Ever wondered whether a bike roller or turbo trainer is better for indoor training? Both bike rollers and turbo trainers have their pros and cons. Both types of equipment are excellent for indoor cycling and a good cardiovascular training, but one might be better suited for you than the other.
Bike rollers are harder to use at first, but they are lighter and won’t require you to buy new tires. They are also cheaper and easy to travel with. On the other hand, turbo trainers are more expensive, but they don’t require learning how to balance like bike rollers.
In this article, you will learn about the differences between these two types of exercise equipment. We will help you understand which one to choose. Let’s get into it!
What Are Bike Rollers & Turbo Trainers?
Both the bike roller and the turbo trainer are accessories to a regular bicycle. A regular bicycle is meant for the outdoors. However, what if it is rainy, snowy, or cold outside, and you want to do indoor cycling?
Most people do not have room in their house to ride around on a bike, even if you will be doing it in a short circle. Also, it will be easy to bump into walls. That’s where bike rollers and trainers come into the picture.
A bike roller is a set of three drums connected by a belt. You ride your bike on top of those rolling drums. These set of rollers go under your bike and start to rotate as you pedal stroke. You won’t be going anywhere; you will be staying in the same place. Nevertheless, these rollers provide a level of resistance.
Turbo trainers are different from bike rollers. You put your wheel on the turbo trainer, where it stays in place. The turbo trainer usually provides resistance against the wheel of your bike.
You can usually adjust this resistance unit based on how hard you want your workout to be. Your wheel is stable in the turbo trainer.
There are different types of trainers you can choose from. For example, you can get a turbo trainer that provides magnetic resistance. They are very cheap and easy to use, and you can adjust the force from a switch on the handlebars.
The smart trainers, which are a higher-end version of the traditional bike trainers, are typically direct drive. That means you can just take your rear wheel off and hook the bike right up to the trainer.
The direct drive feature is a nice addition because it removes the variability of tire pressure on the overall power transfer. And it also allows you to not worry about using a trainer tire while you are riding.
You can literally just pop the rear wheel off, and hook your chain directly in to the unit while mounting. It is a great features for those who are intended to use the unit with an a third-party app like Zwift.
You can also get a turbo trainer that provides resistance via the fluid. Finally, some trainers use air resistance. They are kind of like air bikes in that fans build up resistance.
So, which type of exercise equipment is cheaper? If you are on a budget, should you get a bike roller or a turbo trainer?
We would recommend getting a bike roller if you are on a budget. Bike rollers have been around for a long time. They are simple to make, as they do not have as many parts. They are cost-effective and light.
You can get more expensive set of rollers with larger drums for more resistance, and some bike rollers even have air resistance built-in as well. However, for the most part, bike rollers are very cost-effective.
Smart trainers, on the other hand, tend to be more expensive than a set of rollers. They are newer and have not been around as long. Of course, there are trainers that are very cheap and affordable. For the most part, however, you will be paying more for a turbo trainer than a bike roller.
Which is Easier to Use? Bike Rollers or Turbo Trainers
Which type of equipment is easier to use? If you are worried about needing to get used to the exercise equipment, which one is better for you?
Bike rollers are harder to use at first. You have to learn how to balance your bike on the rollers. You’ll have learn how to keep the front wheel straight. It is not as easy as riding a bike on the road. It takes some time to get used to, and you may find it hard to do.
You may also have a difficult time getting off the bike when it is spinning very quickly. Stopping the bike can also be a learned skill.
With trainers, on the other hand, riding is a breeze. Since the wheel is locked into the turbo trainer, you won’t have to worry about learning how to balance like you would have to if you had a bike roller.
Stopping and getting off your bike will also be easier. Your bike won’t fall or anything like that, even if the wheels are spinning.
Which type of exercise equipment is easier to set up? Do you need to buy anything new for your bike if you are using a bike roller or turbo trainer?
Bike rollers are incredibly easy to set up. You don’t have to do much. All you need to do is set the bike roller on the floor and then place it on top of the bike roller. You can use your existing bike tires. You don’t need to buy any new tires or other equipment besides the roller itself.
On the other hand, with a turbo trainer, you might have a harder time getting it set up. You have to get the wheel set on the turbo trainer, and you need to clamp it there. You may also need to buy thicker tires.
The reason for that is that a turbo trainer can quickly wear out your regular tire. Many tires are designed for trainers; they are thicker than regular tires. So, in addition to the actual trainer costing more, you may have to buy an extra tire.
Riding Skill & Experience
Which trainer is better if you want to improve your riding skills? Also, which trainer provides a ride quality closest to what you would get if you were riding your bike outside?
A bike roller is better if you want to improve your riding skills. That is because you will have to learn how to balance in special ways. You will improve your balancing skills and handling.
Also, a bike roller provides a ride quality that is similar to what you would get outdoors. You will be moving, after all, even if you are not going anywhere.
A turbo trainer, on the other hand, does nothing to improve your ride quality. You won’t be able to improve your balancing skills or handling of the bike on a turbo trainer since it is locked into place. Also, it does not provide the same feel as if you were riding outside. It is not even close. You may even feel that it is weird.
Flexibility and Storage Space
Which type of indoor cycling equipment is easier to carry around? What if you move or travel often and would like to take one with you? What if you sometimes lend to a family member or friends? Or, what if you need to put it in storage or a corner when you are not using it due to limited storage space in your house?
A bike roller is much easier and lighter to carry. Some rollers even fold. You can put them under the bed or in the trunk of your car without taking up too much space. It is great for travel, and it is also easy to move it to a new place.
A turbo trainer, on the other hand, is harder and usually heavier to carry around. It is better to get a turbo trainer if you can set it up in your house and leave it there for a while, without moving it around much or bringing it to new places.
You also have to remove the bike from the trainer and put it back again if you move it around.
Technology and Riding Simulation Differences
There is another difference between bike rollers and turbo trainers. Now most of the turbo trainers are smart trainers. You can connect apps to it via Bluetooth and set up a indoor training session that mimics going up hills or over rough terrain with different resistance levels.
You can also share your workouts with family or friends and workout together via technology. Rollers do not have that, as they are more simple pieces of equipment.
Of course, you can get both. You may get a roller and a turbo trainer, but this would only work best if you have two bikes. Otherwise, you will have to keep removing your bike from the turbo trainer so you can use it on the bike roller, which can be a hassle.
Final Thoughts: Bike Rollers vs Turbo Trainers
Both bike rollers and direct drive smart trainers help you get an excellent workout, though bike rollers require a bit more work from the rest of your body, as you have to balance the bike on the rollers.
It also takes more skill to learn, even though it is easier to set up. Regardless of which equipment you get, you will get an awesome workout and indoor training.