I was fortunate enough to have the pleasure of taking the Bionic Runner for a test ride here in Sydney.
Being a seasoned marathon runner and running between 4 and 7 marathons a year, I figured that it was about time to re-assess my training strategy in-light of the fact that I had been injured numerous times, with each injury taking longer and longer to recover from. So in-order to keep running for as long as I can by keeping my ageing body as close to injury free as possible, I looked around for cross training equipment with the emphasis on low impact. I had seen the ElliptiGO and watched the mandatory videos. Read the reviews by well known runners and was tempted to invest in one. But at the time, I wasn’t convinced that the investment was warranted. After all, some time ago I had purchased a new beaut treadmill for $3K that idly sat in the garage taking up valuable space. So I didn’t particularly want to follow that route.
After completing 7 marathons this year and wanting to repeat at least the same again next year but at a faster pace, my training routine would need to increase and improve in terms of overall fitness, heart rate, speed and hill work and endurance but running 6 days a week at my age, now in my late 50’s, won’t cut it. After all I had tried that last year and ended up self destructing. So the solution to the problem is to introduce some form of complementary cross training. Since I like to run but can’t run 6 days a week without injury, the next best thing in my mind was something like the ElliptiGO. But the pricing here in Australia is at a premium.
Upon reading the 2016 world record performance of 63 year old John Shaw of Brisbane in the marathon, it came to my attention that he used an elliptical “bike” as part of his training. That bike is known as the Bionic Runner designed and manufactured by an Australian company based in Brisbane called run4. After researching as much as I could about the product and noting the difference between it and the ElliptiGO, I felt it was what I was looking for. As a side note, there’s no way I can run or will be able to run as fast as John Shaw, with or without the help of the Bionic Runner – he’s got the right genes whereas I don’t. But if I can beat my 3:56:04 PB and keep running late in life, then it’s worth it to me.
The Test Ride
So on Saturday afternoon I arrived at Glen’s house from Newtechno.com.au where he gave me a brief of why he was using the Bionic Runner (BR) and proceeded to show me how to ride it. Before I knew it and with helmet on, I was precariously making my way down a suburban street. It was nothing like riding a racing bike. For a start, you can’t plonk your bum on the seat as there’s no seat. You’re standing upright all the time placing your feet on the peddles which unlike a bike, aren’t locked in. The gears comprise of 8 positioned in the hub of the rear wheel and are selected on the right handle bar by moving the grip forward or back. I felt unsteady at the start but as I grew accustomed to the way you stride/pedal and manoeuvre the BR, my confidence grew. Once on a flat part of the cycle way, I increased my cadence and adjusted the gears accordingly and found that it was relatively tough going. I could feel the burn in my quads and my heart rate (HR) began to elevate. Not quite as quickly as pure running, but more than a road bike. Having to constantly stand in an upright position had it’s own challenges. For a start, I found my triceps were working hard to the point where they began to ache. I figured that was probably because I was holding the handle bars tightly in-order to keep my balance and not full off. But I suspect that once you’re accustomed to the BR, your arms will relax and lighten up.
Unlike running you can’t swing your arms back and forth but the “stride” albeit restricted, was similar in nature to running. I can’t compare it to the ElliptiGO but the BRunning form so I’ve read, is akin to running much more than the ElliptiGO. My total time on the BR was 25 minutes or so and I covered 6km. Part of the course that I rode was uphill and although the elevation was not steep, my HR was elevated and I found myself puffing when I got to the top – I had the gears set to the smallest cog. Probably not as hard as running, but I got a decent work out from it. BRunning down hill was unfamiliar. That is something that I would need to get used to as I didn’t feel confident at all.
Now I have to say that I was recovering from the flu when I went BRunning so that too would have affected my performance and HR. But I can honestly say that the harder I pushed, the harder I worked and the harder it got to the point that when I finally stopped, I was done.
It was a decent workout for such a short time. I can only imagine how hard the workout would be if you went out for a 2 plus hour BRun, as you do when training for a marathon. I can see that cross training with the BR should benefit me and would allow me to train 6 days a week – 3 of them running and 3 of them BRunning.
However, I’m not totally convinced and so I’ve decided to give it a longer test. I intend on renting the BR for about a week and test it over that period in conjunction with my normal running routine. I expect to have a better understanding of the benefits of the BR and how it could improve my running situation. Fortunately I can do this through Newtechno.com.au which Glen runs (pardon the pun).
All things being equal, I’ll be placing my order for a new BR early next year. And the pricing is way more competitive.