Review of the Real Ryder bikes

Over the years I have gotten many inquiries from instructors, studio owners and even students asking me my opinion of Real Ryder bikes. So it’s about time I post what I think about these unique bikes that move.

I love the Real Ryder! It makes you realize how easy it is to cheat on a regular stationary bike. You actually do get a better workout. This blew me away when I came to this realization after a couple of rides – I even felt a bit sore in the abs after my first few rides. And yes, I do mean “cheat” on another bike, though we do not realize it until we experience something like the Real Ryder. (That coming from someone who taught on the Spinner bike for 15 years…)

I sold my Spinner® bike and now have a Real Ryder in my basement. It is great for training and for creating my profiles. But I currently do not teach on them (there isn’t a facility around here).

Take a look at this video:

 

The promotional material says it’s closer to a real cycling experience (which it is) but they are careful to say that it is not exactly like a real bike (which it isn’t). They realize that it is impossible to mimic exactly the forces produced on a real bike, such as in turns. So when I see critiques that say “it isn’t really like a bike outside, it turns very different,” I have to say, “well of course, what did you expect!” They are not claiming they can reproduce that sensation of gravity pulling on you as you drive through a turn. Perfect simulation of an outdoor experience may be impossible to achieve, so why not take the step that brings us as close as we may ever get?

Some with other programs have claimed that the side-to-side motion is a gimmick that is bad for the knees. But, if you understand biomechanics a little bit, that claim is unsubstantiated. The fact that it does move actually reduces the shearing forces on the knee joint, as opposed to having a bike frame that is solid and unmoving while your body moves side to side on top of it. This bike movement reduces chances for injury or discomfort—as long as the initial set-up is correct of course.

The engineering of this bike is rock solid. It’s very sturdy, the feel of the flywheel is nice and smooth. The side-to-side movement does take some getting used to, usually two or three rides before it feels right. For this reason, the first experience sometimes isn’t positive, mostly because of doubt and fear of change. Riders have expectations or they are so used to not moving on a standard indoor bike, and they can’t get their head beyond that. I recommend riding it at least twice, if not three times, before coming to a decision about the bike.

The core is engaged passively just like it is on a real bike, and you have a sensation of having worked harder afterward. However, I think some people (and instructors) unfortunately translate “core workout” to mean they are supposed to suck in the abs during the ride, but that is not the case. Just ride the bike without actively pulling in the abs; they will engage on their own as you lean to each side.

The best thing about this bike is that it promotes and actually rewards proper riding (for the most part). Because you have the additional element of side-to-side, there isn’t the need to add fluff elements, like contraindicated moves. The movement of the bike is enough to engage your body and mind; no need to do pushups, hovers or other psycho-spin moves.

I say “for the most part” because of course, some poorly educated instructors still try to do some of the same crazy moves and techniques done on a Spinner® or other stationary bike, but it is less likely because the need for it is reduced. You just cannot get bored on this bike!

Back in January, 2011, I went out to Los Angeles for the inaugural Real Ryder certification, at the invitation of the Real Ryder management. The certification was conducted by the venerable Douglas Brooks (someone I’ve followed in the fitness field as a personal trainer for almost 20 years!) who wrote the Real Ryder training program. Douglas is an avid cyclist, so it was a relief to know they hired not just someone well-known in the fitness field to create their certification program,  but someone who is a passionate cyclist as well. You should also know that the creator of the Real Ryder bike, Colin Irving, is a former racer and cycling fanatic, so his goal was to create a bike with the most realistic feel possible. They reject the idea of anyone doing anything on this bike that isn’t cycling specific.

The certification was very good, but needed a few tweaks. Chris Plourd (former MI for Spinning and local well-known Los Angeles trainer and instructor) who also took the certification on that first day, and I sat down with the management and gave them our feedback after the workshop. They were extremely open to input from two Spinning MIs with a lot of certification experience behind them. For that alone I was very impressed. I haven’t seen the most recent certification, but I’ve heard good things about it from people I’ve known who have taken it.

I have attended a few of their rides with Douglas and Adam at the IDEA conference however, and I am so impressed with what they have created! Killer program, killer education, led by killer Master Trainers on a killer bike.

