On a weekday morning, I found myself in a Greenwich Village apartment seated on what could be this decade's secret weapon for indoor cyclists looking to improve power and pedaling efficiency - the wattbike. Officially launched in Great Britain in 2008, the company just began marketing the tool in the U.S. this last year.
After spending an hour with three company representatives and two of their machines, I believe that this product has the potential of defining the standard for all serious indoor cycling training programs. In many ways, the bike reminds me a lot of the Concept 2 indoor rower when it appeared on the market in the early 1980s and revolutionized indoor rowing training.
A number of other companies have impressive power-related cycling products either on the market or about to be launched. All excel in specific aspects, but fall short in others. If you want to train with power, but don't have an unlimited budget you will need to make tradeoffs. This product stands out, in my mind, as the optimal product for coaches, gym owners, or very serious triathletes.
Working over a number of years in close partnership with British Cycling, the founders of Wattbike now offer a product that separates itself from the competition on a number of dimensions:
- • Factory-calibrated power - If you own the bike individually, you will never have to zero out your power. This may seem like a subtle nuance, but it is extremely important when you care about the accuracy of your results. In a team or gym setting, this means that you can truly compare your output to your teammate in a training or indoor race setting.
- • Rich power data - Besides the base power output readings, the device also provides a very interesting graph of how smoothly you pedal. A figure eight pattern means you're pedaling in squares. A "sausage" pattern indicates round, smooth strokes like a pro. I found the instantaneous feedback on just a 10-minute ride extremely telling about my own performance.
- • Easy adjustments for a variety of body types - Ironically enough, a number of former rowers have been involved in the project as well. As a result, the bike adjusts to accommodate everyone from a petite rider to a 6' 10" inch heavyweight rower.
- • Durable construction - This simply feel like a well-built machine. Too many times, we spend money on good gear only to have it break 3 months into our training program. These machines felt like they will perform well with even in a gym environment.
- • Price-competitive with other similar products on the market - Unfortunately, if you want to train with power in any manner, the equipment and installation will run at least $2,000-$4,000. This bike I'm told will sell for close to $3,000, which is very price competitive with similar products on the market.
- • Feels like you are riding a bike - There's no way to properly describe this, except to say that the machine feels the closest to riding a bike in a stationary environment I have ever experienced. Short of training on the rollers, the machine simulates road feel better than any machine I have tried.
Like all products on the market, there are limitation with this machine as well. Software is the biggest weakness right now. The system only runs on a PC and does not offer course simulations that many people have grown used on other indoor systems. To learn more read the press release or go to www.wattbike.com/us/wattbike for more information and to find a dealer near you.
Author: Paul Tyler
Paul Tyler is the founder of Triessential.com and a contributor here at TRIJUICE. Triessential offers an iPhone application that provides training tips and motivation every day throughout the entire year.