Exercising at home shouldn't be a deafening affair â€“ especially if you want to keep family members sane as well as still watch TV while sweating. That noise is one of the problems with an air-resistance bike â€“ who wants to sit next to a whirring propeller on a puddle-jumper. Bikes that utilize magnetic resistance, such as the Horizon Fitness Express 200, offer a much quieter ride. While recumbent bikes have grabbed all the attention lately, we appreciated that Horizon has updated the classic upright bike with new technology since not everyone wants or likes the recumbent position.
The Express 200 is part of the Horizon Fitness M-Class of home exercise equipment. Products in this line are impressively durable for home equipment with prices that won't break the bank, made with a solid steel frames and sturdy components.
The Express 200 functions fairly simple and is great for those who don't want or need fancy electronics, entertaining readouts, or variable programs, but prefer just the basics. Still, the Express 200 has adjustable resistance (15 levels), and a computer records time and distance traveled as well as accumulated calories burned. There is also a sensor to gauge and record your pulse rate.
Having put 500 miles on the machine, we can report that, overall, we are very satisfied. That's not to say that as with many products, a couple of improvements might not be helpful.
While the magnetic resistance provides a much quieter ride (our TV is a whisper of its former self when we used a air-resistance bike), the machine we received clicks. Yes, clicks. The noise emanates from inside the guts of the flywheel housing, where we can't gain access to the problem. Granted, the company warns that riders will hear mechanical noises that they wouldn't have even noticed with a noisy fan-driven bike. But a customer service representative informed us that this click was not supposed to be present, and it was likely a result of some sort of manufacturing error.
Our click was soon joined by a squeak. Fortunately, a shot of WD-40 to the arm joints eliminated the squeak. The click, however, remains.
We were willing to live with the click-click because the bike functions so well otherwise. As the company proclaims on its web site, the machine's heavy flywheel allows the pedals and arms to move smoothly, and they halt without any jerking. Plus, the magnetic resistance seems to offer a more efficient workout than fan-driven resistance. The magnetic system makes the rider do more of the work, while fan bikes seem to aid a rider with more mechanical advantage. The bottom line seems to be a better workout in less time.
Our only real beef is with the seat, which is not contoured well for those with â€“ how do we say this gracefully? -- bigger backsides. We would suggest a slightly wider seat, or at least that option, and also one that does not slope upward so much in the back. Right now, we've addressed the problem with a rather thick beach towel secured with a rubber band. OK, pretty low-tech, but hey it works.
Also, we found the pulse rate sensors to be a bit finicky. We found they worked best and read most reliably when our hands were dry. But that could also be because our hands tended to slip on the grips once sweaty. Suppose this is only a concern if someone really does have sweaty palms. Our solution? Keep a towel handy.
While programmable machines offer greater variety of exercise, the Express 200 will appeal to people working with a smaller budget, or those who just do not need or want to do intervals or hill training. For a fair price, this sturdy machine keeps things simple, while still providing a safe and challenging workout.
3.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 representing absolute design and functional perfection)
List price: $299