Friday, March 26, 2010

Bikes That Go Nowhere

So, as part of my training program for the mountain bike triathlon coming up in five weeks I've been a regular at the gym. The combination of equipment, daycare and a large swimming pool a block and a half away is hard to resist. I'm not a huge fan of riding bicycles inside that don't move nor running on a machine that gets me nowhere (aka treadmill) but they do have their uses.
One thing that I really like about my new gym is that they have a small bank of bicycles from Expresso Fitness, they also have some recumbent versions but I don't really see much use in them at this point.

The Good:
The wide selection of courses is awesome.
The adjustable pace rider is nice.
The ability to race against yourself as a ghost is really nice.
The leaderboard for each course is a great motivator to kick tail.
The incorporated heart rate monitor and data on screen is total nerdvana for me.
The need to steer helps keep me engaged.
The gear shift adds to the experience as well.
The Expresso Fitness - User Portal lets me see how many times I've ridden, total miles and lots more. Really nice to be able to access my data online.
The ability to race against someone on the bike right next to you is cool and fun.

The Bad:
Get rid of the glossy screens, the reflections are very distracting.
I could use a dedicated perch for mp3 players.
If the bike is not on the network then you can't sign in and save your data to the server.
The heart rate monitors are only built into the narrow grip portion of the bars, it'd be nice if they were also on the extended bars

The Meh:
There's a button on the console to watch TV while riding. This does me little good since I'm much more interested in the data I'm creating by riding.
I'm not a fan of the sudden hard pedaling when you hit a hill. It goes from smooth to "crunchy" very quickly and is jarring.
I'm also not a fan of having to pedal to maintain speed on downhills. When I'm descending on a real bike, I do not have to pedal, I coast. If I stop pedaling on the Expresso then I slow down immediately (even on a 15% downhill grade) and that's just stupid.

Suggested Improvements:
Go one step further and make it even more like a video game and let me shoot the other cyclists or launch attacks on birds or something. Integrating triggers into the handlebars would be trivial to do and would make the riding even that much more fun.
Add an air circulation system, I sweat like a rutting pig while riding these bikes for any real length of time. Air blowing from near the monitor would add to the simulation experience too.

I give the Expresso bikes very high marks for an engaging and information packed workout. The bikes are fun to ride, deliver a good workout, good motivation and engage the rider in various ways that all equal a pretty good time.
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