Elite's E-motion rollers are far easier to ride than standard rollers thanks to their clever sliding sub-frame. Unlike with traditional rollers that can potentially spit you out the front or back if you have an overly rough pedal stroke, the E-motion's built-in movement effectively cancels out the weight shifts and helps keep you safely centered over the drums.
That slight movement – the total fore-aft range is about 18cm – makes for a much more natural and fluid feel than fully fixed rollers, too. If you've never tried the concept, it's a legitimate game changer.
Additional security comes from the flared drum ends and the twin urethane wheels sitting at the edges of the front wheel. Elite has used this so-called 'parabolic' drum shape for a while now but it was still easy enough to ride up and over them on earlier models if you weren't paying attention (search around on YouTube if you fancy a bit of entertainment).
With the E-motion's additional lateral wheels, though, you can veer all the way to the edge of the drums and bounce your front wheel right off without falling over as long as you're not swerving too erratically. In practice, we eventually learned that you can hit the bumpers surprisingly hard, too, with only a startling buzz to warn that you need to alter course.
Elite has also fitted the E-motion with an integrated and quiet three-step magnetic resistance unit. There's no remote function and the magnetic system feels artificially linear as opposed to a fluid or fan setup's more progressive curve but for riders seeking an all-in-one option just to help maintain their on-season fitness, it's a good thing to see. In addition, the three positions offer up a reasonable wide range, from nearly zero load for easy spins and pedal stroke drills to moderate levels of drag for hard tempo workouts.
Getting started on the E-motion is easier than usual, too. The concentric dual-frame designs yields a refreshingly wide platform on which you can rest your feet, plus the whole setup sits low to the ground. That doubled up architecture does result in a big 60x180cm footprint and a non-folding frame so be sure you've got the storage room (and space in the car) before plunking down the credit card. There are no adjustable feet, either, so you'll need to use wedges if you've got an old house with uneven floors.
Taken in total, the E-motion's security features allowed us to do some usefully intense efforts – something that's often tough to do on regular rollers – and we even tackled moderate out-of-saddle sprint drills with far less worry than usual. However, we still favor stationary trainers for hard workouts and as with most any roller, you still have to have a reasonably smooth pedal stroke to extract the most benefit.
US readers in particular may think they've seen this before and rightfully so as Elite licenses the floating cradle design from Inside Ride.
"Elite has licensed our technology, but is making their own version of the rollers and using the E-motion name as well," said Inside Ride's Larry Papadopoulos. "We found it too expensive to sell ours overseas and neither party felt it was wise to compete for the same customers, so as part of the licensing agreement, we serve North America and they serve Europe and the rest of the globe."
The only issue is that in tweaking the design for mass production, Elite has also filtered out some of the benefits of the original.
The Inside Ride version includes two supplemental full-width drums that further cradle the rear wheel. Out-of-saddle sprints are admittedly possible on both versions but we found you have to be smoother in the initial jump to keep from shooting off of the Elite – which can and will happen, as we discovered – whereas on the Inside Ride you can genuinely unleash to your heart's content with truly remarkable security.
Elite contends the extra rollers aren't necessary but we disagree. True, they're not absolutely necessary but their omission takes a good chunk of the magic away from the floating frame design.
"The two rollers surrounding the back wheel have not been included because, although psychologically they have a value, they are not essential," said Elite's Marta Segato. "Tests have been performed with numerous cyclists of different levels and the American inventor himself agreed that actually these are not essential."
We also found the Inside Ride version to just feel much more like really riding on the road with its smoother-moving cradle, built-in flywheel, and lathe-turned drums. In comparison, the Elite E-motion is a little jerkier, has almost no inertia, and there's a bit more vibration.
"The flywheel was not included because the feedback from our testers was that they didn't perceive a significant advantage," Segato continued. "The roundness of a lathe-turned drum is undoubtedly more precise. Nevertheless, in our product we can guarantee the tolerance on the roundness is very close to a lathe-turned drum. Furthermore, we can guarantee an excellent balance of the drum because our drum has a consistent thickness, while in a cylinder obtained from extrusion, then lathe-turned, this is not possible."
A good choice but we'd rather have the real thing
Unfortunately, the altered design doesn't carry a substantially lowered price tag, either, with the decidedly nicer Inside Ride version carrying a premium retail price of US$850 – Elite's version is actually even more expensive at €749. While the floating cradle feature inarguably lends the Elites a notable advantage over fixed-position rollers, we'd still rather have the real thing.