No matter if you’re an expert cyclist or just looking for an enjoyable form of cardio, there are so many reasons to take up indoor cycling. Cycling is an amazing cardio workout, and doing it indoors means that you never have to worry about bad weather ruining the ride. Plus, indoor cycling is a much safer alternative to riding on bike paths and trails.
There are several options for indoor cycling, like high-intensity spin bikes or stationary recumbent bikes for seniors. Buying a bulky cardio machine isn’t the ideal option for everyone, though. The solution is to invest in a bike roller and use your outdoor bike for indoor workouts. Here you can learn about the best bike rollers on the market for home bike workouts. Cycling at home has never been easier thanks to these top-rated bicycle products.
How Bike Rollers Work
The main objective of a bike roller is to allow a cyclist to ride a bike as he or she usually would, all while keeping the bike in one spot. Indoor cycling is a relatively simple concept with a roller, which requires you to cycle as you normally would while balancing the bike on a set of metal or plastic drums (or rollers).
Most rollers come with three drums - two at the rear and one at the front. The back wheel will sit perpendicularly between the two rear drums, and the front rests on top of the front drum.
Unlike a bike trainer, which actually clamps a bicycle into place, a roller is all about balance. This makes indoor cycling feel much more realistic as if you're cycling on the road. It also requires more concentration, and many cyclists prefer this mental stimulation. The balancing act can be very challenging at first, but users tend to get used to the feeling after several minutes of pedaling.
Benefits of Cycling Indoors
There are many benefits to cycling indoors, the main one being that you can cycle whenever you want. You won’t have to check the weather forecast beforehand to make sure the conditions are suitable for cycling.
There is also the safety factor; a rider won’t have to worry about weaving in and out of traffic, avoiding pedestrians, or keeping an eye open for other outdoor hazards. Yet another benefit of indoor cycling is that it keeps you fit.
Very Well Fit says that there are many benefits to cardio exercise, and “the great thing about cardio is that you don't have to work out for an hour at a high-intensity to get the benefits. Even a little goes a long way.”
Hop on your indoor bike, pedal for 15 to 20 minutes, and you’ve just performed an adequate amount of cardio for the day.
Choosing Between Bike Rollers vs Bike Trainers
While a trainer secures a bike into place, a roller does not. This makes a trainer easier to use than a roller, but that doesn’t mean that a trainer should be your go-to choice. Follow these guidelines for choosing between the best bike rollers vs. trainers.
Buying Guide for Indoor Bike Rollers
Bike Fit/Wheelbase Adjustment Features
As long as you choose a roller that fits your bike, you can use your existing bicycle for indoor cycling. Try to choose a roller that is compatible with a variety of bikes. You never know when you’ll want to switch out your bike for a newer model. With a roller that features high compatibility, there’s a good chance that it will still work with each new bike you purchase down the road.
Since a roller does not actually latch onto a bike like a trainer, almost all rollers are compatible with nearly every type of bike. The reason for this is that the best road bike rollers come with wheelbase adjustment features. This means that the device can be adjusted to fit the wheelbase of every bike. Once the roller is set to fit your bike, you’ll never have to make adjustments again.
There are several unique types of rollers to choose from, including conventional, resistance, hybrid, and smart rollers. A conventional roller is the most basic, consisting of two round metal drums (one at the front and one at the back). These typically come preassembled and ready to use straight out of the box. Needless to say, conventional rollers are the cheapest of the roller types.
To optimize cycle training, consider a resistance roller instead. This is exactly as it sounds, offering adjustable resistance for a more challenging ride. A hybrid model is a combination of a roller and a trainer. There are two drums found where the rear wheel rests, but the front of the bike is fixed to a metal fork. Many riders prefer this type since it requires very little balance.
Lastly is the smart roller. This is the most expensive type of roller, mainly since it comes with a variety of high-tech features. Most smart rollers feature an ANT+ or Bluetooth connection for syncing a mobile device. This gives a rider complete access to the performance information, plus it makes it possible to change the resistance level remotely.
Drum Size & Drum Material
The entire concept of a roller is made possible by its metal drums. Considering not only the design of the drums but also each drum's size and material is a must before deciding on a bike roller platform. Drum size plays a significant role in the resistance that is created - larger drums offer more resistance than smaller ones.
So if you’re looking for more of a challenge, find a roller with small drums. However, the smaller the drum, the more wear and tear on bike tires.
The two most commonly used materials for drum construction are polyethylene plastic and aluminum alloy. Both of these materials are extremely durable, but some riders prefer the feel and smoothness of aluminum bike rollers to plastic ones. The perk of choosing a roller with polyethylene drums is that these models tend to be the cheaper choice.
If cycle training reasons, choosing a roller that comes with easy-to-adjust resistance is a must. The best choice for this would be a smart roller, which can sync with a mobile device and allows a rider to make changes to resistance from a smart device. Conventional rollers offer a base resistance, but these don’t allow riders to make adjustments. For adjustable resistance, your best bet is to go with a resistance roller or a smart model.
Parabolic Drums & Fork Stand for Beginners
Many beginners opt for a roller with parabolic drums. This means that the diameter of the drums gradually increases near the frame. The smallest point is at the center of the roller, which makes it easier for a rider to balance at the center. The other option for beginners is to choose a hybrid roller than comes with a fork stand at the front. This ensures complete stability and diminishes the risk of being viewed as a bike rollers fail on Youtube.
Rollers are quieter on average than bike trainer stands. This is because a bicycle simply rests on top of a roller, while a trainer uses metal mechanisms to clamp the bike down. If a quiet ride is important to you, you’ll need to consider the size of the drums as well as the drum material. Smaller drums create more resistance, which means they also tend to create more noise.
Storage & Portability
Indoor cycling using a roller has a major advantage over stationary exercise bikes or treadmills for a home gym. These cycling devices are designed to be highly compact and portable, perfect for storage and transport. If packability and portability are two major concerns for you as a cyclist, find a roller with a folding design. There are a few top-rated models that fold between the front and rear drums.
5 Best Bike Rollers Reviewed
1. Tacx Antares
Our Top Pick
3.93” - 4.33”
26” - 29”
Yes, Folds to 31.5”
According to road bike rollers reviews from cyclists everywhere, the overall best bike roller is the Tacx Antares. This roller is suitable for both beginner and advanced cyclists looking to amp up their indoor cycling routine. And the best part of all is that the price is right. There is no power required to operate this roller, and it 100% maintenance-free.
According to the Tacx company, “with the Antares roller, you can cycle freely to refine your coordination and technique."
Beginner cyclists love the conical design of the Antares; each roller features a conical shape, making it much easier (and safer) to stay on the contraption while riding. Balancing is what beginners struggle with most, but Tacx is a step ahead of the game.
This bike roller is retractable up to 31.5 inches (80 cm) with a folding joint near the center. When fully extended, the roller caters to a variety of wheel sizes. Even if you decide to upgrade your road bike, you won’t have to worry about buying a new roller for your indoor cycling needs. Many bikes have a wheel size between 26 and 29 inches, which is exactly what the Antares allows for.
All in all, this is an amazing choice for beginners and pros alike. The conical shape makes the riding experience safe, but it’s not so apparent that expert cyclists won’t be able to challenge themselves. The resistance is mild, but it’s enough to build muscle memory. Riders love that the front and rear drums spin at the same speed, allowing for stability and momentum. If you had to choose one roller to fit all of your indoor cycling needs, the Tacx Antares is it.
2. Kinetic Z-Rollers
Best Aluminum Bike Roller
38.2” - 43.3”
Yes, Folds to 21”
Kinetic is a well-known name in the cycling industry, especially for cyclists looking for helpful training resources. Not only does the Kinetic company provide resources, but also high-quality products. One of the company’s most-loved products is its Z-Rollers. Many models these days are constructed from high-density plastic, but not this one. The Z-Rollers are constructed from durable aluminum, making this the best aluminum bike roller on the market.
The Kinetic company is no longer making this product, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t remain popular.
According to Kinetic, the “Z-Rollers are the perfect option for developing better balance and technique or for pre-race warm-up.”
Bikers love these precision-machined aluminum rollers for their stability and durability. On top of that, aluminum rollers are known for offering a quieter ride.
The unfolded length of the Z-Rollers accommodates for wheelbases ranging from 38.2 inches to 43.3 inches. This fully adjustable frame folds up into a compact 21 inches in length, making this easy to store when not in use, and easy to throw into the trunk of a car. The downside is that Kinetic has discontinued this product, but it’s still easy to find from other sellers Amazon.
Thanks to the aluminum and steel construction of the Z-Rollers, a rider can count on this product lasting a lifetime. That’s exactly what Kinetic expects from its products, which is why the company offers a lifetime warranty. If you’re looking for a smooth and quiet ride from an aluminum roller, the Kinetic Z-Rollers is a solid (pun intended) choice.
3. Elite Arion
Best Folding Bike Roller
37” - 44”
It’s hard to find a roller that doesn’t fold these days since manufacturers know that cyclists are looking for an easy-to-store, easy-to-transport cycling solution. Finding a folding model is easy, but finding one that compares to the Elite Arion proves to be impossible. This is, without a doubt, the best folding bike roller to date, and it's perfect for cycling on the go thanks to its integrated transport handle.
The Elite company says that the “ARION is quickly and easily foldable with one simple movement, so it reduces clutter by 50% when not in use.”
The other reason that this is the ultimate folding bike roller is its lightweight design. It's actually surprising how lightweight yet durable the Elite Arion is. Although it weighs practically nothing, it features impressive performance and is highly reliable.
We haven’t even covered the coolest features of the Arion yet. This roller comes with extreme adjustability, making it suitable for almost any bike and any rider. The front roller has 10 different adjustment options, which allow for perfect compatibility with your bike of choice. In addition to wheelbase size adjustments, a rider has 3 different options for resistance settings.
At first glance, this may seem like a roller that is suited only to advanced cyclists. But even if you’re a beginner, try not to shy away from the Arion. The parabolic rollers offer some sense of stability to newbie riders needing more control. The Arion is all about lightness and simplicity, but it doesn’t skimp on balance and durability either.
Best Parabolic Bike Roller
Available in 2.25”, 3”, or 4.5”
If you’re looking for an affordable option for beginners, our top pick is the Conquer Indoor
Bike Roller trainer. This is one of the best bike rollers for beginners, and that is strictly thanks to the fact that it is also the best parabolic bike roller. The parabolic (conical) shape of the Conquer’s drums offers incredible stability to a beginner-level cyclist.
The parabolic rollers of the Conquer have been proven to enhance stability and safety, much more than straight rollers ever could. A bike's wheels naturally gravitate towards the center of the roller, and the sealed bearings offer the smoothest ride imaginable. Some beginner cyclists have expressed the need for a more durable frame, but there has been nothing negative said about the rollers themselves.
Another recurring piece of feedback on the Conquer is that riding with insufficient air in the tires won't end well. This is pretty common knowledge among the cycling community, but it’s something that many beginners don’t know.
Check to make sure that your tires have plenty of air before hopping on this roller. If not, you are likely to fall flat on the ground. Each tire type has different standards for optimal air pressure, but you can easily find the info on your specific tire type online.
Aside from its parabolic drums, the low cost of this roller is another reason why beginners love the Conquer model. No beginner cyclist wants to dish out hundreds of dollars on a new roller, but the good news is that this one costs less than $100. That’s about as good as it gets when it comes to modern roller costs.
5. Kreitler Alloy
Best Alloy Bike Roller
Available in 2.25”, 3”, or 4.5”
31.5” - 48”
Alloy is a combination of metal and non-metal elements that is known for its sturdiness and durability. The drum rollers of the Kreitler Alloy - the best alloy bike roller on our list - are not just sturdy, but they also come in a variety of sizes. Cyclists wanting a more intense resistance level can opt for the 2.25 or 3-inch drums while those looking for a more leisurely ride might choose the 4-inch drums instead.
Whichever drum size you choose, you won’t be disappointed with the performance of this bike roller. Each drum is 15 inches wide, allowing for plenty of space even for beginner-level riders. The alloy aluminum drums aren’t the only sturdy aspect of this roller; the steel frame also plays a major role in this model’s durability.
According to Kreitler’s Choosing the Right System page on the company website, choosing a roller is your best bet if you answer “Yes” to any of these questions:
“Are you mainly interested in developing better balance and pedaling technique? Do you want to improve your 'spin,' your power, or both? Are you a first-time roller rider, or a fierce competitor looking for another tool in your training regimen?”
Basically, what the company is trying to say is that no matter your cycling skills level or your long-term cycling goals, the Alloy Roller can get you there. The only downside is that alloy aluminum doesn’t come cheap, but that’s because it’s the most durable material used to construct roller drums.
Indoor Cycling Essentials/Accessories
In most cases, a new roller is ready to use immediately - no assembly required. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enhance your ride by investing in a few additional indoor cycling accessories:
Care & Maintenance
The easiest way to maintain your bike roller is to clean it regularly. Falling sweat can cause harm to the materials over time, so be sure to at least wipe the roller down after every use. When possible, use a microfiber towel with a mild cleaning product. KurtKinetic says to follow these 3 simple tips for trainer/roller maintenance: clean, lubricate, and tighten.
Tips for Beginners: Riding Rollers
Riding a roller can be frustrating at first, especially if balance is not your friend. Not only does it take balance but also muscular endurance. To make the most of your ride, the best tip to follow is to focus. You’ll have to focus on balancing while fighting against the bike’s resistance. This beginner's guide to using a bike roller can help you get started.
Indoor Cycling Workout For Home
To get the most from your new cycle roller, you'll want to adopt a workout routine that works for you. The new craze among roller users is high-intensity interval training for cyclists, HIIT, for short. HIIT is all about short bursts of high-intensity energy, followed by brief resting periods. This method has been proven to help cyclists slim down, bulk up, and improve overall riding performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which muscles of your body are being worked out when cycling indoors?
Cycling is notorious for working the muscles of the lower body, but a lot of people don’t realize that when done right, cycling provides a full-body workout. This is especially true when using a roller since you must keep the core engaged in order to balance.
How many calories can you burn while indoor cycling?
The number of calories burned depends on how hard you push yourself as well as your body weight. In general, a cyclist partaking in a bike roller training program can burn anywhere between 350 and 600 calories in a 45-minute session. Feel free to use this Calories Burned Spinning Calculator to determine your exact number of calories burned.
How long and how often should I cycle on a bike roller?
The answer to this is entirely dependent on your goals. This is a low-impact form of cardio, so it is completely safe to use your bike roller daily unless a doctor says otherwise. If you are hoping to lose weight, plan on riding at least 3 times per week and incorporate healthy eating into your daily lifestyle.
Do these devices come assembled, or can I put them together easily?
More often than not, a roller will come fully assembled and is ready to use straight out of the box. There are, however, a few models on the market that require a minimal amount of assembly. Even though you’ll probably be able to figure things out on your own, always follow the manufacturer’s provided assembly instructions.
What is FTP for cycling?Question
Bicycling.com says that FTP for cycling is “the average number of watts that a rider can sustain over an hour. Ideally, it refers to a steady effort, not the up-and-down levels you might see looking at your power from a cyclocross race or super-hilly ride.”
Measuring your FTP isn’t always necessary, but it is essential if you’re hoping to boost cycling performance during training sessions.
Still on the hunt for a high-quality bike roller that can cater to all your indoor cycling needs? Trust us when we tell you that the Tacx Antares is as good das it gets. This model is durable, portable, and great for beginners, thanks to the conical shape of its drums. And the best part of all is that this is one of the best cheap bike rollers on the market right now.
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