Aero Postion

One of the primary reasons why an aero position is contraindicated on a static bike such as a Spinner® is the fact that the upper body becomes an anchor, locked down to the handlebars. This does not allow the upper body to move, and the hips are forced to rock to compensate for the locked-down position of the upper body. That alone creates a potential shearing action in the vertebrae when riding aero. Outdoors, a road bike moves underneath the rider so this is not an issue. On a Real Ryder, that problem is minimized because of the movement of the front of the bike. This is one of the reasons they promote the aero position heavily on the Real Ryders. It just feels much better than on a static indoor bike.

However, that is not the only reason not to ride aero. Although potential injury or discomfort in the aero position is reduced on the Real Ryder because of the movement, I’m not a big fan of this position because of the fact that the trunk is compressed and breathing is restricted, especially for less flexible non-athletes (a large percentage of the typical indoor cycling audience). As a result of this compression, most riders’ knees will fall to the side. The Real Ryder is not a tri-bike geometry which allows for a more open hip angle. Triathletes who have their aero position dialed in perfectly on their outdoor tri bikes should not ride aero on any other bike than their own, especially one without the tri-geometry. Doing so can be potentially damaging, and will not positively improve (and may actually impinge) their form or technique on their outdoor bike.

There is also the set-up issue of not being able to rest the elbows on the handlebars correctly so that they can continue to pedal in an optimal manner. This is especially true for short-framed riders who end up being way too stretched out in an aero position, with their arms too far forward. If your shoulders aren’t positioned directly above the elbows (at approximately 90 degrees), you should not be riding aero. The stress on the neck and shoulders is considerable, especially when the rider hyper extends the neck to look up at the instructor.

Riding in aero position correctly and safely takes a lot of skill and flexibility. When glute and hamstring flexibility is lacking, the lumbar spine is pulled into a rounded (hyper-flexed) position, increasing the stress on the vertebrae.

The issue in a class setting is if the instructor is doing it, the entire class will do it, even if it is ill-advised for that particular rider. Some (in my opinion, most) people should just not ride in an aero position because of their size, shape or lack of flexibility, not to mention their (and their instructor’s) lack of knowledge about correct technique to do so.

Although I just gave that subject five paragraphs, it still is relatively minor in the scheme of things on this bike that moves. I’ll just choose not to ride aero, and if you are an instructor teaching on this bike, please take that into consideration and check with each of your students individually. This bike is a fantastic “ryde” and a great choice for facilities who are looking for something unique and cycling specific.

If I taught on the Real Ryder bike, I wouldn’t choreograph the leaning side-to-side into my profiles. Instead, I would treat it like a real ride outside, with occasional leans to simulate downhill turns or uphill switchbacks. The beauty of this bike is that you have that choice!

My only hope is that they decide to add power to this bike in the near future, to follow in the footsteps of what most other companies seem to be implementing. Having these additional tools will be a game-changer, and I feel the Real Ryder would rock the industry when they can implement power, especially power that is actual, and not estimated.

Have you ever ridden a Real Ryder? What do you think? What was your initial reaction versus your impression after a few rides? Do you now teach on Real Ryders? I’d love to hear about it!

21 Responses to “Review of the Real Ryder bikes”

  1. Rob says:

    Hi Derek- I have to disagree with you a bit, but also echo some of the comments above. Any bike used in spin is going to need a different sort of form taught than what you would use on a road bike. The training is complimentary, but as you know not identical. Again, most of this is because the body weight on a road bike is transferred to the wheels, which your body is responsible for making go, and then to the road- so while placement of weight can shift with body position you will always be responsible for moving all of your weight on a road bike. Not so on a stationary bike where the weight goes straight into the ground. Depending on position and setup of a stationary bike you can throw your weight around if you bounce, you can take weight off if you lean too much on the handlebars, etc. So for me form is a critical element here. I personally really like Real Ryder bikes and like some of the comments above point out think that the workout for the legs and core is improved relative to other stationary bikes particularly if you try to keep the body relatively still while you’re using the bike.

    When I use these bikes I employ a lot of the form I use on most spin bikes, and that’s why I like them, because they keep your form honest (if your form is poor you start moving about too much on these bikes). In general, I like to: 1. keep the upper body as quiet as possible most of the time; 2. keep the shoulders either in line with or preferably behind the handlebars; 3. do your best to keep bouncing- the butt, the body, the head- to a minimum at all times; 4. only use the handlebars for balance- do not lean on them (this isn’t a road bike, the load doesn’t transfer to the wheels so you like to keep the weight focus on legs and core); 5. when coming out of the saddle, do not pull yourself up with the handle bars, use your legs and core and try to stay stable. These things stress very much core and leg stability and strength- and they are far more difficult to do honestly on the Real Ryder bikes (keeping the bike and body still on a pivoting bike is a lot harder to do than on a stationary bike!). That’s not to say you can’t get a good workout otherwise, but if you give these bikes time and use proper form they can be very effective training tools.

