Neither the dedicated cyclist nor the New Year’s resolutioner hoping to shed a few pounds wants to ride indoors on one of those uninspiringly gray, bulky and dull stationary bikes, often aligned in columns at the local gym.
After all, it’s the intoxicating feeling of the wind in your face and the ever-changing landscape along the open road that inspires you to keep moving. Sometimes, though, snow and ice force even the most hard-core cyclist to pedal indoors. For these days we recommend the Centennial Edition of ProForm’s Tour de France Cycle, a fully customizable indoor training bike that is enriched with a combination of proprietary technologies to simulate the experience of riding outdoors on your road bike.
What sets the TDF Centennial ($1,999) apart from the peloton of generic exercise bikes and trainers is its iFit technology, powered by Google Maps. Riders purchase a membership to the website iFit.com ($99 a year), where they use Google Maps to draw out cycling routes anywhere in the world, from the intimidating mountain stages of the Tour de France, to the more casual neighborhood ride. The cyclist then hops on the TDF Centennial and turns on the bike’s high-resolution touch screen, which uses his home Internet WiFi connection to sync his personal profile and cycling route from iFit to the bike.
While pedaling, the biker sees on the touch screen the Google Street View of the route he has created. The bike, using geo-data embedded in Google Maps, automatically adjusts its resistance and position to simulate the mapped terrain. In other words, if you hit a mountain, just as in real life, the bike will either slowly lift in the front while ascending or tilt face down while descending. Unlike with conventional indoor bikes, the rider is forced to pay attention to his posture.
Designed by a team of engineers who are cycling enthusiasts themselves, the ProForm TDF Centennial, with its adjustable drop-down handlebars, saddle, and slim, steel frame, certainly looks and feels more like a road bike. Users can even replace the saddle and pedals with their own (clipless models, too), thus adding to the realism. A series of magnets, which are adjusted incrementally via handlebar shifters, replace the chain-and-derailleur system of a bike to provide a resistance that feels remarkably similar to biking on a road.
And if you’re feeling particularly brave, you can even choose to ride any of the 21 stages of last year’s Tour de France race. ProForm was actually able to record the Tour’s routes from the vantage point of the lead car, so you can see thousands of cheering fans lining the road. Just be sure to have a glass of Champagne ready for your victory lap along the Champs-Élysées.