Indoor training has become more common in recent years and some coaches prefer that their athletes ride intervals indoors because they can do it any time. You can fit a ride into your schedule regardless of the time of day or the weather if you bring your bike inside and you won’t have to deal with traffic. Cycling enthusiasts like riding indoors for various reasons, but which one should you choose: bike rollers vs trainers?
On the surface, rollers and trainers appear to have a lot in common. However, there are some notable differences between the two and your training goals will ultimately determine whether you choose one over the other. We advise you to read all pros and cons before purchasing your indoor trainer.
Table Of Contents
A bike trainer is a piece of equipment commonly used for indoor training, allowing riders to develop cycling skills and efficiently control their riding power without having to worry about unavoidable distractions such as traffic lights. Turbo trainers have become one of the most popular among cyclists because they are not only compact but also inexpensive.
You don’t have to concentrate on your handling while riding a trainer because the bike is stationary except for the pedals and rear wheel. Resistance on a trainer is unavoidable for the vast majority of cyclists. You can push yourself as hard as you want while receiving a challenge from the trainer.
The main distinction between trainers is the type of resistance unit:
- The wind is the most basic and the noisiest form of trainer resistance. It does provide progressively more difficult resistance. This trainer is a good place to start.
- Magnets are quieter than the road and other options, but with less progressive resistance. This trainer is a high-quality, low-cost option.
- Fluid is the most refined and engineered resistance. It is intended to simulate road feel as closely as possible on a trainer. For a long time, this trainer has been a reliable option.
When compared to magnetic or wind trainers, the fluid trainer is quieter.
- Simple to ride (beginner-friendly)
- Suitable for out-of-saddle rides and high-intensity intervals
- High resistance
- More advanced trainers can adjust resistance in response to a training app
- More difficult to set up
- Very noisy
- May impair pedaling technique
- Possible bike compatibility issues
Best Bike Trainer
The Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Bike Trainer is the best bike trainer for traditional turbo trainers, which explains why the design hasn’t changed in years. A clever progressive resistance unit with an internal fan allows you to push yourself indefinitely hard, plus it’s not too loud. This smart trainer has a speed/cadence sensor which means it works with training apps like Zwift and Rouvy. To load the bike, simply align the quick-release and pull down on the lollipop to secure it.
If you’re using it on an uneven surface, you can rotate the leg pads and we recommend using a riser block to keep the front wheel from moving around.
The Fluid2 is the most advanced smart trainer in the Saris lineup, followed by the smart, wheel-on M2 and at the top, the H3 Direct Drive. The progressive fluid resistance unit, unsurprisingly, works by becoming more difficult as you pedal harder. This means that all resistance is controlled by changing gears, eliminating the need for a remote adjuster on the handlebars. There’s an integrated cooling system to keep your rear tire from overheating, and with a decent fan and a trainer-specific tire, you should get plenty of life out of the rubber.
A roller bike is made up of three cylindrical drums connected by a belt or rubber bands and rotating beneath the bike’s wheel. Unlike turbo trainers, which stand firmly on the ground, bike rollers function similarly to a treadmill machine, except instead of running, you cycle on top of it.
When training with a bike roller, you need to maintain your balance and work on your pedaling techniques. A roller trainer is the ideal indoor bike trainer for high cadence sessions, tempo training and easier recovery days for injured athletes who want to catch up quickly and return to the race arena sooner.
When first starting out, try it in a door frame, against a wall or sturdy table. It will allow you to get on the bike and start spinning the wheels with support. Once you’ve mastered that, you can jump on the rollers wherever you want. On rollers, you improve your bike handling skills and your fitness.
- Simple to install
- Reasonably priced (price similar to low-end direct-on bike trainers)
- Relatively quiet
- Improves pedaling technique, balance and top-end cadence
- Improves core muscle engagement
- Compatible with almost any type of bike
- Takes some getting used to (not very beginner-friendly)
- Requires a lot of concentration
- Not suitable for rides out of the saddle
Best Bike Roller
If you’re looking for a set of your own bike rollers that will allow you to complete a wide range of sessions, the Elite Arion Mag Parabolic Folding Rollers are a good choice. You can perfectly match resistance to sessions with three resistance settings, which is especially useful when you want to crank out the watts. The construction of the platform makes mounting and dismounting easier, while the design continuously directs the wheel toward the center of the roller. The entire set-up is foldable, making it simple to transport or store the Arion Mag.