    I am not sure if the above is what they intended with Real Ryder, but its how I’ve used the bikes for the past 18 months and I really like them.

  2. Derek Dowling says:

    From our perspective, the “Real Ryders” have garnered virtually no positive feedback from any of our members for a number of reasons and we recommend our club members avoid them in general.

    The resistance on the bike scales exponential in comparison to the other style of bike making it difficult to fine tune your effort level or to make incremental yet consistent jumps in effort. This makes quantizing the increases in effort difficult as a coach and as someone trying to make realistic guesses about how much resistance they need to add when asked to “up their effort 10%”.

    The Real Ryders are also virtually unrideable in a standing position due to how the bike pivots and how they expect you to climb, at least in any fashion that is similar to riding a bike outdoors. While this makes for an interesting core and upper body workout this completely negates the purpose of practicing standing climb positions on the bike for anyone who wants to ride the bike as a cyclist specific workout.

    The bars on this bike do not offer a good handhold for practicing aero positions. While the article you linked argues against this, we are a triathlon club and on race day everyone is going to be riding in an aero position. Although the geometry of these bikes vs our actual Triathlon bikes will differ, not including aero position specificity in our training simply isn’t realistic considering it comprises over 50% of our total competition time on race day.

    The Real Ryder is a good idea overall, but poorly executed. Besides all of the things mentioned above, it simply doesn’t feel like riding a real bike and much of what I’ve seen of our members trying these bikes, especially the newer ones, is sloppy technique and inefficiencies in coping with the bike’s movements that distract them from completing a good cardiovascular workout. I’d argue that encouraging even more casual spin class attenders in other groups/classes who definitely aren’t going to be receiving education about how to ride the bikes properly or the consistent saddle time to get used to them are at a much greater risk of misusing/injuring themselves on those bikes than we are which is in my opinion, cause for concern.

    I know that’s harsh criticism, but it’s the truth and is simply my two cents along with all of the feedback I’ve received from my members as head coach over the last two years since those bikes have been added to the revving room pool and from having ridden them fairly extensively.

    • Zambia says:

      Derek Dowling
      If you do not recommend RealRyder and have concerns for beginners, what indoor bike do you recommend?

    • Angel says:

      HI Everyone!
      I am teaching indoor cycling classes for 18 years and one of facility here promoting Real Riders bikes.
      I have started teaching there only twice a week and with all my knowledge and experience of doing indoor cycling classes,- I start feeling discomfort in my knees and wrists.
      I was looking for answers – why I am feeling the way I am feeling and came across this article.
      I am suspecting that Real Riders bikes are compromising safety for group classes where we cannot control each members move.

  3. Melissa says:

    I am considering purchasing a used real ryder for home gym use. The one I am considering (they say) is about 5 years old and does have some rust on the floor frame. But is in functional condition. I am curious about the life cycle of these bikes – how long do they last, how much maintenance do they need etc.? Would you suggest forking over $1,000 more to buy NEW?

    • Melissa,
      I have a 4-year old one for sale but there is zero rust. It has never needed maintenance but it’s only been my husband and me riding it, and we don’t ride indoors that much. I’m selling it for $1,300 which is actually really good considering it’s like new. New ones cost close to $2,000.
      The only reason why I am selling it is because I’ve got a great deal on a bike with power.

      You didn’t say what price that bike is. Without knowing what kind of use it got during those 5 years, it’s hard to say how much maintenance it will need or how long it will last. Make sure to get it checked out first.

      • Jorge says:

        That’s a bit high price for a used bike of any kind. A new Stages SC3 with the Power meter and carbon belt is a little over $2K, and one without power but still using the carbon belt is around $1600 brand new. Indoor bikes have a lifespan of about 5 max 7 years depending on use. With a chain drive belt maintenance should be done at 2.5 to 3 year mark on a personal; commercial every 12-18 months.

  4. Eric Hallander says:

    It has been a year now, and I still miss riding these bikes. I have adapted to the Spinner bike since, but my first love spin bike is the ryder.

