BikeErg Concept 2 review | weekly cycling

If you’ve ever ridden a rowing machine in a gym, chances are you’re already familiar with the Concept2 brand. It is the same company that organizes the Indoor Rowing Championships, which James Cracknell and Sir Bradley Wiggins participated in. In fact, any indoor rowing event, race or record will always be completed on a Concept2 rower because it’s the gold standard. when it comes to reproducible and comparable data on each machine.

It is this ability to reproduce data with such precision that makes the Concept2 BikeErg very attractive as one of the best exercise bikes.

Construction of the Concept2 BikeErg

The Concept2 BikeErg PM5 monitor is magnified and displays a clear interval session with four metrics displayed, time, number of intervals, average watts and RPM.

The mid-session PM5 display showing time, number of intervals, average watts and RPM.

(Image credit: future)

The consistency the brand is most famous for is due to its performance monitor, the PM5. It is this intelligent software that provides reproducible and comparable data on all Concept2 products.

On the rowing machine (and the Concept2 SkiErg), it measures the acceleration and deceleration of the flywheel to calculate power, distance and speed. On the bike though, with constant pedaling, you don’t have a flywheel to measure, which means it requires a slightly more complex internal workings in order to get the same set of data.

This is what, according to Alex Dunne, Managing Director of Concept2 UK, has held back the development of a bike for so long.

“There was user demand for a bike for a while,” he told me, “but we had to stay true to our goals of being affordable, reliable and repeatable, so it took a while. to make sure we were right.

“We kept air resistance, but this time the PM5 takes measurements from pressure, temperature, angle and drag data to get power information. The PM5 monitor performs this calculation instantly. As far as the bike is concerned, the rider periodically recalibrates, which takes into account any conditions that would affect the flywheel, so you can be assured and confident.”

Air resistance on a bike is probably an unusual concept (no pun intended) for most cyclists. In terms of “riding” it makes very little difference, the pedals are still spinning, but this time you get rid of the need for a heavy flywheel, and mechanical or electromagnetic resistance, and the corresponding mains supply for the latter.

The resistance is adjusted on the bike by means of a manual damper, positioned on the flywheel, which opens and closes the fan, thus acting as a gear change.

Eliminating the need for a heavy flywheel and using an aluminum frame allows the Concept2 BikeErg to be exceptionally light, at approximately 68 lbs / 31 kg, which is 11 kg lighter than the Wahoo bike. Kickr.

Arrival and set up

This lightweight, power-less design means the journey from unboxing to powering up is remarkably quick, with just the feet, handlebars, monitor and crank to attach; all tools are included in the box.

There are plenty of adjustability options in terms of position: bar height, reach, saddle height and setback can all be fine tuned using tool-less ratchet systems.

In terms of rider requirements, this adjustability allows an inseam measurement between 28 inches/ 71.3 cm and 37 inches/ 94 cm as standard. If that rules you out, fear not because a “tall” seatpost, which increases the inside leg height to 41 inches/ 104 cm, or a “short” seatpost, which reduces it to 26 inches/ 66 cm , is also available for purchase.

As for the handlebar, the reach varies between 22.25 inch/ 56.5 cm and 30.25 inch/ 77 cm, and has 10 inch/ 25 cm rise in the front, add to this front/rear saddle of approximately 1.5 inches/ 38.1 mm and 16 degrees of seat angle adjustment, there won’t be many riders who want position wise anymore.

What you’ll probably still want is the ability to customize your ride, so you’ll be pleased to learn that you can swap out the handlebar (up to 1-inch/25.4mm clamp) and saddle. You can also swap out the pedals, which have a 155mm Q-factor and regular 9/16-inch/20 tpi thread. The Q-factor influences the way your feet are spread apart when you pedal, at 155mm this is within the range of standard bikes so shouldn’t seem alien to you. However, you are stuck with the 170mm cranks. Some smaller riders prefer 165mm cranks, and taller riders may prefer 175mm cranks, but that probably won’t bother many recreational riders.

Once assembled, the Concept2 BikeErg is ready to use with only the PM5 performance monitor displaying and recording data. From this alone, you can view and track distance, speed, pace, calories, and watts for each workout, and also choose between display options.

A simple extra step is to google “Concept2 BikeErg WOD (workout of the day)” and you are taken to the page on the website which offers three workouts to choose from, short, medium or long depending on your goals. You can then follow the on-screen button sequences to program the PM5 so that all you have to do is the hard work of turning the pedals for the required time, duration or distance.

