Ok, so I wasn’t really biking in Hawaii, but I sort of experienced what biking in that neck of the woods might be like. This will in fact be a different sort of post for me, because it’s actually going to be… wait for it… a product review! What?! I’m sure you’re wondering why, and fear not, your questions will all be answered, and you’ll also get to laugh at me trying to do yoga, and read about a set of cycling DVDs that are new(ish) to the market. Yup, my tireless blogging and training has finally got me some notice. I noticed a comment on my site less than 2 weeks ago asking me if I’d like to review some spinning DVDs, as I’m a cycling blogger, and the gent thought I’d be interested. What follows in the next few paragraphs will explain how I came to get those DVDs, and just what I thought of them. I had to get cracking on it, because with the nicer weather, I didn’t want to stay locked up in my basement spinning anymore, so I sacrificed a Friday night to bring you this review and the associated pictures and videos, all of which you can check out on the flickr folder I put them in. But before that, you might as well just hit the read link, since I’ve embedded the videos as well.
The DVDs came to me courtesy of Jeff Saporito of the company called Global Ride. After reading his original comment, I at first thought it might just be spam, but I emailed Jeff anyway, telling him that I would be willing to review the DVDs, but he had to understand that I would only say exactly what I thought of them. He responded that he would expect nothing less, and told me he’d send a box set (3 DVDs) to my house to review, and when done, I could keep the DVDs. Sounded like a pretty good deal to me. After all, the long winter season up here requires me to find some way to stay in cycling form while the bikes are hibernating in their stables, so I’m always on the lookout for something new.
Those who know my winter training habits probably know that I’ve been using another product to get me through the long slogs in front of my computer. I won’t mention product names, but the words Coach Troy should probably tell you what I’m used to using. They are standalone DVDs as well, with included coaching. I’ll draw some comparisons later in the review for some points of reference. The other popular products out there are more of a ‘virtual ride’ simulators that are often used in conjunction with a CompuTrainer, which will actually automatically adjust the tension on your trainer, so that you don’t need to pretend it gets harder, it just actually does get harder. Personally, I haven’t felt rich enough to buy those toys, so these DVDs, being of the former standalone variety, were the right tool for me to try out.
Okay, first impressions now. Well, it’s a box set. What’s to say? A cardboard sleeve houses the 3 individual DVDs: “Strendurance in Hawaii“, “Oceanside Ride“, and “Maui Rollers“, the subject of this review. Why did I choose that one? Well, it was the only one of the three with a picture of a mountain biker on the cover :-). The packaging for all 3 DVDs was well done. There was information on the cover of each talking about the style of ride, and about the coaching tracks included. Also, each DVD expounded about the bonus content on each. Namely, 30 minutes of either Yoga, Pilates, or Strength Training. The images used on each package were also nicely laid out, and had me curious to see what the actual content would be like, so let’s move one.
I popped it in the computer, and booted it up. A clean, simple menu presented itself. I was given the option of music or no music on the first screen, then coaching or no coaching on the next screen. If you selected coaching, a follow-up screen then asked me to select a coaching track. American, Australian, Italian, or Live Coaching (well, taped live actually). All were in english. Once these selections were made, I figured it was time to get spinning. Hmm, not quite I guess. I was now being presented with a selection of really nice pictures while the music started. Although there was no coaching or instructions, I figured this must be the warm-up before the ride. Might have helped if we’d been told that in advance, but no biggie, I was enjoying the pictures, and figured the ride would start in earnest soon enough.
A few minutes of the eye candy, and it was time to get things underway. The first part of the ride was called “Kissed by the Morning Rain”, and the camera lens was initially covered with water droplets. A neat effect, but I actually found it a little distracting. I also noticed that the audio track wasn’t exactly perfect for my tastes. I’m the kind of rider who likes to have the music pumping while I’m training, so naturally, I had selected the music option. Unfortunately, the coaching tracks all seemed a bit buried in the mix, so I had to really strain my ears to pick up what was wanted of me. For that reason, I couldn’t seem to quite get into the swing of the workout. Of course, it may very well also have been because I was focused on snapping pictures and video for this review as well.
Each DVD seems to be split into a number of mini-workouts. Maui Rollers for example, was 3 parts cycle training, and a bonus section for cooldown. Kissed by Morning Rain, Climbing to Sunshine, Feeling the Need for Speed, and wrapped up with Yoga. Each mini section also had its own theme, and original music to accompany it. Apparently, all the tunes you hear on the DVDs can also be picked up on iTunes, so it’s not just generic beats playing in the background, but actual musicians, which I very much appreciated.
