Indoor cycling is a great way to get your cardio on without having to dodge traffic, but it can get a little boring. Still, dedicated cycling class bikes like Peloton are expensive (and there's a monthly fee) and not everyone can experience the joys of cycling in front of a giant IMAX screen. Virchybike Lite, which launched on Kickstarter today, offers a different solution. It combines realistic course riding, indoor classes, a VR mode, a personalized workout trainer and more for just around $700 (the Kickstarter price, however, is around $400).
By all appearances, Virchybike Lite looks like a normal indoor bike. But look a little closer and you'll notice a few differences. Instead of just adjusting the seat's height, you can also move the seat forward and backward, and the handlebars can be moved horizontally and vertically as well. If you don't quite know where to align everything, Virchybike's app will guide you through the bike fitting proces when you first get it. Like a lot of other indoor bikes, you can also adjust the resistance levels (the app also has programs that auto-adjusts the resistance for you) and there's a heart-rate monitor as well.
Speaking of the app, that's really at the heart of what makes the Virchybike Lite proposition a compelling one (the app is Android only for now, though Virchybike says an iOS version will be out next year). You can either select a mode where you're cycling through real-world courses, or play it safe with a Studio setting that mimics the feel of a spin class. There's also an interesting VR mode, where you can use an app called "rora", slap the phone in a VR headset like the Gear, and cycle through virtual worlds like you can on something like the VirZoom.
No matter which mode you pick, Virchybike says that the app will monitor your progress and heart rate, and will suggest modes that will cater to your particular fitness level. Oh, and you can also enable "Multiriding" and race along with family and friends if they happen to have Virchybikes too.
Perhaps the most interesting bike mode is the one that has you riding through 70-plus different real-life courses around the world. As you're cycling through the course, you're not just watching the road; the topography of the map actually matches the incline of your bike as you cycle along. Plus, the faster you cycle, the faster you move through the map. You also have the option changing your "gears" as you race.
And if you decide to pay a little extra, Virchybike is also going to throw in an accessory called the VR Fan. Connect it to the app, position the fan towards you and it'll attempt to simulate the wind blowing in your face as you breeze through the Tour De France.
I saw a demo of the Virchybike Lite at a booth at TechCrunch Disrupt, and it looks like a pretty well-made bike. The seats adjusted well, and the app looks pretty polished as well. It showed me data like the cyclist's heart rate as well as the speeds and inclines of the entire course. It doesn't look as cool as the Virchybike Pro, which was also there for demonstration, and it definitely doesn't have the same tilting frame. A spokesperson said that the Pro is more for professionals and gyms, while the Lite is more for home use. Unfortunately, there was no VR fan in sight, as the Virchybike folks are still looking for manufacturing partners for it.
Virchybike was created four years ago by Jaehyun Shin, a self-professed sports lover who wanted fitness to be more accessible to the masses. Specifically, he wanted to alleviate the boredom and tediousness so often associated with exercise. The first bike Shin and his team created was the RX Cycle in 2015, which then evolved to the Virchybike Pro in early 2017. But as that was a little too expensive -- over $1,000 -- Shin decided to make a Lite version for what he calls "family use."
The Virchybike Lite went on Kickstarter today with a $15,000 goal, and at the time of this writing, is already almost 80 percent funded. Virchybike hopes to deliver the bikes (and the VR fans) to backers by February of next year.