Tag Archives: winter training

My new winter toy. A review of the TdF pro-form spin bike

Chicago barely has any snow and temperatures don’t seem to be heading sub zero anytime soon, but, it is nonetheless “off season” for cycling enthusiasts. I wistfully sigh reading people’s cycling reports and viewing pictures of warm sun and bike friendly scenery as we have an abundance of grey sky and hibernating landscape. And did I mention? I hate indoor riding.

After years of spinning and compu-training, a friend suggested I try her Tour de France Proform indoor spin bike. I hesitated. Firstly, I didn’t want to support any product Lance Armstrong touted and secondly, how would this spin bike be different from spin classes? I guess Mr. Armstrong isn’t affiliated with pro-form any longer if he ever was, and this was no ordinary spin bike. So here’s a review of the 2012 TdF Pro-form bike for those looking for an inside alternative designed to push you through the winter blahs.

I’m not going to lie for $1495.00, it’s not a health club industrial strength piece of of equipment. I turned the bike around in my basement and somehow broke the pedal mechanism and required a warranty covered service call. Because it’s motor operated, the components are protected leaving me to wait for a service call. The flywheel is in the back and the resistance is electronically powered rather than manually activated with the knob the user turns. The bike isn’t built for the abuse health club equipment typically takes, so you need to be careful. I recommend buying an extended warranty because just by using it it’s going to require some kind of maintenance. The motor is in the back and I placed a towel over it to absorb any sweat that may fall. This was my friend’s suggestion since she shorted the motor from sweating into it. A towel over the back solved this.

My last criticism has yet to be resolved. The bike comes with a free year subscription to ifit.com. This allows you to globally access maps and ride other routes aside from the pre-progammed TdF stages. You can custom routes and ride “outdoors” anywhere in the world. It also tracks your miles, calories, time, etc. Sounds cool right? I mapped out one of my typical routes to maintain my legs all winter. Sadly, I have been unable to access ifit.com since I got it. This has been very frustrating. I replaced my home’s modem to a high speed access one and spent hours talking to technical support. I just received a new console for the bike on Friday and am waiting for a service guy to come out and replace it. Maybe I just have bad luck, or maybe I just got a lemon. I don’t know. If this problem is common, they should really reconsider using that aspect to promote the features of the bike, because it just doesn’t work. That being said, as soon as the counsel is replaced, I’ll let you know what happens!

Now that my frustrations have been purged, let’s talk about the good stuff! The bike contains 22 preprogrammed stage rides used from the tour at some point. They vary from 35 minutes to about an hour. I like to combine stages so I ride for an hour at least. Lately, I haven’t had much time to work out, so even if I only have 30-45 minutes, I can get a good ride in that time. The rides are climbs and descents; no time trials. The bike tilts forwards and backwards as this happens which is kind of bizarre and probably unnecessary to the workout, but attempts to mimic the experience of a ride. The grades max out at 20% up and down, but at this point, the highest grade I’ve tackled is 12% and that’s plenty. If I were doing Ride the Rockies again this summer (I’m undecided at the moment), this is a great way to work on climbing. I suppose I could achieve something close to this in a group setting, but I like doing this in my own time and space. Sure I could change gears and inclines, but if your goal is to improve, I find leaving it on the factory set incline and pop the gears up a bit, it’s quite challenging.

The console pad tracks your power (watts), calories, rpm, heart rate zones, include, gear and speed. Even if I bought a compu-trainer with a power tap, this bike is cheaper because my husband can also use it to his preferences. If we both bought power taps, etc., it would’ve been well over $2,000, a hefty chunk of change. Since I am a numbers geek regarding training, I like to see all the ways I can measure myself and keep myself honest.

The Tour de France stages are really fun. The climbs are challenging and there are many routes to choose. I bump up the gears on the downhills otherwise, there’s not much benefit other than spinning at a higher rpm. The amount of uphills outweight the down, so you’re forced to work.

Again, I would like to use my own maps and work outs to do some threshold training which I haven’t done yet this winter. I’m hoping by the end of January, all the components will work and I can report back happy.