By the time I got to the second segment of the ride, my arms were slick with sweat, and my shirt thoroughly soaked. As with any good spinning workout, I just got progressively more into the ride. After having fiddled with a number of the different audio tracks, I’d finally settled on the live recorded coaching track. My rationale for this was simple. The live track was actually a coached spin class, so the fellow running it was actually focused on giving cues as to the difficulty you should put into the ride. Also, there was a bit of crowd noise so that you didn’t feel like you were the only one suffering at any one moment. The other audio coaching tracks were a mixed bag, with varying levels of excitement and course description. The Aussie in particular for this one seemed pretty into the ride. He reminded me more of a race commentator than a coach though 🙂
I didn’t check if the individual work sections were actually indexed on the DVD or not, but I assume they were. That way, if you want, you could probably jump in at any point (like for the downhills, or the yoga ;-). The second chapter was a slightly harder climbing section, which would ultimately lead us to the apex of the hill, and on to the downhill portion. At this point, I was more able to just immerse myself in the scenery and the ride. Although the coach was still there talking, I had more or less just zapped myself into the scenery itself, and just tried to adjust my effort level to suit what I was seeing on the screen.
One thing I did appreciate was the changing camera angles. Although a lot of emphasis was put on point-of-view camera work, there were also side shots on occasion, as well as some looking back at another rider. I think I liked those shots best, as I could see someone else’s effort level, and try to match that with my own gearing
Before much longer, it seemed the ride was coming to an end. I was actually just starting to really get into the scenery, but it looked like an hour of riding was all I’d be getting on this outing. The scenery truly was top-notch. Towards the end, I realized just why I liked it so much. This type of riding and geography was a lot like the riding I had done in NZ for 4 months last year. Narrow, twisty roads, oncoming traffic, lush vegetation, and some wet weather. Ahh, memories. I can see Global Ride eventually putting together some kick-ass training DVDs from that neck of the woods, and I’ll gladly volunteer to help them put those together 🙂
At the end of the ride, we had a final push for the finish, and it was time to cool down. This was clearer than the warm-up had been, with a graphic telling us to cool down, and the voice-over talking about it. Once again, we were treated to some gorgeous pictures taken from around the world. All of them from rides and tours that had been done by one of the company owners I suspect.
But wait… there was more. We were told to now pause the DVD and get ready for the post-ride Yoga session. I diligently paused the DVD and got myself ready by hopping off the bike, swigging some water, and kicking off my shoes. Of course, who was I kidding, I probably wasn’t really going to do the whole Yoga session, but I figured I’d give it the ole college try since I’d gotten this far into my review. I’ll be honest. At the outset, I wasn’t sure I’d actually do the whole ride. I figured I might just check out certain scenes. After all, it was Friday night, and had a weekend of real riding planned already. However, in my quest to provide a fair review for this product, I just couldn’t help but get all the way through it. I’m glad I did too.
One of the toughest things in the winter is to stay motivated to ride. While I’ve been quite happy with the existing cycling DVD products that I’ve been using, this certainly provides me with another option and tool for my arsenal. Sometimes you want a structured training ride, being told exactly what gears, for exactly how long, etc. However, there are other times when you just want to hop on the saddle and go for a ride. This product fills in that need for me. Sure, you could watch a movie or TV, but frankly, I’d rather be staring down asphalt stretching off to the horizon while I’m pumping my legs. For other DVDs, they may want to look at putting out a few others that stretch the workout longer, but I think a lot of people have a hard time spinning for hours on end, so this probably caters to the majority of riders.
As I mused at the outset of this review, this product seems to fit in the middle of the available spinning products out there. Not a full-blown virtual riding DVD, but not a regimented spinning DVD either. For the price being asked, there certainly isn’t much harm in picking them up. For the price of about 8 spinning classes, you can have yourself a box set with 3 completely different workouts, complete with some training on the side like yoga and pilates. Not a bad option really.
Well, I think I’ll wrap up my write-up here, as you no doubt are getting sort of bored with my pedal-by-pedal account of this by now. To save you some time, you can also check out the embedded videos. They say pretty much the same thing, but are much quicker to get through. Of course, then you have to watch me 🙂 Anyway, enough reviewing, time to get out on the real roads! Stay active folks!