Sometimes, no matter how resolute I am in my intentions or intent I am in my resolutions, I just can’t drag my butt out of the house to exercise on a cold morning. I may have found the answer to this dilemma with the XSPIN from Pafers.com and their apps Cycle Rush and Cycle on Earth.
I love to cycle for fitness, but lately I’ve been working my snooze alarm finger more than my glutes, because it’s just been too cold to put on my clown suit and haul the bike out of the basement for a training ride. I try to maintain my cycling fitness during the offseason by taking an occasional spin class at the YMCA, but the best instructors schedule their classes at the inhumane hour of 5:30. Sure, there are later classes, but they play techno music that makes my ears bleed or the Grease soundtrack over and over. I occasionally jump on a spin bike by myself in between classes, but I know that I don;t push myself nearly as hard without coaching or a destination.
The XSPIN seeks to bridge the gap between a live instructor and self-paced training through the use of what they call an “appcessory,” a combination of a Bluetooth electronic pace meter and two apps to encourage and track your training.
The core of the system is the XSPIN, an app-supported training sensor that provides up to 600 hours of use thanks to the low battery usage of the Bluetooth 4.0 technology. The sensor detects the motion and real-time pedaling speed during your exercise and communicates the data to compatible apps on iOS devices.
The XSPIN attaches easily to the pedals of an indoor exercise bike or a road bike mounted on rollers, thanks to a slim construction and an elastic and velcro strap. If you’ve ever tried to pedal a bicycle mounted on a trainer or rollers, then you know the last thing you want to be doing it futzing with any sort of monitor or the attachment to your pedals. XSPIN solves any sort of problem like that.
A unique feature of XSPIN is the fact that you can also mount it to the moment arm or rotating wheel of an elliptical machine to allow you some variety of your training program if you don’t want to get too saddle-sore.
Where the XSPIN really shows off is when paired with the “app” parts of the “appcessory” package. The XSPIN is compatible with any of these iOS devices:
• iOS 6.0 or later
• iPhone 4S (or later)
• iPad 3 (or later)
• iPad mini 1st Gen (or later)
• iPod touch 5th Gen (or later)
The first free app designed to work with the sensor is called Cycle on Earth. This program is integrated with Google Maps to allow users to experience lifelike rides on routes all around the world. When I’m seated on a bike that isn’t going anywhere, it always helps to at least have an imaginary destination, and it doesn’t hurt if the scenery is interesting along the way.
Choose your starting and ending points and then map your route from point A to point B, and Cycle on Earth plots a ride based on the distance between the points. As the XSPIN detects your speed and distance, your path is traced turn-by-turn along the route to encourage you as you pedal toward the finish.
Even better, you can choose Satellite or Street views instead of a standard map for a more interesting and scenic projection of your virtual route. Picture riding a leg of the Tour de France through the Alps or around the neighborhood where you grew up. You can search for preset locations instead of addresses if you want to take a spin around the Great Pyramids or along the rim of the Grand Canyon. Suddenly a 45 minute workout can fly by as you pedal away the miles. Of course, these visuals are better on the larger screen of a tablet versus a phone, but make sure that you have your iPad securely attached to the handlebars.
If your imagination isn’t enough to motivate you and need more coaching, Cycle Rush might be the app for you. This app is packed with excellent indoor cycle training programs, motivating coaching sessions, and inspiring music. Workouts range from warm-up and beginner rides to lessons that concentrate on specific goals like strength training or fat burning.
Easy-to-follow graphs and audible coaching instructions remind you of your progress and what pedal cadence and resistance levels to use from minute to minute to maximize your workout. While the included techno music soundtracks may have been a little too modern for my taste, the tempos do match the cadences well as another tool to keep you pedaling at the proper speed. There’s always the option to play your own playlists off of your iOS device if you don’t want to pretend you are spinning in da’ club.
The XSPIN indoor cycling experience has certainly motivated me to do some extra winter training. I enjoy the ease with which the sensor links up with the apps within the program, and in-app purchases of further training modules within Cycle Rush are a nice touch after you’ve exhausted all your favorite workouts. The fact that the virtual coach encourages a sensible warm up and cool down period has made my workouts more tolerable the next day as well. Heck, I might even stay inside when the weather finally warms up.
The XSPIN is available for purchase from the Apple Store.
What I liked: Ease of installation. Multiple workouts to motivate riders when they’d rather be outdoors. Easy to pair sensor with apps.
What needs improvement: Thumpa-thumpa techno beats aren’t my favorite music to work out to, but I understand what they mean when youngsters tell me “If it’s too loud, then you’re too old.” I can always spin away to my old school funk playlist.