    There was a discussion above, now more than 3 years old, about riding these bikes out of the saddle, and not letting the bike move side to side, where it seems implied that it is foolish to do so.

    Personally I rode these bikes for over a year, and I have ridden years on the road, so I find the discussion regarding how to ride these bikes out of the saddle as more than simply one option, whether it was discussed during certification or not.

    When we ride on the road, and jump out of the saddle we do tend to move the bike side-to-side, however, we keep that control within pretty fine limits. More to the point we, at least I try to keep the bike relatively stationary. On the Ryder bikes, it wants to rock, and I think both rocking at times, and fighting the rock are both beneficial. Learning to ride the Ryder is an exercise in balance control, and learning to fix the bike during efforts helps that control.

    That last statement by no means should imply that I don’t like to rock this bike as well. In fact, I love rocking this bike, and because to rock it properly, you have to find the proper rhythm of pedal position to go with the rock, I found it was pretty easy to match the cadence of the instructor, and thereby follow her/his transitions during the ride.

  5. Anthony Florio says:

    All reviews and efforts put forth are valuable, and when well written like this, I would like to thank the writer for their time and creativity to maintain this educational free site and opportunity to learn. Having said that . . . I wish I could find one of these bikes somewhere to ride in South Florida to see what the fuss is all about. I wanted to comment because as a dancer and trainer of hundreds of dancers for 30 years – I need to comment on the “core and abs” issue when I see miscommunication. The core can be engaged doing any physical activity more when a person learns about how their body works, and achieve significant benefits. “Suck in your abs” is terrible as a cue, and is probably the reason building a stronger core is getting knocked down philosophically. It’s also inaccurate, and causes people to hold their breath. YOU CAN BUILD CORE STRENGTH of your students on a stationary bike, but it takes learning movement principals commonly taught in dance, pilates, gymnastics and other activities that require BALANCE and FORM. Cycling is no different. Thank you for your time.

  6. Terrance Neal says:

    Great comments and feedback on the RealRyder! I had tried the RealRyder for 3 years before I became a certified instructor on the RealRyder at 2013 SCW – Dallas Mania. At this point, there aren’t a lot of locations in my area to teach but I know that this will change soon.

    I plan on getting the bike for my personal use at home this fall.

    I wasn’t an outdoor rider so I didn’t have a baseline to compare the experience to.

    The first, second, and third ride was strange, but I kept coming back. I enjoyed the open communications that I received from Adam and Douglas doing prior years and during my certification.

    My current problem is to remember that when I teach at 24Hour Fitness to take it easy on the Spinner stationary bikes because they don’t move….or so I use to think they didn’t move.

  7. Shmendrick says:

    I’ve been road riding bikes my whole life. I thought this winter I would try indoor spinning. I tried a one month trial offered by a local establishment, which just opened and uses Real Ryder stationary bikes. I managed to get in 5 spinning sessions before I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

    The first time one mounts a Real Ryder stationary bike, one gets the feeling that the bike will fall over. The instructor has to reassure you that it wont happen. This nauseating sensation did not dissipate after 5 rides. I do not trust exercise machines that include movements, which are unnatural. The lateral swaying movement, which Real Ryder bikes are known for, are just such an unnatural movement. And the idea that somehow it works one’s “core” is pure B.S.

    I’ve since tried the standard, non-sideways-moving, spinning bike class at the local Y and it is a much more comfortable, natural feeling. I therefore get a more intense workout.

  8. Hi Neil,
    It does take awhile to get used to the movement of these bikes. Real Ryder does not claim to be exactly like a real bike. But you have to admit…standard stationary bikes that don’t move at all are even LESS like a real bike, aren’t they? 😉 But we still ride them and accept the rigid difference as being OK.

    For me, I really like the way the Real Ryder moves when you are seated in the saddle. That is where I find the feel of the road outdoors to be most similar. It’s when you stand that it becomes less similar. The bike wants to “tip” in the opposite way that it does outside. But with practice, you can manipulate that. For example, when you stand up, as you extend the left leg down, the bars want to tip to the left. With a little momentum, those bars really get moving hard left and right. However, you can steer the bars so that as your left knee rises, the bars tip to the left. This is more like what happens outdoors and it causes the bars to calm down a little bit and not be thrown side to side. It takes lots of practice, but before long it becomes innate, and the feeling of riding outside is improved.

    I would bet that very few instructors teach this, and that very few students care to learn. Too often they think a LOT of side to side movement in the bars is the goal, when it’s better to keep it under control.

