Monday, June 1, 2015

What kind of bike?

Some of our research participants have asked us questions about buying an exercise bike for their home.  Perhaps you are looking for a recumbent bike like the ones used in our SpeedGeezer Training.  Before I share the details about the bikes we use, I'd like you to be aware of a few things.

The benefits of speed-work are not necessarily limited to a bicycle training.  Boxing, pool-based 'aerobic' classes and dance can all have speed-work in them.  An upright bicycle will work just as well as a recumbent bicycle if that is your preference. Also consider that there may be delivery charges and assembly charges when you get your bike. See also: Consumer Reports Exercise Bike Buyer's Guide.

Our Exercise Intervention Lab at the STAR campus has two types of bikes:

Semi-Commercial Grade:  Compared to home use, these are stronger, have better padding, and are generally heavier.  Ours were purchased from Leisure Fitness.  This purchase goes back to 2012 and we bought two SPIRIT XBR95 bikes, with rubber mats to protect the bike and the flooring.  The bikes have held up very well and our exercise participants seem to be comfortable using them. We did not consider Full-Commercial Grade at that time because we do not have the heavy flow of exercisers.

Home Fitness Grade:  One bike was bought from Dick's Sporting Goods at considerably less cost.  This was also around 2012 and we bought the PRO-FORM 315 CSX.  This bike has held up well but it shakes just a little more than the others during intervals of low resistance speed-work.  Ideally, the shaking should be minimized as the rider learns to make their pedaling more smooth.  If you think you will need to move the bike around frequently in your home (out of the way), these are generally lighter.

Our considerations:

1.  RPM display:  We like to use revolutions per minute (RPM) as feedback to the person exercising.  Most bikes will display this on the computer console.  If the bike also displays power in Watts, this is a bonus.  Keep in mind that we are keeping records of these values for scientific purposes - you might not need them.

2.  Step-through not over: Sit on the different bikes and try them.  Is the bike easy to mount?  Look for a wide open step-through area between the seat and the front console.  Compared to the bike at the top of this page, the bike to the right has no step-through area.  With elevated fall risk, we do not want our exercisers to have to step over a big piece of the bike to sit on it.   

3.  Big feet and heel contact: Some of our participants with larger feet have difficulty keeping their heels from hitting the central housing near the pedals and cranks.  You might try pedaling slow and fast on a bike to see if this will be a problem for you.  Ideally, you would want your feet to be aligned straighter so this does not happen.  This problem almost always went away after a few exercise sessions.

4.  Good toe straps: Sometimes with Parkinson's disease, the pedaling motion isn't as smooth as it could be and some people have had trouble keeping their feet on the pedals, even with the straps.  On one bike we replaced the factory pedals with bike shop pedals and toe straps.  We have even taped the feet in place on the pedals before.  Anything to make the exercise possible.

For our exercise participants who are older adults and people with Parkinson's disease, we like the recumbent exercise bicycle.  There is lower fall risk compared to the upright bicycle.  Don't buy a bike you won't use.  If you really want prove that you value your health, replace the couch in your living room with a piece of exercise equipment. 

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