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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Travel Trac Technique PRO Alloy Roller Review VS. Kreitler Rollers

FIRST IMPRESSION:
Remove the cheap stickers and the rubber anti slip strip and underneath is a high quality roller made entirely of lightweight aluminum which is both rust resistant and strong.  This is a big reason why it is so durable and affordable.  Where they saved money, they invested money where it matters- choosing the most accurate machining process to cut the drums and frame.  For those who are unfamiliar with CNC machining, these machines can make consistent cuts accurate to much less than the width of a strand of hair.  Knowing that the Travel Trac was CNC machined helped me make my decision.  As far as looks go, the company stickers looked a little cheap.  No complaints though because using fancier methods to slap the company name on their product would only increase the price.  Stickers aside, this roller looks great in the eyes of anyone who appreciates an machined finish.  I got mine on sale for $120 in store at Performance Bike, but heard that they get as low as $100- not sure if that's an exaggeration though.



Portability:
Although I never considered portability as a priority, I was glad that Travel Trac was designed to fold in half.  As a little reminder, any roller that uses an elastic belt should always be stored loosely.  If the roller is left extended with tension on the belt, the belt will stretch and affect its ability to produce consistent force.  To prevent this from happening, fold the roller in half and wrap the belt around the legs to allow it to rest without tension.  


I have a small sports car, so I wasn't quite sure how well it would fit with enough luggage to last a five day trip, but it actually fit nicely.  Not sure if my Tetris skills helped, but I took advantage of the roller's fork shape and put it over my backpack so that the backpack would sit inside the fork.  I do have a little cautionary note for anyone who has leather seats... make sure that the rubber feet are facing the leather, not the hinge!  The hinge is pretty sharp and will probably make small cuts into the leather.

Use a 17mm socket.
Noise levels:
Because I lived in an apartment, I was worried that this roller would be too noisy.  To reduce noise/vibrations, I placed the roller on top of a stiff piece of carpet and underlayment foam.  At 10-15 mph, the rollers were quiet and didn't generate a significant amount of vibration on the ground.  The only noticeable noise was the metallic whirring of the tire on the cylinder.  The noise was so quiet that the thought of turning up the volume on the TV never crossed my mind.  I tested for vibrations by placing a wide glass of water on the ground to visually test for vibrations.  Result?  I never saw any ripples on the surface of the water.


About my first time on rollers:
Luckily, I never wiped out because I held onto the counter-top for the first 20 minutes like a baby. It was scary at first because the front and rear wheel felt very independent- I could steer the rear wheel through hip input and the front wheel through handlebar input.  The only other intimidating aspect the rollers was that steering seemed to be a lot more sensitive.  After I built up enough confidence to let go, I rode 15 additional minutes without support and felt surprisingly comfortable.


My advice for anyone new to rollers is to take your time and apply your weight evenly on the left and right side of the bike.  If you need to hold onto something for support, try not to lean towards the hand that's on the support structure.  Your center of gravity should always fall through the center of the bicycle.    If you let go of the support with your center of gravity off center (leaning), you will be instantly wrestle with the handlebar to get balance or fail completely.


WHY I CHOSE TRAVEL TRAC OVER KREITLER:

In this case, the only difference I saw between these two rollers is that only one of them spent a lot of money on branding and material selection (1).  Branding is the reason why Kreitler is known as a leader in the roller business.  By placing custom printed end caps into each roller, this immediately improves the image of the company and the perceived "quality" of the product.  The downside is that it costs significantly more to custom mold/ print end caps.

Steel... unless it's stainless, it will rust.  A nice way to prevent rust is to use a powder coat finish.  While aluminum is more expensive than steel, steel is more expensive in this case because of the powder coat needed to prevent rust.  Combine the price of the custom end caps and the powder coat finish and that explains the majority of the price difference.

Kreitler vs. Travel Trac... who wins?
In terms of performance, you really can't go wrong with either one- they have nearly identical performance.  They both require a belt that will eventually need to be replaced and both of them don't require any maintenance other than cleaning the drums after use.  In terms of price, there's no reason anyone should pay an additional $100 for the same performance.  Unless aesthetics is your main priority, I highly recommend Travel Trac.

Pros:
  • Best quality for the lowest price
  • Adjusts to 36" - 46" wheelbases
  • Durable/ lightweight all aluminum construction
  • Easy to install and use
  • Aluminum = no static!
  • CNC machined
  • Single piece drum = more accurately balanced drums
  • Aesthetics - I like the all aluminum look
Cons:
  • Frame may dent if tightening instructions are not followed.  To avoid this, hand tighten, then make an extra 1/8 to a 1/4 turn with a wrench.