Computrainer – My First Experience


January 1, 2013 by IowaTriBob

This past week my Computrainer arrived and I couldn’t wait to get it setup and take my first ride. Not only is this my first ride on a Computrainer, it’s my first ride on any indoor trainer. In the past I’ve either been outside or at the YMCA on a stationary spin bike (neither of which are ideal for winter in Iowa). To jump right to the conclusion – I absolutely loved it.

The Computrainer came highly recommended by Wendy, my triathlon coach, as well as many others that I talked with. It was often referred to as the standard of indoor performance trainers and something that could not only keep me in biking shape over the winter months but actually improve my bike leg for my upcoming triathlon season. The Computrainer arrived in a single box weighing 38 lbs.

Computrainer Arrival

Once unpacked there are only a handful of parts as shown below.

Computrainer Unboxed

I won’t cover the step by step setup instructions as there is an excellent review written by DC Rainmaker that goes into great detail.

I will however cover two spots where I had issues (RPM signaling and Real Course Video setup) and had to do a little bit of research or tweaking to get things to work just right.

The RPM’s are measured by a controller or cadence attachment wrapped in Velcro. The instructions on how to attach this to your bike are less than clear and the pictures make it even more confusing. The instructions talk about attaching the controller to your “chain stay”. While this might be a common term among cyclists, for a newbie I had no idea what or where this was. Quit simply it’s the part of the frame extending from your pedals to the rear of your bike. The controller goes on the left side of your bike (if you’re standing at the rear of your bike) and is opposite the side with the gear wheels. I positioned mine at the furthest point that my pedal could reach as described in the instructions. The controller should extend down towards the floor and be as close as possible to the pedal arm as it makes a rotation past.

Computrainer Cadence Sensor

The other part to the RPM setup is a small magnet that is attached to the pedal arm that interacts with the controller each time it passes by. Here is where my problem was. Being the engineer I tried to line up the magnet so that it would pass the exact center of the controller. For whatever reason if the magnet is centered it won’t record a revolution when passing the controller. Not sure if this is something with the magnets themselves but I had to position the magnet so about half of it would pass over the controller with the other half missing completely. When I made this slight modification the rpm’s on the screen fired right up.

The second issue I had was the Interactive Real Course Video from Racer Mate. For starters, the packaging and actual DVD are pretty unimpressive and cheap. In fact, the DVD is a simple DVD RW that looks like it’s burned on-demand by someone sitting at their desk with an Avery label maker. Unfortunately my DVD wouldn’t even load on my computer. I’d put the disc in the tray only to hear some grinding noises but nothing ever showed up. I tried to access the disc directly through a command line and through explorer but my laptop wouldn’t even recognize there was a DVD in. I know it’s not an issue with my laptop as I was able to install all the other software from disc without a problem and I watch DVD’s on it all the time. Plain and simple it’s an issue with the DVD they sent and quality (or lack of) in the production process.

As a last ditch effort I inserted the DVD into another desktop computer and although the noises and grunts showed up the same way, the desktop was able to access the drive and files through explorer. I quickly copied everything onto an external USB HD and was able to transfer them over to my laptop where everything was setup.

Once past these two small issues I was ready to give my new Computrainer a try.

Computrainer Setup

I fired up the Real Course Video of the USAT Age Group Nationals Olympic Course at Tuscaloosa and away I went.

The video is awesome and the ability for the Computrainer to simulate the terrain felt as real as any ride I’ve had outdoors. The course was fairly hilly and you could feel even the slightest change in grade both uphill and downhill. The ability to see the grade changes in the video was such a great change from just watching the bars on the YMCA stationary bike. It was great to see the riders in the video next to you and it provided a little extra motivation as one would pass you or you’d catch up and pass them. I found myself at one point actually talking to a few of them with some derogatory comments as they flew by me.

Real Course Video

At the same time you’re riding a very realistic course experience you can see your stats in real time. My power output, rpm’s, heart rate, and speed were all clearly marked and visible and shown in a way that didn’t distract from the main riding experience.

After 73 minutes in the saddle I was done with the 23.9 mile Tuscaloosa course. It was my second longest ride ever and definitely one of the more enjoyable I’ve had during the past several cold outdoor months.

What’s great about the Computrainer is that I was able to save my performance file of the race and can refer back to it as winter progresses and even race against myself in future rides. Overall I was pretty pleased with my first ride stats that consisted of:

Speed = 19.1 mph average, 32.4 mph max
Watts (power) = 188.1 average, 438 max
Cadence = 85 rpm’s average
Heart Rate = 157.5 bpm average

With the Watts (power) output it’s really great (and humbling) to be able to compare where I’m at against the top triathlon athletes in the world. For example, Pete Jacobs averaged 281 watts with a max of 645 during the 2012 Ironman Kona bike leg.

I absolutely loved my first ride and look forward to a bike time trial test today over a flat 10 mile course. I now have no doubt that I’ll be able to see continued progress this winter because of my Computrainer and would highly recommend it to anyone considering purchasing one.

13 thoughts on “Computrainer – My First Experience

  1. While I don’t ever ride indoors, the Computrainer does look cool! Now what you need is someone to throw stuff at you as you ride (maybe with a few chucks of ice and slush, along with a few bottles).

    • Ha! That is hilarious~ Where’s the app to simulate a mud puddle bus splash?

      • IowaTriBob says:

        That would be fun (in a sad kind of way). I’d be surprised if someone, somewhere, hadn’t already setup a complete 4d ride experience for these things. They are pretty cool.

    • IowaTriBob says:

      Its definitely ranks pretty high on the cool scale, even for a tech geek guy like myself. LOL… I’ll have my kids make an appearance next time to run out in front of me, yell like its my fault, and then throw a few things at me so I can practice my duck, dip, dodge, duck strategies.

  2. ichoosetotri says:

    Um, can I borrow that for a couple months?

  3. Carrie says:

    Wow, so, so cool! Setting up my “normal” indoor bike trainer was difficult, so I can only imagine how challenging (and frustrating!) it must’ve been to deal with those two issues. It sounds like it was worth it, though–your stats looks great (disclaimer: I’m a rookie ;))!

    • IowaTriBob says:

      Surprisingly it wasn’t so bad. I kind of like to tinker a bit with these things so it wasn’t a huge issue and given its a computrainer there isn’t a lack of info online.

      Now the one thing I haven’t tackled, nor do I plan to try myself, is replacing my back tire with a special trainer tire that I bought with the computrainer. I pulled it out of the box, looked at the instructions, and put it right back in and set it aside. I think a trip to the local shop is in order for that one.

      • Carrie says:

        Ah, the trainer tire. I tired to put it on myself, but it didn’t go so well; after struggling for a while, I headed to a bike shop down the street and had them put it on. Best to leave this stuff to the professionals. :)

  4. Dabel says:

    I would to LOVE to log some miles without venturing into the MN cold, but I have a neighbor whose only purpose in life is to write letters to the HOA about what a horrible human being I am. I am afraid there would be too much noise. The hum of the bike, the grunts of a Dabel, and the shouting at other cyclists when they “pass” me may put the neighbor over the edge. Maybe next winter. Hrmph.

  5. Sandra says:

    Dumb question, but is the video connected in any way to the trainer to increase resistance, or is that something you do yourself? I just have the MagTrainer, which works really well. . . I need a DVD for motivation though. It’s REALLY boring just watching TV.
    Iowa is right next door to me. . . we were riding outside at the beginning of December in shorts! ENjoy the trainer!

    • IowaTriBob says:

      Not a dumb question at all. The great thing about the Computrainer is that it does all the adjusting for you. You just put the video in and ride. I was really surprised how realistic the climbs felt and it even actually feels like your pedaling downhill going down the other side. My experience with the YMCA was similar to yours and just plain old boring. I was able to ride 23 miles and enjoy the scenery and other riders on the course just like I was there. The other thing I really liked was the stats that it keeps and I look forward to riding the same course again next month to see if there are any improvements.

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