As stated before, my number one goal is to lose the weight though cycling. Riding fast, or going on club rides takes a back seat to my objective, weight loss. Going out for the sake of riding is not the ideal way to lose the weight, at least not for me. For me, I need a plan that I can follow day-in and day-out and that is where the iBike Powerhouse method of weight loss intrigues me. It is a simplified Power meter with customized power based interval training sessions created by the legendary Hunter Allen (power based cycling coach. A bio can be found at Peaks Coaching Group.) .
The system is a combination of a water/dust resistant case that contains the electronics that measures temperature, altitude, inclination, wind as well as the receiver for any ANT+ compatible sensor such as speed and cadence, heart rate monitor and even a DFPM (Direct Force Power Meter). Combine the case and it’s electronics with the Powerhouse software along with your iPhone or iPodTouch and you have a complete package for training.
The software itself comes with several different training goals to choose from:
- iSlim (the one I’m currently using)
- Express Fit
- Brazilian Butt
Each has their specific goals and can be used over and over. The basic concept is to choose a training plan, depending on your goals, enter the vitals (weight, height, type of bike, bike weight, tire circumference), sync sensors (done only once), tilt calibration and a setup ride (all done only once or as needed) then do a fitness test. Afterwards, a daily ride plan is generated. Just do the daily rides as prescribed. At regular intervals throughout the plan, you will be asked to perform additional fitness tests so that the workouts can be adjusted. After each workout you are asked to rate the intensity of the workout from a scale from 1 – 10 where 1 is easy and 10 is near death. These ratings also adjusts the following workouts as needed.
As I mentioned before, the case contain all the electronics for the system as well as a protective housing for your iPhone or iPodTouch. It is water and dust resistant and I have ridden in the rain with no water getting to my beloved iPhone 4. It is hinged at the top with a clamp that holds the lid shut tight. The case can be mounted on either the stem mount or on the handle bar. If your stem has a high angle you might be better off with the handle bar mount because the case may not be able to slip into the mounting bracket. On my set up I had to shimmy up the bracket to get the clearance I needed and on top of that I had to add rubber feet at the bottom to keep it from rattling on the bolts that hold that handlebar.
One last thing about the case is that because it is water/dust resistant, there is no port for headphone jack nor a button to turn off unit. To many that my not be such a big deal but to others it can. To listen to music or listen to audible feedback and cues headphone are needed. In this case Bluetooth headphones. For those that want to use the same case for social rides or other non-training rides, access to the power button to save battery life is a must. The simple solution is to open the case and push the button, but in my opinion that is added extra wear and tear on the hing.
During the Ride
One of the nice features of the system, is at the beginning of each interval, you have Hunter Allen motivating you and giving you a heads up on what is coming up next. Although not necessary, Bluetooth headset are needed to hear the heads-up. As a bonus you can listen to tunes while riding via a music button that allows you to pull up your favorite playlist while riding. If not, then there is a visual feedback to. It’s up to you if you want to use head sets or not. Each ride includes a warmup period, the workout followed by a cool down. The displays are large and easy to read as well as a count down timer for each interval.
You goal is to match the target cadence and the floating intensity level. You will have to be changing gears to reach the two targets. Sometimes you will need to be changing gears often depending on terrain and wind. If you never done intervals then you are in for a treat. You alternate from recovery spin to work intensity. Another bonus of this program is the variety of intervals! It’s not the same one day-after-day. You have pyramid, big gear/small gear, below/above upper threshold intervals to name a few as well as endurance rides and scheduled rest days.
My iSlim workouts, 56 in all, have been between 50 and 75 minutes with 54 minutes being the average. This gives me a great workout in a short amount of time. What I normally do afterwards is go riding free style and just put in some saddle time.
After the Ride
Once the workout is finished, there are some things you can do. First of all, you can see what the next ride is going to be. You can then upload your ride to Strava. Strava is the only site that is supported by the app. Hopefully others will be supported but only if users ask for them.
Something that I found out is that you can go back in history and pull up all of your ride files. This is cool because I can go back to my first ride and compare that to my latest ride. For me, it was an increase of 2 mph average.
One thing that i have noticed is when I do ride with a group, I tend to recognize the riding situation as one of the intervals from the program. My body automatically reacts and I get into a rhythm quicker.
A Few Caveats
I really like this system and there is always room for improvements. One thing that annoys me is the data from the fitness test can’t be upload to Strava. To me, if you are trying to achieve a mileage goal it would be nice to record it. You can’t even see the results in the history. It’s like the ride never occurred, but your lungs and legs tell you otherwise.
More sites to upload or tweet about your ride with the workout details are needed. Not everyone uses Strava and there are many to choose from. Even if they provided an email GPX file that would be good. Most places accept a GPX file to upload.
The ability to redo the last workout or fitness test is a must. Sometimes the fitness test didn’t come out as you would like to have or maybe you got interrupted while doing the workout. There should be a way to redo the previous ride. From what I’ve read on their forums, they do plan to implement this request.
The door cover snap handle did crack and eventually fell off. That means that I cannot lock the door closed. I contacted the company and they said they would replace/repair the case, I just had to send it in with a copy of the invoice. To me that mean one to two weeks without it. I opted for some Gorilla Glue and all is fine now. That has been about 2 months ago and the glue is still holding strong.
One last caveat is the receiver for the ANT+ sensors only work with iBike Apps. This means that if you are doing a non-training ride and want to use your existing favorite app like Cyclemeter you can’t sync the speed and cadence sensors or heart-rate. You would have to use GPS only mode with other Apps. Luckily, the folks at Velocomp have an App that you can use for just that purpose called iBike Coach.
Chip Seal Roads
Chip seal roads are rough on the case. If you have the stem mount option for the case, then expect a lot of vibration with the top of the case and the handle bar clamp bolts. It rattles the hell out of the unit and makes a lot of noise too! I don’t love those types of roads but you must be able to ride on it. Being the tinker that I am I came up with a solution of gluing strips of a used tire tube in the troubled area of the case. After a little tweaking it is now super quiet. If you get the mount that attaches to the handlebar then you shouldn’t have that problem.
Is the setup worth it? I my humble opinion, I believe it’s worth the investment. Just by following the program I have gotten fitter, stronger, faster and have been losing the weight. You still have to do your part with following the program and eating sensibly. This doesn’t give you the excuse of going out and downing a cheeseburger and a milkshake after the ride. Diet is just important as the method of burning the calories. The iBike Powerhouse method of losing weight is an excellent, fun way of achieving your goals.