I love cycling but my Mediterranean DNA (I'm convinced I was adopted) isn't hardy enough to cycle through a Scottish winter so I'm always looking for ways to keep fit without leaving the house.
A decade ago I bought a Reebok Cyber Rider, a futuristic exercise bike with a PlayStation plug on the end. By converting pedalling effort to electronic button pushes, the Cyber Rider motivated you to pedal harder, faster and longer in order to progress in games ranging from mountain biking to horse riding.
At least that was the idea. In reality, the stiff, creaky flywheel inside the machine made workouts a soul-destroying chore and the Cyber Rider was used no more than a dozen times before it was repurposed as a clothes horse.
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To keep motivated on an exercise bike, a free-spinning flywheel with ample momentum is a must. Having tested several regular exercise bikes, I found turbo trainers (high-tech rollers that attach to the rear wheel of a standard bicycle) to offer much better momentum and realistic cycling feel.
Of these devices, the Tacx Satori is one of the best. The standard in warm-up trainers for pro cycling teams, the Satori is both compact and sturdy.
The standard set-up accepts road bikes with 700C-sized wheels, but there are adaptors to accommodate wheels including mountain bikes and hybrids.
Cycling feel on the Satori is nothing short of incredible. The heavy, ultra-smooth magnetic roller provides as much or as little resistance as required while retaining a realistic feeling of momentum, allowing riders to take the odd freewheeling break – just like a real bike.
A handlebar-based resistance control allows changing of settings on the fly, while resistance can be further tweaked by using the gears on the bicycle. The software is the only disappointment in the Satori kit. With a slow, bloated installation routine, initial set-up is cumbersome. The disc included with the Satori has just a handful of tracks and, annoyingly, regularly pops up ads for the full software as you're pedalling. An on-screen display indicates which setting should be selected to match effort to the video landscape, but this too is flawed. Sometimes the resistance changes for a couple of seconds before switching again, forcing you to keep one hand next to the lever or skip changes that appear transient.
Having said all that, the video clips are of excellent quality and run through some beautiful European landscapes. A split-screen window shows the upcoming topography, so it's easy to plan ahead, taking a rest before the next monster hill climb. Overall, the Satori is a great product, but I suspect I'll spend more time watching iPlayer than using the included software.
Positives Brilliantly engineered machine with a realistic cycling feel.
Negatives Disappointing software feels like an afterthought.