Bike Roller vs Turbo Trainer: Comparison Guide


Just like there is more than one type of mountain bike, there are several indoor training equipment, and figuring out which is one is ideal for your type of training can be daunting. However, understanding the differences between the popular indoor cycling solutions can make choosing the right product much easier. 

Bike rollers and turbo trainers are the most popular indoor training solutions. In this rollers vs trainer comparison guide, we will take a deeper look at the 2 options. By outlining trainers vs rollers pros and cons, we hope to make your indoor training sessions more beneficial. 

Rollers Vs Trainer: What is the Difference?

To ensure a good understanding of bike trainers vs rollers differences, we will divide our comparison guide into two sections – one focusing on turbo trainers and another focusing on the bike rollers: 

Bike Rollers 

Rollers are made up of a set of 3 drums that are bolted onto a solid rectangular frame sitting on the ground. Your rear road bike wheel drives the rear pair of rollers. In turn, the back pair of rollers drive the front MTB wheel via a strong elastic band or belt. Rollers can be equated to bike treadmills. 

Unlike a turbo trainer, cyclists actually “ride” on top of the rollers. When training on a roller, elements of balance and biking skills are involved. This makes rollers more engaging than turbo trainers – this means that they may offer some unique training benefits. 

In particular, high cadence bike trainer workouts on the rollers are ideal for developing smooth pedaling techniques – a large number of professional cyclists will spend the winter season on the bike rollers working on just this. 

When comparing rollers vs trainer in terms of their ability to improve both bike handling skills and balance, rollers are a better option. If you struggle to retrieve your phone from the bike phone mount for that sweet Instagram snap or you can’t retrieve your water bottle while riding your mountain bike, spending time on bike rollers can help you out. 

Unlike the turbo bike trainer, rollers do not take a lot of set-up time. You can jump straight onto the rollers on any type of bike and get right into your workout. This makes rollers a popular choice for cyclists looking for pre-race warm-ups

Despite being relatively simple, rollers are much newer. They feature better bearings for a smoother ride. The smaller bike rollers make it much easier to get up to speed. Sloping towards the middle, concave-shaped rollers make it much easier to stay in place on rides. 

Most rollers come with a fixed resistance level. For this reason, if you are looking at trainers vs rollers to find a solution that allows you to work on out and out power, a turbo trainer might be a more ideal option. 

Although the majority of turbo trainers are not “smart”, they are still compatible with various training apps, as long as your hardtail mountain bike has a speed and cadence sensor. However, you will miss out on automatic resistance adjustment that is usually available on smart turbo trainers. 

Pros of Using Bike Rollers 

  • They can help you improve your pedaling form 
  • They have a simple set-up 
  • They are engaging both mentally and physically 
  • They feature entertaining moderate and light efforts
  • They are easier to store 

Cons of Using Bike Rollers 

  • They require a higher level of practice and skill
  • They are less stable for harder out of bike saddle efforts
  • They are a little harder to transport 

Turbo Trainers

Unlike rollers, turbo trainers clamp the rear of your road bike into a static stand. They are generally driven in 2 different fashions: 

1. Regular – or Wheel-on – Turbo Trainers 

These use the mountain bike tire, usually rolling on a composite or metal drum, to drive the bike trainer. After clamping your mountain bike into the turbo trainer, you can use a dial to finely adjust how hard the rolling drum presses against the MTB wheel. Most turbo trainer manufacturers recommend the use of special hard compound tires that are resistant to wear and the heat that builds up on turbo trainers. 

2. Direct Drive Turbo Trainers 

These replace the rear bike wheel, sitting between the bike’s dropouts and clamped in place via a quick-release thru-axle or skewer. Similar to a wheel, direct-drive turbo trainers are driven by a cassette. Direct-drive trainers are generally quieter because there is no roller/tire noise. They are more stable and offer improved resistance levels than regular turbo trainers. Because of these benefits, they are more expensive. 

Turbo bike trainers generate resistance in various ways. The most common include heavy flywheels on the simpler models to fluid discs, fans, and magnets and eddy currents on the more expensive models. 

As noted earlier, when comparing bike rollers vs trainer in terms of resistance, most turbo trainers allow the cyclist to vary the resistance. However, in the lower price range, most turbo trainers feature fixed resistance, but as the price increases, you gain more features, including remote resistance control, heart rate monitors, power meters, and smart features. 

Turbo trainers win when weighing trainers vs rollers in terms of ease of use. Unlike when using your bike on rollers, you won’t need advanced bike handling skills when riding on a turbo trainer. For example, once the bike is attached to the trainer, balancing problems are eliminated. 

Turbo trainers are perfect for vigorous sprinting workouts. Since they do not require a lot of balancing, they allow the cyclist to stand on the bike and attack with all his/her leg strength. 

Turbo trainers, however, require a lot of time to set up. Some will require you to remove the rear wheel before attaching them to the trainer. On some turbo trainers, you will need to install a special wear-resistant tire to save the tire you use on normal biking trips. 

Pros of Using Turbo Bike Trainer 

  • They are stable for efforts both in and out of the bike saddle 
  • They are easy to store and transport
  • They are more compatible with virtual training applications 
  • It is possible to find a turbo trainer that allows you to vary the riding resistance

Cons of Using Turbo Bike Trainer 

  • They are not compatible with all bike frames and wheel options 
  • They do not correct poor pedaling form 
  • Some trainers produce a lot of noise
  • Most turbo trainers take too much time during the setup phase 
  • Some turbo trainers increase the rate at which the tire wears



Q: Are Rollers Better Than Trainers?


In terms of improving bike handling skills, rollers are a much better option. They can help you improve your pedaling technique and since you will have to balance when riding rollers, it can boost your balance when out on biking trips. 

Turbo trainers, on the other hand, are ideal for cyclists whose goal is to take advantage of vigorous, full gas, sprinting workouts – they allow riders to stand and attack with all their leg strength. This means that both rollers and trainers have their benefits, and you can’t go wrong on either as long as you know the exercises you wish to incorporate in your workouts.

Q: Are Rollers Quieter Than Turbo Trainers?


Compared to turbo trainers, rollers are quieter. Turbo trainers, especially those in the lower price range, are noisy – this makes them less ideal, especially for cyclists who have roommates. It is, however, worth noting that some turbo trainers – especially, those in the higher price range – can be much quieter. If, however, your goal is to minimize the possibility of noises during indoor cycling workouts and you are on a budget, bike rollers may be the way to go.

Globo Surf Overview 

Bike trainers and rollers are the best equipment for people who would like to improve their cycling capabilities without leaving their homes. They are a perfect option, especially in the winter season, when bad weather conditions keep bikers inside their homes. 

Before pulling out your wallet and purchasing indoor cycling equipment, you should weigh the benefits and limitations associated with the equipment. In this rollers vs trainer comparison guide, we have weighed the pros and cons associated with turbo trainers against those associated with the bike rollers. If you already have a cycling workout plan, our trainers vs rollers comparison guide should help you pick out a training product that pushes you closer to your goals.

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!