I consider myself someone who hates indoor training a little less than most. With the right playlist, a specific workout and a good fan, it can be a satisfying and zen-like experience. Without the usual distractions of the road, it is easy to focus on the task and hand, therefore getting a very effective workout in a relatively short period of time. Plus if you can get a good group of friends together, it can also be a fun and social way to pass the winter months. It’s like a cocktail party where everyone wears spandex and smells like armpit.
Having said that, I’ve always felt there was a certain something missing from my indoor workouts: The Element of Danger.
So when my friend Brian offered to let me try out his rollers, I leapt at the opportunity. I’ve heard great things about training on rollers – in addition to having old school panache, they are a better simulation of riding on the road, help your core strength, balance and bike handling.
And they can kill you.
On a traditional trainer, the back wheel of the bike is secured in a stand, making falling not impossible, but very difficult. On rollers, the bike is completely unsupported, with the back wheel in between two rolling cylinders, and the front wheel behind one cylinder, like so:
No, that’s not my bike. But it’s the best image the interwebs had to offer. Typically, there is someone riding the bike.
When I mentioned I was trying rollers for the first time, I got tons of helpful tips from friends willing to share their wisdom. For your convenience, I have compiled these many wisdoms into a Comprehensive Newbie’s Guide to Not Sucking or Dying on Rollers:
1) Relax – This is easier said than done. On my first attempts, after 10 minutes of easy spinning my heart was racing, I was breathing heavy and I was soaked in sweat. I couldn’t let go of the wall if my life depended on it. Which it did. On the upside, I probably got an hour’s worth of cardio in 10 minutes.
2) Keep the area free of objects that could harm you. Oh… like this?
Nothing that a roll of duct tape and some bubblewrap can’t fix.
3) Pay Attention – Anyone who knows me well knows that this point is ridiculous. As someone who could easily forget to wear pants, spending any more than 17 seconds with my mind on one task is hopeless. This could indeed be the sugar in the gas tank of this little experiment. Plus, if this means I can’t watch zombie movies during my endurance workouts, sorry… I’m out.
4) Don’t look at your wheel, but rather a couple of feet ahead of you. Focusing on your wheel will cause you to overcompensate your steering. Good thing I have such a spectacular view.
Perhaps a little redecorating is in order
Oh please. Like you don’t have a Farrah poster in front of YOUR trainer.
5) Someone told me “Don’t stop pedalling!”… Like forever? What if I have to go to the bathroom? Or to work? This advice seems impractical, so I think I’ll ignore it.
6) Do it in a hallway, beside a wall, with two chairs on either side of you, outside on the grass. Or something like that. The idea being you have something to hold on to in the event of sudden and accidental ejection.
7) Keep the area free of pets you do not want to kill.
8} If you are watching TV, set yourself up in the centre of the screen or you’ll start to drift. And for God’s sake don’t watch car chases or Formula One. (As long as zombies are ok, I’m good.)
9) DO NOT USE THEM UNTIL IT SNOWS. (or if you do, don’t tell anyone)
10) Don’t fall. Because if you do, you’ll be embarrassed and it hurts.
I’m happy to report that after a few tries I think I have the hang of it. It’s scary, challenging and even a little fun. It will take a while before I can reach for my water bottle without stopping, or stand up, ride with no hands and juggle chainsaws, but those things will come – because it is entirely possible to teach an old dog new tricks, especially if the tricks are old school and dangerous.