With the coming of the pandemic and the now seemingly permanent working from home situation, what passed for an exercise regime with me… I worked at a nice campus up in the hills in a forest, so I went walking every day… fell apart pretty quickly.
So we bought an piece of exercise equipment. A Schwinn 270 recumbent exercise bike. I am going to throw my wife under the bus here and tell you that she chose it because she thought the seat it came with would be more comfortable than a bicycle saddle. And I suppose it was, but only marginally so. But that was what we had so I made use of it, trying to make at least the minimum government definition of “exercise,” which is working out for 20 minutes at least three times a week.
I kept at it, but it wasn’t fun. I am not a big fan of exercise. Hard work pays off in the future while laziness pays off right now, right?
Eventually my wife got around to using the bike… about a year later… and she didn’t like it. She wanted to work out with her buddies who all had Peloton bikes and used the Peloton app and all that. The 270 came with Bluetooth connectivity, but only with the very lame and limited app from the company. (I think Bowflex owns the Schwinn brand for exercise equipment.)
That and the fact that the seat wasn’t all that comfortable got us on the search for a new exercise bike. Her friends pointed at another Schwinn model, the IC4, which is billed as a Peloton compatible, fully functional with their app and several others, for less than half the price. It had good reviews and the local sporting good store had one on display for us to sit on, so we went with that. We even managed to fob off the 270 on my brother-in-law, which is what brothers-in-law are for, right?
So my wife was now happily pedaling with her pals and I had an opportunity as well. It is a “bring your own screen” device, but it has a spot to put your iPad or other tablet above the handlebars (which I managed to put on backwards initially when assembling the whole thing, yet got everything to work) so your app can use it to connect to the bike.
I had heard from Potshot about Zwift, a training app for bicycles.
After his April Fools post about the app, I asked him about it and we tinkered about a bit trying to get the old 270 running on it, but it was not to be. This is where I learned about the limitations of its Bluetooth and app compatibility.
The Schwinn IC4 was said to be fully compatible with Zwift, but you never now how compatible until you get there. I didn’t know that much about Zwift when I started out, and I honestly don’t know all that much now, but I did learn about the whole power meter aspect of its connectivity.
I had played around with a cadence counter back with the 270 and actually got myself hooked up to the Zwift app, but counting how many times the pedals go around isn’t enough. I could pedal for all I was worth and maybe break 7 MPH because there was no power meter output.
The power meter is what measures the effort you’re putting into pedaling. Without one the Zwift app assumes a static, and very low amount.
If you have a smart trainer, which is one of those things you mount as the back wheel of your bike in a static setup, it measures your effort, translated into watts, which can be adjusted via your gearing and the amount of resistance the smart trainer is applying to your effort.
The Zwift app lets you ride around in a virtual world… I probably should have mentioned that earlier, though I suspect you might have guess that… and the connection with a smart trainer lets it change the amount of effort required as your avatar goes up and down hills. It can be quite realistic as I understand it. But I haven’t owned a bicycle since my last one was stolen when I was 13.
The Schwinn also has a power meter, or at least feeds effort information that lines up as power to the app. I do not, however, feel any change in effort when heading uphill or down. The only way I feel a change is if I adjust the resistance dial on the bike itself. When I dial it up, by power output for a given number of revs goes up as well.
I am honestly not sure if this is an advantage or disadvantage. As soon as I am going uphill my speed slows down because my power output and cadence remains the same. So hills are not actually more work for me, unless I make them so. But they do reduce the distance I travel.
The bike itself knows nothing about it and has its own tracking method for distance, which uses resistance and cadence to calculate speed, which multiplied by time gets me a distance traveled. But that is completely flat terrain based, so the bike and the app can give me some different results at the end of a ride.
So I have gotten myself setup and riding. I have met or exceed my minimum weekly minimum exercise goal with Zwift so far. It does the things I want it to, like showing me my individual workouts and keeping track of my overall effort. And it even has levels and achievements.
Meanwhile, the IC4 is also frankly much easier to ride than the 270 ever was… take that recumbent bike zealots… so gets used more, and takes up less space as well.
So you can find me pedaling around a virtual world. Next time a bit about where I ride and what keeps me going.