Sit back, relax, and enjoy the exercise bike.
Pros: Solid construction, comfortable seat, tough workout
Cons: No relative resistance feedback, no integration between the computer and resistance
As winter and the holidays take their toll on our physiques, my fiancee and I decided it was time for some home exercise. We were originally set on an upright exercise bike, but the Schwinn recumbent bikes were comfortable, well-built, and very nicely priced. Overall, we have been very happy with the 205P, and it’s so easy that we use it practically every night.
As anyone who has paid a visit to the fitness store can tell you, exercise equipment can be frighteningly expensive. A good fitness shop can have treadmills and bikes priced in
excess of $2000 – a figure that’s only reasonable if you’re a health club or one financially set critter. We are neither, and our house is not big enough to accommodate anything as large as a treadmill, but we wanted to get a piece of equipment that was solidly built, comfortable, and easy to use. We originally visited Dick’s Sporting Goods, but the selection was poor and the equipment, while it boasted nifty looking features, looked cheap and poorly built. At the real fitness shop we found a large selection of equipment, and to our surprise Schwinn was a major manufacturer of quality low-cost recumbent bikes.
The 205P was the cheapest of the bunch – it sports a strap-tension system for resistance that is typical of a lot of low-cost exercise equipment. The frame is welded steel and very solid, and the seat and pedals are well-constructed and appear to be fairly durable. This is the kind of bike you might expect to find in a hotel workout room or a lower-end fitness center. It even has a little computer, very similar to a road bike’s, that gives you stats like time, distance, calories, speed, and odometer. You can set the time to count down, but it doesn’t beep when it’s done to let you know that time is up. There is a
“scan” setting so that the display cycles through all of the variables as you ride, and there’s even a socket for an optional pulse monitor, which we didn’t get.
Assembly was very easy – the major parts are already put together out of the box, and all that was left was to assemble the frame (3 parts), attach the seat and the wheels, screw on the pedals, and hook up the computer. It took me 45 minutes from start to finish, and all of the necessary tools were provided. The wheels on the front are a nice touch, and they
make the bike very easy to roll from place to place despite its weight.
Using the bike is very simple – just hop on, adjust the distance between the seat and the pedals, and start pedaling. The computer even turns itself on and starts the timer once it senses the pedals moving. Adjusting the seat is very easy, even when you’re sitting on it – a handle on the right projects from beneath the seat to lock and unlock it. Unlocking it
causes it to slide easily along the frame, and it’s a snap to pull yourself to a new position, test the pedal distance, and re-lock the seat all without dismounting the bike. Padded handles on either side of the seat provide a good grip when you’re cranking out the last few minutes. The seat itself is padded but not too soft, and it provides excellent support
and comfort while pedaling. In fact, I was surprised at how comfortable this bike was when I tested it in the store – for a bike this cheap, the seat is nicely contoured and more than satisfactory.
Adjusting the resistance is done via a knob below the computer, and this is my only complaint about the bike. Because it is tension-resistance via a spring that is not connected with the computer, there is no way to judge the relative tension from session to session, nor to measure how much resistance you are using and therefore how much exercise you’re really getting. The “calories” setting on the computer must be an approximation at best. Like another review said, that’s the major sacrifice you make with a bike in this price range – a more expensive one would probably integrate the computer with the resistance and give more accurate feedback.
All gripes aside, though, this bike is an excellent value. The fact that it’s recumbent makes it much more comfortable than an upright bike (and far easier on the delicate areas), and Schwinn provides a limited lifetime warranty in case certain parts break when they shouldn’t. The only things that could conceivably wear out on this bike are the tension belt
(easily replaceable) and the chain, but the latter is certified for road bike use so I don’t see how it could break under normal home exercise conditions. After riding it nearly every night for the past week, I can attest to its fitness value as well – if you crank up the resistance and keep a steady pace you’ll be sweating hard in under 10 minutes. If you’re shopping for exercise equipment on a budget, this is the bike for you!