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Road bike roller trainer test: to get you fit through the winter

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We're looking forward to Christmas and New Year's Eve, enjoying the winter to the fullest, but our cyclists' hearts are still suffering a bit. The roads are slippery, the air is bone-chilling cold and cycling has become rather uncomfortable, even for the most hardcore cyclists. Fortunately, however, there is an alternative that allows us to experience a little cycling fun even in our warm, dry living rooms: The roller trainer. What advantages it brings, which model suits you best and much more about 'the cycling pleasure at home' is explained here.


A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE ROLLER TRAINER
With a roller trainer, you simply clamp the rear wheel or rear axle of your own bike into a training roller and off you go. With accessories like a front wheel support that simulates hill climbs and headwinds or smart apps that measure your wattage and speed, you can train even better at home, but you can also bring freestyle cycling fun into your living room with this exercise bike.

YOUR ROLLER TRAINER BENEFITS

A roller trainer is much more than just a fallback option for bad weather. Because even if it lacks a realistic outdoor riding experience, training with it has some advantages. On the one hand, it is more effective because the usual rolling phases are omitted and you pedal continuously, on the other hand, it offers the optimal opportunity to improve your own riding style. With a mirror next to the trainer, you can easily check and perfect your posture and pedaling position. Last but not least, the roller trainer at home allows you to easily integrate short workouts into your everyday life and saves you the miles you would have to travel to the outskirts of the city into nature.

WHAT KIND OF ROLLER TRAINER IS WORTH IT FOR ME?
Cycling by clamping the rear wheel into the training roller, as just described, is common with classic roller trainers, which are relatively inexpensive to purchase and should be a good choice for beginners but also advanced cyclists. Those who prefer sprint training or want to train more silently should spend a little more money and look at roller trainers with direct drive. The resistance can be set higher and more precisely, ideal for training strength athletes or perfectionists.

 

The free roller is the cheapest option, in it the wheels are not clamped, you just put the bike on three rolls and go. This is a special challenge for cycling acrobats, because on this model it is sometimes difficult to keep your balance. Smart roller trainers are also available, which do not deprive you of any detail of your own riding style. In terms of price, the three models range from under 100 to over 1000 euros. The motto is, however, the more expensive, the quieter and more functional.
How do you set up a roller trainer?
Depending on the type of your roller trainer, the assembly is more or less complicated. We've prepared detailed instructions for you in the appendix, and you can see how Nic installed his Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer here: 

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WHAT YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO
The tire determines almost everything on a roller trainer: A strong tread is only compatible with a few models and is significantly louder during training. It is quieter to pedal on road bike tires. In addition, the rear tire wears out more quickly due to the resistance of the training roller than in normal outdoor use, so it is worth considering the training tires specially designed by some manufacturers for indoor cycling.

If, despite everything, the weather doesn't intimidate you and you want to feel the wind on your skin, check out our layering guide to keep you warm and dry on your bike. If not, then let yourself be inspired by our roller trainer test in the appendix, maybe there is one for you. Either way, your buycyle team wishes you as always: Happy browsing, happy cycling!

Still here and looking to learn even more? Go ahead and check out the more detailed infos in our appendix, including a review of some roller trainer models!

 

ROAD BIKE ROLLER TRAINER TEST: TO GET YOU THROUGH THE WINTER IN GOOD SHAPE
Endurance athletes face the same problem every year: winter is approaching, the days are getting shorter and the temperature is dropping. For many, this means that their sports routine changes or that they can no longer easily spend their free time doing sports. Even hardened athletes sooner or later have to come to terms with the fact that the roads become slippery or snowy, and cycling or jogging thus become dangerous. In addition, the cold wind irritates the bronchial tubes, our skin dries out in the cold, and regulating body temperature takes more energy in winter. Nevertheless, regular exercise remains important: the immune system and circulation are strengthened, and our spirits remain sunny despite the change in weather and the shorter days. To create an alternative to the usual outdoor activities and bike rides, or to keep up with the training schedule, there is an excellent alternative solution - the roller trainer. This device brings more benefits for those who want to keep fit from home. Here you can find out why a roller trainer is worthwhile and what models are available.

