DIY Bicycle Roller Helps Cure The Winter Blues

DiY Bike Roller

Winter’s a-brewing and that is a downer for the everyday cycling enthusiast. There are certainly ‘bike trainers’ out on the market that will let you ride in your living room but they clamp to (or require replacing the) the rear axle. These bike trainers hold the bike in an upright position so that the rider can’t tip the bike and might feel a little boring for some. There is another indoor biking solution called a bicycle roller which is, just as it sounds, a few rollers on the ground that the bike wheels rest on and is not attached to the bike by any mechanical means. When the rider pedals the bike, the bike wheels spin the rollers. Even with the lack of forward momentum the spinning of the wheels is enough for the rider to stay upright.

[Sky-Monkey] wanted to bike during inclement weather and felt that a bike roller was simple enough for him to try building one. He likes building things and already had all the necessary parts kicking around his shop. The rollers are standard 3″ PVC pipe with plywood discs pressed into each end. The discs are counter-bored to accept standard skate bearings. Off the shelf steel rod make up the axles. The 3 rollers and axle assemblies are mounted in a wood frame made from dimensional lumber. It’s important that the front bike wheel also spins so [Sky-Monkey] made a power transmission belt out of cloth strap that spins the front roller with the rear.

The result is a fully functional bike roller that only cost a few hours of time to make. Video of this puppy in action after the break….

46 thoughts on “DIY Bicycle Roller Helps Cure The Winter Blues

    1. You must not know how bicycle trainers are used! One uses them for an hour or more several times a week in the winter months. You probably live where “cold” is under 50 F… I bike outside if the temp is above 40 F and the roads are clear and dry… doesn’t happen much past Nov 15 where I live… Surprised you didn’t manage to include a bit o’ ‘duino bashing in your comment….

        1. I blame Loki for my Reynaud’s Syndrome, actually. Him and his brethren the hrímþursar. Clever reply, though. I hadn’t made the exercise equipment=use once connection. I humbly apologize for my misdirected snark…
          B@st@rd Frost Giants never show up when I have rock salt or the steam line handy…..

    1. Or use it to run a fan that blows on you. The big problem with exercise that generates somewhere in the region of 1 kilowatt of body energy is that you find out the room can’t be cold enough to keep you from sweating profusely. Bikes that live their lives on cycle trainers are notorious for the incredible corrosion they see because of having the front end immersed in nice warm salt water.

  1. In the early-mid 90’s I was able to play with some VR headset tech on Silicon Graphics Onyx hardware.
    That lead to my mid-90’s vision for indoor exercise – a VR headset and a “motivation” app where bad things are trying to catch and get you. There would be different scenarios to keep it interesting. Barking dogs. Cretins in pickup trucks with chainsaws. Killer robots. Tax collectors. Terminator. Zombies. Maybe an undersea version with sharks, giant squid, etc. Of course there is also the potential of the virtual riding group (who could turn into zombies).

    Now that we are finally getting some lower cost VR, I think we’re going to be there soon. Should be fun, and healthy.

  2. One problem with most bike exercise attachments is that they rigidly hold the bike by the axle. That rigid coupling causes strain in the bike frame that is nothing like regular riding. It can lead to frame cracks and early failure. You really shouldn’t subject a good bike to those stresses. And if you do, it pays to be careful about torquing and twisting – most commonly due to hard acceleration.

    Roller designs like this one don’t suffer from that problem.

    1. I agree, don’t use your carbon frame on a regular trainer, use a cheap(er) bike that is set up like your real bike.
      Steel frame + titanium axle = no problem with torque.
      The nice thing about fluid trainers is that you can increase resistance and get a ‘harder’ ride out of it.

      1. He said “off the sides”, in other words what happens when you steer too far to the left and the wheel leaves the roller? This is something I’m wondering about too. That tire gets awfully close to the edge of the roller in the video.

    1. Balance and the inverted pendulum effect. Not gyroscopic effects from the wheels as some people believe. This setup would be like riding on a real road, albeit probably up a hill because the rollers do seem to dig into those tires quite a lot.

        1. It’s not an argument, it’s simply physics. Of course the gyro effect is there, but it does not help much. It really comes down to the inverted pendulum. Consider folding bikes with < 16" wheels and recumbent bikes with typically sized wheels. The small wheeled upright bikes can be just as easy to keep upright as normal bikes, while a recumbent is harder to keep upright because your mass in closer to the ground even though it ay have 28" wheels.

