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How Hard Can Riding on Three Smooth Cylinders Be?

February 17th, 2011 4 comments

No humans were harmed in the making of these videos, only elbows and egos were bruised. If anyone has a weak stomach for crude physical humor they should stop reading now.

The other day I received an offer from a friend of mine (Ex-Cyclist)  to try out his “rollers” with my bike. Rollers are an interesting invention, they look very much like this:

A Torture Rack

The Rack

Which means that at some point, some intrepid soul must have reasoned “Hey, I bet I could ride a bike on that!” and history was changed forever. The idea is that there are a set of cylinders at the back of the frame that the back wheel of the bike sits in. One of these cylinders is connected to a cylinder at the front of the frame by a belt, which allows the front wheel to spin at the same speed as the back wheel. This effectively turns the device into a bicycle treadmill. The challenge of riding on rollers is that not only are you responsible for turning the pedals, but you are required to maintain balance as well.

Despite these potential pitfalls there is a scientific olive branch which says you should be okay. That is the concept of angular momentum which loosely states that “spinning wheels got to go round,” and in fact will apply a force (or torque) to counteract any motion perpendicular to the rotation of the wheel. Armed with this knowledge I had complete faith that my attempts to ride the rollers would be successful, as long as I could get the wheels moving.

What I did not understand is that while angular momentum seeks to keep you upright, there is almost no resistance to motion of the bike laterally on the rollers. What’s more is that the turning of the front wheel, which may be one’s intuition after riding on the road, does almost nothing to stop this side to side motion. The key is keeping your center of balance over one spot on the rollers, and I have found that this is most easily accomplished by intense concentration on a spot approximately 6 feet in front of the bike. This helps one to focus and relax, as a relaxed grip on the handlebars seems to work best. Overall, the feel is not all that dissimilar to riding on the road (in a very narrow lane), and it is a welcome change from being locked into a trainer in which I could very well prepare an omelet while riding without falling over.

As for the promised “physical humor,” here is your reward for reading this far. I recorded my first attempts and posted them to my youtube account. Enjoy!


First Ride on Rollers (Take 2)

Categories: bike, Training Tags: , ,