Introduction: DIY Bike Rollers

Picture of DIY Bike Rollers
It is my personal belief that many people own bicycles, and that many of those people aren't interested in riding for pleasure / exercise when it is raining, snowing, dark, etc. outside, and that many of those people would ride their bicycle indoors if they had a fun and challenging device that allowed them to do so, and that many of those people would build such a device themselves if given the encouragement and advice to do so. Thus, if my calculations are correct, this Instructable my indeed be appropriate for, and benefit many people.

DIY Bike Rollers from Jason Sauers on Vimeo.

Some people prefer stands and other types of trainers over rollers, but to me there are a few appealing aspects of rollers vs others:

More enjoyable
Faster / more intense Workouts
More challenging / engaging
Better all-over body workout
No adapting or installation - just set the bike on and go

Some may argue that it isn't worth the cost (a new set can be bought ~ $200) and time to build your own, but that can be said about almost anything-
I enjoy building things, I had all the materials that I needed, and it only took a weekend to build.

The building isn't particularly challenging, so long as you are familiar with basic construction / projecting techniques, and have access to the necessary tools and materials.
I would not however suggest this as a first project, or for someone who does not have experience with similar projects.

P.S. I do not intended for this to be a set of step-by-step construction plans, as I feel that those who will likely have success in completing a project like this will be able to easily fill-in the b_a_ks that I may leave.

P.P.S. This is another homebuilt setup (much more sophisticated than mine) that I didn't find until writing this - however for me the free-motion feature isn't very important :

Step 1: Parts and Materials

Picture of Parts and Materials

Again- my goal is not to create a set of building plans, but rather lay out some suggestions for others to build off of.
I know that there are improvements and tweaks that others will find as they build their own which will result in better and diverse versions.

Some material suggestions:
3" PVC pipe 3pcs @ 18"
8ft of low stretch webbing - or tubing, rope etc
6+ Ball Bearings
Steel Rod 3pcs @ 21"
Dimensional Lumber - or other material for frame
Traction tape

Step 2: Dimensions

Picture of Dimensions

The roller width can be as wide - or narrow as you'd like, but unless you have very good balance, I wouldn't recommend less than 14 or so inches. I built mine 18 inches wide.

The distance between centers on most adult bikes are fairly similar - but you may want to build the rollers to the bike you plan on using on it. Making it adjustable is also an option, but didn't seem necessary to me - I have rode four different bikes from full suspension downhill, to road racing on it and no adjustment was necessary

The rear tire will be centered halfway between the rear two rollers, and the center of the front wheel should be slightly behind the center of the front roller. So if your bike is 51.5" center to center, add a couple inches and make it 53.5" or ( (11 / 2) + 38)

Step 3: Rollers

Picture of Rollers
I used 3" PVC for the rollers, you will want something large enough to give decent traction between the tire and roller surface. Also, the larger the roller - the slower the bearings have to spin. Again, I made mine 18" wide. You actually ony have a useable 16 or so inches with the webbing / cord that connects the front and mid roller.

You can also use logs if you like a rougher - more off-road feel

I cut rings of the 3" pvc and used them to create a channel to restrict the webbing from walking around on the roller

Step 4: Bearings

Picture of Bearings

The skate board bearings are pressed in to plywood discs that fit snugly into the PVC, and are then held in place with a few countersunk flat head screws.

I cut the plywood discs using a jigsaw, and then sanded them to the compass mark

The recess can be made using a paddle bit of forstner bit

I then made retainers out of big fender washers to hold the bearings tightly

If possible, the bearings should be pressed into the discs tightly, if the bit you use doesn't allow for this, epoxy may be necessary to keep them from potentially wearing or slipping in the wood

Step 5: The Frame

Picture of The Frame

The frame is pretty simple - you need two long pieces of material to hold the axles off the ground, and something to separate them the appropriate distance from one another.

I added a little standing platform on both sides just to make it easier to get on and off - but it isn't necessary

2x4 studs or other common materials will work fine - you certainly don't need to use hardwood like is pictured in mine

You will also want a way of pinning the axles so that they don't turn or try working their way out while moving.

Note the notch in the middle cross pieces to accommodate the webbing

Step 6: The Missing Link

Picture of The Missing Link

The front roller should be connected to the middle roller so that it in turn spins the front wheel.

I chose to use some 1" webbing, since I had some lying around. Lots of different things could be used for this however, rope, rubber tubing, rubber strapping, etc. The important thing is that you can get it tight, and so that it doesn't slip on the rollers.

