Gear Guy

Short of a velodrome, what do I need to bike indoors this winter?

I'm staring down the barrel of a long, cold, wet winter, which will put a crimp on my outdoor bicycling. Now, I can't afford a house big enough to install a velodrome, so I'll need to purchase either a trainer or rollers to ride my bike inside. Should I fear the rollers? Will I need to put fo padding all around them? Will true believers mock me if I buy a trainer instead? Glen Novato, California

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Alas, winter bicycling is something of a trial in wet, cold climates. Hence the barbarous indoor trainer, aka the Instrument of Torture. I will only ride mine when “Talk of the Nation” is on, so I have something to listen to. Otherwise, it is so bo-o-o-r-ring!

I use a resistance trainer—that is, one of those gadgets into which you clamp the bike. It gives me a fine aerobic workout but, unlike rollers, doesn’t require me to think too much about balance, form, and so on. Cycle rollers are spinning cylinders set into a flat frame that sits on the floor, between which you slot the bike wheels. They force you to act like you’re really on a bike, and most bike people say they’re by far the superior indoor training method, particularly if you live in a climate (say, northern Minnesota or Anchorage) where it might be impossible to get out on a bike for weeks or even months at a time.

No need to fear rollers, but they do take a little getting used to. One piece of advice: When learning how to use it, set it up halfway through a door frame, which will give you something to hang onto. Don’t worry, you’re not going to go zooming off into the wife’s antique armoire—the worst thing that could happen is that you might tip over if you’re really klutzy.

Rollers don’t have to cost a ton. High-end ones aren’t cheap, such as the $450 Kreitler Alloy Rollers. But, decent rollers are available for under $200, comparable to most resistance trainers. Performance, the catalog/online cycle store, sells a good-quality unit for $180. Resistance trainers start at around $150, for something like the Minoura Magturbo Ergo, and go up to $400 for the Cateye Cycle Simulator. Most trainers these days are rear-wheel only—you clamp the rear hub into the mechanism, then set the front wheel into a slotted pad to hold the bike in place.

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