A SNEWS® Training Center written by the editors of SNEWS®
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Although indoor cycling was something that outdoor road cyclists did as a part of normal training, the indoor cycle trainer as we know it didn't become a huge part of the indoor fitness world until classes began to spring up at clubs in the '80s. The trainer made it easy to simulate outdoor cycling while indoors without the hassle of bringing in an outdoor road bike and clamping it up on a trainer so you could cycle without going anywhere. The masses responded to the concept -- first, in clubs and, then, at home -- as did the manufacturing community, which looked for ways to make indoor trainers more comfortable and more authentic.
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The indoor trainer is a compact alternative to many pieces of cardio equipment -- one that can please a wide range of users.
What is a indoor cycle trainer?
An indoor cycle trainer is a bit like an upright stationary bike in that a user is sitting in an upright position with hips higher than feet. However, in contrast to a normal upright bike, it is designed to duplicate the feel and the demands of outdoor cycling and doesn't have the electronic programming and integrated computer consoles of other upright stationary bikes.
Among models and brands, there are also different types of:
• seats, including width, shape and padding,
• adjustability of the seat and handlebars, from front to back or in height,
• placement of the knobs and handles used to adjust the seat and handlebars, and
• availability of accessories such as computerized feedback tools, pedals and handles.
Basic benefits of an indoor cycle trainer
Many of the advantages of both the recumbent and regular upright equipment categories could also be said about indoor trainers, for example:
1. They take less space than treadmills, ellipticals or many other equipment types.
2. They aren't generally as noisy as other types of equipment.
3. Most bikes can cost less than other similar levels of equipment.
4. Everyone can ride a bike.
5. Controls and programs aren't as complicated as on other types of equipment.
In addition, indoor trainers:
• can adapt to many levels of users, from beginners to more advanced,
• will easily provide higher-intensity workouts or one most closely resembling an outdoor bike workout,
• take even less space than other equipment categories compared to recumbents,
• never need a power source -- except the user!
Selling an indoor trainer
Is an indoor cycle right for the customer?
First, determine if the bike is the best piece of equipment for a customer.
1. Past exercise and bike experience: What is or has been comfortable and why?
2. Household users: Will there be more than one?
3. Space constraints: Indoor trainers have some of the smallest footprints, are easy to set up and can move easily.
4. Injuries or orthopedic limitations: Are there existing or past hip, back or knee problems?
5. Intensity desired: Is the person less conditioned or without a desire or need for high-intensity workouts, or a workout enthusiast seeking cross-training indoors?
6. Cost limitations: Does the person want a really high-quality piece without spending several thousand dollars?
Although the user for an indoor trainer can vary widely, someone who likes the feel of outdoor biking and is comfortable in that position may lean toward this option. In addition, a key audience would be athletes seeking a high-intensity workout -- either outdoor cyclists who want an authentic indoor option or others who simply want a simple yet high-intensity workout. Anyone who has space limitations could understand the benefits, as well as those who want to add a piece to a home gym for additional cross-training choices.
Once you've determined in talking with the customer that an indoor trainer may be the preferred category of equipment, start introducing him or her to different styles of cycles you have in stock, pointing out differences in features and benefits, and asking the person to sit on it to get a feel for the build, fit, adjustability, braking and pedal stroke.
Features to point out:
Seat size, comfort and possible interchangeability -- Most indoor cycles have simple outdoor bike-style seats, meaning they aren't as wide and cushioned. In some cases, the brand allows with its construction for other seats to be used, for example, a cyclist's personal seat from their outdoor bike or a wider seat for someone who is seeking a less intense workout.
Pedal interchangeability -- Because indoor trainers are designed to replicate the outdoor feel, most have pedals that accommodate outdoor cycling shoes. In some cases, the pedal will allow for a clipless shoe, while the other side has a "cage" so someone can slip in the toe of his or her regular shoe. Some higher-end bikes allow a user to take his or her own pedals and put them on the indoor bike for comfort and familiarity.
Adjustability -- A seat's position in relationship to the console or pedals can change to adapt to a customer's personal needs. Some offer more adjustments than others. Handles to adjust the bike are in different places on different brands and are operated differently on different brands to adjust the bike fit. Most seats and handlebars adjust from front to back as well as up and down, but some offer more than others -- important if a customer is particularly tall, long- or short-legged or short.
Handlebars -- Again, because of replicating an outdoor feel, the handlebars are usually simple, sometimes with racing ends or "aero bars" that allow a user to replicate a lowered racing position or climbing hills. Some models let the user pump up and down to simulate handlebar use while turning, climbing or sprinting.
Programs and features -- Unless someone adds on a computerized feedback tool -- offered by some brands -- the bikes are manual and function like outdoor bikes in the use of brakes and resistance. Note that resistance and braking control knob placement can be in many different locations.
Pedal stroke feel -- Some are smoother than others and some offer the ability to “free wheel,” or stop pedaling and “cruise” for a moment as if the user were on a real bike outdoors and cruising down a hill or around a corner. The feel should not be choppy or feel “thick” as if you're pedaling through sand.
Braking feel -- Does it work smoothly or jerk you suddenly? Is it quiet or does it squeal?
Stability, construction and maintenance -- Materials used in construction should be sturdy and corrosion-resistant and the base should be wide enough to inhibit wobbling or creaking. Wheels on the base for ease of moving the bike are helpful. Maintenance of chains and belts should be minimal.
Indoor cycle trainers can go for as low as a $100 for ones someone might find at mass merchants (and may not offer the stability needed or other features desired), while quality indoor cycles go for about $600 up to about $1,500. The beauty of this category is that your customer can get a super top-quality bike for less money than the top-of-the-line pieces in other categories, which may be attractive to some.
Key selling points
1. Comfort and feel are king since there can be so many differences. Make sure you take the time to fit the customer so he or she can feel how it would fit and you can make sure it fits correctly.
2. Appropriate width between the pedals in relationship to the user's hips should not make a user feel as if he or she is on a horse.
3. Service should be easily available.
If a customer walks in and asks for a particular brand, it could be the person is using that brand name generically for the entire category and not actually seeking that brand. Inquire if the person knows what they have used before, what they know about the bike, and what he or she did or didn't like. That can also help you narrow the choices for them and allow you the chance to explain the differences and varying benefits of the bikes you carry. Remember, many customers may not think of an indoor trainer as an option so don't neglect to bring up its advantages.