Tour De France Stationary Bike – On the former, at least, it’s possible to pretend you’re on the road, but on the latter, it takes an exceedingly wild creativity to dream up the components that make actual biking engaging: the inclines, descents and ever-changing wind patterns.
But riding indoors need not be quite so annoying. A satisfying virtual cycling experience might still be ways off, but in the meantime, ProForm’s “Tour de France” bike represents a rather decent replacement.
The first and largest gap between the TDF ($1,500, proform.com) along with regular stationary bicycles is that TDF isn’t stationary. Unlike many exercise bikes, on which you only sit and pedal, TDF bicycles tilt up and down 20 percent in each direction, simulating hills.
And not just any hills, possibly, but Tour de France hills.
Programmed into every TDF bike — I tried one at Ohio Cycleworks at Akron — are several snippets of the program. Other, more regular paths, including yours around your neighborhood, can also be available, via the Internet-ready monitor along with a subscription to it’s Google Maps-based training software.
Also, there are gears. Just like your good old 10- or 12-speed, the TDF has real shifters, a vast improvement on those unrealistic buttons and knobs on conventional indoor bicycles.
You’ll need them, too. For along with roller-coaster landscapes, TDF machines also challenge passengers with “Intelligent Wind Resistance,” automatic software of counter-pressure based on weight and height. Along with that come wattage reports, data usually available only from expensive accessories.
Still, for all their simulations, TDF bikes are no substitute for the real thing. The experience is much more authentic than on most stationary bikes, but it still leaves a fair amount to be desired, not the least of which will be the side-by-side motion some newer forms of biking trainers now allow.
For one thing, the TDF is almost entirely silent. No joke, you can ride one close to a sleeping infant and not wake up him, thanks to some magnetic flywheel.
Whether this is a good or a bad thing is dependent upon your perspective. Should you dislike the sounds made by conventional stationary bikes and cycling trainers, you’ll be in paradise. If, however, like me, you happen to welcome a modest white noise, you’ll probably find the quiet unsettling.
Also, I need to take issue with the size of the TDF. At 6’6″, I am don’t expect things to fit correctly. However, the TDF I tried was not even in the ballpark.
Even at their maximum settings, the seat-post and handlebars might just accommodate someone 6 to 8 inches shorter than me. Why ProForm chose to rule out such a massive swath of the populace, I have no idea. All I know is I felt as though I was riding a child’s bike, one decked out with grown-up whistles and bells.
The major selling point of TDF is the capability to go through the pros and cons of just about any street on the planet. And that’s a huge plus. Given a choice between stationary pedaling on a conventional exercise bike and a virtual ride through rolling countryside, I would pick the latter just about every single time, all other things being equal regarding size.
But I’m not sold. In my opinion, someone still needs to figure out how to mimic not just the terrain and immunity of the outdoors but also the three-dimensionality of it: the end in your face, the cracks in the street, the obstacles to avoid, and the ability to shake off a friend.
Then might pedaling in place be actually and genuinely fun.