Bike Trainer vs Rollers: Which You Should Choose And Why

You’d think that the Trainers vs. Rollers debate would be over by now. But, no, it is not; not by a long shot. This ongoing debate makes it very difficult to decide with a clear head.

Both bicycle rollers and trainers have different accessories and levels of resistance to give you an amazing experience. Also, each one has its pros and cons, so you cannot bluntly say which the best is.

However, this article will help you choose the one that is ideal for you, based on your needs.

To make the right decision, there are several things that you need to consider.

Key Takeaways

  • You can choose between bicycle rollers and trainers, two types of indoor cycling equipment, depending on your needs and preferences.
  • Bicycle rollers are ideal if you are an experienced cyclist who wants to improve your balance, pedaling form, and cadence, but you need to be careful and focused while using them.
  • Bicycle trainers are great if you are a beginner or a structured workout enthusiast, but you may feel less natural and more fixed while using them.
  • Bike rollers offer a more natural and engaging indoor ride, but they are also more expensive, difficult, and unstable than trainers.
  • Bicycle trainers have more options for resistance levels, virtual training, and apps compatibility, but they also feel more unnatural and fixed than rollers.

1. Beginner friendliness

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Are you a beginner or a pro in cycling? If you are a beginner, bicycle trainers are your best bet. The trainer clamps your rear wheel and attaches securely to your bike frame. It provides for stability and promotes balance; you will not have to worry about toppling over, hence safe riding.

Bike rollers, on the other hand, are ideal for pros with skill. It will be tough for a beginner to try and balance a bicycle over metal drums, don’t you think? The centrifugal force may keep you balanced but reaching for something like a water battle will be a challenge.

You may find this balancing difficulty on rollers to be an advantage if you are looking to improve your efficiency and pedaling from while maintaining a straight line. Try to practice in the doorway, so you will have something to hold on to when you lose your balance. You will also remain focused since letting your mind wander even for a second could cause you to topple.

2. Affordability

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Affordability is a factor that everyone considers—whether or not they have been advised to. Generally, cycle rollers are more expensive than bike trainers. The average price for bike rollers is from $150-250.You can get one for as little as $60 but most probably, it will be a cheaply made unit that will frustrate you.

Indoor trainers, on the other hand, are cheaper than rollers, probably because there are so many kinds and you don’t need a lot of money to get a heightened riding experience.

You can get magnetic trainers with amazing adjustable resistance for less than $100. There are trainers for every budget, and the cheapest of them go for $50-70. Wind trainers are the cheapest—but you are more likely to get into trouble with your landlord, roommate or spouse because of the noise.

3. Road-feel

Bike trainers are unnatural. Remember your bike is fixed so it will not move underneath you as it would outside. The resistance also does not feel natural like the wind resistance. If for you the weather is the reason you are cycling indoors, this will serve as a constant reminder that you are trapped inside, and there is nothing you can do about it. But since technology seems to solve every problem; Virtual Training and some advanced trainers can offer a more natural experience.

Rollers offer a more natural indoor ride, especially because you have to attain and maintain balance all by yourself. Ordinary rollers will give you that natural experience but limit how you will work out (you cannot do out-of-saddle tricks). Advanced rollers will give you both of these things— be ready to break a bank though.

4. Storage and Transport

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Will you be moving around a lot with your equipment or do you have a limited storage space? If you answered yes to both of those questions, a roller would work for you.

Rollers are light compared to trainers, and you can easily fold them and put them under the bed.

Some trainers are foldable and light too, but most are not; which is the point here. It seems like more advanced trainers tend to be bulkier.

5. Performance Attributes

If all the above points have not helped you decide, this one will. The most important thing while choosing a roller or trainer is the functionality.  Here is what each of these tools is best at.

Bike Rollers

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If you want to achieve a smooth, consistent, powerful pedal stroke and cycling form, you should get a roller. If you have rough and jerky pedal strokes, you will bounce on the roller, which will give you a natural feedback mechanism to help you pedal more smoothly, subconsciously.

Rollers are also ideal for cadence drill workouts; whether you want to increase cadence with increasing RPM or low RPM intervals. However, they are not great for very high-intensity efforts (except E-motion rollers, which obviously cost a fortune).

Pros & Cons

  • + Rollers help to enhance your pedaling form; you will achieve a smooth pedal stroke and move in a straight line.
  • + You will be engaged mentally and physically throughout your workout.
  • + Setting up a roller is easy.
  • + Rollers are compatible with all wheel sizes.
  • – Rollers are not suitable for beginners as it will take some time before you get the hang of it.
  • – They are unstable, and you can barely do out-of-saddle workouts.

Bike Trainers

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They are ideal for highly structured workouts. If you are a rider focused on getting the most out of every minute, get a trainer. They are great for shorter workouts with specific intervals structures. The stability on trainers lets you concentrate on maintaining the interval instead of maintaining balance.

You can also do various vigorous workouts on a trainer. They have an incorporated resistance unit that you can sync with Virtual Training. Although rollers are also compatible with Virtual training, they do not provide for a direct resistance option.

Pros & Cons

  • + Bike trainers are stable even for out-of-saddle exercises.
  • + They have many Virtual Training and apps compatibility options.
  • + They are ideal for all cyclist levels.
  • – Some trainers are too loud.
  • – They will not help you much with your pedaling form.
  • – They are not compatible with some wheel and frame options.
  • – They are a bit difficult to install.


It all boils down to what you are looking for. Rollers and trainers both provide a way to ride your bike indoors, and they will keep you busy during winter.

But deciding which one will bring more satisfaction is the issue. With bicycle rollers, your balancing skills and pedal strokes will benefit more. Besides, if you need to take your mind off some things for a moment, you will effortlessly do so because rollers require all your focus and concentration.

Bike trainers will let you improve your out-of-saddle skills, and you can work out while watching your favorite show. Now you know which one is perfect for you, don’t you?