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The revised inside ride: E-Motion rollers

One of my favorite indoor workouts as a cyclocross rider is to get on Youtube and put on a one hour ‘cross race, like a Euro World Cup. Inside Ride rollers are perfect for this. Warm up for 10 mins and then hit start. When the gun goes off I watch the leader of the race, whoever it is. If the leader stands up and accelerates I do. If the leader coasts into a corner I do too. The leader attacks and I’m on it and go full gas until the leader sits up. When the guy in second comes to the front he’s my new leader. If the leader is not on camera I alternate accelerating and coasting until he comes back on. In the event the leader dismounts to run the barriers, I just keep riding.

As the winner rolls across the line triumphant to get toweled down and kissed by pretty girls I collapse on the basement floor in the fetal position and whimper for a while. This workout is hell on a trainer, bearable on standard rollers and a total blast on Inside Rides.

About this time of year many riders are getting in the miles, but doing so requires packing on the layers and braving the cold or howling wind. This can and will make you fit and tough but can also take a toll on motivation. The pros have got it right. They go to Mallorca or Tucson or somewhere else warm to log the early-season chamois time, but a good many of us don’t have that option. The realm of rollers and trainers has long been home to the hard men. They are the dedicated souls who overcome boredom and numb-bum to spend hours jamming away in the basement in the pursuit of speed and fitness. Training inside, even if you are drilling it on Cancellara’s wheel in your mind or watching Avatar, is pretty dull.

Until now. Larry Papadopoulos of Inside Ride had the idea for E-Motion rollers in 2005 after he initially developed the SuperTrainer cycling treadmill.The concept is ridiculously simple: put a set of standard rollers on a secondary track so they can move back and forth with the rider and eliminate the jerkiness usually associated with rollers. Add some simple elastomers to keep rollers centered on the track and you have yourself an enjoyable and comfortable inside ride (pun intended).

The first time on the E-Motions is surprisingly reassuring, because as you get going it’s impossible to overlook the smoothness. If you look down at the roller frame it will be gently rocking back and forth in time with your pedal stroke, eliminating the up-and-down-back-and-forth oscillation of normal rollers.

It gets better though. You can stand up, dump the bike into top gear, and sprint. I mean really sprint, pretty much full gas. Now I grew up racing a lot of track and have spent my fair share of time on rollers but even I know it’s pretty hard to get out of the saddle and pedal without the bike getting giggly or being periodically ejected altogether.

With the Inside Ride rollers, it takes very little practice (read, relax and trust the rollers) to really hammer out of the saddle. You need to make sure you stay on your little patch of spinning pavement, but you can go all out.

Standard rollers will over time make you a smoother rider but these babies are just plain fun, and two hours on a set of Inside Rides just flies by. If you want to focus on your pedal stroke, you can look down at the rollers and smooth out your stroke until the track doesn’t move. It’s kinda fun.

Everything on the Inside Ride rollers is high quality, well thought out and simple. There are some notable additions compared to standard rollers. Firstly there is a set of smaller rollers in front of and behind the rear wheel drums. These are to stop you from jumping out of the rear drums whilst in the throes of a wild attack. I have done some good hard accelerations and only put a few marks on them, but it’s nice to know they’ve got your back (wheel).

On the same note there are polyurethane ‘bump’ wheels on the outside of the front drum to keep you on track. At a glance it seems that if you hit one of them hard enough you would just high-side over them and end up in a horrendous heap on the floor.

Thankfully it doesn’t work that way. If you are angled at the bump wheel and hit it, your back wheel will continue on that trajectory for a moment and scoop you back into the center. I even tried riding right at the bump wheels and hitting them as hard as I could. I eventually fell off but it took a lot of focused effort to do so.

The wheelbase adjustment is secure and a no-brainer to operate. The magnetic resistance system is made of high quality machined parts, as is the whole unit.

Now let’s talk cons: They’re pretty big (58”x20”), they’re pretty heavy (30lbs) and they don’t fold up, so you’re probably not going to bring them to warm up at a race. I tried, it sucked. This unit stays at home. Inside Ride plans to release a folding unit next year.

The other thing is they’re not cheap. Brace yourselves because these rollers are $850. If you live in a more temperate climate or have flexible training time this might be a deal breaker but if you live in Steamboat Springs and got 70 inches of snow in the last five days it might sound like a brilliant investment.

The only other thing I can think of, and this is really pedantic, is that you can’t adjust the magnetic resistance while riding. I have managed to flip it with my toe while pedaling but basically you need to set resistance at the beginning of a ride and get off if you want to change it. Once again Inside Ride said they are working on a programmable system slated for next year that simulates outdoor rides.

Inside Ride E-Motion rollers are available in the U.S. and Canada from www.insideride.com and in Europe through a licensing deal with Elite

Want a clearer visual of how they work? Check out the video of them in action

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