Converting Old Spin Bikes to Indoor Cycling Machines

Hello Everyone,

imagefetch568b26a65c
Will this really work?  Probably not…

So, I work customer service for a company that provides an indoor training app.  In my role as a customer service agent, my job is to help people find ways to get connected to indoor training.  I always try to find ways for people to save money without breaking the bank.  We all know this cycling hobby can be very expensive if we let it go that way.  So, what do you do if you have some old spin bike in your basement that isn’t technologically gifted?  Well, I have a few solutions for you.  This is a more expensive option than just using a bike, trainer, and old sensors lying around.  You will need to invest in a power meter.  However, this power meter can be used on your bike when the winter turns sour.  Okay, so how do you hack your rusty old spin bike into a device that provides meaningful information that can be captured by a training app?

 

Before we begin, I am going to set one condition; your spin bike must have compatible crank arms.  What I mean is, you should take your pedals off of your spin bike and see if your regular cycling pedals will fit.  I am sure there are some creative ways to make the older spin bikes work if you were really determined.  However, I didn’t have a 1970’s Schwinn to see if a Lowe’s trip could fix that issue.  So, we need to be able to put normal road bike pedals on our spin bike.  I talk about that in my video at the bottom.

screenshot-2016-10-03-19-28-15
Most of the spin bikes I’ve used from the 1990’s on, have pedals that can be swapped out with regular cycling pedals.

Why is swapping pedals important?  Simply because you can purchase power meters that are built into pedals.  This is the simplest solution of all!  Let’s look at our solutions real quick, starting with expensive to cheapest option.

Expensive:  PowerTap P1 Pedals $1,199.00

These are pretty awesome as a power meter device.  You can measure left and right power and they broadcast over both ANT+ and BLE.  I am sure there is a bunch of stuff you can do with them, but unless you are going to use them on your other road bike.  I wouldn’t chose this option.  You are half way to buying a nice Stages indoor bike at this point. Purchase PowerTap P1 Power Meter Pedals.

screenshot-2016-10-03-19-35-13
These are great power meter pedals.  All of the data you could ever want in a single setup.

Expensive (Dual) or Not So Bad (Single): Garmin Vector 2 at $999.99 or Garmin Vector 2s $599.99 

Garmin gives you the option of dual sided power meters with the Vector 2 option just below the price point of the PowerTap P1’s.  However, you do have the single sided option of the 2S(Single) at a lower price point.  They seem to do the same thing as the PowerTap P1’s, but again I have no experience with these power meters.  The exception is transmission, they only transmit over ANT+.  One pedal is an option however, the Vector 2S just doubles the power on the one pedal to give you and estimate of total power like the Stages Crank Arms do. Purchase Dual Garmin Vector 2 Power Meter . Purchase Single Garmin Vector 2S Power Meter Pedals

screenshot-2016-10-03-19-44-17
Cheaper than PowerTap, but they seem to offer a very similar capability except BLE integration.

Decent price duel and single: Dual €749/$839 or BePro (S)Single €499/$559 

BePro’s power meter pedals seem to do the same things as the Power Tap and Vector dual power meters, except they do them at a lower cost.  Just like Garmin, these are ANT+ only so you need to be looking at an ANT+ connector or USB device to communicate. Purchase bePRO Dual Pedal Power Meter . Purchase bePRO Single Pedal Power Meter

screenshot-2016-10-03-19-59-32
This would be the choice for me. I would only be concerned about clearance issues if your spin bike has some weird obtrusion on the bottom of the crank arm.

Won’t work!  Watteam’s PowerBeat $499

I wish these were an option!  The PowerBeat is only compatible with certain crank arms.  It looks like they use a formula to figure out how much tension is in a specific crank arm to figure out Power.  This would be a great option; however, most spin bikes do not come with standard road cranks.  They come with big thick aluminum cranks and this won’t work.  This is where I put the sad emoji face. 🙁

screenshot-2016-10-03-20-29-39
Sadly, probably won’t work on a older spin bike.

The last question we have here is the viability of spending this kind of money for your old spin bike.  Well, that really depends on you.  Let’s look at the variables here.  If you are determined not to use your bike, then a Kieser m3i runs $1995, Wattbike $2520, and Stages SC3 $2499.  So, buying a new spin bike that can integrate with an indoor training App is a huge investment.  Also, using your spin bike allows you to sweat up and corrode something you won’t be riding outside as much. Sweat can be very corrosive and I’ve heard of people taking their bicycles out of the basement after a winter of abuse, to only have the corroded head tube or bottom bracket snap due to rust.  A head tube snapping would be really awful.

screenshot-2016-06-13-10-14-00
TACX Vortex Smart for $490 isn’t a bad deal for an ERG trainer.

The total investment if we chose the BePro single is $559, and at a price point of getting a decent indoor trainer.  The TACX Vortex Smart runs about $490 dollars (Purchase Tacx Vortex Smart ) and the Wahoo KICKR Snap runs $599. Both are very capable trainers.  So, it may be time to put that spin bike up for sale during your next garage sale.  However, if you ever thought about having a power meter on your bike, then here is your chance to use something on your spin bike over the winter and your road/triathlon bike over the summer.

 

The last thing you might be missing with some of the indoor training apps is distance calculations.  I talk about that shortly in my video below.  You can rig your Garmin GSC-10 magnet to the flywheel of your indoor trainer.  As long as you have the clearance on the main flywheel, you can epoxy that magnet on there and then duct tape the GSC-10 sensor to the frame.  The only thing I would do is keep the magnet as close to the inside of the wheel as possible.  That reduces the amount of centrifugal force being applied to the magnet as it spins around the flywheel.  Also, this will not be an accurate speed or distance measurement.  I repeat, THIS WILL NOT BE ACCURATE.  You are only trying to get your distance within a ballpark figure.  Why do you want to do this?  Well it is simple; you are obsessed about logging your mileage numbers on Strava.  Don’t worry, I am too!  You will need to play around with your tire dimensions in your training app of choice to find something that gets you close.  You are basically riding a single speed with a brake applying force.  That is it.  There is no way to accurately measure that with any reliability.  However, you can try and get close.

That’s it folks.  I do get this question from time to time and it is possible to do.  Believe me, if I had a decent indoor spin bike that I liked and didn’t want to sweat up my road bike, this would be an option for me.  Plus, I could just move this power meter over to my road bike in the summer.  Take care everyone!

Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

Aaron served in the military for 20 years. Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the military after 20 years of service to take care of our three small children in 2013 as a Stay At Home Dad.

athletictechreview has 60 posts and counting.See all posts by athletictechreview

Leave a Reply

Translate »
%d bloggers like this: