By CTS Premier Coach and Kinetic Performance Director Jim Lehman
If you’re looking to add a valuable new component to your indoor training, then it’s time to learn how to ride Kinetic Z rollers! Here’s a quick how-to guide to getting started.
Why ride rollers?
Before learning how to ride rollers, let’s talk about why you want to in the first place.
- Engagement: When you ride rollers you have to pay attention. You can’t turn off your brain and just mindlessly push on the pedals. You’re balancing on top of three aluminum drums and just like riding outdoors you have to maintain a straight line in order to stay upright.
- Smooth pedal stroke: If you’re bouncing in the saddle or you have a significant hitch in your pedal stroke, it will be very noticeable when you ride rollers. The faster you go, the more the bike will buck and bounce on the rollers. As you focus on a smooth pedal stroke, you’ll get instant feedback from a smoother ride on the rollers.
- Versatility: With 3.25-inch drums, Kinetic Z rollers feature a natural resistance that is similar to a real road ride. That means you can easily do everything from a low-intensity recovery ride to a max-effort interval session!
- Balance: Since your bike is not attached to anything while you ride rollers, the bike moves naturally underneath you as you pedal. This is similar to the side-to-side action you see with the Rock-n-Roll trainer, but even more free-motion.
Learning to Ride Rollers
Step 1: Adjust the rollers to your bike
Rollers need to be adjusted to accommodate your bike. Your rear wheel will be cradled between the two rear rollers and the front roller should be adjusted so your front axle is silghtly behind the top of the roller.
Step 2: Find a safe place
When you’re learning to ride rollers, the two best choices are to put the rollers next to a wall or in a doorway. With a doorway you can lean on something on both sides, but if you do ride off the rollers you end up tangled up in the doorway. When you use a wall, you can lean your shoulder, elbow or hip on the wall without worrying about the narrow contact point of a doorway. And if you ride off the other side, the only challenge is to unclip quickly and get a foot down. Put the edge of the rollers far enough out from the wall that your handlebar can rest on the wall while your tires are near the edge of the rollers. This idea is to give you enough space to use the width of the rollers, but enable you to lean against the wall with your shoulder and/or elbow.
Step 3: Get into the right gear
Momentum is the key to riding rollers, as it’s easier to stay steady and smooth when you have some speed. Shift into a moderate gear, not too hard to get started and not a super easy climbing gear. Something in the middle of the cassette is good, in either the big or little chainring.
Step 4: Get on the bike
You’re going to mount the bike from the side opposite the support you’re going to lean against. So, if there’s a wall on the right side of the bike, put the bike on the rollers, stand next to the bike holding the handlebar and saddle, and clip into the left pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Reach your right hand across the bike to the wall or doorway and stand on the clipped in pedal as you lean the bike toward the support. Swing your right led around the back of the saddle, sit down, and clip in.
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Step 4: Start pedaling
With your hand or shoulder on the support wall/doorway, start pedaling. You want the bike to be upright, not leaning to the side (even if you’re leaning on the wall a bit). When the bike is straight up and down, you’ll stay straight on the rollers. Keep a light but secure grip on the bars and try not to do much steering. You just want to keep the bars straight and make very minor adjustments.
Step 5: Find your groove
With both hands on the handlebars, a moderate gear at about 90rpm, keep your gaze about 3-6 feet in front of your bike and get comfortable pedaling on rollers. A few key tips for being comfortable:
- Look forward: Just like walking a balance beam or riding a technical mountain bike line, look forward to go in a straight line. Looking down makes you twitchy, and twitchy isn’t stable on rollers.
- When in doubt, pedal: When you start to wobble or go side to side a bit too much, relax your grip on the handlebars and apply more pressure to the pedals. When you stop pedaling and the rollers are decelerating, it’s easier to become unstable. More angular momentum = more stability.
- Relax: Tension in your upper body translates to a twitchy front wheel on rollers. The more you relax, the smoother you’ll be on the rollers. No white-knuckle death grip on the bars.
Step 6: Getting off the rollers
To stay more stable, continue pedaling as you slow down. Lean on the wall or doorway as you slow to a stop (still clipped in). Unclip the pedal opposite your support (unclip your left foot if you’re leaning on a wall to your right) and step down onto the rail of the rollers or the ground, if you can reach it. Once you have one foot down, you don’t need to lean on a support anymore and you can unclip the other foot.
Now fold up your Z-rollers, grab a shower and some recovery nutrition, and have a great day!
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