  • What is a roller trainer?
  • Which bike can be used to train on a roller trainer?
  • What are the benefits of a roller trainer?
  • Are there different roller trainers?
  • What are the alternatives to the roller trainer?
  • How much does a roller trainer cost?
  • Which roller trainer is the best?
  • How do you set up a roller trainer?
  • How do you set up a direct drive roller trainer?
  • Which roller trainer models are available? The roller trainer test

WHAT IS A ROLLER TRAINER?
The roller trainer is a training device that allows cycling on your own bike without moving from the place, without a training mat. With these bike trainers, the rear wheel of your own bike is clamped. The roller trainer itself can be stored away in a very space-saving manner when dismantled. It can be folded and stored away. The roller trainer also allows you to simulate a hill climb or headwind. For this purpose, the resistance on the roller trainer can be increased. A bicycle roller trainer is therefore an alternative to conventional cycling in nature. Cyclists can thus train from home. It is especially good to train on the roller trainer with some accessories. The front wheel support ensures that the clamped bike is not on a slope. Finally, the rear wheel is lifted when it is fixed in the roller trainer. Without a front wheel support, you tend to get the feeling of permanently simulating a downhill ride when exercising.

The right tires for the roller trainer are also worthwhile. This is because bikes with heavy tread, such as mountain bikes, limit the choice of possible roller trainer models due to incompatibility. In addition, even a roller trainer does not work silently. The stronger the tread of the roller trainer tires, the louder the workout. On classic tires, the roller trainers wear out additionally. The rear tire is clamped on the roller trainer, resistance is generated by pressing the training roller against the rear wheel. The tire thus wears out much faster than in normal outdoor use. Road bike tires are best suited on roller trainers as they generate the least amount of noise. Alternatively, training tires designed specifically for roller training can be purchased from most roller trainer manufacturers. However, these should not be used for outdoor riding. A tire change is therefore necessary before outdoor use. So-called smart trainers can be coupled with roller trainer apps to include the benefits of online training. One software that has proven its worth is Zwift. This allows you to race against each other within a community, including community fun. The Wahoo Fitness System allows you to monitor your training data. Roller trainer manufacturers such as Bkool, Elite or Tacx offer apps on which video sequences can be played for riding.

WHICH BIKE CAN BE USED TO TRAIN ON THE ROLLER TRAINER?
As a rule, most road bikes and triathlon bikes fit easily on the exercise bike. If you want to train on an MTB, you have to make sure that the tires have room in the roller trainer. Roller trainer models are suitable for certain wheel sizes in inches, this should be considered before buying. Most roller trainers are designed for bikes with 28 inch tires.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A ROLLER TRAINER?
Wet leaves in autumn as well as heavy rainfall or frost in winter significantly shorten any cycling season. In order not to have to miss the bike training nevertheless, a roller trainer can provide relief. Fixed roller trainers have several advantages. The riding style can be excellently optimized on the roller trainer. By setting up a mirror next to the roller trainer, the body position and pedaling technique can be perfected. To do this, pay particular attention to the position of the saddle, handlebars and cleats, if any. When do you pedal most efficiently? Especially the correct posture for time trial can be tested in this way.