The parabolic rollers have an 85mm diameter in the center and a 100mm diameter on the sides, making the Elite Arion easy to ride inside. A sliding lever on the side of the unit is used to adjust the resistance. This does not, however, mean that you cannot change the resistance while riding the rollers. The parabolic rollers are sturdy, the bearings are smooth and the frame is well-built. The Elite Arion Folding Rollers are quiet when in use.
Bike Rollers Vs Trainers
If you want to get on a turbo trainer and pedal as hard as you can to improve physical activity, this is the machine for you. However, a set of rollers can help your bike’s handling over the winter if you want the extra challenge of staying upright and going in a straight line. If you’re willing to put in the effort, either type of indoor trainer will provide a good workout. If you’re still not sure which one to choose, check out our detailed explanation of the differences below.
Rollers can be difficult for beginners because they require constant focus and balance. It will take a few rides to gain some confidence.
Trainers are much more beginner-friendly due to their stability. They’re also better for longer, endurance workouts that last more than an hour or two because you don’t have to focus on stability all the time.
You’ll last longer on a bike trainer because they don’t require as much concentration as rollers.
Resistance is one of the primary distinctions between bike trainers and rollers. High-end trainers can provide much higher resistance (2000W and higher) than rollers or rollers with resistance.
Trainers are ideal for riders who want to improve their strength or train sprints.
Rollers with resistance provide resistance levels of around 400W, but due to their nature, they are not suitable for riding out of the saddle. Only skilled riders can keep their balance when sprinting out of the saddle on them because the resistance is too low.
One of the main advantages of rollers is their low cost compared to mid-range and high-end bike trainers. You can purchase high-quality rollers without resistance for less than $200 and you can purchase those with resistance for around $400. Budget trainers start around $100, mid-range trainers around $400 and high-end direct-drive trainers can easily exceed $1000.
Bike rollers are easier to transport than turbo trainers. They are typically foldable and thus take up less space than a bike trainer. This is a huge advantage for people who have limited storage space. Direct-drive and some wheeled trainers are significantly heavier and less portable. One of the reasons why some riders prefer rollers for pre-race warm-ups is because of this.
You can read more about turning your bike into stationary on our blog.
While rollers work with almost any bike, smart trainers may not work with your bike due to different attachment mechanisms and axle standards.
Before purchasing one, check to see if the turbo trainer is compatible with your bike and if any special adapters are required.
3rd Party Apps Compatibility
Interactive and smart trainers work best with training apps like Zwift, ROUVY, RGT Cycling and others.
Because of their stability, you can concentrate on your training intervals and rest when necessary.
Rollers cannot be adjusted based on the indoor cycling app, so there is no interactivity like with bike trainers. As a result, bike trainers are the clear winners for one-hour or longer workout sessions or virtual races.
Riders prefer rollers for shorter, high-intensity workouts aimed at improving their pedaling technique.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Set Up A Bike Trainer?
You should set up a bike trainer starting with setting the bicycle tire’s pressure such that you can squeeze it just a little bit. It is essential to avoid overinflating it if you want extra traction when biking. Then, using the tool included in the bike trainer package, you must replace the rear quick-release trainer skewer. What’s left is to mount the bike trainer into the trainer and finish by locking it.
Do Rollers Damage Your Bike?
The rollers don’t damage your bike. Although both of your tires will come into contact with the rollers while you are practicing, their smooth metal or plastic construction means that your tires won’t be under excessive pressure. It is one of the best pieces of indoor training equipment for reducing tire and overall bike wear.
Is It Hard To Ride On Rollers?
It is hard to ride on rollers if you are a beginner. Start by reading the instructions and tips for riding on rollers and then you can safely start using them. After some time spent practicing, it will be much easier. You’ll just need some patience and time to learn.
Are Turbo Trainers Noisy?
Turbo trainers are noisy. If you live in a flat, you should have this information in mind when buying one because you might have a problem with your neighbors because of the noise. Different components of your stationary bike make noise while you’re riding indoors. Magnetic resistance trainers make more noise than electromagnetic resistance trainers.
Which Is The Best Bike Trainer Type?
The best bike trainer type is the Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Bike Trainer. This is a fluid resistance-based trainer, which not only reduces noise but also makes maintaining constant power easier. This trainer is very stable due to its four wide legs. When you stand up to pump those watts, you don’t have to worry about falling and tying yourself in a knot.
So, which is better: bike rollers vs trainers? Consider our top 2 choices, Elite Arion Mag Parabolic Folding Roller and Saris CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Bike Trainer for your indoor cycling. They are both sturdy and more advanced than other bicycle trainers in their categories. Consider the advantages and disadvantages before choosing and think about which indoor training tool is appropriate for you and your goals.