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Rock and Rollr: 21st century toy

22 Feb 2022

Wahoo has reinvented the classic with its new KICKR ROLLR trainer that boasts the best features of smart trainers and rollers

Bike rollers have been ubiquitous in cycling history. Dating back to the turn of the 20th century, they’ve been a reliable port of call for warming up and down as the professional cycling world developed, and set the stage for indoor trainers to come.

All the while their design has stayed almost exactly the same: a simple setup of three cylinders – one for the front wheel and one either side of the back wheel – that allows riders to hop on and off without fiddling with bike mechanisms and maintains the natural ride feel you get on a road. 

However, the rapid expansion of turbo trainer technology over the past ten years has led to rollers getting pushed aside with increasingly realistic simulations and an emphasis on recreating the true-to-life ride feel that only rollers could provide. Now, though, American innovator Wahoo is bringing the humble roller into 2022.

Wahoo KICKR ROLLR takes the convenience and ride experience of the classic design, adds the new essentials that smart technology has provided and shores up the product for the modern day user.

Roll with it

As you’d expect, it can run like a normal roller without power and has an adjustable wheelbase to fit any bike that you want to stick on it. Like a turbo, it features a 4.8kg flywheel to add resistance while maintaining ride quality. 

The first difference you’ll notice is the ROLLR’s front end – that’s the Easy Adjust Tyre Gripper. It sits just on top of your front wheel to hold the bike in place, keeping the bike together while taking away the danger of falling off.

At the rear, Wahoo has worked hard on the getting the two rollers just right. ‘The Dual Roller Design is something we spent a long time on, dialling in the diameter of the rollers, the positioning of the rollers and the distance between the rollers, to maximise grip, maximise ride feel and minimise noise,’ product manager Tyler Harris explains.

‘What’s different between the KICKR ROLLR compared to other rollers is that it still brings in the KICKR legacy with that controlled resistance. Whether you’re doing a structured workout or riding a race on Zwift, you get all the smart experience you would expect with a KICKR trainer.’ That’s where ROLLR comes into its own. 

Wicked smart 

As with the rest of the smart KICKR range, ROLLR connects via Bluetooth and ANT+ as well as Direct Connect – which was introduced with the KICKR v5 – so you can get on all the training apps you need. There are two LED indicators, one blue to show when you’re connected through Bluetooth and one red, which shows when you’re connected to a power meter.

To get the most out of ROLLR, pair it with a power meter. That’s why Wahoo launched its new POWRLINK ZERO power meter pedals at the same time as the ROLLR. The nature of a roller setup, with so many changing factors, means that getting an accurate power measurement directly through the trainer like a turbo does is incredibly difficult.

For the full and holistic training experience, ROLLR automatically connects to a nearby ANT+ power meter after a couple of seconds of spin and if you’re training with someone else and it connects to the wrong device, it’s easily overridden in the Wahoo Fitness app.

Once paired, ROLLR takes the data from the power meter and provides that to SYSTM, Zwift or whatever your training app of choice is, meaning you don’t have to connect both devices.

Don’t fret if you don’t have a power meter yet, ROLLR will still give you accurate speed measurements without that connection and it increases resistance as you ride faster, so you can still ride online and judge effort levels through feel as you go through your gears.

Get the ball rolling

With the KICKR ROLLR priced at £699.99, it sits level with reasonably priced smart turbo trainers like the KICKR CORE and is a no brainer for riders with their own power meter.

For the two birds, one stone approach, Wahoo is offering a bundle deal to get the KICKR ROLLR and single-sided POWRLINK ZERO power meter pedals for just £1,199.99, allowing you to get the most out of the ROLLR and get training data when you’re on the road too.

Although there are products out there that market themselves as ‘smart’ rollers, ROLLR is the only one to bring the true smart training experience to the genre, combining app connectivity, varying resistance and a properly realistic ride feel.

However, the real win is in its convenience. To be able to drop your bike onto ROLLR and get online and into your training immediately, rather than fussing about taking away your rear wheel, completely changes the indoor training experience.

Unexpected weather or changing plans won’t derail your ride and you don’t have to clog up space with a fixed bike and spare wheel hanging around. ROLLR is everything you want from rollers, brought into the smart modern age.