There is also one advantage over riding in nature: the training is more effective. After all, on the roller trainer you don't have the rolling phases that you would have when training outdoors. Instead, you pedal continuously and the work effectively done is greater than that which would have been done outside in the same training time. The disadvantage of the roller trainer for many athletes, however, can be that there is no realistic feeling of riding. The wind blowing through the nose and the exploration of new places in nature are missing. Instead, people often stare at a wall or a technical device at home, which can't keep up with the feeling of freedom of outdoor training. Nevertheless, there are circumstances in which roller trainers are suitable as a year-round training tool. Especially for people who live in big cities, outdoor bike training can be problematic. In the city, road cycling is rarely fun due to streetcar tracks, lots of traffic lights, traffic and uneven ground. If it is then still a few kilometers distance to the outskirts of the city, the short after-work round quickly falls into the water. Short training sessions can be easily integrated into everyday life with the roller trainer. Health problems, whose recovery is promoted by sport, can be supported by roller trainers. Training from home promotes rehabilitation.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ROLLER TRAINERS?
There are different types of roller trainers. Both the free roller, the classic roller trainer, and the roller trainer with direct drive are also available as "smart trainers". This means that the training data such as wattage, speed, or cadence can be recorded. In addition, there are dedicated roller trainer apps that make it possible to virtually ride a certain route or to compete with other users. Simple roller trainers can be upgraded to a "smart trainer" by adding additional sensors.

Free roller
The free roller is the simplest type of roller trainer. No wheels are clamped into it. Instead, you place the wheel on the three rollers and drive off. This leads to the most realistic riding experience that can be experienced on a roller trainer. However, it can be very challenging, especially for road cyclists, to maintain balance on the free roller. The free roller comes with the disadvantage that the bike is not fixed. Riding in a time trial position therefore carries the risk of quickly getting off the bike in an unpleasant way as your balance fades. Training on the free roller is not particularly quiet and also offers little resistance during the ride. For a good workout on the free roller you have to be rather skilled. A plus point of the free roller is its affordable price.


Classic roller trainer
With the classic roller trainer, you clamp the rear wheel of the bike into the device. Resistance is generated by a training roller pressing against the rear wheel. High resistances are also possible, for example to simulate a hill climb or headwind. Training can be very noisy on classic roller trainers. However, many different models are offered on the market. Classic roller trainers are suitable for both beginners and advanced users. Sprint training is only possible to a limited extent on the classic roller trainer. Classic roller trainers are also available for little money. If you value a quiet workout or want to adjust the resistance more specifically, you will have to invest a little more money in a high-quality device.

Roller trainer with direct drive
A roller trainer with direct drive is suitable for athletes who value direct power transmission or want to better monitor their own performance. Direct drive roller trainers are quite quiet compared to the classic roller trainer. They are suitable for both beginners and advanced athletes. Athletes have the option to choose from many different models. Direct drive roller trainers allow for good sprint training. The resistance can also be set high to provide the most realistic workout possible. The direct drive roller trainer offers many advantages, but it is more expensive than other models and a bit more complicated to set up. At the end of this article you will find instructions on how to set up a direct drive roller trainer.

WHAT ARE ALTERNATIVES TO THE ROLLER TRAINER?
Besides the roller trainer, there are other alternatives to keep fit from home. For example, the spinning bike or the ergometer. However, there are certain disadvantages. Spinning bikes usually take up a bit more space than roller trainers, plus they are often too small or too large for the perfect cycling position, despite being individually adjustable in size. A spinning bike also generates momentum when you pedal, which can distort your workout. Similar problems arise on an ergometer, also called an exercise bike. Ergometers are geared more toward health athletes who want or need to exercise from home. Training on your own bike, on which you regularly go for rides or take part in competitions, is also more ergonomic. For those for whom the mere indoor training on the roller trainer is not enough, they can supplement their training sessions with, for example, swimming or jogging.

HOW MUCH DOES A ROLLER TRAINER COST?
Between different roller trainers, the purchase cost varies greatly. Both roller trainers for under 100€, as well as devices over 1000€ are offered on the market. The more money you spend on the purchase, the quieter and more functional the roller trainers usually are. Smart roller trainers start in price at about 200€.