It is easiest to figure out how long it needs to be by assembling the frame and rollers, and then measuring and marking directly. It is also better to make it a touch small so that it will be tight when you put it together

The belt is a single piece of webbing - with the two ends overlapped and joined together.

The joint is preferably sewn, but gluing should also work - see comments on pic

Step 7: Putting It All Together

Picture of Putting It All Together

A clamp may help with stretching the strap to get everything to go together properly - a test assembly with-out the strap should tell you that everything is lining up properly before taking it apart and installing the strap.

I built mine without the stepping plates first, and then decided to add them afterword
They aren't necessary, but are nice

Some people also like the security of wheels on top to prevent the bike tire from tracking off the edge of the rollers - often seen on the free-motion setups - I didn't feel them necessary

It is nice to assemble the frame with strictly screws or bolts - as you may want to take it apart later to adjust, transport, etc.

Hope you found this helpful - Have fun if you do decide to build your own, and go get some exercise. For both your body and your creativity.

Step 8: Other People's Builds

Picture of Other People's Builds

I know of at least a couple people who have created their own version of a bike roller setup, and this step's goal is to highlight some of those other builds.

dhouggy also created an instructable, and those steps are visible here:

fuj1b1ke's build is shown below in some of the pictures


13pcoulsonw (author)2017-11-15

Hi. This project will be very useful once I have built it, but I have one query. I am just checking to see if you can adjust the resistance the rolling road puts on the wheel. If not would you please give me a comparison of what the resistance is similar to. Thanks

Takayoshi (author)2017-03-29


Bluefire56 (author)2015-08-14


MichaelL21 (author)2015-02-16

A rotating wheel adds stability through gyroscopic precession. Check out this video for more explanation:

alcurb (author)2014-12-16

Awesome. All you need is a low-friction generator and you can charge your smartphone.

bosko90 (author)2013-08-29

nice homemade roller. how long did you build?
I have also build roller, but it is metal.

Sky-Monkey (author)bosko902013-08-29

Thanks. It was more than a couple years ago now, but I think that I built them in two evenings after work. I like yours also - At the time I had access to free lumber - If I were to make another set, It might be quicker to use Metal angle or tubing as you have. Cost might be higher for metal, depending on your source. Thanks for sharing

kirkpatrickaj (author)2013-06-06

Please could you email me some pictures of you DIY bike roller without the bike on so I can have a go at making it? email: Thanks,

Sky-Monkey (author)kirkpatrickaj2013-06-06

Are you looking for something different than this: ?
Let me know -

lockelab (author)2013-04-27

Thank you for this instructable! Great plans, I built one and it works great! I modified two steps. Instead of using a steel rod which spans the entire pipe, I used 4 inch 5/16th bolts which are fixed to the frame. Also instead of sewing the strap which connects the front and back roller, I used a series of velcro patches.

Sky-Monkey (author)lockelab2013-04-28

Sweet! Glad to hear it. I like your idea of using velcro - makes it easier to assemble/disassemble and its adjustable. Good thinking.

lcit2003 (author)2013-02-01

The wooden inserts into the PVC roller.

lcit2003 (author)2013-01-31

What do you have between the roller and the frame so the roller doesn't wander and rub on the frame? Im thinking somehting like this:

|Frame| /\/\/\ |TW| |FW| |TW| |Roller| 

/\/\/\ = Spring TW=Teflon washer FW=Fender washer

...and kudos on the wheels, I had a guy turn mine with a lathe for $25. (yours are still better)

Sky-Monkey (author)lcit20032013-02-01

I actually didn't use any springs on mine, although there is no reason you couldn't. So long as the roller isn't too tight between the frame, or too sloppy, I think that you can pretty much get away with whatever configuration you want. On mine, I simply had a fender washer against the roller, and a regular flat washer against the frame so it was
|Frame|W| |FW|Roller|FW|W|Frame|.
Hope that helps.
What exactly do you mean by the wheels?

schumi23 (author)2012-10-28

Looks nice!
I got a resistance trainer for free recently, so the chances of my making it have been reduced to 0, but before I got it I was planning on making it...

Though I have never understood how those work! (Other than keeping your balance, like with a track stand (I do track cycling.)

O, and final note: Get in the drops! :)

Suzukisv (author)2012-10-07

Hello Sky-Monkey

I like your design. I've used steel rods but they are to heavy, arround 4kg. Will now use pvc rods to see if this goes better. Will let you know the results.

Greetings from Holland


Sky-Monkey (author)Suzukisv2012-10-07

Did you use steel pipe? What diameter and wall thickness? Did you make a complete setup or just make the rollers so far?

