Guest author Ron Fritzke sent along a post on bike trainers a while back and we received some inquiries about bike rollers. Ron was kind enough to author another post to add to the vast topical coverage of Bike Hacks. If there are readers out there who want to run guest post ideas past us, feel free to contact us. Take it away Ron . . .
Not too long ago I wrote a bit about bike trainers for Bike Hacks. Readers (ok...so they were members of my extended family) wrote enough raving emails (imagine that...from a group of raving maniacs) about the post to convince Matt to take a chance on another guest post from me. So here goes.
It's hard to impress a Bike Hack in the area of cycling quirkiness, so you fellers may not get as much of a kick out of seeing someone riding on bike rollers as I did when they first crossed my path. My initial reaction to bike rollers was second only to the jolt of disbelief that struck me years ago while standing in line to purchase cotton candy from a bearded lady at the circus. The cotton candy was dyed to match the color of her chin hairs!
To get us started out on the same 'bike roller' page, check out this video of a strapping young buck 'killing it' at the Mayhem Session's Track Bike Roller Races. We won't tell anyone that he's fudging by having someone stabilize his bike.
If the idea of balancing yourself on bike rollers appeals to you...and you're intent on building yourself a set, what should you build into them? Or if you're a bike hack wanna-be, what should you look for in a store-bought model?
Aluminum Drums Or Plastic Drums
At first glance it may seem that anything plastic would be relegated to the back of the bus. But in the bike roller arena, plastic means PVC...and there are some people who think that after the Apocalypse, only items made of PVC will survive. They have a good point; PVC is pretty durable. Except for one thing. UV rays are like kryptonite to PVC. So if you see yourself riding your rollers outside (like when warming up for a race.... or even riding indoors close to a window), stay with aluminum drums.
How Big Should Your Drums Be?
Here's a bit of 'bike physics' for you that may apply to all sorts of cycling gadgets you could be thinking of creating. When riding out on the road (where nature intended bikes to be), the tire's contact patch is longer than it is wide. This contributes to some directional stability. Here's how that translates into bike drum engineering.
A larger drum provides more 'front to back' contact with the tire, while a small drum produces more of a round contact patch. All of this makes four inch drums easier to balance on than two and a quarter inch drums. The downside to four inch drums is that they produce less resistance than smaller drums. Sometimes the manufacturer makes up for the reduced workload by adding resistance (like a fan powered off of the drum).
Cutting Corners On Bearings
All drums turn on some sort of bearing arrangement. But there are bearings...and then there are bearings. The guys who make 'Cadillac' models, like CycleOps rollers, like to point out that cheap models may claim to use sealed bearings, but that some are merely capped bearings, rather than truly sealed. The best drum bearings will have high quality rubber seals on both sides of the bearing.
Should Bike Rollers Have A Flywheel?
It depends on who you ask. Putting a flywheel on rollers adds inertia. While this can make for a more 'realistic' feel, it does defeat part of the purpose of rollers. Unlike a bike trainer, which is stable and may encourage sloppy pedaling, rollers will reward a good circular pedal stroke with a smooth ride...and punish a pedal 'masher' with a trip to the floor.
When you add a flywheel to rollers, the cyclist is able to coast through the dead spots in the stroke...defeating one of the purposes of having a bike roller to begin with. If you're not entirely sold on bike rollers, but want to get a bit more 'action' from your bike trainer, the Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll trainer has enough movement in it to tell you when you'd better do something about your inefficient pedaling.
Frames That Fold And Seaworthy Finishes
Most bike roller frames fold in half and can be rolled around on little wheels, making it easy to store them in the corner of the room like a folded up trundle bed. While rollers are essentially an indoor item, and thus not exposed to extreme weather conditions, the upper end bike roller companies tout their powder-coated finishes. They say that this is the same finish as on Navy warships...so if you take your bike rollers 'out to sea', they'll be impervious to sea spray.
The Pinnacle Of Bike Rollers- Rollapaluza
Riders who take their bike rollers seriously have sometimes been sucked into the murky world of Rollapaluza. Rollapaluza is essentially side by side bike roller competitions to see who can spin 500 meters the fastest. The championships are often in nightclubs, complete with DJ's and inebriated spectators. It's hard to describe...so here goes with another video!