From Bicycle Retailer
Roller Racing Sizzles in Chilly Climates
AMES, IA - Roller racing in bike shops, malls and seedy bars is
picking up steam. Though it may not be as colorful as watching pigs
race, for cyclists, it’s a close second.
“You have to be able to laugh at yourself because you&rsruo;re going
nowhere but you’re killing yourself getting there,” said Steve
Lauber, store manager of Bike World in Ames, Iowa.
The shop’s race team participates in the Iowa Bike Racing
Association roller series over the winter and sponsors a group
roller ride at the shop once a week where riders can bring in a
trainer or rollers and roll with a crowd.
“We’ve been involved in roller racing for over six years now and
while I wouldn’t say the sport is exploding, we are seeing more
interest in the weekly shop rides and the Iowa roller series,&rdquo
Greg Harper organizes Iowa’s USA Cycling sanctioned roller race
series and has been involved in the sport since 1984. The Iowa
series is raced over two miles on Kreitler rollers with the Killer
Headwind doors ripped off for extra resistance.
“Every year we get a big group of new people in the series, though
there is a fair amount of turnover. Since USA Cycling considers the
events to qualify as races, that keeps new licensed riders
interested in competing,&rdquo said Harper, who owns Harper’s Cycling &
Fitness in Muscatine, Iowa.
Harper stages some of the roller events in shopping malls around the
state, which he said intrigues shoppers. However, he’s not sure how
many of them follow through to try racing themselves.
USA Cycling sanctions about 20 roller races, most in the East Coast
and Midwest. The races are becoming popular even in warm-weather
areas like California and Texas.
“There is quite a bit of potential for growth there as they are fun,
challenging and cheap. The cost to license one of the roller races
as a non-competitive training ride is only $15 and $25 as a
competitive race,&rdquo said Andrea Smith, communications manager for USA
Goldsprint roller racing, which consists of fork stands, 200- to
500-meter distances and lots of beer, is growing in popularity with
messengers and urban cyclists. Not surprisingly, bars are a more
common venue than malls or bike shops.
Unlike full rollers used in distance events, Goldsprints clamp the
fork so sprinters can focus on turning circles as fast as possible.
London-based clothing company Rapha, which opened a U.S. subsidiary
in Portland, Oregon last year, is promoting Rollapaluza-style races
in the United States. The races are similar to Goldsprints except
competitors are represented by hands on a giant clock face. Just
like the roller races a century ago, the hand that gets around first
“We sponsored our first race back in February, and then we sponsored
a race at Mellow Johnny’s in Austin and at the Oregon Manifest bike
show, and they are definitely getting bigger,&rdquo said Carey
Schleicher-Haselhorst, customer service representative for Rapha.
Schleicher-Haselhorst said Rapha added a cyclocross segment to the
Oregon Manifest bike show Goldsprint, staging the first Rapha ’cross
After completing their roller sprint, competitors grabbed a 16-inch
Zoom-Bomb adapted kid’s bike and headed out on a short course of
run-ups and barriers. The first one to ring the cowbell after
completing the course won.
“OK, it was more of a show than a competition, but everyone had fun.
We had quite a few race teams competing at the Manifest, some in
full race kit, and others, well, they dressed how they wanted,&rdquo
The growing popularity of roller racing is not lost on Mountain
Racing Products, manufacturer of Kreitler rollers. Kreitler’s
bombproof designs make them a popular choice for Goldsprint and USA
Cycling-style distance racing.
But retailers and promoters cite the lack of dedicated roller racing
hardware and software as damping the activity’s popularity. A room
full of riders riding rollers is not nearly as interesting as four
riders racing against each other on a projected road course.
“Support for these races is a big part of our business now, and we
are working toward offering a complete roller racing system,&rdquo said
Paul Aieta, vice president of sales and marketing for Mountain
Harper uses an old system produced by Al Kreitler years ago. But he
said it’s a DOS program that only works well because he has spent so
many years fine-tuning it.
Race promoter Open Sprints developed a hardware and software
solution for its own roller events based on an open source Arduino
processor. The company offers circuit boards for sale and has sold
about 11 to date.
“The system we came up with works with most rollers. And we are
keeping it open source so everyone can refine what we have done,&rdquo
said Luke Orland, hardware designer for Open Sprints.
Orland admits, however, that since his company only provides blank
circuit boards and a bill of materials, it takes a nerd to put it