I have been injured for the last 9-12 months or so to the point where I had to find an alternative means of testing and pushing myself as I’ve been unable to use the rowing machine. For the most part that has come in the form of the Wattbike (WB), an indoor static bike, and weight training. This is a fantastic piece of gym equipment and offers a huge range of session options that hopefully keeps me in decent shape when the time comes I am able to re-introduce the rower to my training. My aim and targets, medium and long term, are very much still rower focused when my body allows.
A few weeks ago now I took delivery of the latest piece of equipment that Concept 2 has produced. It is called the Bike Erg (BE) and operates using the same flywheel system as both the Ski Erg and the rowing machine. It sounded an intriguing prospect for many reasons, not least because I was interested to see how it matched up, and differs from, the WB. In the last few weeks 75% of my sessions have been on the BE and I have mixed their style up so as to get a balanced opinion on it.
The two bikes are able to produce a similar amount of power (recorded in watts) as one another, but the feel of this process is very different between the bikes. I feel the WB is more like cycling on the road whereas the BE is not so much like cycling. You could liken the WB to a sports car, quickly up to speed and very smooth. The BE, more of a grind, like a powerful 4 x 4 that would be great using its power to tow a trailer. Petrol Vs Diesel perhaps. Both very powerful for different purposes.
When you are on the bikes, particularly a short interval session, the WB is far easier to get up to speed than the BE. It’s almost instant. This does mean on the short sessions the watts are higher on the WB, but both leave you with a savage leg burn. As a rule, I have found that the output (watts) is far more even the further distance you cover. To make an even better direct comparison you would have to compare a timed session rather than distance session (below) as the pace/km is about 20s faster on a WB for the same output in watts on the BE.
Both of these machines can be a brutal workout and as an experience can’t really be compared. I’m not sure spending time on one would necessarily help the other, similar to cross-training to improve rowing. Whatever it is you want to improve is the activity you need to spend nearly all your training time on. Sounds obvious, but diversifying may help training stimulation and interest, but sticking to the piece of equipment you want to improve on is the way to go….more so the closer to your limits you get.
At less than £1000, the BE is less than half the price so there is an issue here definitely. I would say if you hadn’t ever been on a WB then the BE would be the best bike you could own, certainly at that price point. Both are also easy to use, however, the WB offers far greater feedback which would be useful to a more experienced rider. If you are aiming to train hard then both can deliver that for sure, but in a way, you will only understand by trying both. In my opinion, the BE is more brutal, it takes no prisoners and Concept 2 really have created a rowing machine, and all the fear that holds, in a bike format! Here are 2 opposing style sessions for a quick comparison of the two bikes. The first is an identical interval session (most other things equal) I did on the respective bikes on following days this weekend and the second is a comparable effort distance session.
1 – 400m x 12 (rest 90s
WB – about 24s per rep (ave pace 59s/km) and an average of 774w.
BE – about 33s per rep (ave pace 1m 23s/km) and an average of 596 w.
This highlights the higher output and faster pace on the WB. Both hurt a lot, but I was in real trouble on the BE. Maybe that was because it was several seconds longer, but it was horrible.
332 watts, 40m 21s, (ave pace 1.20.7/km)
30km Bike Erg
321 watts, 51m 28s, (ave pace 1.42.9/km)
Similar feeling effort on these two sessions, albeit a nicer experience on the WB.
I will shortly be releasing a cycling plan that can be adapted to both bikes, but to put it bluntly both will keep you very fit. I think when the dust settles the two bikes will end up in different commercial sectors. In my opinion at this point, however, the Wattbike would be a more comfortable and luxurious way to die than the Bike Erg!!!
***This comparison/blog is based on my own experiences***
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