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New ‘BikeErg’ by rowing machine giant Concept2 leaves much to be desired: Stretching Out

January 31, 2018 GMT

New ‘BikeErg’ by rowing machine giant Concept2 leaves much to be desired: Stretching Out

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A bit of rethinking may be in order for Concept2. Elegant as it is, the company’s new BikeErg simply doesn’t compare to its predecessors, or to its competitors.

It pains me to say this. I’ve long been an admirer of Concept2. Two years ago, in fact, I invested in a Model D rower, and I haven’t regretted the purchase a single second. The thing’s a tank.

But I also just can’t shake my feeling that when the company branched out last year from its core business of rowing and ski machines into stationary bikes ($990, concept2.com), it did so rashly, without fully considering the larger fitness market or the interests or needs of dedicated cyclists.

Rather than apply its vast know-how to the making of a revolutionary new bike, Concept2 took what appears to be the easy route and simply stuck a pair of pedals and a sturdy bike frame onto its trademark resistance unit, the adjustable fan mechanism that makes its rowers and ski ergometers so effective and durable.

The result, based on a test spin at CrossFit CLE (crossfitcle.com), is a ride that’s smooth and pleasant at low speeds and cadences but also highly limited in terms of exercise potential and unsuited to traditional group cycling classes.

The main problem I have with the BikeErg is the difficulty it poses riding in a climbing, out-of-the-saddle stance. On every stroke in that position, a common stance in group cycling, there’s a distinct gap at the bottom. That’s fine if you’re rowing or skiing but hugely awkward and unrealistic when you’re pedaling.

A version of that same pause rears its ugly head when you’re seated, too. In that case, however, the gap can be bridged by a consciously smooth, continuous stroke or, presumably, with the addition of pedal clips or straps, to aid in pulling.

My other complaints are smaller but no less irksome or disappointing to report.

As a tall guy who easily fits on a Model D, I was frustrated to discover that Concept2 didn’t extend a similar courtesy to me on its bike. The seat post can be raised and lowered to a normal extent but the saddle is locked in place. No sliding forward or backward.

Unlike every other adult bike I’ve ever ridden, too, the BikeErg has no mechanism for altering resistance from the handlebars. To raise or lower resistance, one must reach down to the fan unit and adjust the damper manually.

Then again, it almost doesn’t matter. I’m no great cyclist, but I found even the highest resistance on the BikeErg to be rather light. By contrast, on my bike on a trainer, I can apply enough resistance to make it feel as if I’m pedaling through molasses.

I wanted so badly to like the BikeErg. I’d heard rumors of it in development, and when it at last arrived, I was beyond excited to find one and experience it.

But the reality is a letdown. I have no doubt Concept2 will continue to dominate the rowing and ski ergometer market, but in the stationary cycling arena, the company still has a long way to go.