Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: Real Ryder -Indoor Cycling Bikes

Real Ryder ABF8 
Indoor Cycling Bike -Review

Disclaimer: my theory on indoor cycling
As a group cycling instructor (fyi, not a Spinning® instructor, note the fancy trademark) I believe that the exercise we are doing should closely replicate the actual experience of riding a bike. 

This allows our participants to gain strength, burn calories, and do it while riding a bike.  Any additional movements that aren't applicable to riding a bike, should be excluded and are more risk than they're worth because actually increasing in strength on the bike will provide the caloric expense and functional strength that people are looking for.  While it may be fun to "hover" or "jump", it provides such minimal benefit that the risks to joints are not worth it.  Plus, it doesn't contribute enough to the act of cycling to make it worthwhile.

I was asked by a couple different folks at the gyms I work at for a review of the Real Ryder group cycling bikes, and finally got a chance to check them out. So here's what I've found:

Movement, but still stationary?:
It took some pondering on my part to consider the actual movement on the handlebars while on the road.  

The Real Ryder bikes seem to favor a turn right, go right type of movement.  But I know when I ride I push left to go left, this is called counter steering. A great example of how to turn is given here: 3 Step Cornering

Hard to explain, but here's a video of the movement of these bikes:
As you can see, the spring loaded movement creates resistance, and the bike essentially springs back to the center position. Also, the handles lead the bike into the direction it's turning.  Most similar to a very low speed turn on a real bike, which will develop bad form for corning in the real world.  This of course isn't ideal, but can be entertaining!

Really interesting movement, and something that would be fun to teach with, but not very fitting for real world mechanics.  Also, the Real Ryder feels much loose than a real bike (comparatively floppy!), this is probably due to centrifugal forces keeping the real bike rolling forward and upright. 

Arms vs Core:
The Real Ryder bike seems to sway more the harder you pedal, so folks with high power output may be dealing with a harder movement to control at the handlebars. I tested this at both 65 cadence and very high tension, as well as 200 cadence and much less tension.  The sway was much more pronounced at the high tension.

Turning with the hips is a crucial skill to develop to safely take corners and keep control of a bike outdoors.  In fact I'm pretty sure that's one of the reasons modern bike saddles are designed the way they are.  That skill can indeed be improved on the Real Ryder bike, but will require specific instruction in order to avoid just muscling the handlebars, an easier movement in general.

Also, using the core to turn (hips plus handlebar) will allow for a deeper and more useful workout than a stationary bike, which is well... stationary.  The only time we successfully integrate substatntial corework on a stationary bike is standing out of the saddle, or for some power drills in the saddle.

Tall and short:
I observed a participant friend who is close to 5 feet tall comfortably ride these bikes, but she was at nearly the bottom end of the height adjustment.  Another participant who is 6 ft 5 in, may not fit on these bikes, but we've haven't tested that

The saddle height adjustment is a retaining pin that fits in the seat post every inch or so. While stable this is not very accommodating for people with different height requirements.  Indeed, my perfect fit is halfway between two seat height positions unfortunately... 

A view from the cockpit

While sitting on the bike, you've got a multitude of hand positions. Including a tapered aero position that simulates my own aero bars.  Very cool hand positions, I'm glad manufacturers are starting to get there's more than race position, and beach cruiser position for hands.

Most of the time I was riding with my hands "on the hoods" or with a wide grip on the outside of the bars.  It's unfortunate that the handlebars do not slide forward to allow for people with gigantic legs, or with tiny legs.  This is another drawback that limits the size of the folks that can use this bike. While there are plenty of places to put your hands (again to muscle the bike through a "turn"?) it seems if you knees hit the bars while out of the saddle, you're just out of luck.

In the cockpit view you can also see the cherry red tensioner knob just begging to be turned up (heh heh) and two places for your water bottle (as long as it fits, no Nalgene bottles!).

A close up of the electronics:


  • RPM -Rotations per minute
    • RPM Avg -Average Rotations per minute

  • Heart Rate
    • HR % of Max -Based on input Age I'm guessing (220-Age)
    • HR Avg 
    • Garmin ANT+ Link -New tech from Garmin: more info

  • Training
    • Distance -always terribly innacurate
    • KCal -ditto, but still fun measures between workouts!


These bikes are fun.  They add a much deeper core training to the class, and have the latest technology but also limit the participant base.  Fad?  Maybe, but they're fun.

The trick will be getting folks to use their weak core muscles in addition to their also weak and injury prone arms and shoulders.  The instructor I spoke with mentioned she was dealing with shoulder issues and blamed the "turns" that she does on the Real Ryder.  I observed her muscling the bike handlebars instead of using her core as intended, so perhaps just bad form?

  • Durability: 8* (they seem commercial grade, but jury is still out)
  • Ease of use: 5 
  • Real world functionality: 7 

  • Benefits
    • Instability engages core more easily
    • More opportunity to train technique
    • It's harder than simply pedaling now!
  • Drawbacks
    • Loose unstable bike may not be safe for all participants
    • Potential shoulder issues for poor form
    • Develops poor corning techniques
    • Saddle height / Handle bar position limits participants