Rob’s one of our newest guest writers, as well as the man behind JerseyBins. He’s offered to fill in on occasion, which we certainly appreciate. We’ll kick it off with his (somewhat painfully) honest review of the Pro-Form Tour de France Bike. This $1,500 trainer is for the cyclist serious about getting in their miles during the winter.
I decided this winter to take the plunge on a Pro-Form Tour de France trainer. If you’ve watched any cycling on TV in the past year, you’ve surely seen the ubiquitous commercials for this Internet-connected marvel that features both 20% incline and decline, the ability to ride various famous routes around the world, map out your own routes, and other bells and whistles.
Ordering online via the company website was easy, but when it arrived, the shipping crate was large and very heavy. It required 2 people to lift and move it, as the bike itself weighs in at 150 pounds (68 kg). Make sure you choose your setup location wisely. The required assembly was relatively easy, with care taken not to pinch wires when assembling the handlebars and handlebar stem.
Fitting and Setup
Just as you would with an actual bike, you need to fit the Pro-Form to your specific measurements and riding needs. The handlebars adjust vertically only, while the seat is adjustable fore and aft, as well as vertically. The distance between left and right pedals is just under 2 inches wider than my actual bike. Therefore, my feet/legs are further out from the center. The bike came with toe-clippable pedals on one side and plain pedals on the opposite side.
I replaced the hard rubber saddle with my personal saddle. The seat post bolt was cheap and stripped out. After several rides, the saddle continued to move, requiring that I tighten the seat post bolt more and more. Eventually, the bolt stripped out completely. I purchased a stronger bolt and nut from Home Depot and replaced it.
How it Works
The Pro-Form TDF bike works with Google Maps and the iFit Live website. While riding the bike, its computer interfaces with Google Maps, which in turn interfaces with iFit Live. During a ride, using any computer or tablet, you are able to follow your ride visually with Google Maps, using whichever Google Maps view you prefer.
My first couple of attempts on the system involved trying to map my own route using the iFit Live website and loading my generated ride as my next scheduled training event. After logging on and connecting to the Internet via the bike computer, the system will ask you to load today’s scheduled ride. When you start pedaling, the bike computer displays an overhead view of the entire route, and the iFit Live website begins tracking your route. I selected “street view” Google Maps each time. You can manually develop your own route, as well as choosing pre-set routes, but Google Maps may not show it on your computer — especially the street view.
The bike’s computer allows you to choose between a virtual triple or double crankset, as well as from a range of cassette sizes/options. Shift buttons are located on the sides of the handlebar (see photo). Regardless of the crankset/cassette setup I chose, in many instances I had to change gears/incline for more pressure to replicate the desired riding experience.
Connectivity, Functionality are Hit and (Mostly) Miss
The bike’s built-in computer screen is small (3.5” x 5”, 9cm x 13 cm), and its user interface is poor. The keypad is laid out in an alphabetical order chart and numerical order. One press of the “enter” key selects only one character at a time. Therefore, for longer user names and passwords, it can take a while to input your required information.
Connecting to Wi-Fi was very difficult, as well, when choosing the “Connect to Wi-Fi” option. In most cases, I was not successful in connecting this way. Choosing the “connect to iFit Live” option (sign in with user name and password) seemed the better option to connect to Wi-Fi, though it could still take up to 3-5 minutes to connect — though on some occasions it would connect in under a minute.
iFit Live disconnected about 75% of the time while training. The result is a still shot picture on the television. That almost “normal” outcome is very disappointing, since one of the primary reasons in purchasing this package was the Google Maps views and mapping.
Furthermore, the iFit Live website has been extremely slow on most rides. I spoke with a customer service representative, and he advised me that at that moment there were lots of customers and the servers could not handle the usage volume. He assured me that they are adding more servers.
Ride totals shown on iFitLive appeared to be inaccurate at times as well. In one instance, the history showed 202 minutes of riding, but totals for iFit Live showed 61 minutes.
The majority of mapped routes that I rode continued to have the same issues with higher speed calculations, higher power meter calculations, inaccurate tilt readings, Internet connectivity loss, etc.
Feedback From Specific Rides
On one ride I mapped my own route up the Alp d’Huez. The bike’s computer dropped the Internet connection after 29 minutes. Therefore, I lost the street view and history of my remaining ride total of 48 minutes.
A second scheduled ride went a little bit better with the iFit Live. While riding the route up the Stelvio Pass in Italy, the street view worked better, although the street view photos refreshed only every 5-7 seconds, and some views didn’t change for up to 30-40 seconds.
In addition, on this ride, the tilt was off about 8-10 degrees. For example, when my digital readout read +10 degrees, the bike was actually level. Instead of stopping and running the tilt-calibration that must be executed to set up the bike (because I had already done that!), I decided to continue the ride. Now, even with this tilt issue, the resistance still increased with the positive gradient. The other issue was that the iFit Live street view on many occasions did not match the incline and decline. When I was in a climb on the bike, the iFit Live showed me going downhill. So, the notion that I am seeing a “live view” isn’t really a live view.
When coming out of the saddle on climbs, each time I grabbed the hoods my fingers would accidentally strike the gear shifters and, depending on the settings, I would hear a beep-beep-beep warning because both hands would hit the shifters. In short, the shift buttons should have been placed further up the bars where they begin to tilt upward.
The Bottom Line
When the system works as advertised, it is fantastic. But working as advertised has only happened a couple of times. To ride where the pros ride around the world and imagine climbing the Pyrenees, Alp d’Huez or the Stelvio Pass is quite fun and completely eliminates the boredom with most indoor trainers. I also enjoyed seeing the countryside of Italy and France. I was messing around and mapped a short route near the Eiffel Tower to see if I could see it and I did. Really cool!
In summary, this was not a cheap purchase, and I have to admit that I was disappointed with the lack of connectivity with the bike computer and the iFitLive/Google Maps problems. This was one of the primary reasons I purchased the bike – and what truly makes it unique. I quickly began to feel that it was a burden to wait for the unit to connect to the Wi-Fi and get on and off the bike to try and reconnect when the connection was lost with my laptop computer. Training is about training – not dealing with technology that doesn’t work.
It seems to be well-built machine overall, but it has numerous bugs that need to be fixed in order to deliver the true experience it promises.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Pro-Form and other websites
Weight: 150 pounds (68 kg)
Resistance: Frictionless resistance (Magnetic)
Flywheel: Aluminum flywheel
Warranty: One year
How obtained: Purchased
Tested: 45+ hours.
- Quiet ride: Silent magnetic resistance flywheel
- Ride 24 pre-mapped courses or generate your own course (worldwide)
- Free one year membership iFit Live
- iPod compatible with external speaker
- Loud tilt motor
- iFit Live website connectivity extremely slow/disconnects
- Bike computer Wi-Fi connectivity difficult/disconnects
- Speed inaccurate (too high)
- Power-meter inaccurate (too high)
- Small computer screen
- Google Maps Live view not so “live” (disconnects)
– Rob Kortus, Owner/Founder of JerseyBin.com