IHRSA 2015 was the first public appearance of the Stages Cycling SC3 Indoor Cycle. This was a total surprise to me and I have no idea how Stages Master Educator Dennis Mellon was able to keep his mouth shut for so long. We talk weekly and it must have been killing him not to be able to tell me about their latest project 🙂
Going forward, I feel it's important to disclosure that Stages Cycling sponsored (paid) my and Amy's travel to, and lodging in, Los Angeles to take part in the launch of their new Stages SC3 at IHRSA 2015.
If parts of the Stage SC3 look familiar, there's a good reason. The engineers who designed this Indoor Cycle have a long and storied history of product development with indoor cycles and power consoles. It was explained to me that the design criteria for the SC3 was; take all of the engineering team's collective experience and build the ultimate, commercial Indoor Cycle. Did they succeed? Let's find out…
- Frame – Aluminum… and lots of it. This is a very solid/substantial IC > perfect for studios with big, powerful riders – or – those offering unconventional classes with a lot of movement.
- Drive – CarbonGlyde™ drive system. Yes, this is the same Gates belt as other manufacturers are using, but there are fundamental differences with the other components of the drive train, that give the SC3 a very different feel. Because they don't run the belt under tension (there's a tiny bit of slack you can feel as you move the pedals back and forth) the SC3 is noticeably quieter than the Schwinn AC
and it's tensioned Gates belt.It also retains a slight, chain-like vibration, but doesn't buzz like the AC. Stages is so confident in their drive system that they offer a 10 year warranty on the CarbonGlyde™ belt. Correction: Stairmaster's engineer Travis Vaughan alerted me to my error describing the Schwinn AC's Gates belt as “tensioned” – which it's not. I didn't intend to infer that they used a tensioner like what's used with Poly “V” belts. Instead I should have described the differences as; the AC runs it's belt taut (zero slack) vs. the SC3 which, when properly tensioned, has a very small amount of slack.
- Resistance – Magnetic > surrounding an aluminum flywheel. Screw style adjustment and includes the new Stages SprintShift™ three position lever . More on that below.
- Handlebars – Road Bike Style Drop Bars – there's a reason that handlebars on road bikes haven't changed over the last 100 years > these fit us (humans) the best. Please don't ask me; “but where is position #3 John?” It's standing, with your hands surrounding the brake hoods, exactly where your hands belong when you're out of the saddle 🙂 It's here where you have the most leverage to power through a steep climb and it eliminates the temptation to “over reach” while seated.
- Saddle – nice. Not too narrow… and not to wide/fat. Forgive me for saying it this way, it's very close to (might be exactly the same as) the saddle on the Schwinn AC > we have one on the back of our Trek Tandem. Amy loves this saddle and it's been comfortable for her for thousands of miles. Trust me on this one… I'd have heard all about an uncomfortable saddle.
The Power Meter
The heart of an Indoor Cycle that features power measurement is, of course, the power meter. The new SC3 is using the same technology used by Team Sky – winners of two Tour de France bicycle races and they're going to continue to use these power meters in 2015.
I could devote an entire article on just this topic and will have more as part of the ride portion of this review. In the interest of time I'll give you the important bits:
- 2,000 hours of battery life using two AA's – yes the display console is self-charging.
- Same hardware, design, and accuracy found in the Stage Power® meter, which is used by professional cyclists’ and used in the world’s most famous cycling races, including the Tour de France.
- ANT+™ and Bluetooth – so it will connect with your iPhone or Android without any adapters.
- Supposedly accurate to +/- 2.5%. I say “supposedly” because I have no way to verify their claims – but I bet Team Sky does 🙂
It's important to separate the power meter, from the display console. Although most studios will choose to purchase their new SC3's with the new Stages EcoSCRN™ console, you don't have to. The Stages power meter will work with any Bluetooth or Ant+ device, like an iPhone or Garmin. You could also choose to wirelessly connect the Stages power meter directly to Display Training systems from Performance IQ or Spivi.
Here's a short video showing it in action during one of the 60 sec challenges.
- The EcoSCRN™ console is self-powered = no batteries to replace ever… that's the Eco part 🙂
- No exposed wires > I was told they've very neatly packaged the cable that connects the flywheel generator to the console = a long life of raising the handlebars up and down.
- Constant backlight if you choose 🙂
- Stage button to record intervals > there's also a nice feature that your averages remain displayed for 5 seconds after you end a stage.
- USB port for rider data collection
Stages SprintShift™ is a three position “shifter”, that provides course adjustments quickly. I want to describe it as a sort of cruise control, where you flick your finger and instantly resume your previous speed/resistance level.
Think of doing a repeating series of intervals. We cue everyone to add load, ride the segment and then recover. Now repeat it again. With SprintShift you can set your initial load with the lever full right. Move it left for recovery and then return back to the exact resistance instantly, by moving the lever all the way to the right.
There's some interesting physics at work here. If you use the SprintShift at lower resistance levels, the amount of change between each level remains relative & realistic. But start with a big gear and the changes are incrementally larger.
There are multiple ways you could incorporate this in your class and we'll find more over time. I'll describe a relay race we did in the ride part of the review where it was very helpful > we won! I'm sure Cameron and Co. will have some fun suggestions for using SprintShift when I interview her in the next few weeks.
If you've ever fought over a stubborn screw type seatpost of handlebar adjuster, you'll enjoy these new FitLoc cam style adjusters. Watch the video and you will see how quick and easy they are to operate. Also, they've kept the weight of the bars low, so it takes very little strength to raise them, using only one hand.
Click over to read Part 2 to learn, did I like it? What accessories are available?
3/16 edited slightly for accuracy.
John is a member on the AFS (Association of Fitness Studios) Advisory Council.
Holding certifications from; Schwinn, Heart Zones, Team ICG and Life Time Fitness, John's held regularly scheduled cycling classes between 1998 and 2015 when he moved to Florida.
When the weather permits, you'll find him riding and leading outdoor groups by himself or with his Tandem partner (wife) Amy.