If you are a cyclist who practices indoor training, you have probably heard someone mention the words ‘rocker plate’. Maybe they even said that’s it’s a life-changer for your indoor practice. But what is a rocker plate? How does it work? And should you buy one?
Let’s dig into the details!
What is a rocker plate?
A rocker plate is a device on which you place a turbo trainer to get a more realistic road feeling when indoor cycling. It allows the bike to tilt on the sides, and some can even give an extra fwd/aft motion.
There are different types of rocker plate designs. The most common one uses two boards of solid wood separated by inflatable balls. The turbo trainer is then securely attached to the top board. Some rocker plates also include linear bearings and springs to give an fwd/aft motion to the bike.
What are the benefits of having a rocker plate?
1. Give a more realistic road feeling to the rider
Generally, riding inside doesn’t feel very comfortable in comparison with riding outdoors on the same bike. But why?
Indoor, the bike is mounted onto a turbo trainer which makes it very rigid and completely static. This increases the loading and pressure on the saddle, as well as on the muscles. The shifting from the natural motion of a bike outdoors gets rid of this excessive loading, as the bike is no longer restrained.
This is what the rocker plate simulates.
2. Improve comfort on the saddle
Riding your bike on a turbo trainer is less comfortable than outdoors. You are really static on the bike and therefore the pressure on your bottom is more intense than outdoors. Also, when sweating indoors, you do not benefit from the wind to dry you up and evacuate the sweat. So your bottom will also have to deal with more friction and humidity.
Without a rocker plate, it is not uncommon to get saddle sores while riding on the turbo trainer. It can lead to chafing, blisters, and pimples. And this is really uncomfortable to the rider.
The rocker plate will help you relieve the saddle pressure thanks to the side motion. The fact that the bike is no longer fully static and tilts puts you in a position where you adjust your position on the saddle all the time (very slightly) but it relieves the pressure on your bum.
From my personal experience, this works very well. I had really bad soreness from the saddle when riding indoors until I got a rocker plate.
3. Reduce the pressure on the rider’s knees
When I increased my training volume on the turbo trainer before getting a rocker plate, I was regularly having a small pain on the inner side of the knee, which led to “pes anserine tendinopathy”. Something that never happened outdoors, even though I rode thousands of miles each year. The excessive strain from the rigid bike setup indoors was the cause of this injury.
The rocker plate will help you relieve the excessive strain on your knees and protect them.
4. Improve pedaling technic
With a rocker plate, you can practice your pedaling technic (while seated) as your muscles will work in the same way as outdoors. An extra benefit is that you cannot fall off your bike even with one-legged drills :p
5. Engage the upper core
One great advantage of rocker plates is that to keep steady and maintain balance on the bike, you will have to engage your core muscles. Something that you do naturally when riding outdoors but that turbo trainers completely remove.
Of course, you could always use a set of rollers to work on your upper body indoors.
6. Reduce stress on the bike frame (and risk of snapping it)
On a static turbo trainer, the bike is rigid and attached through the axle. When you stand up or push high powers, you generate some side loads to the axle and also some torsion into the bike frame. Your bike frame was not designed for these types of loads as outdoors the bike is moving freely.
Carbon frames are particularly sensitive to side loadings, as they can only take loads in the direction of the fibers.
Using a rocker will drastically reduce the risks of cracking your bike frame. The motion provided by the rocker plate will reduce the side loads seen by your bike.
7. Improve the pedaling feeling when standing
Standing up on a static indoor trainer is no fun! It feels very weird and actually it is even difficult to pedal correctly. The rocker plate, even without fwd/aft motion, will give you a more realistic feeling when standing up. You will be able to shift your weight side to side, like outdoors. You can freely lean on the side.
8. For fwd/aft motion: improve stability and feel during transitions between seated and standing positions
Some rocker plates include forward and aft motion. This is great for transitions between seated and standing positions. It will feel more natural as the bike will naturally move with the motion from your body: getting up or down.
What are the cons of rocker plates?
1. Incorrect standing up pedaling form
It is quite common with a rocker plate to take a terribly incorrect out of the saddle form. Outdoors, when going out of the saddle, your bike will lean away from the leg which has your pedal down. But indoors, the opposite happens because you don’t have much motion.
The main difference is that the bike’s natural position when riding outdoors is falling over. While indoors, the rocker plate pivots from one point side to side, which means that the natural position of the bike is at the center (straight up and down).
To avoid this issue, you will need to adjust the tightness of the rocker plate. A good design is one that allows a large motion side to side with a big amplitude of movement.
There are different types of rocker plates but the most efficient ones are full-length rocker plates, which means that the board is longer than your bike and larger than your turbo trainer. In comparison with a trainer mat, it will be a little bit longer and a bit wider than the mat. You cannot walk on it as it is unstable. So the space taken by the board cannot be used when not riding the bike.
If you wish to buy a rocker plate off the shelf, they fall into the following price range: $250 – $675.
However, rocker plates can also be a DIY project. It is not very difficult to make. But you will require time and space to make it. The price, in the end, should not be over $300 if you make it yourself unless you are doing a very fancy design.
Is a rocker plate worth it?
I have had a rocker plate for almost two years now. I rode about 2500 miles on a turbo trainer with a rocker, and about the same before getting one. And I LOVE having a rocker plate!!
The rocker plate has changed my motivation to go training indoors. I went from 1h indoors rides to up to 6h (ok that happened only once 😉 ). But with the rocker plate, I can do easily 2h on the bike without noticing the time going by.
It has also helped with my repetitive knee injury.
So YES! A rocker plate is worth it!
If you are looking for one, I have written an article about the best rocker plates here.
Where to buy a rocker plate?
USA based makers and retailers
|Maker / Seller||Photo||Price||Compatibility||Motion|
(previously named LifeLine)
|$420||Most trainers incl. Kickr Climb||Sides only|
|ROCK Indoor Training||$600-$650||Most trainers incl. Kickr Climb||Sides only|
|Inside Ride||$449||Wahoo Kickr & Core only||Sides + Fore/Aft|
|Velocity Rocker||$675||Most trainers incl. Kickr Climb||Sides + Fore/Aft|
UK based makers and retailers
|Maker / Seller||Photo||Price||Compatibility||Motion|
|TurboRocks||£349-£579||Most trainers incl. Kickr Climb||Different models with/without fore/aft|
|Omnirocker||£379-£579||Most trainers incl. Kickr Climb||Different models with/without fore/aft|
|Cel-UK||£292||Most trainers incl. Kickr Climb||Sides only|
|BeSpoke||£349-£449||Most trainers |
NOT incl. Kickr Climb
|Different models – sides only|