Computrainer First Impressions

10 12 2008

I got the Computrainer yesterday, here are my first impressions.


First of all, the installation! In reality it is VERY simple. There are only a few wires to be connected: candace, heart rate receiver, load generator, computer serial connection and power outlet. That’s it! Having said that, if IKEA had the same quality of manuals, you would still be working on that cabinet!

There is a “Basic Hardware and Electronics Stand-Alone Users Guide”, which is a manual (paper) that comes in the box (with 2 other manuals). It has a note “READ THIS MANUAL FIRST along with INSERT ME FIRST! CD”. The problem is that when you insert the CD, it opens another manual (PDF). Guess what, both the paper copy and the soft copy have a “Quick Setup Guide”, which describe the same thing, using different words and pictures… which is really confusing. I read both and I was trying to figure out which manual to follow. I’m just glad I had downloaded and read all manuals before I go the trainer!

After one hour carefully installing the unit, I did the calibration, and started to play with the software pieces. There are two softwares that come with the trainer, plus the optional  Real Video Course that I got:

Computrainer 3D Software: basically allows you to build course profiles. It reminds me a toy that I had as a kid. I used to have this track for matchbox cars made of plastic pieces that you joined to build the course the way you wanted. This is the exact same concept. Just keep adding a piece of the track; each piece could be a turn, a straight line, up hill, down hill. It has the same problem too, which is getting at the end an managing to close the loop (you don’t have to in either case)! Anyhow, in addition to building the course, you can set parameters as wind, add a pacer to ride with you, etc. You can also load pre-recorded courses. Obviously you can ride these courses too. There are variety of sceneries that can be choose too (Seattle, Desert, etc.). One of the limitations I found was that although you have a 3D representation of the entire course profile on the screen, you can’t browse the course. In other words, you can see the entire course or zoom in to the last portion. For example, if your course has a “U” shape, your view is at the top of the “U”, you can’t zoom to the bottom of the “U”. That doesn’t really help when you load a 180 km IM Course! Anyhow, once you load or build a course, you can use this software to ride the course, which looks like a video game. I rode the IM Canada course for 30 minutes and when I stopped, the app crashed after trying to save the report… I need to investigate more. The performance data was saved though.

Computrainer Coaching Software (CS): this software allows  you to analyze your performance (from a file or realtime). It gives you the ability to create courses too (not 3d). You basically tell it how long (time or distance) you want a resistance (grade or watts) to be applied to the trainer. As you are riding, it gives you information of your speed, cadence, heart rate, calories, watts (per leg!), distance, etc. A LOT of info! The “problem” with this software is that is has clearly been written by an engineer, not a software developer. For example, to analyze a performance chart, one would think that you would go to File –> Open –> Performance File, right? No, you go to Start –> Chart, then you chose the file you want to open. After you open the file, the menu disappears, and the only way to go back to that menu is by hitting “R” on the keyboard. No, I didn’t read that in the manuals… just typed started with “q” nothing, “w” nothing, “e” nothing, “r” wow, I’m back to the menu! 🙂

Real Course Video: this is the software that provides you the ability to ride with an actual DVD recorded at the course itself. The only issue is that you can’t try to catch up with the car (or bike, etc.) that is in front of you! Guess what, even when you go faster, that car is going faster too, as you are just influencing the speed that the video is played! It is a great tool to familiarize yourself with a course that you will do, since when you get to a hill, it will adjust the resistance accordantly. I used it for 27 minutes and it froze the computer… I had to reboot. I did load some patches from but I didn’t tried it out yet.

Now, what is really cool feature available on all three softwares is the spinscan. It gives you realtime feedback on your stroke. It tells you the power split between left and right leg, and it also shows you how much power you are applying at each angle! That is really cool feature that will definitely help my technique.

Overall I find it is a pretty good product that will help me improving my technique and surviving the winter while training for IM France!




2 responses

10 12 2008
Hans Winter

Bruno, you can see yourself if you so chose, but there is also a second person, which can be a recorded performance (you) or it can be a pacer. There are two types of pacers:
– one that you set how many watts he is producing (he will keep going with the best speed he can based on the fixed power you defined).
– one that you set the time it will take to react to your changes. Basically if you start to slowdown (or speedup) the pacer will take X seconds to adapt. The intention is to have someone with you all time.

10 12 2008

Hans, isn’t this “bike in front of you” yourself???

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