We have arrived: The pièce de résistance of my five consecutive days of indoor smart trainer reviews. We started the week at $3,500 with the Wahoo KICKR Smart Bike, and yet we’re going to finish the week with an $89 smart trainer that somehow, inexplicably, has more features and broader app compatibility than that bike. No really, I’m not kidding.
I’ve been wanting to review this smart trainer/bike for quite a while, but getting it in Europe is challenging. Sure, Amazon will offer to ship it to you, but that more than triples the price of the bike. Fear not though, that’s what parents are for. I purchased the bike back in October and then suckered my parents into checking the beastly box as their luggage on a trip over in early November. Since then I’ve been testing it thoroughly, along with my two toddlers. The third peanut being only a handful of weeks old hasn’t gained certification to use it yet. Don’t worry, just give her a few more months.
Of course – I know of only one way to review a smart trainer, or an indoor smart bike. And that way I shall review. If you’re a regular here, then you’ll find this review on-point with my normal ones. If however you’ve just landed on this page due to the magic of Google, god help you. You have no idea what you just stepped into.
Getting it assembled:
This is by far one of the most detailed boxes I’ve seen, externally speaking. Anything you want to know about it, it’s there.
In total, assembly will take you about 8-10 minutes. Realizing you don’t have the right batteries will take longer. I actually shot a video of this entire thing, which one day might make a full video review.
But I’ve gotta pick up the kiddos in far less time than it’ll take me to edit it. So, here’s two screenshots.
Somehow, inexplicably, we didn’t have any AA batteries at the DCR Cave. So we had to find some of those. They go within the battery compartment at the rear of the wheel. It’s not terribly clear how many hours of battery life these will actually last – but we haven’t hit it yet. Knowing that the device is primarily Bluetooth Smart driven, it should last quite a long time. There are some lights though that are leveraged, which would be a much bigger battery burn.
The Hardware Basics:
Now that you’ve got it all assembled you’ll need to decide what device you’re going to use to connect with. If you left on the tablet stand, then simply load your tablet into it:
The twirly knob at the back acts as a lock – however, your 2-year old will easily defeat that. So I’d strongly recommend having a case around your tablet. We do, though I didn’t take it out for the photos.
If using an Apple TV or other device, then you can ignore the tablet bit. Either way, it’ll all connect via Bluetooth Smart. So you’ll want to ensure the bike is actually turned on. That’s the little slider. If the light is green, you’re good to go. The blue light to the left is the active Bluetooth Smart connectivity light:
The bike will go to sleep after a while if left alone. Because nobody is going to remember to turn it off. Ever.
Once you crack open an individual game, all the controls shift from the iPad or TV to the actual bike itself. This will undoubtedly confuse you and your child numerous times when you just want to tap on the screen. Nothing will happen. The bike has numerous controls:
A) Joystick: Mostly for navigating menus
B) Left handlebar button: Usually select, but also some in-game actions like horn honking
C) Right handlebar button: Also select, but also some in-game actions like jumping
D) Green Nav button: A way to change to different parts of the game, like hitting settings.
E) Steering: Rotating the handlebars steers the bike
F) Pedal: Pedal forward to go forward, backwards to go backwards
Got all that? Good, you’ll still probably try and press the screen. I promise ya.
On sizing, the unit does feature an adjustable seat-post between three positions:
However, this mostly adjusts the height of the seat comparative to the ground, and doesn’t seem to considerably shift the leg reach required. Our 2-year-old can touch the pedals but not consistently make a rotation, whereas our 3-year-old is able to no problems. This of course makes sense given the age range on the box is 3-6 years old.
The crank arms are 90mm, unchangeable.
Also, one cannot change pedal types. So if you wanted to swap these flats for SPD’s or a Look-KEO cleat, you’re out of luck.
So how loud is this thing? Of course I’m gonna include that type of info. Can’t have a trainer review without it!
As for road-feel (or inertial feel)? It has approximately as much inertial road feel as a paper bag.
And finally, the tablet holder is easily removable:
Simply press the two side buttons concurrently and then pull it out. It’d be challenging for a child to do it, but easy for an adult.
The App Ecosystem:
As with all my smart trainer reviews, I detail 3rd party app connectivity as well as sensor functionality. Given that, there’s no smart trainer on the market that includes not only support for as many technology platforms as the Fisher-Price Smart Cycle, but more importantly – actually builds those darn platforms and apps themselves. Don’t believe me. No problem, here’s the list of apps they have:
A) Apple iPad (any size)
B) Android Tablets
C) Amazon Fire Tablets
D) Apple TV (any that support apps)
E) Amazon Fire TV (2nd gen+)
F) Android TV
For comparison, Wahoo merely has an Android and iOS app that simply records your power output. Or, Fisher-Price says: “Aww, How cute – your app records numbers! Our app teaches you numbers across half a dozen platforms with graphics that somehow rival Zwift.”
Within this app ecosystem there’s essentially separate apps for each of the different ‘Think and Learn’ apps, which is Fisher-Price’s branding for this entire segment. Each app has a theme, such as being for STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) or reading, while concurrently having a kid-friendly themed wrapper around it (such as ‘Tech City’ or Barbie).
You’ll have to buy one of these apps, and each are $5 (payable as an in-app purchase via your app store). There’s the following apps:
– Tech City: Focused on letters/spelling/phonics/vocab
– Hot Wheels City: Focused on science, building, physics, counting/addition/subtraction
– Blaze STEM: Focused on math, engineering, science concepts like velocity and basic physics concepts
– Sponge Bob Deep Sea: Primarily focused on ocean animals, but also things like sorting
– Barbie Dreamtopia: This is more on the creative side, with focuses on music and colors, and building things (like track sections)
– Shimmer Shine Math: Counting from 1 to 100, shapes, sequences, number recognition
All of these apps support the Bluetooth Smart interactive integration to the Smart Cycle.
You can download the apps free of charge, however, once loaded you’ll need to pay to unlock them. Interestingly though, first it requests you to pass an adult test:
And then you’ll have to authenticate as normal with the app store to complete the purchase:
In our case, I bought a few different ones, but they seemed to enjoy the Tech City and Barbie ones the best. They actually don’t know what Barbie is at all, but they know what cupcakes, small dogs, and rainbows are, so that was a winner.
Meanwhile, they know what dinosaurs are, so that was also a winner.
I did find it somewhat curious though that for an entire game built around a bicycle, I haven’t found any actual bicycle avatars. Go-karts, hovercraft, monster trucks, and even drones. But no actual pedaling bicycles.
Now generally speaking all the games have an educational purpose in life. There are very few modules within the games that are just meandering around doing nothing. You’re doing things like recognizing letters, doing math, or some other learning goal based on the theme of the game.
Here’s a game where the user has to collect the letters of the alphabet one after another:
Most of this is driven by the steering aspect, which is simply rotating the handlebars – it seems fairly sensitive actually, so there’s a bit of granularity there:
One nice thing about the games is that they don’t seem overly strict. Meaning, my daughter can happily recite the ABC’s, but doesn’t yet know which actual letters go to those vocal sounds. So while she’s supposed to collect the letters in a certain order, it’ll constantly tweak things so that she doesn’t give up entirely. In other words, it helps you complete the game one way or another.
Of course, that only goes so far – but as long as you manage to keep pedaling, you’ll eventually end up finishing a module in most cases.
Right now, our kids are at the younger range of the spectrum, so a lot of the details of the games go over their heads. However, some they do understand, and it’s fascinating to see even in a handful of minutes how they quickly figure out what they’re supposed to be doing without much or any big human introductions. Undoubtedly if one’s Peanuts were closer to the 4-5 yo range, more of the games would click faster.
Finally, there’s apparently up to 15 levels of each game (and about half a dozen main games, each with about 3-6 mini-games inside them). In other words, there’s far more levels, games, modules than all of Zwift combined. I’m not kidding. You could be like Level 50 on Zwift and still not have found the end of the cupcake Barbie rainbow here.
Zwift & TrainerRoad Integration:
Now technically there’s no direct 3rd party integration with Zwift (however, TrainerRoad is another story). First though, I’ve got buckets of sensors to solve any lack of Zwift integration, and to properly pair up with TrainerRoad. After all, I can’t have my daughters merely knowing how to read and do math equations. We need structured Ironman season-long training plans at age 2 and 3.
The challenge is that the Smart Cycle completely ignores the industry standards for speed, cadence, and power transmission. Here, let me recap:
ANT+ Power Meter Device Profile: Nope ANT+ Speed or Cadence Device Profile: Negative ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C) Device Profile: Nuttin Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Device Profile: Zilch Bluetooth Smart Speed or Cadence Device Profile: Proprietary speed only, no cadence data Bluetooth Smart Trainer Control (FTMS) Device Profile: Zero effs given
Fear not, I can solve this problem. Well, some of them anyway. Unfortunately, the pedals on the Smart Cycle don’t follow any industry standards for attachment, so I can’t just pedal-wrench on a pair of PowerTap or Vector pedals. And the ‘flywheel’ doesn’t technically move. The bottom bracket would be actually semi-viable with enough hot glue and sharp objects, had all the bottom bracket power meter companies not gone out of business.
So instead, I decided to go old school style: A magnetless speed sensor.
If you remember back to the day prior to smart trainers, most people were using basic trainers with a speed sensor on it. That sensor then transmitted speed to the app and the app had a power curve for that given trainer. It translated the speed into a power value. It was hardly perfect, but it’s still used today.
So I grabbed a pair of sensors. First off, no self-respecting cyclist parent is gonna let their kid train without a cadence sensor. So I tossed that on the left-hand crank:
But the speed sensor is trickier. It’s normally designed to go on a wheel hub, rotating over itself constantly. The wheel doesn’t rotate on the Smart Cycle, and using it vertical like a cadence sensor doesn’t net any speed. However, turns out I can place it just fine on the other crank and it still seems to work without issue, giving me MPH/KPH. I did find that while it worked oriented just like the cadence sensor, that it seemed to reach higher speeds when placed on the end of the crank. If you wanted to commit to leaving the sensor there permanently, you could remove the rubber casing and just leave the inner plastic bit permanently epoxy’d to the crank arm.
So first up was loading up TrainerRoad. The Peanut’s been listening to Coach Chad lately on the Podcast, and after totally ignoring his advice about Stroopwafels, she’s ready to get a hard workout in. So I pair up the speed and cadence sensor using Bluetooth Smart on an iPad:
Then, I select to use VirtualPower, which uses the speed and a known power curve to determine wattage:
With VirtualPower you need to select a known trainer type. No problem, from the brand I choose Fisher Price:
And then I select my trainer:
It has a known power curve for this smart trainer loaded into it, allowing a little-human to throw-down the wattage to compete with their bigger human peeps. With that – she was ready to begin the DCR 30×30 accuracy test:
Unfortunately, it’s at that moment her sister came around with a Stroopwafel and all bets were off. Waffle 1, TrainerRoad 0.
Getting things back on track, it was over to Zwift on Apple TV. First was the task of getting everything paired up. I had to fight the app numerous times to stop trying to pair to all my smart trainers and running power meters nearby. But eventually I convinced it to stick on the speed sensor:
Next, I had to choose a wheel size. Zwift only allows a few variants here, and I tried a few variants, but it didn’t seem to have too much of an impact on the end-state watch. The challenge here is that ideally I’d want to totally tweak this to be right-sized.
Next, I’ve gotta choose a trainer. Surprisingly, choosing ‘unknown’ actually works reasonably well. In theory, you’d want to choose a trainer that has an unusually low speed to power ration (power curve), but I don’t know of one off-hand.
And with that, I was ready to race. I mean, The Peanut was ready to race:
For realz, this actually works. If you use the default (unlisted) trainer, then most pedaling at normal toddler (or even adult) speeds nets you about 50-80w of power, not really enough to compete since you’re only going 8-15MPH depending on cadence.
I tried toying with the wheel-size using the Garmin Connect Mobile app, but it appears that Zwift ignores that and applies its own wheel-size (that you’re forced to select), else the handicapping system would have worked better.
Ideally Zwift would simply implement the Fisher-Price trainer power curve like TrainerRoad did. After all, Zwift does have a Schwinn legit smart tricycle trainer in their lobby:
In any event, The Peanut did quite like the concept of racing against me on the bike, but did seem to prefer just using her rainbow course instead of Watopia. Sorta like concurrently riding TrainerRoad and Watopia to get XP’s…errr…Drops.
Of note is that in the event you want to create your nut their own Zwift profile, the minimum weight you can enter for a rider is 99 pounds (44.9KG), with a minimum age of 14 years, and a minimum height of 4ft (1.22m).
This does mean that their W/KG translation will definitely be far out of whack. But hey, that doesn’t seem to stop a bunch of racers in Zwift either.
Normally I test trainers for power meter accuracy. However, the Smart Cycle lacks a power meter, or any power metrics. Something about trying to keep things fun or something.
But it does have a speed sensor via cadence. Technically it’s measuring cadence to drive the speed calculation. But I was curious – how accurate was that measurement? Or, more specifically, how granular was it?
Turns out…not very granular.
Best I can tell there’s 3 levels of speed. Meaning, no matter how fast you pedal it’ll fall into one of three buckets:
It’s entirely plausible Medium and Fast are the same bucket in some portions of the app – there’s no way to tell since speed isn’t shown in any games I’ve found yet. The closest I can get to that is by trying the ‘Jump’ module within the Blaze app, which teaches you about “velocity”:
Based on extensive jumps, I’ve plotted the speed curve as follows:
And thus concludes the accuracy section of this review.
Naturally, I’ve loaded the Fisher-Price Smart Cycle into the product comparison database. Given it’s a full-featured bike (versus just a standalone trainer), I’ve slated it up against the Wahoo KICKR Bike, Tacx NEO Bike Smart, and Wattbike Atom. Obviously, those are all its natural market competitors. Note that you can make your own comparison chart to see how it stacks up against your own trainer, such as a Wahoo KICKR or Elite Direto, within the product comparison database.
For the money, there’s no smart trainer on the market which delivers as much functionality as the Fisher-Price Smart Cycle. App compatibility across virtually every larger-format screen you can think of, half a dozen themed apps with dozens of modules (courses) between them, and more alphabet games than there are letters. Now I know my ABC’s for sure.
Hardware-wise it appears well built. Even as an adult I could sit on the bike and it didn’t feel like it was going to fall apart. Albeit, I was unable to get my legs in the right position to pedal unless I used an accessory chair. Plus, neither the KICKR Bike or NEO Bike can steer, or go in reverse. Also, neither have horns or bouncy options.
About the only downside would be the global availability – it’s mostly restricted to the US/Canada unless you can find an importer. The Amazon Europe sites all offer it, but they also add hundreds of dollars of shipping costs. Maybe there’s a business model for bringing in containers of these bikes to sell to athletic DCR reading parents. What triathlete cave wouldn’t be complete without this?
With that – thanks for reading!
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