Last updated 2/14/17
If you’ve ever struggled to ride in a straight line or nearly swerved off the road reaching into your jersey pocket, then cycling rollers could improve your balance and coordination. Any pro rider will tell you that it’s not necessarily the size of the engine that matters most, but how efficiently you use it. Developing a smooth, efficient pedal stroke will not only teach you how to ride more economically, but also improve balance and core stability. Not all rollers are created equal. Here’s our roundup of the best cycling rollers to fit the needs of recreational riders and racers.
Contents (jump to)
- 1 Considerations
- 2 Bicycle Rollers vs Trainers
- 3 Nashbar Parabolic Rollers
- 4 Cycleops Aluminum Rollers
- 5 Kinetic Z-Rollers
- 6 Tacx Galaxia and Antares
- 7 Elite Arion Parabolic Rollers
- 8 Kreitler
- 9 What you need to know about Kreitler
- 10 Kreitler Challenger 4.5
- 11 Kreitler Alloy Roller
- 12 Kreitler Kompact Alloy 3.0
- 13 Kreitler Hot Dog Rollers
- Weight and portability, especially if you’re taking rollers to a race
- In general, as the drum size decreases, the roller’s resistance increases.
- Most offer adjustable wheel bases, but if you have an odd size bike, check with the manufacturer first.
- Before buying, consider any future upgrades you might want. Some models can accommodate additional resistance (either manually or electronically), a fork mount (which makes balancing easier) or bumpers to decrease the likelihood of riding off the rollers.
Bicycle Rollers vs Trainers
Don’t toss your trainer for a fancy set of rollers just yet. Trainers still have their place in a solid winter training program. While they won’t engage the core as much as riding outside or on the rollers, trainers offer more resistance and stability for high intensity work and they’re also compatible with Zwift. Plus there’s no real learning curve to riding a trainer, whereas rollers can take some time to get used to and have a high initial frustration factor. So hit the trainer for your intervals, but stick to rollers for lower intensity, technique drills that are focused on cadence and smoothing out the dead spots in your pedal stroke. You’ll quickly realize how mashing the pedals on rollers will score you a first class trip to the floor.
There are certain rollers, however, that make it easier to stand up and sprint, such as the Elite E-Motion rollers.
On a more basic level, rollers are simple to set up: there’s no cranking down on a skewer, setting the resistance or trying to locate your riser block. Though when you first start out and your balance is shaky, you may want to set up in a doorway or next to a sturdy piece of furniture (not the glass coffee table!). Rollers won’t wear out your rear tire or cause the unnecessary forces on your bike the way trainers do. If you want to learn more about technique, check out our top tips for learning to ride rollers.
Our buyer’s guide to the best cycling rollers lists the basic models that will get the job done all the way up to the high rollers, which offer the cadillac of training experiences.
Let’s get rolling!
Nashbar offers a solid set of no-frills rollers at a budget price point. The parabolic rollers accommodate wheel bases ranging from 37 to 43 inches (more limited than other rollers) and tend to be louder than other models. These aren’t the best cycling rollers, but will be fine for the occasional rider who focuses mainly on riding an indoor trainer.
Mid-sized drums bring these alloy rollers up to speed fairly quickly and offer a smooth, quiet ride. Constructed with a sturdy steel frame, Cycleops’ rollers feature an interchangeable belt that can be mounted on the right or left hand side, making for easier dismounts. The unit is ready to roll right out of the box and can be stored upright against a wall or under a bed. Just be aware that they’re not as easy to transport as other models and they don’t offer any features to support new riders (bumpers, parabolic drums), who may find it tough to ride on slicker feeling aluminum rollers at first.
When Kurt Kinetic finally introduced rollers into their product line, they quickly proved that they were worth the wait. The Kinetic Z Rollers are probably the most compact full-size rollers we’ve seen, literally folding into a Z shape for easy storage and transportation.
Most rollers only fold in half, but the Z roller folds into thirds. They feature a trifold aluminum frame design and 90 millimeter aluminum drums, making the unit durable, yet quiet. It comes with a lifetime guarantee and arrives fully assembled. One things to be aware of is that, over time, some of the main frame bolts loosened from repeated use. Also, depending on the surface you’re riding on, multiple points of contact with the ground can cause it to feel unstable on uneven surfaces.
Tacx brings two trainers to the market. Both are highly portable, featuring parabolic drums and a smooth ride. The Galaxia, however, accommodates the fore and aft motion of a bicycle, especially during standing efforts and sprints, as the rollers gently glide back-and-forth under hard efforts, making it a snap to stay upright and train harder than on traditional rollers.
The Galaxia is a great deal for the money ($299) and performs on par with some of the higher priced Elite rollers. As long as sprinting isn’t on your list, the Antares ($229 on Amazon) nails the basics, while coming in at a good price point.
Need to safely and easily transport or store your Anteres rollers? Taxc offers the Anteres Roller Bag for storage and transport. For those still getting used to rollers, try the Tacx Anteres Front Wheel Stand.
Compatible with road and mountain bikes and featuring parabolic rollers, Elite’s extensive roller line offers something for everyone.
Let’s start with their base model.
The Elite Arion features parabolic rollers, which help keep wheels centered by varying the cylinder diameter from 85 to 100 millimeters, as does the grippy feel of the drums, which decreases the initial icy feeling of riding rollers. The Arion is light and easily folds up for quick storage. This is the perfect pick for those new to rollers. This model, however, does not include a raised step on the frame to assist with mounting and dismounting.
Most rollers don’t come with resistance, which is one reason many cyclists also keep a stationary trainer on hand. Elite, however, has incorporated adjustable resistance into several of their models.
