I inherited these when a friend passed away long before he should have. I don’t know how long he had them, but they were well used. He told me he would do two hour sessions. I thought that was nuts, but we and also did a few 12 hour days riding about 175 miles typically. I’ve had my rollers since 1999. I’ve tried to add to the rust bubbles that it came with. I think I changed the rubber band once, but can’t remember for sure. There have been years when I didn’t get on them at all. This year they’ve gotten a steady diet of base training that started up in November and will go a few weeks into the new year.
I learned how to ride rollers in 1993. We had just taken the leap and opened a bike shop downtown on the old main shopping street. We opened in the fall because that’s when the lease started. We rationalized it would give us a chance to get organized for our first spring. At the time, depending on the block, the street had too many empty places, and a few old-line small businesses like a stationary store, an art supply store, music store, and the first of several bars that would open in the next few years as the street came back to life. I’ve only had one bike stolen and it was taken out of my locked car right in front of my shop at 7:00 in the evening ‘cause it was dark and no one except the thief that stole my ride, was on the street that cold November night.
Anyway, we were befriended by the local USA Cycling rep after her brother sold us his Campy tool kit and pitched in part-time at the shop. She then did her best to introduce me to the characters in the NY bike racing scene. She took me to the roller races in lower Manhattan and into the time warp that’s still spinning in case you want to jump on. They got this crazy big dial timer with different colors for each of three riders. From there it seemed like marketing genius to bring roller races to our shop in the burbs. We even went one tech step up and rented Kreitler rollers with a software package that replaced the crazy big dial deal. Since it was my store I thought it would be a good idea for me to race. I mean why not? Being foolish enough to open the store in the first place, rational decision making took the stoker spot on our tandem. After 20 or 30 minutes of pedaling and holding onto the wall I was up and rolling. I got spit off once or twice, but no harm done.
We decided racing in the shop might be okay since there was plenty of room and not much stock taking up floor space, it being our first winter. But what we needed was an audience! This was a marketing gimmick to get customers. We decided to go to a bar. Bars have people, we liked to drink… Seems pretty much a natural, but then again what kind of bar is so desperate that roller races seem like a good idea for entertainment? A dive bar, of course, and we had one close by.
The location of our dive has since been occupied by three different Italian restaurants that all use the same menu, and at least one trying-to-be-trendy place. On the plus side, as I noted, the bar was close to the shop, but I guess the main reason we used it was that the rep’s brother hung out there. His bar name was “Wheels!” which was shouted like “Norm!” at Cheers. That’s the kind of fame a guy wants, and wants to deny.
So there I was on stage in a dive bar promoting my bike shop. Lycra was a thing, but not a thing regular people wore back then. Thankfully we were racing into glaring lights so I couldn’t see anyone drinking below me. We had spotters so we didn’t topple off, crash into each other, and/or land on table full of bourbon. I didn’t win, and I didn’t fall off. The audience got buzzed, but that was just the beer and bourbon, not our brilliant marketing. I am fairly proud of annoying the regulars, besides Wheels. Maybe we didn’t have the right demographic.
I stayed off the rollers for several years after that. We found other better marketing ideas, and it wasn’t until my friend’s widow asked if I would take his old set that I got on again. Rollers are a bit of a challenge and kind of fun. More fun that a treadmill even if that’s all they really are, because you have to pay attention to stay upright. I like the fact that rollers have been around about as long as the diamond frame “safety” bike has. You can get rollers that have resistance for endurance and interval training. You can also get rollers that have bumpers to remind you to pay attention. I like that you can train on a simple set like mine on a one speed bike, and not be hooked up to anything unless you want to be of course.
When I use my rollers these days I got my heart rate monitor and some silly movie on the laptop to keep me occupied. I think this simulates the dynamics of the road where you need to look ahead and pay attention to where your wheels are under you at the same time.
About 10 minutes into my first roller session of the winter I fell off my rollers and the chainring dug into my right shin. I don’t have any tattoos, but this natural one will probably be around for most of the season as a little reminder that I should pay attention to where I’m heading. A smart trainer is a great tool, (my relatively old school computrainer will be getting set up in a few weeks for interval work) but you owe it to yourself to beg, borrow, or steal a set to work on your focus as well as fitness.