead spots and ingrain the proper muscle activation in their pedal stroke, becoming more efficient in the process. Eliminating wasted energy from your form will allow you to go faster and further than ever before.
Kreitler Roller drums are perfectly smooth and spin on high-end sealed bearings, so, alone, they provide very little resistance. This allows you push big gears at high leg speeds (cadence) which benefits muscular endurance greatly. Being able to produce big wattage is great, but being able to produce it over extended periods of time and finish a race strong is even better. Furthermore, by most accounts, a fast cadence is preferred over slower as it requires more from your cardiovascular system versus your skeletal muscles, which recover slower. A fast and smooth cadence is the most comfortable on rollers and you’ll find yourself taking that improved technique outdoors on your next ride.
Sure, you can incorporate power, cadence, and heart rate monitoring into your roller workouts (and we encourage it), but another great thing about rollers is that they give you immediate feedback on your form, no post-workout analysis required. Your whole session on rollers (especially early on) is largely comprised of slight errors and corrections. These slight corrections become second nature over time and will make you a smoother, more efficient rider.
There’s no zoning out on rollers like you can on a trainer, you must focus and stay engaged or you’ll drift right off them. Sounds tedious right? Actually, it’s not at all and it makes the time go by quickly. One common complaint of stationary trainers is the boredom they induce. That’s never the case with rollers and although there is really no danger in riding off them (no, you won’t go flying across the room), they do provide a mild euphoric feeling akin to testing fate.
Probably the most despised stationary workout is the monotonous, but necessary recovery ride. Every cycling coach worth his or her salt advocates active recovery sessions following hard workouts. These low-intensity sessions can make even the most dedicated riders rationalize skipping a workout. Rollers setup to provide low-resistance are perfect for these workouts. You’ll actually look forward to these sessions and you’ll reap all the rewards above in addition to flushing the fatigue from your muscles.
The folks at Kreitler Rollers have put together a series of videos to show you how to ride rollers, how to incorporate rollers into your training, and even how to use your rollers with popular training programs and software such as Trainer Road and Zwift. Have a look at their full series here and check out Kreitler’s products below: