What the…? It’s a WattBike, and it’s no joke. Instead, it is a serious bit of training hardware; serious enough to have the endorsement of British Cycling, who helped with development during its seven-year gestation and who use Wattbikes as a means of identifying talented young athletes with potential as competitive cyclists.
Heavy enough at 60kg to add a substantial carriage charge to the cost price of £1650, it will support a maximum rider weight of 150kg and can support a power input of 5000 watts for extended periods – so don’t think you are going to overload it.
The construction is massively solid, using zinc-plated steel tubing for the frame and hardened steel for the cranks, which are so far only offered in 170mm length. 50mm diameter rubber feet are adjustable to ensure a stable pedalling platform while both saddle and handlebars are adjustable for reach and height. Both are attached to the frame using square 45mm section, 3mm wall thickness stainless steel tubing with cast stainless steel clamp supports. This baby is built to last.
Resistance is provided by a combination of air brake and friction belt, with a heavy flywheel to provide a realistic pedalling sensation. Resistance can be tuned by opening or closing the vents in the air brake and by tensioning the belt, which simulates the lower inertia sensation of climbing. Gauges measure chain tension and cadence to provide highly accurate, calibrated power measurement. Values are taken for 27 parameters, which provide a vast store of information extending to a near real-time visual depiction of pedalling technique for each leg.
The infamous Concept 2 rowing machine provided much of the inspiration for the Wattbike’s resistance functions, which include standard and customised workouts with various power figures and elapsed and remaining time or distance functions. It will store up to 40 individual workout results, which can be downloaded using the Wattbike software.
The precise, repeatable, calibrated power measurement of the Wattbike means that anyone can jump on and ‘race’ anyone else who has recorded a time or distance value. The only major function missing, which is due to be added to the software soon, is some means of relating power output to body size and weight to ensure that larger riders do not have an automatic advantage.
We have set up our test example in the basement of RCUK towers and will be reporting on it over the next few weeks. So far, some 20 members of staff have been persuaded to ride a 1000m TT with three DNFs… Road riding it may not be; hard it most certainly is.