Going old school: Using a bike trainer from 1976

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have an eBay alert setup for any time the word ‘CompuTrainer’ is listed within a description on eBay.  While I’m not really in the market for a 3rd CompuTrainer, I’m always entertained by the eBay listings, so I just let it be and continue to alert me daily.

So back three weeks ago I was somewhat confused when I saw the following pop-up in my e-mail alert:

image

Based on my fairly in depth knowledge of the CompuTrainer’s of the past decade, I didn’t have any clue what this doohickey was.  The posting included very little information about the actual ‘trainer’, such as how to use it, or really any other details.  It simply noted it was from 1976.

After a bit more time with the oracle of Google, I found a sum total of two photos of this device…and one patent application.  The problem was the patent application covered some pre-production ideas, and didn’t actually have any likeness to the final product.  But it was cool to look at.  The closest thing I could find was this single diagram (yes…that’s the maximum resolution I could find):

racermate_windtrainer_1976_2

Though, later I’d find a Flickr album with a few more photos of it on a bike, but none in use.  Though, none of this would deter me…I wanted to check this baby out.

So, I tossed out an initial bid of about $11 and waited a couple days.  Given this was the origins of the CompuTrainer, I figured it was probably worth a few Chipotle burritos in cash.

By time the auction closed it was up to $28, plus $10 shipping and handling.  Certainly seemed like a good deal to me.  But then again, I was never very good at predicting prices on those antique shows.  Before I knew it…I had shipping confirmation in my e-mail and it was on the way to me.

When it arrived, I pulled it out and admired it – The Racermate 1976 Wind Trainer:

IMG_9197

A device of metallic beauty:

IMG_9204

What you essentially have is a few key pieces.  On the left side (above, turned towards the camera) is the piece that unscrews and hooks onto your seat post. 

While on the right you have the two fans that generate force as the wheel rotates.  This in turn acts like a propeller and pushes down onto the tire.

IMG_9199IMG_9201

So how does it all fit onto the bike?

Well…not terribly well, with today’s bike’s anyways.

First off – any carbon seat posts that are shaped such as those on a time trial bike are immediately out.  This eliminated half of the house’s bikes right there.  I then moved onto my road bike.  But the seat was too high, and resulted in the locking system not making it to my seat post:

IMG_9207

I then tried out a mountain bike, without luck – same basic seat post issue.

So I was down to one bike left: The Girl’s older tri bike.  This would be a hail-mary of sorts, as after that I’d have to go around the neighborhood and find someone with a bike that would actually work with this thing.  Thankfully, I was in luck and with a bit of creativity, I had it installed:

IMG_9218

The trick with the Wind Generator is to get enough tightness on the locking system so that it doesn’t move laterally, but still moves vertically with wind-generated force.

IMG_9216

So, with everything all set, I did a couple of test revolutions before calling down The Girl to get pedaling. 

IMG_9242

I should note that while it’s sitting on a trainer stand, the rear wheel is fully elevated off the ground.  Based on the diagrams I could find, in the actual trainer stand from 1976, it’s basically the same concept with the rear wheel simply being held above the ground.

IMG_9252

Of course, once she came down the stairs I had to get her past the fact that I had doubled the capacity of the trainer room in a matter of 15 minutes.

IMG_9221

But, once that detail was settled out, it was on to the trainer she went.  Now, because I know you guys want to hear how this thing sounds, I’ve put up this brief little video.

1976 Wind Trainer–from Racermate Inc, the makers of the CompuTrainer

The biggest thing you notice is that the faster the wheel speed, more pressure is applied towards the wheel – similar to how a resistance unit works on a normal trainer.

IMG_9238

However, based on our playing around with it – the overall resistance is nowhere near what a modern day trainer can provide.

IMG_9232

That said, no modern day trainer has this totally cool spinning thing precariously mounted  on top of the wheel.  So, it’s a compromise between coolness (tons of awesome factor) and usefulness (no awesomeness factor).  I can say this thing is a keeper, it’s just gonna go back in the box for another decade and a half, where I’ll bring it back out when it’s 50 years old.  Hopefully the seat posts haven’t changed even more by then…

Retweet 2Like 4Google +1 0

12 Comments

  1. I think you could even have a spin around the block aith one of these on the bike? Do a hill workout on a flat course…

    Reply
  2. Erector sets made this possible. Right? I saw that and all I could think of was that.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    That looks like it would have been useful on rollers, which had almost no resistance. Kids and their trainers today will never know what’s like to crash on their trainer!

    Reply
  4. 1. I think it’s beautiful.
    2. What’s anon talking about? My rollers have tons of resistance.

    Reply
  5. How cool. Wonder how this matches up with the traditional dynamo-kit used to power the slightly illuminated area directly in front of my bike from almost the same time period.

    Reply
  6. Totally awesome. Love it.

    Reply
  7. Brandon

    What if you set this up on your bike on normal road rides? Liek Baruch said, it would add more resistance to your daily rides giving some resistance to your daily rides…

    Reply
  8. Eric

    Awesome! I used one of these all the way into the ’90s to train on my rollers (old school steel rollers of course). They were definitely a trick to set up, and easily damaged too.

    Reply
  9. Pretty Sweet setup. Definitely kills the aerodynamics of a modern bike.

    Reply
  10. > However, based on our playing around with it – the overall resistance is nowhere near what a modern day trainer can provide.

    BUT, you can always us it to add additional resistance to your current trainer or ride if you’re feeling like a man :)

    Reply
  11. I can send you the original length rails for that, if you want them. Can replace the bearings, shaft, fans. Still have other parts too. The rails were made to be cut off if you needed to to clear the seat.

    That is the original Windload Simulator and was very popular in-the-day and could in-fact be used on the road, but would wear out the roller pretty quickly with all the little rocks you picked up.

    Long dead before the time of the Internet – hence little that the oracle or Google could find.

    Actually, it follows the exact same load curve as riding a bike on a level road at speed (AKA windo-load). No more that that, but the faster you go, the more load it makes.

    Reply
  12. J

    Those came with a rubber strap that was perforated like a belt. It came with a hook that attached to the brake bridge of older frames. The other end of that same piece was also a hook of sorts that after you threaded the belt around one of the “bars” above the roller. That is how resistance was applied. It could apply alot of resistance or a little depending on how felt that day. I loved mine when I was using it.

    Reply

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>