Friday, March 2, 2012

Riding on the Rollers

David has incorporated rollers as part of his indoor cycling training ever since he was a teenager competing in races. He makes it look easy. It's a skill often admired -- and sometimes feared.

David rides rollers under the Sufferfest flag at Spin Class.
Bicycle rollers are a set of 3 metal cylinders attached by a belt. Your bicycle is placed on top, and when you get on and begin pedaling, the cylinders rotate, but the bike does not advance forward. It requires a higher level of concentration to maintain speed and balance on rollers vs. a traditional stationary trainer because you must keep the bicycle steady within the width of the cylinders - approximately 16 inches or so - throughout the workout session.

Also, while a traditional trainer holds your bicycle in place and there is no fear of falling, on rollers that fear is more of a reality. You must maintain a fairly straight line with your handlebars in order to keep control. In effect, one of the main advantages of training on rollers is that it improves your stability and confidence when riding on the road, especially in a paceline.

You also need to pedal effectively on rollers to maintain good balance. In doing so, you'll notice any weaknesses in your cycling skills -- such as poor balance or pedal stroke.

With great optimism, David actually ordered an extra set of rollers for me a couple of years ago so that we could train together throughout the colder months. It took me just two attempts before coming to a conclusion that I'm just not advanced enough -- yet -- to add that skill to my repertoire! The entire time I was sweating, while David was straddling my front tire and holding me steady with a tight grip on my handlebars.

Part of that failure might have been the fear instilled within me as a result of an incident David shared about his older brother flying off the thing when he took a stab at it way-back-when.

On the other hand, I did find this web page online that offers instruction on 'Ten Easy Steps to Learn How to Ride Rollers'. I think there's good advice here, but it's just not that easy for most of us! It's interesting to note that the same author also features another article on his website, 'How to Minimize Injury when Crashing'.

All-in-all, when it come to cycling on a tandem, David's choice to utilize rollers for off-season training has made him a better captain too. Even when I might be eating, drinking, or removing my jacket while positioned behind him, for the most part he continuously keeps our ride smooth and stable. That's key to being able to mesh well with other riders when on a group ride.

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