If you want to do some indoor training you can get a cheap turbo for less than a hundred quid, so why would you splash over a grand on the Elite Real E-Motion rollers? Well it'll depend on what kind of rider you are, how you cope with indoor training and how much data you like to collect. And how deep your pockets are, of course.
Elite's E-Motion roller bed is the basis of this beast. It's a sprung unit sat within a static chassis, so it's capable of moving fore and aft underneath you. This is a bit disconcerting at first but feels quite natural once you get used to it.
The rollers have a lip at the side, and at the front there's also a guide roller (a skate wheel set horizontally, basically) to keep your front wheel on the right track. The whole unit is very well made and reassuringly stiff. If you haven't ridden rollers before than that's a learning curve obviously, but these are more forgiving than many.
Added to the chassis is an electronic ANT+ resistance unit. That unit will talk to your computer (or phone) via an ANT+ USB stick, which will also pick up other ANT+ sources such as a heart rate monito. That means you can use your PC to both record your rides and do a whole lot more. There's no Mac version of the software, although I used a Mac running VMWare Fusion and that was fine.
If you're looking at this trainer then one of the things you're probably interested in is the Real DVD collection, which allows you to ride famous climbs and such on screen. We got a few sent down with the trainer and set to work trying to haul ourselves up the Col du Galibier and the like. The rollers can react to changes in incline by increasing or decreasing resistance, and the video speeds up or slows down depending on what you're doing with your legs.
It all works pretty well, too. The resistance unit isn't capable of accurately replicating steeper climbs (more on that later) but it does a decent job of following the contours. You can have a Google Maps window as well as the video to follow the climb that way, and there's also other ride data such as ride time, heart rate, cadence (which the rollers can deduce from your pedalling), estimated power, climbing and so on. The power estimates of the software I found to be an overestimate, although they were consistent.
If you haven't got any DVDs you can map out your own route using the software's mapping interface which uses Google Maps to create your ride. This is a bit fiddly, but works fine. Again, elevation data from the map is used to change the resistance of the roller, although it's worth pointing out that the software averages gradient between plotted points. So if one click is at the top of one side of the valley and the next is at the other side, down a descent and up an ascent, you might find yourself pedalling on the flat. In the sky, effectively. If you want to replicate all the gradient changes of your favourite climbs then you'll need lots of points, closely spaced.
There's a new string to the Real software's bow, too: RealVideo. You can go out with your iPhone or Android device – or out in your car – and record video of a ride. When you upload it from your phone it'll be available to anyone who has the Real software to download and try.
We had a go making some videos of the climbs round Bath and it works pretty well. There's a certain amount of lag between the video getting to the top of the hill and the climbing stopping on the rollers, and descents can last quite a long way into the next climb if you're going fast. It's much more noticeable on a route you know. I tried a few from Italy and Canada and it's certainly interesting to be out on someone else's training route in your spare room. The system needs a far more fully-featured interface for finding rides you might want to do – at the moment it's essentially a list – but it has a fair bit of potential.
I found on routes I know that up to about six percent gradient the Real can cope, but after that you're just doing a six percent climb, whatever you're really on, which makes Brassknocker Hill a lot less fearsome. That holds true for Alpe d'Huez too, or whatever else you want to ride on video: it's not a true reflection of the difficulty of the climb. But it is fun, and repeatable, so you can race yourself up to the ski station.
There are fairly extensive training options on the Real software too. The benchmark test that Elite use is the Conconi test. It's a ramp test which plots your heart rate against increasing speed. The classic Conconi graph is a linear relationship between effort and heart rate until a certain point where the heart rate line will flatten; that's the point at which your effort becomes anaerobic.
Multiple Conconi tests on the same setup (it's pretty repeatable on the rollers) will show if your training is affecting your aerobic threshold for the better, and also whether you're able to sustain a certain speed for less effort.
As well as the Conconi test you can also set up the software to take you through preset training programs, or design your own. You can even hook up with a friend – either over the local network, or remotely – to race over a set course. Plus of course you can try to beat your own times. All in all the software is perfectly usable although it doesn't feel quite as slick as it could at times.
You don't have to do all this on a PC either; stick a dongle into your iPhone or iPad and you can use a lot of the training functionality (currently not video) through that.
That's a huge amount of stuff you can do, and it may be that it's the thing that gets you actually using the rollers. I know plenty of people that can discipline themselves to sit on the turbo and murder themselves on a daily basis with only the wall to look at, but I like a more immersive training situation and the Real E-Motion rollers are certainly that. They're good to ride on too, and quiet, and easy to slide under the spare room bed when you're not using them.
If you're happy just going after it on a turbo or using a non-linked video like The SufferFest to train to, then you probably don't need to fork out for these. If you haven't found an indoor training regime that you can stick to, and you like to pretend you're riding somewhere sunny, and you like to keep a log of what you're doing, then these rollers might be just the ticket. They're expensive, but if that expense is the difference between regular indoor training and no indoor training then it might be money well spent for you.
Fully featured indoor training solution with a big library of video courses and now the option to film your own.
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Make and model: Elite Real E-Motion Rollers
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Real E-motion combines for the first time Real software technology with the most innovative roller on the market.
The free-float frame with integrated braking system effortlessly maintains balance while pedaling, also during slopes or while standing: a whole new way of training for those who love free rides on rollers.
A new way of training for those who love the freedom and challenge of rollers. The free-float frame with integrated resistance system lets the rider effortlessly maintain balance while pedalling, even during climbs or when out of the saddle
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The most natural, fun and rewarding home training solution available! If this doesn't keep you motivated and riding over the winter nothing will!
By combining the freedom and all-body workout of rollers with E-motion stability and RealAxiom software Elite have made the ultimate in rollers
Comes with a full suite of real Axiom software for video courses, online racing and exhaustive training options
A unique double magnetic resistance unit acts on the rearmost 2 rollers giving a smooth but strong resistance that adjust automatically depending on what program you have chosen
E-motion system dampens the forces from rider movement
Rolling bump stops on front roller keep front wheel on the roller during intense sessions
Fully encompassing aluminium and thermoplastic frame ensures absolute stability in use
Improves balance and pedalling technique whilst building core strength
Parabolic roller drum profile for increased confidence
Fully sealed bearings for smooth, quiet operation
Supplied fully assembled
Very well made rollers, should last.
Overall they're very good, the resistance tops out at about 6% and the software sometimes isn't slick, but everything works and there's masses to play with.
Rollers will last and software is constantly being updated.
Sprung bed, parabolic rollers and guide wheels mean they're a shallower learning curve than many rollers.
Difficult to define: only really worth spending the money if you'll train more as a result. Certainly expensive but you're getting a lot of functionality.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Build quality, software features.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe if i was a bit richer.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they could afford it and it suited their needs.
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 100kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium 853
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.