Walter Mossberg and Katherine Boehret of The Wall Street Journal take on a stationary bike review in Test-Riding a $5,000 Indoor Bike in the latest The Mossberg Solution column. The bike they reviewed for this article is the Expresso Fitness Spark, a new stationary bike designed for the kind of workload that it would experience in a high end health club. The Spark also incorporates some really sophisticated multimedia training courses, which can be updated remotely by Expresso Fitness through the built-in wireless Internet router.
I would normally take reviews like this with a grain of salt, but I was particularly drawn to this article by the following passage:
Most of its courses would be far too difficult and strenuous, and highly discouraging, for the average, out-of-shape users who need it the most. The Spark seems to have been designed by and for athletic bicycling enthusiasts who we assume would rather be outside on real bikes most of the year.
OK, I'd love to try it now. Too bad I have a broken leg.
The Expresso Fitness Spark has a lot of features that I would want if I were buying a high end stationary bike:
- 17-inch LCD display,
- Intel Pentium P4-based computer system with premium video card and built-in TV tuner,
- Polar WearLink compatibility,
- multiple resistance gears,
- water resistant membrane keyboard separate from the LCD display
I think the Expresso Spark is ready-made for use by serious athletes who take advantage of remote coaching from organizations like Carmichael Training Systems because it includes features like uploading workout results to Expresso. When you combine this feature with the Spark's TiVo-like firmware update mechanism, you can bet that Expresso will offer remote coaching interfaces at some point in the future.
Regarding the courses they could build for the Expresso Spark in the future, my mind goes wild. They would sell more than one of these bikes to every high end fitness club in Europe if they included an Alpe d'Huez tour. For the less fit riders, how about a tour that replicates the end of the last stage of the Tour de France from The Eiffel Tour to the Champs-Elysees?
I agree with Walter Mossberg that I'd rather be riding my Trek 1500 most of the time-- particularly this winter because of how mild it has been. But if had the money and I was committed to doing an Ironman, especially if I was paying for remote coaching, or if I ran a sports medicine facility or a high end fitness center, I'd definitely be in the market for an Expresso Spark.