Roller Training for Road & Track Cyclists

Michael Guilford Coaching, library

Rollers are a great way to build specific skills and fitness at the same time.  Most rollers have only had a low level of resistance due to friction from the tyres, and less lateral grip with the tyres. This means its harder to hold a straight line and you cant pedal out of the saddle like you can on the road/track.

If you try roller training without a good level of skill, you will probably feel too unstable and struggle to progress with speed training sessions. These videos and explanations are designed to help you work through the basics and develop a high level of technical skill such that you will be comfortable dismounting (without falling), should you lose control at very high cadences.

Rollers are a useful tool for riders who need to build their speed ability for track or road racing. Youth riders will sprint and attack at over 150rpm in road races due to the high speeds reached in bunch races and limited gearing. I found roller training helpful in transitioning from MTB XC to road racing in 2015. Speed is still something I have to work on, but it helped with the basics.

Why ride rollers?

I regularly get asked this question by riders that I coach, and its very relevant question. Sometimes they ask because its so difficult, part of the answer is in why it is so difficult.

Coordination and speed – Rollers challenge coordination at high speeds to a greater extent than training on a turbo, stationary bike or on the road. The bike can move around, laterally and front/back to some extent, at challenging cadences this gives the rider feedback on the overall stability of their movements. If their pedalling related movements are unsteady the bike will accentuate these movements, giving the rider feedback to help them learn.

Stability & Resistance Context – Riding a bike has an important stability context, the bike is free to move. In a sprint one of the limiting factors of whether a rider will pedal faster is whether they are stable. Its impossible to ride a bike in a straight line if you are unstable for more than a fraction of a second. Your body (not just your brain) has learnt this, therefore will limit your high speed pedalling ability.

Simple reflective environment – riding rollers provide a simple environment which allows for stimulating and progressive training. Following a simple session (like a cadence pyramid), can be used season after season, if you learn to feel/hear the feedback the training is giving you.


Set-up your rollers

In this video, I do not set up my rollers next a wall or doorway.  I don’t like to have obstructions around me which could get in my way if I need to dismount, and I am capable of putting my feet down quickly. It is up to you whether you set your rollers up next to a wall or not, however, the method in these videos will help you to improve your starting and stopping technique by not relying on something to steady yourself on.

Set the length of you rollers correctly. The front axle should be directly above or slightly behind the front drum.

Set your tyre pressures correctly.  Start with a higher tyre pressure (>100psi road bike) this will improve the stability of the bike/rollers making it easier to learn.

Avoid distractions. watching TV or Zwifting on rollers is not a great idea. Guess what you will do when you watch the race go round a corner!

Tutorial 1- The basics in Flat Shoes

In this video, I  take you through the basics of riding rollers starting off using trainers rather than cycling shoes.

By the end of this video you should be able to:

  • balance momentarily with the bike upright and one or two feet on the pedals
  • freewheel with both feet on the pedals
  • ride to the edge of the rollers and put a foot down
  • Do all of this at a normal saddle height.

Tutorial 2- The basics using clipless pedals

Tutorial 2 takes you through the basics of using clipless pedals on rollers, the saddle is lowered and similar exercises are practised.

By the end of this video you should be able to do everything in the last video but with clipless pedals.

 Tutorial 3 – Progressing using clipless pedals

This tutorial develops bike handling skills for riding out of the saddle and for changing hand and body positions.

By the end of this video you should be able to:

  • move your hands around on the handlebars as you do on the road.
  • pedal standing up
  • ride to the edges of the rollers

Feed while on the rollers

Incorporate this technique into your roller sessions, this will make it easier to feed using both hands in cycling events, particularly when surrounded by riders.

More challenging stuff…

Just for fun! but no hands isn’t really a trick!



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