Posted by Editoress on 12/23/15
Despite the unseasonably warm weather in most of Canada, this is the time of year when most riders look for alternatives to riding outdoors. There are many options, including non-cycling activities (yeah, right...), riding at a velodrome or indoor park if you have one near you, or using an indoor training device.
This review is about the Inside Ride E-Motion rollers, but there is a long preamble, so bear with me.
Within the spectrum of indoor training devices there are two basic options - a resistance trainer or rollers. A resistance trainer generally involves removing the front wheel and mounting it to a fixed stand with the rear wheel rolling against a variable resistance unit (or a purpose-built spin bike unit). Rollers are more along the lines of a treadmill for your bike - three drums, the back two cradling your rear wheel and the front connected to the middle one by a belt, so when you pedal, both bike wheels turn and you are actually riding; albeit in one place.
Why ride rollers? The reason is simple: rollers make you a better rider. You will become a smoother rider, since chopping at the pedals will send you side to side. You will learn to ride in a straight line without thinking about it. You will spin the pedals, and develop the ability to ride naturally at a high cadence. There is no downside to rollers. Actually, I can think of one - it is very difficult to stand up and sprint ... more on that later.
When I attend major events, such as Track Worlds or World Cups, I invariably see pretty much every rider on rollers to warm up or cool down - I even see roadies and mountain bikers on them as they wait for the start of their events.
However, lots of people are nervous about using rollers for the simple reason that they are worried about falling off. I won't deny it is possible - everybody does it at least once, usually through inattention or hammering too hard and losing control; I've seen world champions do it at the track.
So what happens if you do fall off? Well, you don't go shooting across the floor; basically you fall over, and usually not even that because you get a foot down. It normally doesn't even come to that, since the usual set up is to ride next to a wall or in a doorway, and you can grab something.
A set of rollers is not something you replace frequently - I've been riding rollers for 40-plus years and have only owned two pairs; a set of Rolltracs that I bought in the 1970s for $75 (the same price as a pair of Shimano Dura Ace brakes at the time, I recall), and my current Kreitlers, a fantastic gift from my partner some 10 years ago.
Since rollers are so simple - frame, belt and drums - what makes a good pair? The answer is: quality. A sturdy frame, so it can't twist under use, and heavy enough that it won't bounce across the floor. A good belt that won't stretch or wear out. And, most importantly, high quality drums with a precisely machined surface and roundness (aluminum is better then plastic), plus high quality bearings.
Which, finally, in a roundabout way, brings me to the Inside Ride E-Motion rollers. These are likely the biggest technical change in rollers since ... well, forever.
The concern with riding off the rollers is addressed by the simple addition of bumpers on either side of the front drum that steer you back to the middle if you waver (of course, if you hit them hard enough you can still go off).
The standing or hammering on the pedals issue is addressed in two ways. First, by simple roll bars in front and behind the rear wheel; if you start to rock off the rollers, you bump into these.
The second change is the one which makes E-Motion so unique - the actual rollers frame is mounted on a separate base that can glide back and forth, meaning the rollers pretty much float. So, if you are standing, sprinting, or not riding as smoothly as you should, the floating basically damps out that motion which could otherwise push you off the unit.
It is remarkable, to say the least. I could tell when I was riding smoothly, because there was almost no movement. If my form was not smooth - because I was pushing hard or my pedaling stroke got sloppy - the rollers would rock back and forth on the base.
The whole unit is extremely solid and well made, with very smooth drums. It comes assembled, so all you have to do is adjust the position of the front roller for the wheelbase of your bike - and even there, the E-Motion has great idea, with a ratcheting pair of thumb knobs to easily change the wheelbase without requiring tools.
The rollers also come with a resistance unit with a non-contact magnets to provide a harder workout. The standard unit has a dial on the frame, but I tried the wireless version, with a handlebar-mounted key fob to flip between settings while riding.
E-Motion has just announced that, coming soon, you will be able to get real time speed and estimated power reporting via ANT+ and Bluetooth. Finite resistance control will be available from your mobile device, tablet, Mac or PC, using apps such as Trainer Road, BKOOL, Wahoo Fitness and Zwift. Both the manual and remote resistance models will be upgradable to include these functions, according to E-Motion.
In short, these are pretty much state-of-the-art when it comes to roller technology. As you might expect, that comes at a cost - $900 U.S. for the manual version and $1050 U.S. for the remote. This is close to twice as much as a pair of basic Kreitlers without any resistance add-ons, but in line with what you would have to pay for a similarly equipped version. They are only sold direct, via insideride.com.
However, as I stated earlier, rollers are pretty much a once in a lifetime purchase - about the only thing you ever really need to replace is the belt. So amortize the cost over 10-plus years and it is pretty cheap, really.
I see the E-Motion as being for someone who is new to rollers, or looking to replace a really old pair with newer, higher quality ones with up-to-date features. I won't be replacing my Kreitlers because they still have lots of life left in them, but I will miss the features of Inside Ride's E-Motion rollers.
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