The New Bike episode :-) (aka Concept 2 Bike Erg vs Assault Bikes)

Happy Mother’s Day Everyone!

Hope everyone has had a great week and you guys haven’t missed me – actually, I kind of hope no-one even noticed I was away!  I have been off on school camp with what seemed like an infinite number of 11 year olds – bush walking, rafting, zip lining and rock climbing…it has been a full-on few days though I did appreciate the sleep-ins (I truly believe the longest 2-hours in the day are the hours between 4am and 6am but only if you get to sleep!).

There have been a couple of changes to the gym whilst I was away…the first is that the assault bikes are now ‘G-O-N-E’.  The second (of course) is that our new Concept 2 Bike-Erg’s have arrived (well, the first batch of them have anyway).  There have been a few comments bouncing around about the change and I thought I would try and cover them all off here:

1/.  The assault bikes are nearly 4-years old and needed to be replaced.  So the new bikes shouldn’t really be that big as surprise.  (I hope they aren’t anyway – I like to think we regularly refresh the gear in the gym and if there is new ‘stuff’ you need, please let me know).

2/.  The assault bikes are/were amazing in terms of a pure training tool.  But they were a bit restrictive and I have been finding more and more people who are struggling with shoulder issues are struggling to use the assault bikes – I wanted the new bike solution to be suitable for as many people as possible.  I know, I know – those people could just use a SPARC instead of an assault bike to protect their shoulder – but in all honesty, what percentage of assault bike effort was upper body?  10%?  20%?  In theory it is a ‘full-body’ workout but the reality is that the assault bikes were primarily a leg based activity.

3/.  As good a training tool as they are, the assault bikes require a LOT of maintenance.  Anyone who attends the gym during the day would attest that there would always be a least one bike in a state of ‘deconstruction’ as we took it apart, regreased everything, adjusted chains, re-aligned hubs etc.  Our time allocation for the bikes was 8x hours per week – and that is without anything ‘breaking’.

4/.  As good a training tool as they are, the assault bikes BREAK a lot.  Everyone had there favorite bike (thanks for the good times bike #8!) and would have found that bike out of action from time to time…from simple things like a snapped chain (Simple?  Hah – you try replacing one!!) to more complicated ones like a ‘blown’ bottom bracket.  I swear that each of the trainers could fill in on a ‘Tour De France’ team as a mechanic after nearly 4-years of bike repairs.

5/.  As good a training tool as they are, the ‘technology’ that comes with the bikes – aka the screen – was flimsy and unreliable.  We were as frustrated as each of you guys with the inability to reset the screens and the difficulty in programming in pre-set ‘challenges’…as for swapping between kilometres and miles, well – that was something you could do in THEORY but in practice, well, not so much.

When seeking out a replacement, we didn’t rule a line through ‘new assault bikes’ as a solution (and as trainers I think part of each of us wanted to keep them – they are a very challenging training tool!) but I did go looking for something that would hopefully be more reliable, offer a way of eliminating the ‘arms’ function to support people with shoulder issues AND could be used as a pure ‘spinning’ bike for warm-ups etc.  The inclusion of a proven technology solution (screen and interface) was also important – and this of course had to be resilient as we use the bikes A LOT in our sessions…in many ways we were fortuitous that Concept 2 announced the Bike Erg late last year just as I was searching for a replacement bike solution for Round 1.

All of which begs the simple question?  Why did I choose the Concept 2 Bike Erg for our gym rather than simply replace the Assault Bikes OR select another product?

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Firstly, the technology (screen and user interface) is EXACTLY THE SAME as those on our rowers and ski-ergs.  They are reliable, easy to use and EVERYONE KNOWS how to work them (though I am sure people will still hit the wrong button when swapping between a calories display and a distance display…it’s the ’UNITS’ button people!).

Secondly, these bikes aren’t chain driven – they are BELT driven.  What this means to you guys is that they are a LOT quieter than the assault bikes…which means you might be able to ride a bike in the background whilst a trainer is talking to the class.  What it means to us is that the chains wont be BREAKING and they wont need continuous adjustment.  We should be able to adapt a similar maintenance plan to the rowers and skis – a quick wipe over once a week + take the covers off every 4-6 weeks and vacuum out all the dust…bingo, done!  To say that having an extra 8 hours available every week to do things other than ‘maintain bikes’ will be valuable to us is a huge understatement.

Lastly, these bikes offer a great compromise (to me) between a spin bike and an air bike.  As good as the assault bikes have been, they are not great for extended distance efforts – anyone who can think way, way back will be able to tell you we included things like 10km bike efforts in gym challenges back in the day…I would have never programmed anything over 20-minutes effort on the assault bikes (my 300cal challenge used to take me about 23 mins and that was about as long as I would recommend anyone sit on one – just uncomfortable and guaranteed to leave your back sore and tight).  The ski-ergs adjust in 1-million different ways (seat up, seat down, handlebars up, handlebars down, handlebars forward, handlebars back) and you CAN get comfortable for longer distance efforts.  To me, you can easily go from long distance work to high power interval sprints on these Concept Bike Ergs which is awesome for me in terms of programming LOTS of different stuff for you to do.

What else do I need to cover?  Of course we had TWELVE (12) assault bikes and as I type this there are only SEVEN (7) of the Bike Ergs in the gym.  Rest assured, I have ordered 12 units and the remainder will be in stock ‘soon’.  We were promised only TWO (2) units in the initial delivery to Australia but received SEVEN (7) and I am confident we will receive the remainder of the order around the end of the month.  So on that front, please be patient as the balance of the bikes have been ordered and the deposit paid – we are just waiting on the second delivery to arrive in Australia.

OK.  Now funnily enough my blog ‘sketch’ for today said ‘new bikes (paragraph)’ followed by ‘cold, flu, and resilience (body)’…but as I have already topped the 1200 words mark I am going to say enough is enough – it is after all Mother’s Day and I am very much doubting reading this blog is anyone’s priority!  So I guess next week you get ready to hear all about colds, flus and resilience – hopefully I am over this stupid cold I have been lugging up and down the gravel hills of Nanga bush camp by then!

So – Enjoy the new bikes, and please do let me know if any of this sounds good (or not) with an email to Michael@round1fitness.com.au

See you in the gym,

Michael.