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Unholy rollers


I was strolling downtown the other day when a poster caught my eye.

“KC SPRINTS TAKES LAWRENCE,” it read. “Premiere Bicycle Roller Racing.”

I’m familiar with bicycle roller racing, though maybe not the premiere version.

Many moons ago, when the world was sepia-toned, our forefathers used to climb — indoors — aboard bikes sitting atop huge cylindrical drums hooked to primitive gauges. They’d race head-to-head, pedaling furiously but going nowhere, with the winner being the cyclist who went the “farthest” in a set time.

The rise of the bike-messenger culture and all its wannabes recently sparked a renewed interest in roller racing — minus the monochrome.

Today, roller-racing events are held throughout the country.

I never realized there were regular races as close as Kansas City, Mo., and never figured the phenomenon would make it to Lawrence.

But April 30, the Replay Lounge will host roller racing. Registration is a 7 p.m., with races to start at 8.

Now, I’ve never seen a live roller race, but it seems like a good time.

First of all, races tend to be held in bars. I’ve heard that sometimes folks imbibe a few too many at bars and tend to enjoy themselves more than they would if they were sober. I’ve also heard some saloons have various tests of skill inside. Roller racing is like that. Drink a few, lighten up, challenge a buddy (or enemy) to a grudge match. Kinda like karaoke on wheels. Or, in this case, wheel, since the front of the bike is rigid.

Did I mention these events appear to be booze-fueled? For proof there’s the fact that Lawrence’s races list four sponsors. Two are makers of bikes and bike parts. The other two: PBR and Honor Vodka.

Pair a heavy emphasis on boozing with an athletic-ish endeavor and jocularity is sure to ensue. (At roller races, there’s always a trash can by the competitors in case the beer needs to come back out.)

Honestly, I think roller racing would be more entertaining on conventional bike rollers.

Conventional rollers consist of three cylinders about a foot and a half wide upon which the bike and cyclist must balance. The spinning back tire propels the cylinders. The resulting fight against gravity has been likened to cycling on ice, but personally I find that a bit understated.

Riding rollers is said to improve a cyclist’s “spin,” or his ability to pedal smooth circles instead of mashing unequally on the pedals. An uneven pedal stroke or even the slightest lapse in concentration usually results in the bike and rider toppling to the ground.

And even though all of my crashes from atop the rollers have come at speeds considerably slower than any I’ve had outside — like, oh, technically zero mph — they’ve hurt just as much.

I was discussing roller riding in my basement with a cycling coach I know, and he shook his head.

“Those are dangerous, man,” he said (and this is a man who has spent thousands of hours in the saddle. “I know a guy who was riding in his living room and fell off, into his glass coffee table. He hurt himself badly.”

See where I’m going with this?

Put the roller racers on real rollers — not the training-wheel-safe kind with the fixed fork — and pour on the beers and then let ’em race. Now that would make for some entertainment.

Regardless, the April 30th event at the Replay sounds like a good time, too, if bikes and beers are your thing. I know they’re mine.


Robert Kerley 8 years, 2 months ago

I think they use a modified roller with the forks mounted. So it should be safe in that way...

broadpaw 8 years, 2 months ago

this could be a really good time, in theory. let's just hope it's about the friendly competition and not lawrence's throngs of hipsters comparing only slightly obscure bike parts for uniqueness points.

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