Sounds Interesting. Look forward to hearing more about it.

Best Regards from the US

spincycle47 (author)2012-07-20

Hi everyone,
i am using the white pvc pipe for my rollers. i am planning on using clean out caps to hold my bearings. the problem is the clean out caps are made of ABS not pvc. apparently the hardware stores (Lowes, home depot, ace) around my area does not carry pvc clean out caps. Does anyone know if the ABS material can hold up to the load? i am at 196 lbs and my bike is about 22lbs. thanks in advance.

RadEd (author)2012-07-16

I finished my build - but am having issues getting everything to roll under load, everything rolls easily without the bike (and me) but as soon as I added the webbing and add the bike the front and centre roller freeze up,
There's no movement in the webbing - so that's tight enough (could this be too tight to accomodate any flex under load?)

Sky-Monkey (author)RadEd2012-07-17

Do the rollers spin easily with the webbing on and no bike? sounds like something is binding somewhere -
What size bearings are you using? what size axles?
if you can take some pictures of what you have together, It might help with identifying the trouble area.

jamesblond (author)2012-07-03

Hey there.....this is an amazing site -- i really like all the enthusiasm people have for actually doing and making things instead of sitting around and watching TV!

I recently picked up a vintage set of rollers that I would guess date to the 60s, made of steel tubing with three bright blue steel rollers, and I have two questions that maybe you can answer.

The frame is adjustable, so you can slide the front half backwards or forwards as you like. And so I did it guess-timating that the front roller should be just a little ahead of the front axle -- which is pretty much just what you said. But then, you also said to estimate 53 inches distance between the front roller and the ":averaged" distance of the two back rollers, for a bike with axles that are 51 inches apart -- and I don't think my front axle is a full two inches behind the front roller, it's more like a 1/2 inch distance.

Sooooo....I guess I am wondering if that discrepancy matters? The thing is, the further I expand the frame, the less sturdy it gets, so if this is fine, I would rather leave it as is, but if it;'s not, I will expand it. Not even sure if you can answer, but any insight is welcome.

Other question is about the rollers -- they were once a bright, bright blue enamel over the steel, but the enamel in the middle of the rollers has worn away leaving nothing but a swath of rust-covered steel, which makes the whole thing look bad and makes me a little nervous that the rust needs to be stopped somehow or it will compromise the rollers somehow -- get in the bearings, or even -- as a fine powder coming off the rollers -- get into the gears and workings of the bike.

Sorry to go on -- the question is, do you have any idea if I could repaint them myself, and if so, what kind of paint I could use?

Thanks again!

Sky-Monkey (author)jamesblond2012-07-06

The distance between the rollers is mainly just important to keep the bike in place. If the front tire is too far forward on the front roller, the bike tends to want to roll forward and off of the rollers. If the bike stays put with where you have it set, I would leave it there.

If you want the rollers to look shiny and new, I would recommend cleaning, sanding, and re-cleaning them before priming and re-painting them. If the rollers see heavy use, the paint will likely wear off eventually, but it should be fine for a while. If you spray a couple coats of clear over the color coat, it will hold up better than color alone (not too heavy with each coat - a few lighter coats is better). Be sure to let the paint dry well before using them - if you can leave them out in the hot summer sun for a couple days you should be good.

Let me know how it goes, and post a picture if you can once you finish, I'd love to see them

jamesblond (author)Sky-Monkey2012-07-06

Hey thank you for this -- I would have guessed some of this but not known exactly, so this is very helpful.

One question, though -- what kind of paint would be the best to use to paint them? And what kind of clear coat would you recommend? And also....if I can't all the rust off, should I not bother trying to repaint them?

Again, thanks again for your helpful feedback.

Blond.......James Blond

pbagus (author)2012-04-05

I like how the blog is loaded with new ideas and thoughts. I love the way everyone who visits it leaves their comment.

fuj1b1ke (author)2012-03-13

Rollers are finished. See . I used a replacement belt from Performance which was relatively inexpensive and beveled narrow slices of the PVC pipe to form a pulley. Works well.

One big surprise is how much peddle effort it takes even though the rollers run very free. I had assumed it would take hardly any. The bike is a road bike with 700 x 23 tires. Is this typical? So far I'm riding keeping one elbow against the wall for support. I can see it will take some time.

Fun project! Thanks! RCT

Sky-Monkey (author)fuj1b1ke2012-03-14

Excellent job! - looks very well thought through and executed.

