Posted by: Alex MacPhee | August 19, 2012

York C102 exercise cycle

York C102

My primary exercise is walking. I wanted something to take the place of walking for those days when it was impractical, and after evaluating several options, chose the York C102 exercise cycle.

It took three attempts to get a working model, and were it not for Amazon’s customer-focussed replacement policy, I’d have given up much earlier. The first arrived with a fault on the tension control, so that the cycle always operated at full tension. When the second arrived, a piece of unfinished machining, leaving an edge sharp enough to cut skin, had severed the electrical connecting cable, which had been folded across the sharp edge in packaging. The third worked as it should on assembly.

Assembly takes about an hour (or in my case, about thirty minutes by the third attempt), and is time-consuming but not difficult. Essentially, it’s just a crankshaft connected to a flywheel whose ability to spin is limited by an adjustable set of strong magnets. The tension control has eight settings, and it works by adjusting the distance between the magnets and the flywheel, with ‘1’ the easiest, and ‘8’ the hardest. In practice, it works well, giving good control over the exercise regime. There is little that is adjustable other than seat height, and there is no adjustment to height of handlebars, though they can be moved forward or backward, and are long enough to give a variety of holding positions. For people of average height (I am around 5’9”), a comfortable sitting position should be easy to find. The saddle is adequate, but not particularly comfortable, and after fifteen minutes or so, ‘numb bum’ is inevitable. It is also not a standard size, so finding a gel cover proved tricky, although eventually I found one (Velo Extra Wide Gel Saddle, Amazon Marketplace), which fitted perfectly, and did the trick.

There is a wire frame magazine holder, which is supposed to allow you to read a magazine whilst exercising, but it is clearly something that was thought a ‘good idea’ without actually testing. It’s completely useless. It won’t hold a magazine, or a book, as there’s no ‘shelf’ for the magazine to rest on, even when butted up against the display panel, and no way to stop the magazine flopping off.

The display panel shows a variety of measurements, some useful, some not. Along the bottom of the panel are shown pedal cadence/rpm (alternating with a notional speed in km/h), time pedalling, a notional distance travelled in km, calories burned, and pulse rate. On the upper and larger section of the display, is shown each of the lower display figures in turn, cycling through the displays at six seconds at a time. This is less useful than it might seem, and a static display would have been preferable.  On the right hand side is displayed one of several heart symbols, showing the pulse rate expressed as a percentage of ‘maximum heart rate’ (using the rough formula ‘220 – age’). It shows one of the figures, 55%, 75%, 90%. This is next to useless, as a heart rate of 74% will still show as just 55%, and especially when it’s borne in mind that there’s a caveat in the user guide on not training at 90% unless you’re a ‘professional athlete’, yet an 89% rate will register as only 75% on this display. It would have been a simple matter to convert the displayed pulse rate into a %capacity figure. My workaround has been to print a small table of pulse rates and equivalents, which is taped to the side of the display. I can then read my pulse rate on the table and see just what heart capacity level I am exercising at.

There are several training programmes, but these are just ways of setting a count-down target of time, or distance, or calories, with a beep to signal when the target has been reached. The beep is virtually inaudible, even in a quiet room. They’re not worth bothering with.

The calorie display is not particularly accurate, and the manual rightly cautions against using it for medical purposes. I use a Polar heart monitor whilst training, and its calorie figures seem accurate, as I use them whilst on a calorie controlled diet and my weight lost/gain tallies closely with my calorie intake and burn. By comparison, I reckon that the C102’s display over-estimates calories burned by around 75%, and that also tallies with my subjective impression on how I feel after burning the same number of calories in walking. I therefore ignore this part of the display. There is no connexion between the rate of calories burned and any tension level set on the exerciser, it seems purely linked to the pedal cadence.

The most useful part of the display is the pulse rate and the timer. Using the tension control, I can get very good control over the working heart rate I choose, which for me is between 110 and 130 bpm. The pulse display occasionally stops registering, mostly, it seems, when my hands have become damp through perspiration.

The display includes a ‘fitness level’ indicator, which at the end of a training session returns a value between 1 (fully fit) and 6 (very unfit), apparently by measuring over one minute the rate at which your heart rate drops from the exercise high. I have strong doubts about its accuracy or usefulness. I have been shown as ‘2’ and ‘5’ on the same day, with no discernible difference between the rates at which my pulse dropped after the same exercise session.

After a few weeks of regular but not excessive use, the cycle began to develop an annoying squeak, which eventually became so loud and distracting, that I could not use it for more than five minutes at a time. The squealing was so loud it could be heard next door. I had to take the casing off, which was a tricky job, and using a good quality cycle lubricant, lubricated everything that rotated. So far, it seems to have done the trick, but there are no access points to allow routine lubrication, and it’s a fiddly job, including detaching the pedals and many deep-sunk screws. Had I not been able to do this, this exerciser would have been in the metal recycling cage at my local household waste site.

When it works, it works well and does what I expect of it. It is a pity that there have been so many rough edges to contend with.

Would I buy another York exerciser? On the basis of my experience with the C102, I think it unlikely.


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