WHICH ROLLER TRAINER IS THE BEST?
Which roller trainer is best for you depends on your goals and needs. As with any costly purchase, you should ask yourself your own questions beforehand to find the most suitable product for your individual needs. These include the following thoughts: what do you need the roller trainer for? Roller trainers can be used to prepare for competition, for example when a triathlon is coming up. A roller trainer can also serve only as an alternative activity in bad weather, then functions such as the recording of training values or the possibility of sprint training are probably too negligible to purchase a cheaper model. An important purchase criterion is the resistance that can be set on the roller trainer. It determines how strenuous your workout will be. The highest resistance can be set on the roller trainer with direct drive. Here, the bicycle chain is directly connected to the chainring of the roller trainer. Would you like to connect the roller trainer to an app to be able to use online offers such as routes or virtual competitions? And the most important question: how much are you willing to spend on a roller trainer?

HOW DO YOU SET UP A ROLLER TRAINER?
The setup of a classic roller trainer is simple. The rear wheel of the bike is attached with the help of a quick release. The training roller can be adjusted in height. It should touch the tire. Depending on the model, the resistance can be controlled either on the roller trainer itself, by a regulator on the handlebars or via an app. Optimally, you put a bracket under the front wheel to compensate for the slope that occurs when clamping the rear wheel. Starting up a free roller is even easier. The bike is not fixed anywhere, you put it on the three rollers of the free roller and go.

HOW DO YOU SET UP A DIRECT DRIVE ROLLER TRAINER?
Before you start assembling your direct drive roller trainer, you should check the scope of delivery for completeness. The following contents are common: the roller trainer itself including the cassette, the quick release, the quick release adapters, power cables, spacers for the disc brake and caps. For assembly, the roller trainer should stand on level ground. Many models can be stabilized by laterally extendable arms. Caps are screwed to the feet of these arms. Depending on the total weight that will be loaded on the roller trainer, the cap size is adjusted. With the help of the feet, the secure hold on the surface can be readjusted. In this way, vibration can be avoided during the workout. The power cable must be attached to the roller trainer. Then the roller trainer should be adjusted to the wheel size of your own bike. The wheel size should be written on the side of your tire wall if you are not sure. Once the appropriate wheel size is set, move on to the bike you will be using to train. Downshift to the smallest sprocket and then remove the rear wheel. If your bike has a disc brake, now is the time to insert the spacer in the disc brake. The bike can be inserted into the roller trainer. To do this, place the bike chain on the smallest sprocket of the roller trainer cassette. Quick release or thru axle on the roller trainer can be tightened.

If you have problems setting up the roller trainer with direct drive, or would like to take another look at how exactly this works, we have something for you: On our buycycle YouTube channel you can find detailed instructions on how to set up a direct drive roller trainer, explained step by step and shown with the help of the Wahoo Kickr.

WHICH ROLLER TRAINER MODELS ARE AVAILABLE? THE ROLLER TRAINER TEST
The most common brands for roller trainers in Germany are Wahoo, Elite and Tacx. Other models are available from relaxdays or Bkool. Here you can find a selection of the best roller trainers including a description of what makes them stand out.

Free roller
Tacx Antares T1000
In this free roller there is a significant detail that distinguishes it from the others: the rollers are designed in such a way that it is almost impossible to ride off the roller. One of the biggest disadvantages of the free roller trainer has thus been eliminated. If you push the trainer together, it measures only 80 cm. With a width of 40 cm, it is easy to store, easy to assemble and disassemble, and ideal for indoor training. Around 140€ is the price of the free roller.

Classic roller trainer
Elite Novo Mag Force Elastogel
This Elite roller trainer stands for special stability, as the steel and plastic frame is absorbent even under high loads. In addition, the wheel can be clamped very low, resulting in a low center of gravity and additional stability. Elite offers the app "myE-Training", the motivation and performance enhancement to be able to support your training. The resistance can be adjusted on this roller trainer through a selector switch on the handlebars. The device is foldable and therefore easy to store. In addition, wheel sizes from 24 inches up to 29 inches can be ridden on the roller trainer, as long as a quick release hub is available. The trainer is available for under 100€. Elite also offers a speed/cadence and power sensor, the Misuro B+. The sensor attaches directly to the trainer and delivers important training values directly to the app. For 50€ you can purchase this gadget.