It is surprising the amount of effort it takes to turn them - if you haven't already, try shifting while you are riding and see how the different gear ratios effect the difficulty.

For a while I rode mine one handed with one hand against a wall - it does take some time to get the hang of it, but your balance will improve quickly

Nice work

fuj1b1ke (author)2012-02-28

Bought bearings from ebay, $1.50 each, pvc pipe from the local hrdwr. store and cut discs from oak ply I had on hand. The rollers are assembled with bearings, looking good, so off the the hardware store for 3/8" steel rod. OH CR*P!! Turns out hardware store rod is "roughly" 3/8". Not only is it oversized but not perfectly round either and won't fit the bearings. A 3/8" drill bit fits the bearings perfectly. Did you use 3/8" drill rod or luck into hardware store rod with proper dimensions.

Sky-Monkey (author)fuj1b1ke2012-02-28

The 3/8" rod I used was from the hardware store - I would take one of the bearings you have to a couple different stores and try checking for fit. Some hardware stores also offer galvanized steel rod - which may also be worth checking. Worst case I guess you could order a length online - the rod that mcmaster sells says that it is .003" undersized which should work fine. Good Luck

fuj1b1ke (author)2012-02-15

The picture appears to show the center of the front roller well ahead of the front wheel's axle. My sense, maybe wrong, is that the further ahead the roller is in relation to the wheel's axle the twitcher the steering would become. The problem being that if the axle were directly above the roller the front of the bike would be higher than the rear unless you accomodate that by either lowering the front roller or raising the rear rollers or frame. Is this truly an issue or am I over thinking things?

I do like the idea, especially the foot pads! I'm off to price parts.
Thanks, Rich

Sky-Monkey (author)fuj1b1ke2012-02-15

I think that the alignment concern is less of an issue than you might think. I have used the setup with the rollers in the same position with three different bikes - each with a different wheel-base. The shorter wheel-bases (the front tire further behind center of the roller) didn't seem to effect the "twitchiness" much if at all. The height change from having the front tire slightly higher (or even lower) than the rear is almost imperceptible. If you can notice it, I would either just shim the lower end up, or put screw-adjustable feet on the frame for leveling purposes. The one thing I would recommend is that you make sure that the front tire doesn't go in front of the front roller. Having the front tire slightly behind the front roller helps keep the bike from wanting to jump forward off the rollers. Let me know if any of that is confusing, or you want further clarification.

fuj1b1ke (author)Sky-Monkey2012-02-17

Thanks! I can see the wisdom of your advice. And after giving my post more thought I may have been wrong about making the steering more sensitive. Checked the local hardware store for 3" PVC schedule 40. They only carry that in grey pipe intended for electrical conduit. Guess there's no problem with that.

Videos I've watched show the rear wheel slewing side to side rather rapidly. That must feel wierd at first.

Sky-Monkey (author)fuj1b1ke2012-02-18

It is a very different sensation than riding a bike on a flat stationary surface, and it takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it. Don't get discouraged if you don't pick it up immediately. It takes a bit of persistence. Good luck with it

sb37 (author)2012-01-29

Can you (or anyone else) explain why the front wheel needs to spin ?

Sky-Monkey (author)sb372012-01-29

If the front wheel isn't spinning, it is extremely difficult to stay upright
(this essentially happens if the belt jumps off the roller or becomes overly slack)

There are two main reasons that I can identify:

1- If the front tire is not turning, it will not want to track side to side, and you wont be able to steer or balance well (you could set something up to hold the front fork fixed and steady, but then you would essentially have a stationary trainer)

2- The added gyroscopic effect of the spinning front wheel helps you to balance. Rollers are reasonably difficult to ride on even with both wheels spinning... trust me. It takes a bit of practice

Let me know if you need further clarification

oldbaldfatSam (author)Sky-Monkey2012-01-31

Hi Sky,
nice stuff here--I'm prepping to do a version of this. But where did you find 3/8" bore bearings to be able to fit 3/8" rod? All the skateboard bearings I've found are 8 mm or 0.31"...

Sky-Monkey (author)oldbaldfatSam2012-01-31

The bearings I used were not actual skateboard bearings, but 3/8" ID bearings I had left over in my shop from something else.

If you want 3/8" ID bearings, it looks like you can get them off ebay for ~$2 each

dhouggy used actual skateboard bearings in his build - you might want to check it out if you haven't already:

I guess my suggestion is to use whatever is easily accessible and fits within your budget - Im sure you can come up with a more clever solution than mine.

