Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spinning at Lifetime Fitness on the new FreeMotion Indoor Cycle Bike

Background

This post is about my experience  with the new FreeMotion Indoor Cycle Bike at Lifetime Fitness in Commerce Township, MI at the March 26, 2014 5:15AM spin class, with Maria D as our instructor. This was the first class LTF held with the new bikes.

About Me / My Gear

As a disclaimer, I don't work for Lifetime Fitness nor was I paid to write this review by FreeMotion Fitness. I am a member of LTF and pay my monthly dues. This is my personal review. 

As for gear, I was riding either the FreeMotion s11.9 or s11.8 indoor cycle bike (not sure exactly which) with the Power Console, SPD biking shoes, a Polar H7 Heart Rate Monitor, with a USB stick attached to the console, and an iPhone 5 (more on that later). I also use Fitbit, Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal to track my health data.

The Bike



First off, the bike is super quiet compared to the old bikes. Eerily quiet. When the music was transitioning from song to song, you could barely hear people working out, even though we had 46 people in class today. The ride was also very smooth.

The bike has all the normal adjustments - seat height, seat forward/back, handlebar height, and handlebar forward/back. I had an issue with my bike where the handlebar kept getting pushed back. The back/forth of the handlebar is just pressure locked - there isn't a metal notch like the height adjustment. I didn't have this problem with the seat.

The saddle was comfortable. No issues there.

Compared to the old bikes, there isn't a good place to put your towel. You are pretty much keeping the towel right on the handle bar, while on the old bikes, you had a spot on top to keep the towel. Also, the water bottle holder is along the frame, compared to next to the handlebar on the old bikes.

My SPD shoes clipped in without a problem. They stayed clipped in securely throughout the whole ride.

Robert, the LTF activity director, talked to the class before hand. He gave a quick debrief on the bikes, also let us know that people can not remove the pedals from the bikes (apparently people had issues clipping in) and that the handlebar for the bike is programmed to each bike frame - you can't mix and match parts if you are having an issue with your bike.

While riding, one big difference is that the tension adjustment on the bike has a much wider range than the old bikes. I would have to spin the knob full circle multiple times to get the same result as I would have gotten before by just quarter or half spinning on the old bikes.

The Power Console



Here is the pretty cool part - the power console. The old bikes had zero visibility to any data - you pretty much just had to "guesstimate" your RPMs. With the console, you are seeing real time data on not only RPMs, but watts, speed, heart rate (if you have a heart rate monitor) time and distance.  The console also has a backlight by pushing the light button.

Before I started pedaling, I put my USB stick in the power console. I then hit Stage on the console and it recognized my USB stick. One other note on the USB stick - try to bring one that doesn't have a light on it. The person who was riding next to me also brought their USB stick. We were both in the front row, and it flashed every so often when the console was writing data. This was a bit annoying to us, and I'm sure also to Maria, who had to see it for the whole class (we only saw it when the video screens were lifted up and were facing the mirror).

When you first turn on the Power Console, it is in Warm Up mode. You only have the opportunity to pair your HR monitor during this warm up period.  Also, data isn't captured to the USB stick in warm up mode. Further, only your real time data is showing - the clock isn't moving nor do you see an average for each of the data capture points.

To start recording data, press stage, which takes you to stage 1. Think of each Stage as a distinct interval of work. During class, I took the 10-15 minute actual class warm up as stage 1. Then as Maria had us doing different sets, I would push the stage button so it would capture/subtotal the data for each stage on the USB. Plus the averages would get reset on the console display in each stage.

As you are doing stages, if you want to see your ride totals, push the Avg/End button, which displays total time and distance, plus max and average for each of the other data points.

To end the ride, press and hold the avg/end button until you see the word Results on the console.

One thing that we noticed, and Maria commented to us, was that we need to not be a slave to the monitor - that we should glance at it on occasion or as needed, not really stare at it the whole ride. I do think it was more of a novelty this morning, and people won't constantly stare as much in future rides.

Here is a good 10 minute tutorial on the console:



One other thing that the console is capable of is to pair with an iPhone/iPod that has an ANT+ adapter in order to show more data on the iPhone screen (plus track and capture the data). I didn't test this out because I don't have the ANT+ adapter - which is $40-50, plus the adapters on the market are all made for the 30 pin iPhone connector. Since I have an iPhone 5, I would also need the $30 30 pin to lightning adapter. Also required is the $0.99 app from FreeMotion. Lastly, with the bikes as they are set up, there really isn't a good place to keep your phone next to the console. The only place would be along the frame, which is too far to be looked at regularly. FreeMotion has a YouTube video that goes over this process, although in that video, it shows a holding spot for the phone next to the console, which we don't have. Here is that video:



From what I've read, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5 have ANT+ built in, so those phones should be able to pair with the console, although I don't believe FreeMotion has an app for Android.

The Data on the USB Stick

The part I was most interested in was the data capture. Me being a techy geek, I wanted to see what data was stored. What I received was a mix of data that is difficult to analyze. The console records to the USB stick every second. The file is a CSV file which can be opened up by Excel. However, in between each stage, the file writes out the averages and max of the data points for that stage. That data is interesting, but how it is formatted, and with it being right in the middle of the file, makes analyzing/charting the data more difficult.

In addition, one key element that is missing from each row that is written is the actual stage number for that second. When visually inspecting the file, you can see the groups of records from stage to stage, but Excel can't recognize it. So I modified the file to include a column to identify the stage. I also further removed all the averages/max for each stage from out of the file and placed and transposed those values on a separate tab. This was a lot of manually intensive work that I would not expect to be doing after each ride in the future.

My file also had some bugs in it - there was about a minute of data missing from the file at the 14 minute mark, which also included not having the stage 1 summary in the file. In addition, 13 different data points had 0 for MPH and watts. Lastly, the last stage summary is not written out to the file - only the ride total is.

Once I removed the summaries from in between the data points, and added a stage number to each row, I was able to generate some interesting charts. I saw where we did sprints, and how that impacted my HR and wattage. Also saw where we did hills and those impacts to HR and wattage.

I've linked the raw CSV file as well as my formatted data file via Google Docs which you can download. Note that the time stamps in the Excel chart are goofy - this is how Excel interprets the time. I tried to correct it but it wouldn't apply to the chart, even though it applies to the table.

I was able to take the summary data and input it into Runkeeper, which automatically synched to MyFitnessPal and Fitbit. One thing to note is that the calories the console reported was way off to what the other apps said I burned (about 4X off). I believe the other apps would be more accurate as those have my weight, which doesn't get inputted to the bike console.

Summary

Overall, I was super excited about trying out the new bikes and I wasn't disappointed. Having the real time data makes you work out harder - you can truly see how many RPMs you are going and you can work to stay consistent with your target range. The smooth, quiet operation was real nice (though with them being new bikes, they better be - let's see how long that lasts). The handlebar that wouldn't stay locked was a bit of an annoyance.

There are quirks in the data that is stored in the USB drive and it is time consuming to correct, so I probably won't be using that much - just using it to capture the final ride data for me to input into Runkeeper. Hopefully a better iOS solution comes along that doesn't require spending an additional $80 in hardware - or for the android folks, an app they can use.

If you thought this review was helpful or if you learned something new, would you consider making a small donation to the Muscular Dystrophy Association? We just participated in their annual MDA Muscle Walk at Ford Field over the weekend and we can still collect donations, which help so many people in the community.

Thanks!

Steve