Tacx Boost
With the Tacx Boost, resistance is generated by magnets, more precisely, the magnetic induction brakes can generate high resistance even at low speeds. A challenging workout can be designed this way. The trainer stands for quiet noise level, while the flywheel gives real road feeling. A front wheel mount is included, which is not the case with most other roller trainers. Sprint training, interval training or training with continuous strength are no problem. The Tacx Boomt roller trainer costs around 200€. It can be upgraded to a smart trainer, for example with the Garmin Speed Sensor 2. In conjunction with training programs from Zwift, TrainerRoad or the Tack app, indoor bike training can be optimized.

Roller trainer with direct drive
Elite Suite-T
This roller trainer is easy to assemble, quiet in use and includes an integrated power meter. Gradients up to 15% can be simulated. The flywheel provides a real road feeling. A front wheel mount is already included in the scope of delivery. The trainer is compatible with ANT+ or Bluetooth sensors. Thus, it can be used together with a training app of your choice. This enables various advantages for home training: training data can be saved and shared, videos can be played in parallel with the training, training programs can be created, even programs tailored to you after a test can be created automatically, riding routes can be staged using Google Maps or resistance levels can be adjusted. The roller trainer is available for around 500€.


Tacx Neo 2t Smart
This Smart trainer is one of the top models from Tacx. The indoor trainer has a low noise level, even at low cadence the vibration is kept within limits. This makes the trainer very quiet, except for the wheel chain, hardly any additional noise can be heard. Sprints or slow speeds are a lot of fun on the trainer thanks to the powerful drive. The Neo 2t Smart is designed for a realistic driving experience. The watts of power produced are measured with high accuracy. Sensors also measure speed, cadence as well as pedal strikes. The pedal stroke analysis provides a real improvement of the training. As a result, muscular deficits can be identified and worked on. In conjunction with an app, the trainer also allows for real road feeling in the form of a shake function. Other gadgets make the trainer a complete package. But make sure that the sprocket cassette is not included. Price-wise, the trainer is just under 1000€.


Elite Direto XR
This trainer has an integrated power meter, allows training at up to 24% incline and round pedal stroke. Sprint units and interval training are no problem with this device. The Elite Direto XR can be used with all indoor cycling programs thanks to communication via ANT+, Bluetooth or FE-C. Attention, the gear cassette is not included. The device can be connected to a rizer. A rizer is an incline simulator with integrated steering. So climbs and descents can be simulated in real time, the steering system allows the movement of the handlebars as in a real climb. The device has high compatibility and can be used in conjunction with road bikes, gravel bikes as well as mountain bikes. Pedal analysis, performance data, speed and cadence can be transferred to an app. The Elite Direto XR costs around 500€.


Wahoo Kickr Core
The Wahoo Kickr Core offers a realistic, accurate and quiet workout experience. It can be combined with many apps and workout options. It is also compatible with Kickr Climb, an indoor mountain simulator for an optimal indoor training experience. Up to 16% incline can be simulated on the Wahoo indoor trainer. Through ANT+, FE-C and Bluetooth, connections can be made to other smartphones and GPS devices. The trainer itself is made of a sturdy steel construction and guarantees a firm grip. The resistance can be controlled via an app. Speed, power, cadence and distance are measured without the need to connect other additional sensors. Nevertheless, the device is compatible with third-party sensors and apps. With a weight of around 18 kg, the roller trainer with direct drive is one of the rather lighter models. It costs around 600€. Other exciting indoor trainers from Wahoo include the Wahoo Kickr Snap, a classic roller trainer, or the Wahoo Kickr V5, a smart trainer.


Tacx Flux S
The Tacx Flux S is a smart trainer that is particularly quiet, can simulate climbs up to 10% and measures precisely. Power, as well as speed and cadence are measured. Sprints can also be trained on this device without it faltering. The heavy flywheel provides a realistic road feel. It is compatible with many training apps like Zwift or TrainerRoad. In terms of price, the Tacx Flux S is around 600€.

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