    The core engages with the Real Ryder more than a stationary bike without even consciously engaging the core muscles. That is one of the benefits of the moving bike, and is what happens on a bike outside. Still…instructors and students glom onto the idea of a “core workout” and hold the abdominals in too much.

    • carol says:

      thanks jennifer for the tip about balancing the movement of the bars. I took my first ryde today and didnt like the movement to be so wild in the handles and the instructors didnt teach to tip left on raising left knee. I will try this next ride. my shoulders are quite sore from trying to keep the handles under control. this tip sounds great. thanks

  9. Neil Fitton says:

    I have to say Jennifer that I hated the Real Ryder and felt that it reflected ‘Real’ cycling in no way ! the pivot action is contraindicative to a real bike the way the pivot action worked (placed above the rear wheel) meant that the bike moved from the back and it forces the bars to turn. The ‘sketchyness’ of the bike was also nothing like a real bike which is inherently stable. Inertia and momentum is what makes a bike work and with a stationary bike you obviously don’t have this and in trying to create that I felt that the real ryder became even more of a fake experience, and like Tom Scotto says it not about working the abs !…Now if someone could take something like the Kurt Kinetic Rock & Roll and combine with a stationary bike then we might have something !

  10. Sharon Lieberman says:

    I briefly rode a Ryder demo at a fitness convention and first noticed how wonderfully you can “feel the road” beneath your wheel.

  11. Jennifer says:

    Hi Jennifer! I taught your Halloween Truth and Consequences ride last night..OMG

  12. Jennifer says:

    Oh and by the way Sandy, maybe I should explain what I meant by “tweaks” suggested by Chris and I regarding the certification. It wasn’t so much about content, or doing something “wrong” on the bike. They were authentic all the way and technique was solid. (And I loved the fact that they actually include a field test and talk about LT heart rates and NOT MHR)! Our suggestions were more about organization and layout of the 8-hour day (hard for anyone to do) and a few suggestions for things they might want to spend more time on because of the general lack of physiology and training knowledge in this industry. Chris and I combined have taught thousands of instructors so we’ve seen a few things! I think they thought that most instructors would already have another certification from another cycling company, so they wouldn’t need as much of a focus on the basics. We thought otherwise – you can never have enough of the basics (even if someone had taken Spinning or another certification course).

  13. Jennifer says:

    OK, I was curious and had to go try it on my bike downstairs Sandy. And just for the short time I did it (freeze the movement) my knees and hips were aching. My shoulders too, because you had to tense up the shoulders to help hold the handlebars still, and yes you’re right, the quads tighten to keep it still as well. However, I found that engaging the core was also involved in keeping it still, which is probably why they (incorrectly) think there is a benefit. Like I said in my review, the core will be engaged on its own, no need to add to it with stuff like this!

    Which brings me to this question: why would you go pay all that money for a bike that moves and then tell people not to let it move??? 😉

  14. Jennifer says:

    Sandy,
    no, that is definitely NOT taught at the certification! They teach how to mange the movement and to ride WITH it, not against it. You do want to control it so it’s not flopping side to side willy nilly (something that happens with a first timer), so that involves some conscious engagement to keep it under control. But that is similar to a real bike, and before long, it can be committed to the subconscious. They teach a timing with the pedaling so that it leans a bit to the opposite side as the extended leg, just like a real bike. It actually takes a lot of practice. But to watch Douglas, Colin and their MI Adam ride those bikes, they are so fluid and beautiful!

    To take it to the extreme and try to NOT move is really the extreme. An isolation or hover on a Real Ryder is just as bad as on a static bike (hmmm, maybe even worse – I’ll have to try it).

    Just ride it like a real bike! 🙂

  15. Sandy says:

    So its not a fair and balanced review. And the issue I think I had was primarily with the instruction on it. I brought this up on a different website. The instructor told us that when we were off the saddle the object was to keep the bars from moving! So in order to do that I found the need to isolate in a hover position. Observing the class whom were used to this bike, thats exactly what I saw. So I will give the benefit of the doubt that its not in the certification for RealRyder to teach in this manner. It is just the “getting creative” of the instructor? I certainly felt the challenge of doing that but not in my core, in my quads. If you could clear that up. that it is not taught in the certification and one of the tweaks you were talking about.
    Other that that, the bikes are beefed up and solid and smooth. And I would give it more time to make a decision on how much I like them.

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