At the end of our first class on the new FreeMotion Indoor Cycles last Sunday, I spent close to 30 minutes answering questions from participants about the cycles and the Power meters:

  • How many Watts should I be making?
  • Why did I have to turn it up so high before I saw any real increase in watts... didn't you say power had a lot to do with cadence?
  • It said I was riding at 23 mph... was I really?
  • Why doesn't the calorie totals match up between my Garmin Heart Rate monitor and the console?
  • Why could I create more power, at a lower heart rate, sitting instead of standing?
  • I felt like I needed to work so much harder on this bike... why is that?

I'm going to be soliciting answers from our Master Instructor PRO Team for their responses to many of these questions. But I wanted to address the specific question/comment mentioned by multiple riders; these bikes make you work a lot harder - they're more like riding outdoors... why is that?

For those of you who have ridden (or teach on) a FreeMotion S11 series, Keiser M3 or Schwinn AC Indoor Cycle you probably already know the answer: Magnetic Resistance 🙂

And no, it isn't because they are watching their watts readings.

Magnetic Resistance more closely resembles the effect Air Resistance has on an outdoor cyclist, which if you've ridden outside, or simply stuck your hand out the window of a moving car, realize is substantial. On a flat road above 20 miles per hour >95% of your energy is being used to overcome wind resistance.

I found this graph (and added some additional details) to help you understand the differences.

Magnetic Resistance Benefit

For the sake of simplicity I have taken some liberties with the graph, but here's what I feel you should know:

  • The Horsepower graph is based on: 0.2hp = Strong Cyclist, 0.4hp = Competitive Cyclist, > 0.6hp is Tour de France caliber Pro Cyclist.
  • The thin purple and blue lines represent the amount of Power needed to overcome wind resistance and ride at the listed speeds. Notice how sharply the line curves upwards and more than twice the Power is needed to ride at 30 mph vs. 20 mph.
  • The dashed blue and red lines are the effective resistance created by Magnetic and Friction based Indoor Cycles respectively.

In my Epic Wine Country Audio PROfile I offered these suggestions for cueing load/resistance dependent on the type of friction system your cycles use:

How you cue the addition of intensity is very important in an Indoor Cycling class of any format and its different dependent on the type of Indoor Cycle you”™re riding.
- With any Indoor Cycle that uses friction to create the resistance I suggest adding resistance to cadence. Class is pedaling ~ 90 RPM and then add load to reach intended intensity. This has the effect of preventing "runaway pedals" when your students start with a small amount of load and then accelerate. The momentum in the spinning flywheel negates what little load there was.
- If you are riding a FreeMotion S11, Keiser M3 or Schwinn AC with magnetic resistance you can add resistance to cadence or you can do the exact opposite, adding cadence to resistance.

You've never heard that before, have you? It”™s why I see magnetic resistance as being superior.

Here”™s why:
My biggest struggle (besides getting people to be quiet) is how to best communicate load in class. If you have been paying attention in class you have noticed that when you slow your pedals (on a conventional friction IC - any Spinner, etc... ) they get heavier. We have all seen the person who was supposed to be accelerating out of a climb start bouncing like they have no resistance at all. This happens because as your student pedals faster, the added centrifugal force overcomes the fixed amount of friction, making it easier and easier to pedal, until it”™s like they have no load at all. Not Good! Cycling is all about endurance. We want them to endure it! The solution is to establish leg speed and then adjust load to regulate the work they are doing.

Indoor cycles with magnetic resistance (S11, M3 and AC) work very differently. As the speed of the flywheel increases the Eddy Currents that create the load increase as well. So these Indoor Cycles actually get harder to pedal as cadence increases, just like a real bicycle. So with these types of cycles cue your students to set their load at a slower RPM and then simply increase cadence to add intensity.

Give this a try in you next class and let me know the results.


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