By Tom Demerly
A New(ish) Trainer Category.
If you plan your season correctly your greatest fitness gains could be made in the first part of the year. For most of the U.S., that means training indoors. The best indoor training experience on your bike will replicate the feel of a real world ride while concentrating the training experience: You get a good workout in less time. There is no question that indoor training is safe and efficient, facilitates weight loss and concentrates the training experience. The question is how best to optimize the experience- and what indoor trainer is the best choice.
Traditional rear wheel support trainers- basically “treadmills” for your rear wheel, do a good job of raising your heart rate and replicating the pedaling experience. This category is between $200-$400. They include wind, magnetic and fluid resistance units.
More sophisticated electronic, terrain simulation units, such as the Racermate Computrainer and the Tacx Fortius display an assortment of video telemetry to enhance the indoor experience by giving you training information and keeping you engaged. They also provide useful data including power output and calories burned. These units live well above $1000 and, in most cases, require a computer to extract their full capabilities.
There has been a void between the $200-$400 basic rear wheel resistance unit trainer and the $1000+ terrain simulation super-trainers. That void is filled by the new LeMond Revolution trainer, a morphing of computer based super-trainer, roller-like ride feel and function at an in-between price point. Like many solid ideas, the LeMond Revolution isn’t a new idea.
Everything Old is New Again.
The original rear wheel replacement indoor trainer was the Houdaille Road Machine. Conceived and built by an enormous privately held company, Houdaille Industries, the Houdaille Road Machine provided the absolute best “feel” and real-world ride simulation of a stationary indoor trainer. At the time it was introduced in the 1980’s the multisport and cycling boom was just gathering steam and the high end indoor trainer category was dominated by Kreitler Rollers, especially among the purists. The original Houdaille Road Machine never gained market traction. The idea was ahead of its time.
LeMond Fitness: Dedicated to Fitness from Pedalling.
While the relationship between the original Houdaille Road Machine and the LeMond Revolution is largely a matter of design theme the two units share not only the same basic configuration but also most of the same features and benefits. The new LeMond interpretation of the design is simply better executed and more likely in the right place at the right time. LeMond Fitness has carved out a niche in pedal-specific exercise equipment that includes exercise bikes and a recumbent indoor training bike. Greg LeMond’s fitness company, LeMond Fitness, is an independent distributor of cycling specific aerobic exercise equipment. Their progression into high end trainers is a natural and logical continuation of their product line.
What’s the Difference?
The LeMond Revolution replaces your bike’s rear wheel- you take your rear wheel off and mount your bike to the trainer. Your bike sits level with the front wheel on the ground as it would when actually riding outdoors. It makes it easier to get on and off the bike, is safer around children and pets since there is no spinning rear wheel, feels more “road like” in stance and position relative to the ground, requires no front wheel riser block and doesn’t “trap” your front wheel. In short, the entire experience is more “road like”. Additional features to the rear wheel-less configuration are no rear tire wear (since you don’t use a rear wheel) and no necessity for a special “trainer tire”.
Some additional differences with the LeMond Revolution are that you must be proficient at removing and replacing your rear wheel- which you should be anyway for changing wheels, packing your bike and fixing flat tires. The LeMond Revolution uses its own cogset or cassette, the set of gears on the back of your bike. You can remove your cogset from your rear wheel for use on the trainer, which is a little more work than this writer cares to do each time- or purchase a LeMond Revolution Trainer with a cogseta 12-25 10-speed combination pre-installed so you don’t have to switch out cogsets from your rear wheel to the trainer. The most common version is SRAM/Shimano compatible. LeMond Revolution advertises a Campagnolo compatible version.
How it Feels: Most Realistic Ride Simulation.
The LeMond Revolution is a wind resistance trainer that uses an inertia flywheel. The resistance comes from rotating fan blades, the “road feel” or inertia comes from the flywheel. Other trainers use magnets or a rotating impeller in a fluid bath. A wind resistance trainer has a more realistic resistance curve or onset of resistance. Since your primary source of drag in the real world is aerodynamic the LeMond trainer does an excellent job of replicating that feeling. Acceleration feels very similar to acceleration outdoors. Additionally, because the rear wheel is removed there is no “lag”, squeak, flex or interference from the tire- the connection to the resistance unit isn’t through the tire- it’s direct. That influences the “feel” of the trainer more than any other feature. Also, there is no issue with deciding how firmly the resistance roller should be adjusted against your rear tire- since you remove your rear wheel on the LeMond Revolution.
