Faced with the 2012/13 winter, blogger Chris invests in a set of rollers - he blogs is difficult first steps here.
I don’t need to remind anybody how bad this winter has been – I can’t remember a previous time when the weather conditions have necessitated so much training time indoors. Cue hours on the turbo – again. Not exactly the most riveting way of spending time on the bike, but needs must, I suppose (moan, whinge, grumble)...
However, is there another way? How about using rollers instead? I have always resisted rollers on the basis that I will fall off ignominiously, having quite a bit of previous in this respect for just normal road riding. Also, I didn’t see the need – doesn’t a turbo, which is much safer, serve the same purpose?
Good old Facebook, yet again. A member of a group to which I subscribe, who was as steadfastly opposed to rollers as I was for the same reasons, decided to give them a try. Perhaps, like me, he harboured an admiration for those we see at pro and track events, spinning away without a care in the world, even with no hands. Some of you may also have seen this amazing footage of an omelette being cooked by a rider on rollers!
He loved his first session, and reported back in glowing terms. This got me thinking that it was a demon I needed to conquer as well, so with a certain sense of both anticipation and foreboding, I bought myself a set (parabolic rollers, supposedly to reduce the falling-off risk).
The big day came to try them out. Following advice received by many, I set them up in a doorway so that I had only a short distance to fall from side to side in case of emergency. The next challenge was then to get on the bike – somewhat mission-critical, one would suggest. Fortunately, I had some banisters to lean on to lever me upwards and hold me in position whilst I got myself set, similar to the rails you see the pros use. This actually made the process much easier – in terms of mounting the wretched thing, anyway.
Once on, and clipped in, I started to pedal, holding onto the banister. It’s a weird sensation – the bike moves from side to side and you have to balance, even when holding onto something. After about 5 minutes, I did actually manage to cycle without gripping the banister – that was a breakthrough moment for me. Sounds pathetic, I know – after all, we can all ride a bike on the road without thinking about it. A few panic-stricken moments as the bike moved sideways, but I managed to relax a bit and control the movement. By crikey, it works your core – you do feel as though you are actually riding the bike, not just sitting on it.
Flushed and triumphant, I managed to dismount with reasonable dignity. Reporting my success got a few likes on Facebook!
Next thing to try, a few days later, was a proper training session. Having gained a bit of confidence, I tried an hour’s endurance (Zone 2). I also tried riding by taking one hand off (I wobbled), but if I am to be able to reach my water bottle and use a towel, I have to persevere. It’s a very different sensation from a turbo – much more engaging, and time does pass more quickly, which was one of the main motivators for me. I still need some confidence, but at least I can now consider rollers as an alternative to a turbo.
Conclusions? Even this early in my roller career, I can see that they are great for relatively low intensity stuff – recovery, endurance and tempo, for example, where you’re not required to cycle against a heavy resistance. Certainly, the time will pass more quickly on rollers doing this type of session. However, if you want to do hard intervals, particularly in big gears, a turbo is a much better bet; at least time goes more quickly on a turbo if you have frequent changes of pace.
As both types of training are included in my plans, I will continue to use both turbo and rollers. At least I can now say that I CAN use both, even if, for the time being, I have one side of the landing to support me and the banisters on the other when using the rollers! Next stage will be to feel confident riding them without these props. After that, who knows? Riding no-handed, bonny-hops on and off the rollers, perhaps? We’ll see…….