Post some pics and send me a link when you finish it. I'd like to see it.

oldbaldfatSam (author)Sky-Monkey2012-02-01


gb2383 (author)2012-01-11

I'm going to have a crack at building this. Rollers are a bit pricey for me, but this looks spot on. Thanks Sky-Monkey.
There's one issue, I can't source material for the rollers that would suit. I live in the UK and the hardware stores have plenty of PVC pipes for plumbing (guttering and waste), but they are too thin/flimsy. Where would you find plastic pipes with walls like yours in the photo? Are they used for anything specific? I'm clueless about this.

Sky-Monkey (author)gb23832012-01-11

The PVC pipe is pronounced as "schedule 40" (Sch40) and is used for plumbing - I'm not familiar with what material is available in the UK, but here in the US it is very common. It may be worth checking at a dedicated plumbing material distribution place, or some other hardware stores. A thinner walled version that is available around here is "class 200" which is used in irrigation and drainage.
I have also seen wooden rollers used - if you can find some decent 3" or so diameter logs, and have a way of drilling them - that may work.

If you can find 2" diameter sch40 PVC - you could also follow dhouggy's instructable

Best of luck, and let me know how it turns out

susanrm (author)2011-07-09

Nice, nice, nice. Wish I had a wood shop, or the ex-boyfriend who had a wood shop. :-) I also like the idea of connecting it to power something.

snotty (author)susanrm2011-12-23

I used my living room as a workshop. I ran a small bike repair business and even fabricated a camera crane and dolly there. The trick was having understanding roomies and cleaning up promptly when I was done. Nobody in the house minded much since I would repair their bikes for free... Also hand saws are quiet and don't kick up much dust so they're more house friendly.

susanrm (author)snotty2011-12-23

That's really cool. I just don't have the space, plus with pets around, it makes things more complicated.

snotty (author)susanrm2011-12-24

I get ya.

I guess my point is that it's important to remember how very much we can do with a few simple tools. Our best tool and our biggest impediment is often our own imagination.

But that's enough ranting out of me for today.

GeArGuY (author)2011-12-21

I'm not seeing too much flex in the pvc, but If I ever built this, I would use steel, just to play it safe.

tigerbomb8 (author)2011-12-21

a more stable way is to lift the back tyre and put it on a stand and put a roller against the tyre to add friction

mikecraghead (author)2011-12-20

Nice work!

Maybe I'm missing something... wouldn't two rollers on the front tire eliminate the need for the strap and provide more stability? It's mentioned in passing at "...Some bicycle rollers use two front drums or cylinders instead of just one..."

Are four rollers too stable, not stable enough, or just not as much fun? Looks like ALL of the commercial ones are set up like the one in this 'ible. Can anybody tell me why?


Sky-Monkey (author)mikecraghead2011-12-20

There are a few reasons that one roller is often used in the front over two -

- it is more forgiving of the varying wheelbase between different bikes ( a double front roller requires a fairly accurate length match, where as a single front roller doesn't )

- a single roller allows for easier steering ( it creates a single contact point - much like a tire on a flat surface vs. two contact points which is more constrained)

- a single vs a double is cheaper

The strap's function is to turn the front tire - it allows the front tire to track side to side while it spins, and also adds some gyroscopic stability (riding on rollers is much more challenging than riding a stationary bike) If the instability is undesired - Then a stationary trainer would be the way to go - much simpler

Sky-Monkey (author)2011-12-20

:) I'd say its more of a dyno for checking the rider.

We don't have smog checks in NY..... (Yet)

Are you from CA? I never realized they run a car on rollers to perform the smog checks. Learn something new every day.

Sky-Monkey (author)2011-11-12

What size rollers did you use?

An aggressive mountain bike tread will create more resistance than a road bike tire, but should still work fine - i use both on mine.

If you can, try a mountain bike on it, and see if it is any different.

Also try shifting gears - if you haven't already (you will probably want to be in a fairly low gear starting out)

There are a few places that friction can be unintentionally introduced -
Do the rollers still spin easily when weighted?

also - if you can, post a picture - and i can try to give you some more specific advice.

ngealy (author)Sky-Monkey2011-11-13

i haven't done much with it yet, basically just put something together real quick to see if it would work and i'm only doing rollers for the back tire, i plan on locking the forks down if it works

i'm pretty busy with school right now so maybe by the end of this week i can get out and experiment with it some more

the rollers are probably 18" long or so and i'd say 2" in diameter without going out and measuring them, i got them from an bargain supply outlet for $3 a piece, they roll nice and smooth and i think they probably came from a conveyor

About This Instructable




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