“The direct connection, fan and flywheel means the trainer is truly road-like; the most “accurate” tactile simulation of outdoor riding from any trainer.”
The direct connection to the drivetrain of the bike with no rear wheel and the combination of the fan blades and large flywheel means the trainer is truly road-like, more so than any other fan-resistance, flywheel potentiated trainer. It is the best feeling indoor trainer of all the trainers- Computrainer, rollers, magnetic trainer: Hands down the best feel of an indoor trainer. Historically, the same was true of the original Houdaille. If your primary benchmark for a trainer purchase is “feel” and accurate ride simulation your search is over: buy the LeMond.
But How Loud is it?
Noise level on the LeMond Revolution is higher than a magnetic or fluid trainer- as is the same with all fan trainers. How loud? About the same as a hair dryer on a moderate setting. If you train while watching television you’ll want either earphones or you’ll be turning the TV up. The noise level changes with speed- faster is louder.
I’ve watched people test the noise level of the trainer in our retail store. The typical test goes something like this: A person gets on the trainer and does a hard effort for 30-40 seconds, quickly gets winded and climbs off. Between huffing breaths they say, “Yup, that sure is loud…” and walks away. The noise level of a sustained effort is much lower. If you ride the LeMond Revolution at a realistic, sustainable level you will learn it is not excessively loud. Intervals and hard efforts will get louder. Unless you can sustain a 23 M.P.H. plus effort on the trainer the noise, this reviewer will suggest, is there but not unacceptably loud unless you have people trying to sleep one wall away.
“Real World” Variable Resistance.
The LeMond Revolution trainer provides variable resistance the same way you experience changes in pedaling resistance out on the road: The harder you go, the harder it is to go harder. The onset of resistance is very close to the same on the trainer as it is in the real world. As a result you can do realistic interval workouts on the LeMond Revolution that closely replicate the feel and workload of outdoor intervals. The LeMond unit even “coasts” like you would when riding outdoors: Stop pedaling, the unit freewheels like your rear wheel on the road.
All of these features and benefits combine to make the indoor riding experience on the LeMond Revolution tangibly different. If you didn’t like riding an indoor trainer before you may want to try a LeMond Revolution- it’s that different.
Some Interesting Features.
LeMond Fitness is planning the release of the LeMond Power Pilot telemetry unit for the LeMond Revolution. The Power Pilot is an entirely wireless, ANT+ computer that displays training telemetry such as speed, distance, cadence, heart rate and an interpolation of power output. The unit won’t measure power with strain gauges like a PowerTap or SRM, but rather compute power values from a set of known parameters, not unlike the Kurt Kinetic power estimation computers. The Power Pilot computer head clamps to your front wheel so you can see the display easily even when in the aerobars.
The Power Pilot takes its speed and distance information from a magnetic sensor you will install on the trainer next to the rotating flywheel. If you look very closely at the flywheel you will find a small magnet that acts as a wheel magnet on a bike with a regular cyclometer. The interesting thing is that you can rig a regular rear wheel mounted cyclometer to the LeMond trainer next to the magnet and get a speed and distance read out! The wheel diameter setting will be the same or about the same as it would with your road wheel.
The Power Pilot computer head was slated for delivery this year but has been pushed back to “January” according to LeMond Fitness. The Power Pilot will sell for $349.99. The LeMond Revolution trainer unit is $498.95 without a cogset and $548.95 with a cogset so the combination of the two at $848.94 or $898.94 with cogset still puts the package between the computer-controlled “super trainer” ride simulators like Computrainer and Tacx Fortius and the rear wheel units below $500.
If you are a frequent trainer user the LeMond Revolution is a viable middle ground between basic rear wheel mount resistance trainers and computer based ride simulators. Since it is the only offering in this category of one it is the de facto best buy in category. I do wager that, even if there were other units in this category, the LeMond could hold its ground. It is a pleasure to use and makes the sometimes tedious task of indoor training more novel, efficient and realistic.