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Running Men
VacuMed
4538 Westinghouse Street
Ventura, CA 93003
(800) 235-3333
 

How to select a Cycle Ergometer (Stationary Bicycle)

Cycle ergometers are referred to as "ergometers", "stationary bicycles", or simply "bikes".

Your budget and the intended application determine the selection of an ergometer. Obviously, for home use you will expect to spend substantially less than for professional use, but even here it makes a difference whether the user is a fitness buff or a cardiac patient.

Things to consider are:
  • Smoothness of ride
  • Minimum braking (workload) resistance
  • Maximum braking (workload) resistance
  • How important is accuracy of the workload setting
  • Is the set workload dependent or independent of pedaling speed
  • Do you plan to interface the ergometer with a computer
  • Do you need an integrated heart rate meter that will automatically keep the workload within your target heart rate zone
In general, ergometers with a higher kinetic energy stored in a bigger mass or higher speed of a flywheel will have a smoother ride and only magnetically braked ergometers will be able to keep workload constant (iso-power) independent of pedaling speed with relative design simplicity.

Upright vs. Recumbent Ergometer

Both versions are available for home or professional use. Upright ergometers are in predominant use, but people with severe exercise limitation, unsteady patients who might fall off an upright bike will be more secure on a recumbent bike.

Recumbent ergometers result in a lower blood pooling in the legs and groin discomfort is less of a problem, but most individuals reach lower VO2max in the recumbent position.

Home Use

Cheap ergometers are available for home use at discount stores for less than $100, but are they worth it? If you need a toy for the kids or you need to make a gift to someone you don't like - maybe. The problems are many: Flimsy construction, light flywheel, jerky braking, inaccurate and unstable workload. They just will not last and they are no fun to use. We know, exercise isn't always fun anyway, but if you are sitting on one of those cheap bikes and you are worried about breaking something, the ride is jerky, the power indicator unsteady; you will add stress instead of relieving it. And how will you know if you are improving, if the braking (workload) force is unstable or inaccurate? But, most importantly, insufficient flywheel energy necessitates more isometric effort (jerky pedaling) which causes higher elevation of blood pressure thus may be dangerous.

Plan on spending at least $ 600 for the model 17809 or $ 625 for the model EC3200. The maximum workload of the EC3200 is about 270 watts, enough to give a moderately fit person a good workout. About $1000 will buy an ergometer with workload that is independent of pedaling speed and capable of heart rate controlled exercise.

Professional Use

Professional use means use in a health club, doctor's office, rehab facility, fitness or sports training center, research or Olympic level training center.

A rehab facility may be interested in low minimum workload, since some patients may not be able to overcome the initial starting torque to get the pedals moving. So-called initial "zero-watt" ergometers have a motor that reduces this starting torque to almost zero. Accuracy is also important, otherwise it will be difficult to measure progress.

Fitness clubs are interested in sturdy, low maintenance work horses, not necessarily accuracy.

Athletic training centers will be more interested in maximum workload; we have models that go to 400, 800 or even 1200 watts. Accuracy here is important, a few watts will make the difference between winners and losers.

Professional or advanced bikers may want to mount their own bike on a stationary treadmill-like device, such as our number CS-1000 Cyclo-Simulator, or they will insist on being able to adjust the saddle and handlebar position in several directions, our model Excalibur Sport allows you to do this.

Wind-braked Ergometers

This is a special class of ergometers that use a fan-type wheel, where air resistance against the fan blades increase workload with the speed of pedaling.

These ergometers present a special calibration problem, as aerodynamic resistance will depend on room temperature, barometric pressure and air humidity.

Special Requirements

We can repair and calibrate most ergometers, or modify ergometers for pediatric use, just let us know your special requirements.

The Metabolic (Lung) Simulator
Calibration of Metabolic Systems
Stress Testing
Resting Energy Expenditure "REE"
Why Calibrate Ergometers
How to select a Cycle Erometer
Deception of the Douglas Bag