The Elite Arion Mag Al13 and , Arion Mag ($332) offer three levels of adjustable resistance, but the Al13 has a sturdy, light resin-molded frame and aluminum rollers, whereas the Arion Mag is plastic and more closely resembles the Elite Arion, but with additional resistance. Both models also feature a raised step in the frame. Buy this if you want to incorporate more power-based training into your roller workout, but be aware that the resistance can only be manually adjusted on the frame itself.
The Elite Arion Digital B+ solves the problem of stepping off the trainer to adjust resistance. A user-friendly ANT wireless computer provides 16 levels of resistance and measures speed, power, heart rate, distance, cadence and other metrics. The unit also features continuous resistance to help you train at a constant power. Or you can try a pre-programmed training sessions.
Synch it with its accompanying My E-training app to manage metrics and create training programs on the go. Unlimited access to the app is subscription-based. While the Arion Digital may seem like overkill for new roller riders, you should consider them if you rely solely on rollers or to use for year-round training. The Arion Digital is a fun way to get in a workout that has a road-like feel and the entire setup is very intuitive.
Need to stand or sprint? Elite delivers with its E-Motion Rollers. The setup is distinctly different from its other models, featuring a frame with the rollers mounted on an inside carriage that’s spring loaded and moves back and forth to closely simulate the road. Two integrated foot rests and bumpers make these rollers a snap to get used to. With three levels of adjustability, these are the perfect rollers for novices and pros alike. They’re also a lot of fun.
In terms of ease of use, these are some of the best cycling rollers we’ve tried, but with so many features designed to keep you happy and upright, something essential to riding rollers is lost. Granted it’s a blast to stand and go all out, but you’re not forced to rely on as much core strength, balance and a smooth pedal stroke to stay upright. Try this on any other rollers and you’d face plant in the living room.
If you’re looking to save some cash, Elite offers a more economical and portable set of rollers, that are also extremely durable, ultra-compact, highly portable and give a real-life road feel. The Elite Quick Motion offers three levels of magnetic resistance and adjusts to different bike sizes all while utilizing a handle for easy transport.
Kreitler arguably produces some of the best cycling rollers. For nearly 40 years, they’ve been fine-tuning them and, unlike other rollers, they’re highly customizable to fit a rider’s exact needs. The upside is that Kreitler has a stellar reputation and all their products are backed by a lifetime guarantee. Of course you’ll have to pay for the best, so this isn’t the most budget friendly choice, especially if you’re new to rollers or don’t think you’ll ride them much. But if you can afford to splurge, we suggest you do.
What you need to know about Kreitler
Kreitler allows you to choose the drum size (the smaller the diameter, the more resistance). Just remember that a larger the drum size, the easier it is to ride. Kreitler suggests starting with the 4.5 and adding resistance with a flywheel or headwind fan as needed. Remember, if you start off too small, you won’t be able to decrease, only increase, the amount of resistance in the future.
Add-ons: The Killer Kool Headwind Fan mounts on the front of the roller unit and adds adjustable resistance through a belt attached to the front drum. By rotating the fan, you can choose to feel a cool breeze as you ride. The Flywheel attaches to the rear drum and adds resistance (you can use one or two Flywheels), and allows for you to naturally coast a bit more without losing as much speed. They also offer a Fork Stand that mounts to your bike, allowing for single-legged drills and minimizes the side-to-side movement of traditional rollers.
- Standard Frames easily adjust to accommodate different wheel diameters and fold in half for increased portability.
- For maximum portability, and a true riding challenge, choose the 10” wide hotdog width.
The Challenger is Kreitler’s budget friendly option. The unit itself comes with a steel frame and aluminum drums. The ride is still smooth and quiet, but lacks a few features found in the Alloy model. The main difference between the Challenger and Alloy systems is the use of polycarbonate end caps. The poly end caps are lighter, but don’t last as long and won’t produce as much momentum as the Alloy rollers. Because of this, you’re limited in what accessories you can use with the rollers, such as the flywheel or headwind fan, which place excessive pressure on the beltwear groove and tend to wear out the endcaps prematurely (something not covered in the manufacturer’s warranty). If adding resistance (or generating a cool breeze) appeals to you, definitely go with the Alloy model instead.
If you have the cash, the Alloy Roller will not only last you a lifetime, but will also best simulate the smooth feel of riding on the road. The alloy end caps are heavier than the polycarbonate ones, meaning they’ll roll up to speed quickly, creating more momentum and a better coasting effect. Larger drums and poly end caps make this a heavier model, making it easy for them to handle the additional momentum of a headwind fan or flywheel. If you’re looking for a solid set of rollers ready for any future upgrades, these are the best cycling rollers for you.
If portability is a must, choose Kreitler’s Kompact model. Available in a variety of frame colors, this set of rollers is lighter, easy to transport and offers a sturdier end cap than the Challenger. This makes it compatible with the headwind fan, but not the flywheel. There are a few tradeoffs to portability. One is drum size. The Kompact model is only available for the 2.25 and 3.0 drums and for wheelbases between 38 and 42 inches.
If you wish to use a 4.5 drum, just be aware that in order for it to fold up compactly, it can only be used with a very limited size wheelbase. Because they’re highly portable, the rollers also have a low profile, making them tricky to use on uneven surfaces.
For ultimate portability, check out Kreitler’s Hot Dog Rollers. They fold up easily for race day, are lighter weight and feature a challenging 10-inch-wide drum (not recommended for beginners).
Want to make the most of your time on the rollers? Here are our top tips for riding rollers. Need a workout? Download 3 Free roller-specific workouts from Coach Rob of Tailwind Coaching to help improve neuromuscular efficiency, develop a smooth pedal stroke and build fitness.