They see me rolling...

Originally posted to Tiny Fix on 3/30/13. 

Let’s just cut to the punch line.  She got it.  Cupcake was riding the rollers like a pro on the first day she tried.

The evidence:

So, now you want to learn how to ride the rollers too, right?

uh…

What are rollers?

Rollers are basically a self-powered treadmill for your bicycle.  They consist of 3 cylindrical drums, with the front and middle drum connected by a belt (basically a long rubber band made of silicone).  The CycleOps aluminum rollers above are the ones I have, they fold up and store very easily, and the drums are aluminum and 3.25″ in diameter.  Rollers differ from a trainer in that your bike is free to move around on top of the drums, not anchored in place by any mechanism.  Which brings me to…

Why ride rollers?

Because it’s hard.  It’s a lot of work.  Not only do you have to keep pedaling the entire time you’re on the bike, you have to focus, keep the bike balanced, and ride in a straight line, which will make you a better rider on the road.  If you want to zone out and mash your legs while you watch Netflix, (not that there’s nothing wrong with this, I do it all the time), you should probably get a fluid trainer.  If you want to be a better cyclist, get rollers.

 The famous scene in “ Breaking Away ” where Dave
Stoller rides rollers in the rain while eating an apple. This is an advanced
maneuver. 






  
  
   
  
    
  
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The famous scene in “Breaking Away” where Dave Stoller rides rollers in the rain while eating an apple. This is an advanced maneuver.

What bike do I use?

I’m a big proponent of riding fixed gear on rollers.  However, you can ride whatever bike you have and want to use on the rollers.  Since riding rollers is scary, and when we get scared we naturally stop pedaling, riding a fixed gear is a great reminder to keep pedaling.  Because you CAN’T STOP PEDALING!

I would not advise using clipless pedals for your first few times on rollers.  Just use wear your sneakers and put your foot on top of your fancy road pedal.  It will be a lot safer for starting and stopping, and if/when you have to put your foot down quickly.

Make sure your tires are inflated; the same pressure you use on the road should be OK.  Low tire pressure will give you more resistance and make it harder to pedal.

So, Cupcake and I learned a few things during our roller teaching session.  It’s a lot faster to learn if you have an assistant helping you out.  Preferably this would be someone who already knows how to ride rollers, but that’s not necessary.  We also learned that Half Acre Gossamer Ale tastes better in a glass.  We also worked out a step-by-step method for learning to ride the rollers.

 Lonely winter training, Dr. Dana on rollers 






  
  
   
  
    
  
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Lonely winter training, Dr. Dana on rollers

How to learn to ride rollers, in 10 easy steps:

1.  Place the rollers either between two walls (i.e. a hallway), in a door frame, or next to a long wall, so the rider can hold the wall(s) to start.

2.  The teacher/assistant stands in front of the rider, and puts one leg on either side of the front wheel.

3.  The rider should put one hand on each wall for balance while teacher/assistant holds the handlebars.  Then the rider begins to pedal, getting used to the sensation of controlling the bike with the hips and pelvis.  This may take some cueing on the part of the teacher (I like to yell “use your butt!”).  Gazing down at the front tire may help the rider keep the bike centered on the rollers.

4.  If the bike tips or starts to drift to one side, the wheel will rub the inside of the teacher’s thigh.  This is not at all painful, as long as you are wearing pants.  Please wear pants.

5.  Once the rider feels comfortable and the teacher is not having to do much work with to control the handlebars, the rider can move one hand from the wall to the handlebars.  This hand should be close to the cener of the handlebars (the stem), so as not to disturb the balance of the bike.

 One hand on the wall, one hand close to the stem 






  
  
   
  
    
  
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One hand on the wall, one hand close to the stem

6.  Eventually, when the rider feels ready, he or she can bring the other hand to the handlebars.  THIS IS THE HARDEST PART.  It feels like a big, dramatic move, so it’s a bit scary.  Don’t hang out with one hand up in the air and one hand on the bars, as this will likely throw you off balance.  Take your hand directly from the wall to the bars.

7.  YOU ARE RIDING ROLLERS!

 She's doing it!

She's doing it!

8.  Once you have the general idea and balance of riding, you can start making little corrections.  Your shoulders are probably hiked up by your ears, your elbows locked, and your hands gripping the bars with white knuckles.  See if you can engage your abdominals, soften your elbows and your grip a bit, and let your shoulders relax.

9.  Don’t get fancy just yet.  Once you have both hands on the bars, keep them there.  Taking one hand off to wipe your sweat, push up your glasses, or eat an apple may throw you off balance and cause you to swerve.  And for the love of god, don’t try playing Wii Sports on rollers like these guys just yet.

10.  Oh yeah, stopping.  Focusing on staying centered on the bike, slow your pedaling and get ready to put your foot down.  As you’re slowing towards a stop, put your hand on the wall for balance, and place your foot on the frame of the rollers.  Don’t put it on the floor or you’ll get a crotchfull of top tube.

 Rock and roll 






  
  
   
  
    
  
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Rock and roll

What if I fall?

That was the whole reason for the door frame, silly.  But seriously, most of the time, if you lose your balance, you’ll just lean into one wall, or your front tire will slip off the edge of the drum and stop on the frame.  Or, you’ll feel yourself starting to wobble.  At this point the most logical thing is to stop pedaling, but DON’T STOP PEDALING.  You will definitely lose your balance if you stop pedaling.  Keep pedaling but reach for the wall to steady yourself.

Final thoughts

This should be a workout, a training tool, and hopefully a lot of fun too.  Remember to relax.  It’s not a race.  This is a race:

Ooh, if enough people learn to ride rollers, maybe we can have a Tiny Fix Roller event in Chicago!  This is not your father’s Goldsprints, kids.

This method may not be patented, but it is Cupcake approved.  Good luck!