Finding flexibility and accessibility in an exercise bike

by Karen Keninger
Contributing Writer

[tweetmeme source=”idbonline”] I’ve had a Schwinn Airdine exercise bike for years. It has one tension, and doesn’t have any programming. It’s great as far as it goes, but I wanted something more flexible with training options. I found a NordicTrack C2 Si Upright Exercise Bike online that seemed to have the price tag and the features I wanted, and took a chance on it being accessible. Here’s what I got.Exercise Bike

It came in a bazillion pieces with a very comprehensible instruction manual. Following the step by step instructions, it was possible to put it together even without the drawings.

The bike has an MP3 player connection that routes the player through a set of decent speakers. My Victor Reader Stream works perfectly. The volume up and down buttons are part of a flat panel area with circular “push” buttons. I stuck some plastic Braille labels on them and they’re easy to find and use. The Stream fits well enough in the allotted slot and connects through a simple cord into the earphone jack.

The bike has multiple levels of tension on the pedals so you can work pretty hard down to not hard at all. The controls for this function are big plastic arrows. They’re easy to find and shaped like arrows so I didn’t need to label them.

The unit has 16 preprogrammed exercise routines, eight for weight loss and eight for aerobic exercise. Each group is controlled by a round, pressure-sensitive button on a flat panel. Pressing either the “weight loss” button or the “aerobic exercise” button repeatedly cycles through the eight settings and then returns on the ninth press to off. Therefore, selecting the routine I want is just a matter of counting. I labeled these buttons the same way I labeled the volume controls.

During the exercise routines, the machine beeps each minute. If the tension on the pedals is changing, it has a series of beeps. If it’s staying the same for the next segment, it has one beep. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a different set of tones to tell me my routine is finished. Since I know they’re all 20 and 30-minute routines, I time them. The on-screen feedback that tells you you’re pedaling too fast or too slow for the routine is not accessible.

Heart-rate monitors are built into the handlebars, and a host of other information is displayed on the screen that is completely inaccessible. I couldn’t find any exercise equipment that had voice readouts of the information displayed on the screen.

The bike also has a couple of built-in video games that are not accessible as far as I can tell unless you enjoy random luck. The controls are built into the handles and easy to operate, but the action takes place on the screen. Audio feedback will tell you if you earned any points, though.

This model also accommodates the interactive iFit Workout Card Technology. I haven’t spent the $29.95 per card yet though. Thought I’d try out the built-in routines first.

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