Hands on: Virgin Active IC7 Indoor Cycle

Anthony Caruana
26 May, 2015
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Technology has infiltrated almost every part of our lives. So, it’s no surprise that the world of fitness has embraced technology with both hands.

Virgin Active, in Bourke Street Melbourne recently invited me to try their new spin class. Spin classes are organised exercise classes that use stationary bicycles that allow you to alter the resistance so you can simulate riding up and down hills. A class leader tells you to alter the resistance so you’re either sprinting, cruising or pushing up a hill.

I’ve done a few spin classes in the past and I usually find the whole thing pretty boring. You sit or stand, pedal forward or back and change the resistance based on the orders shouted by the leader – it’s all imprecise. If you feel like taking it easy you can keep the resistance lower or drop your cadence.

Virgin Active recently introduced its new IC7 Indoor Cycle. It leaves you with no place to hide.

Getting started

The first step in using the new IC7 Indoor Cycle is setting it up. That means adjusting the seat and handlebars. The seat was reasonably comfortable – it’s padded enough so you don’t feel like you’re sitting on a pillow, but not so hard that it became painful after an hour – I was in the saddle for about an hour and 15 minutes for the class I participated in.

There’s a dial for adjusting the bike’s resistance. This was easy to turn and the LCD display showed the level of resistance.

Functional Threshold WattRate

The IC7 Indoor Cycle differs from other spin bikes I’ve used is the Functional Threshold WattRate® (FTW) number. This is a measure of how much power you can produce and for how long.

The first half hour of the session I participated in was about determining my FTW. Every four minutes the bike’s resistance increases, so I have to work harder to maintain a constant cadence.

The first four minute were easy, but after about 25 minutes of the resistance increasing I hit my limit with an FTW ‘score’ of 241. This is important as the main workout will be customised according to this value.

Coach by Colour

The IC7 Indoor Cycle display lights up in different colours depending on how hard I’m working. When I’m working at less that 55 percent of my FTW, the display is white. Between 56 percent  and 70 percent  and the display is blue. This progresses through green and yellow until I’m working at 106 percent or more of my FTW – that’s the red zone. When the instructor is leading the class, they can see what colour you’re working at as there’s a ‘headlight’ on the front of the bike.

To move through the different levels I adjusted my cadence and the resistance level.

This system provides a specific, personalised metric, so the class leader can ensure that everyone is working at a level appropriate to their capacity. So, when our trainer, Emma Masters, group exercise coordinator at Virgin Active Bourke Street, told us to “work in the red” we were all pushing hard for that training interval.

Does it work?

The danger with using technology while exercising is it can interfere with working out. If you spend lots of time pressing buttons and swiping through touch screens, then the technology has made the experience worse.

That was not the case in the Coach by Colour class I participated in. There was some button pressing at the start as I needed to tell my bike my FTW and answer a few basic questions such as gender, age and weight. But after that all I had to do was pedal and adjust the resistance when instructed.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. By the end of the session I did I was spent. My legs were rubbery and the perspiration was pouring off me.

If you’re into spin classes, then I’d recommend giving the Coach by Colour system using the IC7 Indoor Cycle a go.

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