Although only on the market since mid-2003 going up against the big indoor cycle companies, Trixter and its X-Bike have hit a chord with an increasing number of users -- our reviewers among others. If you thought indoor cycle training was all about just spinning along, you are wrong. Trixter, whose motto is "outdoor attitude bought indoors," goes beyond just spinning pedals in a circle on an indoor bike. Instead, the indoor trainer has a patent-pending difference that for the first time gives an indoor trainer the true feel of either mountain biking on trails or road cycling aggressively -- a handlebar unit that can move side-to-side so you can emulate pumping up a climb or banking and carving turns.
That motion -- which can be varied in speed, amount and intensity based on a user's needs, interest or fitness level -- not only keeps you from being bored out of your skull on an indoor ride, but also means you employ both upper body and core (abdominals and back) muscles for a real upper-body workout you can feel.
The second difference that makes it feel like a real outdoor bike is a "freewheel" which means when you stop pedaling, the wheel keeps going so you can "coast" down hills or around turns, then pick up pedaling again. But that also means that it's your pedaling that keeps the wheel going, not momentum from a so-called "fixed gear" that other indoor trainers have. More difficult? You betcha. More realistic? You got it. A better workout and more fun? Hip, hip, hooray!
In late summer 2004, Trixter introduced a home package of its X-Bike program -- the bikes are already in numerous health clubs around North America. The package includes the bike, a home training manual, and one CD with two musically coded workouts of 30 minutes each. Additional workouts on CD are available for additional charge.
Once you get the hang of using the handlebars and decipher the codes used on the workouts, you're in for a heck of a workout where time passes quickly. Once over a learning curve, our reviewers who put in several dozen workouts and other club users we've spoken to swear by the workout and the bike. Wouldn't go back to any other. But you need to have some patience in learning the handlebar movement, unless you have outdoor biking experience and, even then, one class at a club will help you get it down more quickly. The accompanying manual does the best it can in words, but the movement needs to be seen and felt to be understood best. (There is a video clip on the website, so that will help, and the company said it would have a training/workout DVD and video ready by January 2005.) You'll also need a little patience and maybe a cheat sheet to figure out the codes (-, , /, //, ?, +) used on the "menus" for each CD workout segment like hills and turns. Plus, the menus describe a workout segment by RPM, but unless you're experienced, that number will mean very little to you.
Pluses: The bike, made for Trixter by Giant Manufacturing Company, is incredibly sturdy. It comes with heavy-duty pedals with one side ready for speed clips and one flat side to accommodate regular athletic shoes. It has a chain guard to keep clothes or young fingers from getting caught. A sweat shroud keeps dripping sweat from getting in the wrong place and rusting bike parts. Wheels on the front support let you move it around the room. Seat and handlebars are micro-adjustable to fit just about every size person, and a 32-click twist-grip lets you fine-tune resistance. We really liked that fine-tuning since some bikes we have tried sometimes don't allow for easy enough pedaling for a true recovery ride or to accommodate really out-of-shape users.
Cons: The water bottle holder is pretty low on the front wheel support, instead of on the cross bar, making it a real reach to get to. If you're riding at home and using a personal CD player, there isn't any real good place to strap it. One user found the textured rubber on the handlebars rough and a bit uncomfortable, so either wear gloves or, as this user did, put a towel between your hands and the grips. We have talked to a few users who didn't like the freewheel, but we think that's because it makes the workout harder (less reliance on momentum). While each workout CD comes with an accompanying "program" on a card that guides you through a minute-by-minute workout of swooping downhills, grinding uphills, fast cadence pedaling and slow pedal recoveries, the cards are smaller than 3-by-5, making the numbers printed on them even smaller. Whether a user with slightly aging eyes or a cyclist in a room with dim lighting or trying to figure out the next workout segment with the card is rocking back and forth on the handlebar, you may find yourself picking up the cards from time-to-time to be sure you're on the right part of the virtual trail. Bigger cards or bigger type would make it so much easier! And perhaps even a little "stand" or clip on the bike would be nice too.
Oh, did we talk about attitude? The Trixter gang has that too, which makes it all the more fun. An excerpt from the website: "Riding an X-Biking Indoor Mountain Bike Experience class on the X-Bike is as fun as riding outdoors, and it'll get you fit -- crazy quick. When you go X-Biking you won't just sit there turning your legs like a saccharine amped hamster on a Habitrail wheel…."
As part of that attitude, the X-Bike is bright canary yellow -- so it certainly won't blend into the background in your living room. Even its "black" version has more yellow than black.
When all is said and done, we doubt you'll be able to find a more fun and effective indoor bike workout going. No, it's not easy, but that's the point. To bastardize a phrase used in the ski industry, if it were easy, it would be called spinning. Getting a great workout with a smile on your face, all while pedaling to nowhere isn't a trick anymore -- at least not with the Trixter X-Bike.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $1,695 (bike, manual, one workout CD)