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Can You Use a Mountain Bike on Rollers?

can you use a mountain bike on rollers

If you can’t get outside and cycle, or you just want to do a little bit of spontaneous exercise, then you may think that a mountain bike coupled with some rollers is a great idea. So, can you use a mountain bike on rollers?

You absolutely can use a mountain bike on rollers. Plenty of people do. It is a great way to work on your cycling technique and help you get fit without leaving the comfort of your own home which, of course, is not always going to be possible!

The only thing that will be difficult is balancing on the roller, but it shouldn’t be to difficult after a little bit of practice.

Are Rollers Bad for Your Mountain Bike?

Rollers will cause some wear on your bike. However, the wear is going to be no more than if you were actually outside and running your mountain bike. In fact, it will probably cause less damage to your wheels than actually being outside and cycling. 

Yes. Your mountain bike is going to be touching the big drums on the roller. However, these rollers are often made from smooth plastic. This means that they aren’t really going to be putting a lot of pressure on the tires. 

The only issue that most people will have when riding their mountain bike on rollers is the whole balancing part.

Since you are not going to be locked into place like you would be on a trainer (more on that soon), you do have to work on stabilizing yourself while pedaling and if that goes wrong then, of course, you may end up falling off and that will cause damage to your bike!

We recommend using a roller specifically designed for the use of mountain bikes like this one created by ROCK BROS. It’s very durable, and has a great compact design which allows it to easily be folded up and stored for later use.

Of course, there are still some people that have complained about rollers damaging their mountain bike. In normal circumstances, there shouldn’t be any damage to your bike. However, follow these tips to minimize the risk as much as you possibly can:

  • Purchase a quality bike roller. This way you can be sure that the surface of the rollers is completely smooth.
  • Make sure that you are properly aligned on the rollers before you start pedaling.
  • Make sure that your tires are properly inflated. This will help to reduce the amount of drag caused which, ultimately, is going to be reducing the amount of friction on those rollers.
  • Do not pedal too fast. Many people have damaged their bikes due to slippage, and this is often down to pedaling too fast while on the rollers.

Difference Between Rollers and Trainers 

From the outside, rollers and trainers may look like the same thing. They are both designed for ‘real’ bicycles to attach to. They both involve drums that roll underneath your wheels.

They are both used when cyclists simply can’t get outside. However, the similarities end here. They function in completely different ways, and you may find that one option is better than the other for your needs.

The Rollers

As we said, rollers and trainers will both have drums on them. This is to help simulate the feel of the ground as you are cycling. It helps to add a little bit of resistance. The way in which these drums are set-up will be different between the rollers and trainers, though.

Trainers will have just a single set of drums. These are going to be located at the rear of the bike. The front wheel of the bike will not be moving when you are on a trainer because there is nothing driving it forward.

The Outdoors
The Outdoors

Rollers will have two rollers at the back, and one at the front. On a roller, your back wheel will rest in between the two rear rollers. You will have one further roller underneath your front wheel.

As you cycle, the back wheel will spin these two rollers. A connective chain will then drive the front wheel’s rollers forward. As a result, both wheels will end up moving. 

How They Are Used

Rollers came earlier than trainers. This means that the technology behind them is a little bit more ‘basic’. It doesn’t mean that rollers are bad. They are brilliant for most situations but do bear in mind that the way in which they function is ever so slightly different.

Rollers have no locking mechanism in place. You are literally going to be riding your bicycle on a platform. This means that you really have to focus on stability while riding. Some people will say that the riding experience on rollers is going to be a lot closer to that of the riding experience if you were outside.

Trainers are different. There is a locking mechanism in place. This is on the back wheel. So, before you ride, you will have to lock the back wheel into place.

This means that you are going to be stable while you are cycling no matter what happens. Remember, there is going to be no movement on that front wheel too.

Is a Roller or Trainer Better for Your Mountain Bike?

It depends on what you are after.

If you are thinking about what will cause the minimum amount of damage to your mountain bike, both rollers and trainers are fine. As we said, you will have to lock your bike into place on a trainer, but this isn’t going to cause that much additional wear.

Since rollers are more simplified, you can expect them to be a little bit cheaper than their trainer counterparts. So, if budget is a concern, then this is something that you will probably have to think about.

You will also have to think a little bit about what you want to get out of your bike trainer or roller.

If fitness is your main goal, then a bike trainer is probably going to be the best option for you. This is because a bike trainer is all about focusing on that fitness and pedaling properly. You can also ride a whole lot faster on a bike trainer than you would be able to do so on a roller.

On the other hand, if you are looking to focus on actual cycling techniques e.g. riding stability and the like, then you almost certainly will want to go down the route of a roller.

This is because you have to focus on how you are balanced while on the roller since there is nothing that is really holding you into place. This is something that can be a bit annoying at the start, but will ultimately turn you into a better cyclist.

Both options should be fine if you are lacking in storage space. Although, rollers do fold up a little bit better because you do not have a hefty locking mechanism that you need to be storing too.

Final Thoughts

You do not have to worry about a bike roller doing any damage to your bike. Any wear and tear that it does cause is going to be no different than if you were outside cycling.

The only issue that you will have is staying balanced on one. This is something that can be a little bit different for new cyclists.

However, as with most things, the more you do cycle on the bike roller, the easier it is going to become. You will ultimately end up being a far more accomplished rider. 

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