Alternatively, you can choose to use the PM5 wirelessly using ANT+ and/or Bluetooth to connect to Concept2’s own app, your own heart rate or power meter, and best of all, it’s compatible with most indoor cycling platforms, such as Zwift or Rouvy, Wahoo STSTM, to name a few.

The path

First: it’s crazy how slick the Polygroove belt and air resistance are in favor of a chain.

For me personally, where rides were up to an hour at a time, I loved the easy climb-and-ride option of the Concept2 BikeErg. Even after a few months of use, I haven’t been pressured into swapping the bars or the saddle for mine. Both were really comfortable and got me into a great position.

Having no real need for specific training at the moment, I can often ride my bike aimlessly. Being able to log in and pre-program the unit according to the Concept2 WOD webpage was a perfect way for me to relax and get a decent sweat session under my belt using any opportunity.

If you’re a numbers junkie like me, PM5’s clear, repeatable, and accurate measurement system will have plenty of appeal. It’s a simple, emotionless way to measure progress that I find very effective against stress. When there are no external variables to consider, the numbers point up or down, allowing you to really gauge performance over time.

The Concept2 BikeErg is compatible with third-party apps via Bluetooth or ANT+.  This image shows the rear and right side of a cyclist looking at a screen showing a virtual ride on the bike.  At the bottom is a plant and a balcony.

The Concept2 BikeErg is compatible with third-party virtual riding apps

(Image credit: Concept2)

On the other hand, my partner is struggling to find the motivation to just “hit it” and needs more mental stimulation. Connecting wirelessly to mount a Zwift bike has been the smoothest and easiest setup of any pedal/turbo/bike I’ve used so far, and highlights the superior software functionality of the Concept2 BikeErg .

It’s worth investing in the screen mount if you’re going for more line driving, as it securely holds a tablet screen.

Speaking of safety, it’s impressive how stable the flyweight bike is. The two mini roller wheels on the front of the bike’s legs allow for effortless movement, making storing the bike really easy, but even during full-throttle sprint efforts, the bike sits solidly planted.

It’s also virtually noiseless, with a constant “shuushhhh” on a drone, or vibration base that turbos or exercise bikes are better known for, although it’s still a fan of air, so if you press it, the volume will increase.

This image shows a rider adjusting the shock on the flywheel that sits on the front of the Concept2 Bike Erg

Adjusting the shock is like changing gears on a bicycle.

(Image credit: Concept2)

The other thing to note on an air resistance bike is the airflow. Although I enjoyed the cooling effect of a gentle breeze, I found it slightly shocking to have it constantly and only on my left side.

But the real “ah” moment here is when you realize that to shift, you have to reach for that same flywheel and physically move the shock.

Ideally, I’d like to have a “gear shift” on the bars and a mid-located flywheel to balance the wind chill.

Data Accuracy

This image shows a bicycle handlebar and a Concept2 BikeErg PM5 monitor being programmed by someone's hands

(Image credit: Concept2)

While you don’t get the remote resistance control that other smart bikes can provide, you theoretically get absolute real-world data ride after ride. This means improvements are easily visible, as are areas you need to work on.

On a less positive note, reading the power at the flywheel means some watts are lost, compared to more direct measurements – for example at the crank or pedal. Attaching a pair of power meter pedals you will see a +15-20% difference which is an important factor to consider if you intend to race online.

We found a much smaller discrepancy when comparing readings from the Peloton exercise bike with a pair of Garmin electric pedals, which is disappointing because the Peloton simply uses an algorithm based on cadence and resistance level.

However, with this strain gauge positioning, a self-tensioning belt, and other measurements such as atmospheric pressure in the PM5 calculation, you consistently get comparable data.

The honest truth is that studies show drift among almost all popular power meters. The important thing to remember is that the Concept2 BikeErg is repeatable at its own measurements, so if you want an accurate measurement of your own performance, the PM5 monitor will show it to you. Our experience was just that it didn’t give us bragging rights among friends, and we’d probably pair it with power meter pedals if we were to race online.

Assess

The Concept2 BikeErg bridges the gap between cheap exercise bikes and expensive smart bikes like the Wahoo Kickr Bike.

The biggest compromise is in the design of the mechanical flywheel damper. Its simplicity allows for precision, consistent repeatability and durability for around $2.5000/£2000 less than a smart bike. But, if you want to race online, that might be a compromise too far.

Otherwise, the Concept2 BikeErg costs a third of the price of a smart bike, and it’s more precise and “biking” than an exercise bike will ever be, which makes that middle ground really appealing.

About Margie Peters

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