Over the years I have gotten many inquiries from instructors, studio owners and even students asking me my opinion of Real Ryder bikes. So it’s about time I post what I think about these unique bikes that move.
I love the Real Ryder! It makes you realize how easy it is to cheat on a regular stationary bike. You actually do get a better workout. This blew me away when I came to this realization after a couple of rides – I even felt a bit sore in the abs after my first few rides. And yes, I do mean “cheat” on another bike, though we do not realize it until we experience something like the Real Ryder. (That coming from someone who taught on the Spinner bike for 15 years…)
I sold my Spinner® bike and now have a Real Ryder in my basement. It is great for training and for creating my profiles. But I currently do not teach on them (there isn’t a facility around here).
Take a look at this video:
The promotional material says it’s closer to a real cycling experience (which it is) but they are careful to say that it is not exactly like a real bike (which it isn’t). They realize that it is impossible to mimic exactly the forces produced on a real bike, such as in turns. So when I see critiques that say “it isn’t really like a bike outside, it turns very different,” I have to say, “well of course, what did you expect!” They are not claiming they can reproduce that sensation of gravity pulling on you as you drive through a turn. Perfect simulation of an outdoor experience may be impossible to achieve, so why not take the step that brings us as close as we may ever get?
Some with other programs have claimed that the side-to-side motion is a gimmick that is bad for the knees. But, if you understand biomechanics a little bit, that claim is unsubstantiated. The fact that it does move actually reduces the shearing forces on the knee joint, as opposed to having a bike frame that is solid and unmoving while your body moves side to side on top of it. This bike movement reduces chances for injury or discomfort—as long as the initial set-up is correct of course.
The engineering of this bike is rock solid. It’s very sturdy, the feel of the flywheel is nice and smooth. The side-to-side movement does take some getting used to, usually two or three rides before it feels right. For this reason, the first experience sometimes isn’t positive, mostly because of doubt and fear of change. Riders have expectations or they are so used to not moving on a standard indoor bike, and they can’t get their head beyond that. I recommend riding it at least twice, if not three times, before coming to a decision about the bike.
The core is engaged passively just like it is on a real bike, and you have a sensation of having worked harder afterward. However, I think some people (and instructors) unfortunately translate “core workout” to mean they are supposed to suck in the abs during the ride, but that is not the case. Just ride the bike without actively pulling in the abs; they will engage on their own as you lean to each side.
The best thing about this bike is that it promotes and actually rewards proper riding (for the most part). Because you have the additional element of side-to-side, there isn’t the need to add fluff elements, like contraindicated moves. The movement of the bike is enough to engage your body and mind; no need to do pushups, hovers or other psycho-spin moves.
I say “for the most part” because of course, some poorly educated instructors still try to do some of the same crazy moves and techniques done on a Spinner® or other stationary bike, but it is less likely because the need for it is reduced. You just cannot get bored on this bike!
Back in January, 2011, I went out to Los Angeles for the inaugural Real Ryder certification, at the invitation of the Real Ryder management. The certification was conducted by the venerable Douglas Brooks (someone I’ve followed in the fitness field as a personal trainer for almost 20 years!) who wrote the Real Ryder training program. Douglas is an avid cyclist, so it was a relief to know they hired not just someone well-known in the fitness field to create their certification program, but someone who is a passionate cyclist as well. You should also know that the creator of the Real Ryder bike, Colin Irving, is a former racer and cycling fanatic, so his goal was to create a bike with the most realistic feel possible. They reject the idea of anyone doing anything on this bike that isn’t cycling specific.
The certification was very good, but needed a few tweaks. Chris Plourd (former MI for Spinning and local well-known Los Angeles trainer and instructor) who also took the certification on that first day, and I sat down with the management and gave them our feedback after the workshop. They were extremely open to input from two Spinning MIs with a lot of certification experience behind them. For that alone I was very impressed. I haven’t seen the most recent certification, but I’ve heard good things about it from people I’ve known who have taken it.
I have attended a few of their rides with Douglas and Adam at the IDEA conference however, and I am so impressed with what they have created! Killer program, killer education, led by killer Master Trainers on a killer bike.
One of the primary reasons why an aero position is contraindicated on a static bike such as a Spinner® is the fact that the upper body becomes an anchor, locked down to the handlebars. This does not allow the upper body to move, and the hips are forced to rock to compensate for the locked-down position of the upper body. That alone creates a potential shearing action in the vertebrae when riding aero. Outdoors, a road bike moves underneath the rider so this is not an issue. On a Real Ryder, that problem is minimized because of the movement of the front of the bike. This is one of the reasons they promote the aero position heavily on the Real Ryders. It just feels much better than on a static indoor bike.
However, that is not the only reason not to ride aero. Although potential injury or discomfort in the aero position is reduced on the Real Ryder because of the movement, I’m not a big fan of this position because of the fact that the trunk is compressed and breathing is restricted, especially for less flexible non-athletes (a large percentage of the typical indoor cycling audience). As a result of this compression, most riders’ knees will fall to the side. The Real Ryder is not a tri-bike geometry which allows for a more open hip angle. Triathletes who have their aero position dialed in perfectly on their outdoor tri bikes should not ride aero on any other bike than their own, especially one without the tri-geometry. Doing so can be potentially damaging, and will not positively improve (and may actually impinge) their form or technique on their outdoor bike.
There is also the set-up issue of not being able to rest the elbows on the handlebars correctly so that they can continue to pedal in an optimal manner. This is especially true for short-framed riders who end up being way too stretched out in an aero position, with their arms too far forward. If your shoulders aren’t positioned directly above the elbows (at approximately 90 degrees), you should not be riding aero. The stress on the neck and shoulders is considerable, especially when the rider hyper extends the neck to look up at the instructor.
Riding in aero position correctly and safely takes a lot of skill and flexibility. When glute and hamstring flexibility is lacking, the lumbar spine is pulled into a rounded (hyper-flexed) position, increasing the stress on the vertebrae.
The issue in a class setting is if the instructor is doing it, the entire class will do it, even if it is ill-advised for that particular rider. Some (in my opinion, most) people should just not ride in an aero position because of their size, shape or lack of flexibility, not to mention their (and their instructor’s) lack of knowledge about correct technique to do so.
Although I just gave that subject five paragraphs, it still is relatively minor in the scheme of things on this bike that moves. I’ll just choose not to ride aero, and if you are an instructor teaching on this bike, please take that into consideration and check with each of your students individually. This bike is a fantastic “ryde” and a great choice for facilities who are looking for something unique and cycling specific.
If I taught on the Real Ryder bike, I wouldn’t choreograph the leaning side-to-side into my profiles. Instead, I would treat it like a real ride outside, with occasional leans to simulate downhill turns or uphill switchbacks. The beauty of this bike is that you have that choice!
My only hope is that they decide to add power to this bike in the near future, to follow in the footsteps of what most other companies seem to be implementing. Having these additional tools will be a game-changer, and I feel the Real Ryder would rock the industry when they can implement power, especially power that is actual, and not estimated.
Have you ever ridden a Real Ryder? What do you think? What was your initial reaction versus your impression after a few rides? Do you now teach on Real Ryders? I’d love to hear about it!