Bicycle Roller Trainer




Introduction: Bicycle Roller Trainer

I recently got back into biking, but need an outlet during the Chicago winters.  I don't like stand trainers, but then found out about roller trainers.  They are several hundred dollars to buy, and so I thought I'd look into building one.  There is another instructable that covers this, and I used some of those ideas, but had a different approach for making the rollers.  I built this to be functional rather than pretty, and the whole thing cost about $50.  Here's the other instructable:

I used 2" pipe rather than 3" pipe because that's what it looked like the professional models use.  I don't know if 3" would be easier to ride.  I've only given it a few tests, but it all seems to work.  I will say that riding this thing is not like riding a bike in that it takes a lot more coordination and balance!  I think that's a good thing, but it will take some practice to be able to use it like they do in the online videos.  I do like the way it feels more than the stand trainer -- more realistic and requires some real concentration.

I've added a video of it in action.  You can see that it takes balance and concentration -- i've only done it a few times but am getting better quickly.  Ignore the grunting in the background, that wasn't me, someone was doing P90X.

Step 1: Make the Rollers

Rather than use wooden end caps for the rollers, which would require a jig saw I don't have, I decided to go all PVC.  I used 2" schedule 40 PVC (from Home Depot).  I cut the rollers to 24" (length of the pipe itself).   For each end, I used 1 skateboard bearing ($2 each at skateboard shop), 1 4" 5/6" hex bolt (the bearings have an inside diameter of 8 mm, but this is close enough), one 5/6" hex nut, one 2" PVC clean out cap and one 2" threaded female adapter.  

I used a 7/8" spade bit to make sure the inside of the clean-out cap was large enough to accommodate the bearing (22mm outside diameter).  This also helped center the bit in the end cap since the bit barely fit in the square opening of the caps that I bought.  I then used a 5/8" bit to drill out the end cap to allow the bolt and hex hut to fit in.

Drop the bearing into the inside square space of the end cap, then epoxy it into place by filling the space around the bearing and the walls of the cap in the corners.  Make sure not to get epoxy on the bearing or where the nut or bolt head (which have to spin freely) will be.  you can scrape the epoxy off if it goes where it shouldn't when it is dried but it's easier if you don't have to.)

Let the epoxy cure for 24 hours to make sure it sets.  Then insert the bolt from the inside and screw on the nut from the outside and tighten.  I had to jam a screwdriver into the gap between the nut and plastic cap so that I could hold brace it while I tightened the bolt with a socket wrench.  You should use thread lock, otherwise the nuts on the right side of the trainer will eventually unscrew themselves from the torque.

Once the bolt is in place, you can screw this assembly into the threaded adaptor and then glue that to the tube, one on each end.  You need to either glue the threaded plastic cap into the female adaptor, or do like I did and put in a set screw (see picture).  Otherwise the caps on the right side of the trainer will unscrew themselves from the torque when it is in use.  I used a set screw because I wanted to be able to take the tubes apart in case there's a problem with the bearings at some point.

Step 2: Build the Frame

I built a simple frame from 2x4s because it was cheap.  I measured 39 1/2" from axel to axel on my road bike and added a few inches to come up with 41".  So the distance between the front roller and the midpoint between the two back rollers is 41".  The back rollers are 11" apart.  So the distance from the back roller to the mid roller (also on the back wheel) is 11", from the back roller to the front roller is 46.5".  With the 24" pipe lengths, the two cross-pieces made of 2x4 are 29" each.  The length of the frame  I didn't specifically measure but is probably about 5" or so.

Cut the lumber, then drill holes for the three rollers.  I clamped the 2 2x4s together and drilled through both at once so that the holes would line up.  Drill the holes about 1" down from the top of the 2x4 so that the rollers clear the ground and stick up above the top of the frame a bit.

Step 3: Install the Belt

The belt allows the front roller to be turned by the middle roller.  This allows you to steer since the front wheel is spinning.  I bought a web strap (and ratchet, not needed ) for $4 at Home Depot and just used the strap.  I measures the length needed with the rollers assembled in the frame, then made it about 1/4" shorter for tension.  You don't want too much tension or the rollers won't be able to turn freely, but obviously need some.  I sewed the belt on a sewing mating, using a few single joints rather than one big one to maintain flexibility 

Getting the tension right is a little tricky.  I actually had too much tension at first, and just widened the front axel hole to allow the axel to move back a 1/4 inch or so.  It seems to work well so far.

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    6 years ago

    Why couldn't you add a second pipe on the front too? In other words, duplicate the rear pipes assembly for the front wheel also, but (obviously) put the strap on the two inner pipes. I would feel safer riding it with the front wheel being able to rest on two pipes. Would that work?

    i'm Afraid the PVC pipes will crack. will it crack on usage?.. it seems to be fragile.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I'm hoping to build one of these soon. Thanks for the info.

    I do have one question: is there any principle regarding the spacing between the two rear rollers (the rollers supporting the back wheel)? What would be the ideal spacing between the the two rear rollers?

    Regarding roller size, I believe the larger the roller diameter, the easier it would be to ride. That is, 3 inches would indeed be easier than 2 inches; 12 inches would be even easier, and so forth (assuming that the friction at the bearings does not increase along with size increase). Of course, at some point it will just start looking silly and be too unwieldy.

    The principle is exactly the same as for the gears on your bike. Your large bicycle tyre is trying to rotate those rollers. The larger the roller diameter, the easier it is going to be.

    I believe large diameter rollers would have other advantages too: since they will spin slower, they will be less noisy at high speeds. You just have to make sure they are strong enough to take the bicycle weight. You could also use larger bearings for better performance.

    Perhaps the manufacturers use smaller diameter rollers considering that you can compensate by using a lower gear setting on your bicycle, and having smaller rollers means smaller package size and a little more ease in carrying the whole thing around.

    I've used commercial rollers before. The front roller should be positioned just enough ahead of the axle center to stabilize the bike, but not enough to make it tend to rock the rear wheel off the middle roller (and of course usually the back roller when the bike rolls back). 1/2" should do it. If it is directly under the front axle, you may find the bike to "buck" or rock. You can make the strap from a trash-can lid strap (round silicone band) or make your own from old inner tubes. (they eventually decay, but if you have a supply of thrown away tubes, You'll get months out of each band. Just sew like you did for the fabric strap.) Larger roller spin more easily. (Smaller rollers create more rolling resistance as the tire deflects over them. This is why the "pro" models have smaller drums, for resistance training as well as spin training)


    10 years ago on Step 3

    Im amazed that the friction wouldnt stop the rollers.


    10 years ago on Introduction


    Can you please tell me the relation between the,
    distance between bicycle tires & the distance between rollers

    Thanks & Regards,


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    My bike tires were 38.5 inches from hub to hub. The back rollers are 11" apart. The front roller is 41" from the back tire hub (so just in front of the front tire hub). That puts the front roller 46.5" (41 + 11/2) in front of the back roller and 35.5" (41 - 11/2) in front of the middle roller).


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice - could you please add a shot video of it in use?