          Riding a bike is like balancing a broom on your finger (recumbent being a shorter broom/pencil!).

          1. ever tried balancing a bike standing still versus riding? Big difference. The small wheeled bikes spin the tires faster increasing the gyroscopic effect. They say riding a motorcycle at high speeds is even easier to balance (to the point of oscillations become a problem)

          2. I will agree with you on the distance creating assistance, ie the broomstick effect. For I have never ridden a recumbent and have no idea on the balance. Although I would think body position would have a lot to do with it as well.

          3. On low recumbent bikes, the balancing (of the inverted pendulum) is actually done by steering, because the rider is locked into his seat, he can’t move much weigh sideways, except for his head which just isn’t enough for balancing.
            This is why it’s difficult to balance a bike when standing still, not the absence of the gyroscopic effect. At very slow speed, the gyroscopic effect is practically zero, yet it is much easier to balance then when standing still.
            Note that the belt in the video makes the frond wheel and roller turn, so the contact point can be moved left and right by steering, so the bike can be balanced.

            Once you get used to the balancing, the short pendulum on low recumbent bikes also make it possible to drop in and out of corners at high speed.
            (Still on 16 inch, but now 3 wheels, so my dropping into corners has been replaced with drifting. Unfortunately any helpful layer of snow on my route gets quickly sprayed with salt…)

        2. It isn’t the gyroscopic effect. What keeps a bike or a unicycle upright is the ability to steer the contact under the CG. In the case of a bicycle it is a line between the front and rear contact patches. The contributor to natural stability on a bike is that the front tire contact patch trails the geometric steering intercept. You can see this by holding a bike perfectly vertical and pushing the frame side-to-side. The front wheel will turn the opposite way to steer the bike back to realign the front wheel with the frame. In track bikes that have no free-wheel cyclists can stay upright at near zero speed for long periods by placing the front wheel at a slight angle and pushing forward and back to keep the line of contact beneath the CG. In contrast, on a tight-rope, a moveable weight is required because the wheels are unable to change their path, so the CG has to be moved relative to the line of contact. This can also be seen by locking the handle bars from turning on a regular bike and letting it roll freely. It won’t stay up longer while moving than when left standing without forward speed.

          Riding on rollers is like riding on a narrow road. The key is to make sure the front wheel is directly over the front roller so that small turns aren’t amplified by the high curvature of the roller causing the wheel to slide to the front or rear of the roller.

  3. Having made a couple of these, it’s been my experience that unless you get lucky with your pvc and plywood you’re going to have a bumpy ride because of out-of-round rollers — and riding on rollers is hard enough without that. What I ended up doing was using fairly large rollers to reduce their surface speed, and borrowing some time on a friend’s 14×40 lathe to mount the rollers, on their bearings, between centers, and turn the outer diameter down just enough so that it was both truly round and truly concentric.

    1. Sounds good. Have you tried the rollers used for conveyer systems? I was just wondering if those would work as well. They are kinda like the rollers used on carpenter’s roll out tables. Although most I’ve seen don’t have precision bearings though. More like the ones used in garage door rollers.

  4. I am an everyday cycling enthusiast, but take offense at warm only cycling. We do everything else in winter, and then skiing snowmobile etc. Turned down handlebars alone are anti street and won’t work. Skinny tires?
    Have fun in the snow, then the streets are cleared and it’s business as usual. My rule of thumb, add 20F degrees to what ever it is out. Prepare to zip open as you heat up. The low teens with out a snow suit is about the lower end of comfort and utility.
    Salt sucks, we use calcium chloride and street-beets.

    1. What, you guys don’t have sanding trucks? Some of the bike trails in Boston during winter have sand on them instead of salt for safety reasons. I forget the exact composition but they also have something mixed into it that isn’t sand or salt but works as a soft of binding agent to help it stick to the snow and ground.

  5. Nicely done. I resaarched this last year and came across a build that used a front roller that had been turned to be slightly concave to help prevent the front wheel steering off the side of the front roller. Yeah, the latter is a real problem and why these things are relatively rare (plus the commercial ones cost a lot). Recommendation: try a commercial one before you build OR build it with a design that can be repurposed easily for another project.

  6. I do not have an instructable, I was too lazy to do it. The cords were bought from car accessories, that set with 4 cords for fixing lugages in the trunk. I shall put here, in short time, some explanatory photos.

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