My first experience with an “exercise bike” was as a young boy when my mother got on a fitness kick, and our family got its first taste of indoor cycling technology.  A lot has changed over the past thirty or so years, and indoor cycling has taken a quantum leap past the dreaded excer-cycles of yesteryear.  There have been some good iterations up to now, no doubt, but nothing has ever made me look forward to indoor training like the new Keiser M3.  Let me confess right off the bat, I’m typically not a “spin” type of guy.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against spinning, in fact I enjoy it, but I’ve never made it part of my training or off-season routine.  Most of my cycling revolves around my chosen hobby (obsession), triathlon. In any case, most of my riding is done solo.  That’s how it has best fit into my schedule, I’ve enjoyed determining when and how I do my workouts, I like the outdoors, and perhaps I’m just too lazy to wake up early enough to go to a class, so there.

This begs the question: what would make a “no-spin” guy want to get up at 4:45am, grab a bite, and haul his sleepy body to a 5:30 spin class? One word.  Power.  In outdoor training, results are quantifiable.  I can measure my heart rate, my mileage, my time over a given route, speed cadence, etc, etc.  For those who can afford them, one of the latest advents in personal training devices is the personal power meter.  Products like the PowerTap will give you real-time feedback about just how much power (measured in watts) you produce at any given time while pedaling your bicycle.  There are also indoor trainers that incorporate power (Computrainers).  These devices let you know if you are pedaling just hard enough to power and Edison light bulb, or a microwave oven.  The quantifiable aspect of a bike workout is what I have missed from spin classes. There are some great instructors, and they will hand out as much suffering as you are willing to take, that is for sure.  But I tend to be a “by the numbers” sort of guy, and at the end of the class I was always left wondering how to measure my workout.  I knew for sure if it kicked my tail (and they would) but it was difficult for me to compare one class to another.  Was workout B really harder than workout A, or had I simply recovered less from a previous workout when I walked into class?

Before I offer my impressions, I feel compelled to say that I in no way consider myself an expert on spin cycles.  I just know what I like. Apparently this bike has been out for a couple of years, but this has been my first encounter with it. While I don’t believe that any indoor experience can exactly replicate riding outdoors (nor do I think that is the goal of a spin cycle), the Keiser M3 gives me what I have been looking for – hard data, and a reproducible amount of resistance.  Here is what I mean:  Previous generations of spin bikes that I have used relied on knobs and friction to provide flywheel resistance, making it nearly impossible to keep up with how much resistance one is accustomed to working out with, much less reproducing the same scenario twice.  The M3 solves that with electronic gearing and magnetic resistance.  I can dial in a gear, 1 through 24, and count on it being pretty much the same each time I get on the bike.   Couple that with a cadence and power readout, and now we have some real parameters to work with.  After only two sessions on one of these new bikes, I find myself using power as one of the main measures of my workout.  It is now possible for me to quantify progress on the indoor spin cycle!

As far as the actual ride goes, the M3 is by far the smoothest indoor cycle I’ve been on to date.  I also appreciate that it has a “narrow” feel.  Often, stationary bicycles  have a large beefy housing between the crank arms which can make for a less natural pedaling motion.  The Keiser, in my opinion, has a much better feel.  I also appreciate how adjustable it is.  Unlike many models that make you choose from several pre-selected positions (i.e. select slot A, B, C etc for your seat height), the M3 is almost infinitely adjustable.  Some have noted that the handlebars have no fore-aft adjustment and see this as a drawback.  The result is a more aggressive riding position, as compared to a typical road setup.  Personally,  it doesn’t bother me, but I prefer a more aggressive position anyway.  All in all, I found It a joy to use, at least as joyful as you can be while sweating buckets and being yelled at.  Another confession: I actually enjoy the yelling.