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Fitness equipment is getting sleeker, smaller and more refined as technology changes, and the folks at LifeCore have taken full advantage of all the advancements with a recumbent bike that, as of January 2009, has the smallest footprint of any recumbent we’re aware of– 44 inches long and 24 inches wide.
That alone makes it very attractive to many who don’t want hulking pieces of equipment taking over the living room or even the basement. But that’s not the only thing this bike has to offer.
SNEWS® had a series of reviewers from 40-somethings to 80-somethings use the bike over a period of several months, although the regular users were a woman in her 70s and a man in his 80s. A recumbent bike is, of course, perfect for older users because of the lack of impact and ease on aging joints and bones. All users were casual exercisers who only pedaled for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
It was the 80+ year old who put the bike together when it arrived in a box, proving even that wasn’t complicated. But it took a bit of mechanical knowledge since the instructions weren’t easy to follow (the terms were a little oddball), and they hadn’t diagrammed certain parts, requiring our user to play sleuth. In addition, although the package said all the wrenches needed were included, they weren’t. Luckily, our user had a garage full of wrenches and succeeded in assembling the thing. If you’re not mechanically inclined, consider purchasing setup and assembly so somebody else has to deal with any of those frustrations.
The bike has a simple design that allows users to “step through” the center to sit down – only stepping over a low piece between the pedals and the seat. Its mesh back and seat were called out by all users not only as extremely comfortable and supportive but also as highly adjustable and accommodating for all shapes and sizes. Although the seat was accommodating, a couple of inexperienced users needed to be shown how to move the seat forward and back as well as how to tilt the seat back forward.
The bike pedaled smoothly and quietly, even allowing others in the same room to watch TV or talk on the phone. Those who had experience on other bikes found it was the most comfortable one they had ridden.
From its low-profile console to its heart-rate programs and built-in reading rack, the LifeCore bike has it all. It even comes with a heart-rate monitor transmitter chest strap so you can follow your heart rate on the console.
One feature the company touts is an “iPod-inspired” toggle wheel to control the programming and adjust resistance. The biggest problem all our users had was figuring that out since it’s not totally intuitive and the manual is – we hate to say it – nearly useless in its instructions, really offering no help that is easy to understand. Perhaps this feature would work with a younger user, but most recumbent riders are older. In fact, our older users thought they had messed up a wire or some connection in setup since they couldn’t figure out why the speed and distance function didn’t seem to work. What they didn’t realize was that it took twirling and clicking the toggle to set that part for use. On a positive note, when they called customer service, they were helped quickly, politely and efficiently, offering what our 80+ year old called “excellent service.”
Since our users were just pedaling for time and only adjusting resistance, the 12 pre-set programs and toggling around weren’t even necessary; they pedaled happily for months before they even called customer service.
There was one additional downside, although it would not be experienced in everyday use: The lack of a handle or grip on the back of the bike for moving it around. Sure, it has oversized wheels built-in to the front, but there is no way to tilt the bike forward to push it around on those wheels unless you bend all the way over and pick it up under the base – that’s a back injury waiting to happen. It would be so easy to put a grip on the back of the seat, and this would allow pretty much anyone to roll the bike.
Despite the glitches in assembly and a toggle control that didn’t work out, our users like the bike, enjoy the smooth pedaling and easy adjustment and find it has strengthened their legs.
The bike has a warranty of seven years for parts and one year labor for home use.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $1,699
For information: www.lifecorefitness.com