If you head to a velodrome you’ll see almost all of the riders using rollers to warm up before their events. While you typically attach the wheel or frame to a bike trainer so you don’t have to worry about keeping your balance during your workout, you don’t need to do anything to your bike on a set of rollers. Two cylindrical rollers support the rear wheel of the bike, with a third roller supporting the front wheel. A band connects the rollers and can provide some resistance.
While most serious triathletes own some sort of a trainer, not so many ride rollers. While it takes a bit of time to get competent riding them, it is worth overcoming any fears you might have about trying them. In this video, Melanie McQuaid, a multiple world champion and regular contributor to Triathlon Magazine Canada, provides some basic tips on getting started on rollers:
So what are the advantages of riding rollers for triathletes?
Reduce boredom during your sessions
You’ll find you have to really concentrate when you’re getting started on rollers, and even as you get more experienced, you really have to pay attention to what you’re doing in order to stay up. It can be a welcome distraction, especially if you’re dreading the thought of another indoor bike workout.
Improve your bike handling skills
Riding on rollers is a great way to improve your basic bike riding skill. In addition to making you that much better around corners and on steep descents, you’ll also find you’re riding faster because you are that much more efficient.
The improved coordination you’ll attain also translates to being able to eat and drink more easily during long rides and races.
Help you ride in a straight line
“If you’re one of those people who tend to zig-zag down the road while on your aero bars, rollers can help you learn to ride in a straighter line,” Pan American bronze medalist Sean Mackinnon wrote for a story in Triathlon Magazine Canada a few years ago.
“Rollers refine your ability to keep your bike in a straight line,” Andrew Randell, coach and founder of The Cycling Gym, told Canadian Cycling Magazine. “Lots of people these days are putting out great watts, but have no bike handling skills.”
Improve your pedal stroke
The best cyclists get the most out of each and every pedal stroke. Pedalling isn’t just a push down/ pull up endeavour for the best cyclists, they managed to apply pressure on the pedals throughout the pedal stroke. Rollers can really help with your pedalling efficiency, especially if you incorporate some one-legged drills (see the video below).
Keep your upper body quiet
When you’re on rollers you need to keep your upper body relaxed and not grip the bars too hard – if you do you’ll find you’ll pull yourself from side to side, making it hard to be smooth. That converts well to an efficient and smooth position when you’re outside, too.
Improve your core strength
While riding on rollers you’ll find you have to engage a lot of your core muscles to keep yourself upright and balanced on the bike. That can translate to a stronger position once you’re outside, too, especially while riding in an aero position.
In this video McQuaid outlines a few drills that you can do on rollers to improve your technique: