Vision Fitness U20 Classic Exercise Bicycle Review

I purchased this exercise bike as a replacement for my Vision Fitness E3600HRT which I used for over 10 years before it died on me. My experience with the E3600HRT and with a Vision Fitness Treadmill that I own are what led me to consider the U20.

The U20, when I purchased it from Amazon, cost about $900. The E3600HRT cost about $1,400 in 2001 if that gives you any indication of the class of bicycles I am comparing.

This bike arrives in TWO packages (Amazon did not know this), one containing the frame and bulk of the machine, the other containing the console. The bicycle package weighed in around 70-80 pounds and was pretty beat up but was packed well enough that the only visible damage to the bike was that the sleeve where the seat post enters the frame had some plastic chipped off of it. Vision Fitness is VERY good at warranty replacement and had a replacement part at my home in about 3-4 days.

I made the rookie mistake of not actually test driving the bike before ordering it. These days “Spin Cycles” are all the rage and there are precious few showrooms where you can find an old school exercise bike such as this to try out. I had decided to trust my prior experience with the brand. LEARN FROM MY FAIL.

Some of the CONs below are from my own biases which emphasizes my point that all bikes are not for all people so a test ride, no matter how inconvenient, is required.

First the PROs:

  • This bicycle is big enough where you mostly won’t feel constrained on it. I don’t see much chance of even the largest users hitting their knees on the handlebars
  • The handlebars are sturdy and the heart rate sensors well placed and sensitive. I’ve used other bikes where you seem to have to fiddle with your hand position to get them to report your heart rate.
  • Easy to assemble. Although mounting the handlebar would the one task more easily performed with some help it *is* doable.
  • The seat post appears to be standard so you can swap out the provided seat for one you prefer (see CON)

Now the CONs:

  • The cranks are those awful straight ones that ensure that you will hit your heel or ankle against the base of the crank arm on each revolution. In order to avoid this you need to cant your foot inward which leads to an awkward pedaling position.
  • The seat post was loose when attached to the frame. The way it is designed there is no satisfactory way to tighten this. This is magnified up at the seat and resulted in it being “wobbly”.
  • Contrasted with my E3600HRT, the console is nearly 3 inches closer to the nose of the seat than I’m used to, the console is also angled more steeply. These two factors put the console right in my face if I’m leaning forward during a particularly challenging interval. I’m used to using aero bars on my racing bike and this lean-forward position is encumbered by having the console so (literally) in your face.
  • The provided seat points upward to a degree that I find just about the limit of my tolerance. And it *is* adjustable, but only to point even higher.

I ended up returning the U20, the first two issues ultimately made the decision for me. I *could* have replaced the cranks with the old ones from my retired exercise bike. And I can probably find a suitable seat at my local bike shop. And I may have been able to shim the seat post to stabilize it. But for $900 and the fact that I intend to spend at least 10 years with this equipment, I want it to feel right coming out of the gate.

Don’t get me wrong, Vision Fitness is an excellent company and this bike may work very well for some folks, just not for me. Now I need to go test-drive some stationary bikes.

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on March 9, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Netflix and other issues since Comcast decided it needs to cap my data usage

Immediately on the heels of Comcast notifying me that they want to cap my access we began experiencing issues accessing Netflix. We absolutely could not get it to work on Thursday and I couldn’t get it through Apple TV on Friday (although I was able to get it on another i-device and mirror it over to the Apple TV).

All yesterday and today I’ve been having odd issues where websites are delaying in loading or loading part way and then quitting on me. It doesn’t matter which computer is being used.

Comcast has actually been *over* delivering for the past few months with download and upload speeds just slightly greater than promised. I had thought that they had finally figured out how to make their customers happy or at least not feeling ripped off with every interaction.

Now all of a sudden I see that they realized the error of their ways. I suppose they were drifting away from the bottom of the customer service ratings and decided they needed to implement new strategies to get back down there?

Posted under Retail Experiences, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on November 10, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Looks like Comcast has begun introducing data caps

I just received this email this morning. My plan was formerly unfettered. I note the spin placed on the data cap they are introducing.

I expect that if you choose to use their streaming service you’ll find the cap doesn’t apply to that data?

When I check my current usage, it tells me that “Note:enforcement of the 250GB data consumption threshold is currently suspended”

Which is it? 250 GB or 300GB?

 

Comcast Service Announcement

Important information regarding your XFINITY® service.


Dear XFINITY Internet Customer:

At Comcast, we recognize that our customers use the Internet for different reasons and have unique data needs. Starting December 1, 2013, Comcast will trial a new monthly data plan in this area, which will increase the amount of data included in your XFINITY Internet Service to 300 GB and provide more choice and flexibility.

What this means for You

The vast majority of XFINITY customers use far less than 300 GB of data in a month. Based upon your recent usage history, it appears this new data plan will have no impact upon you, and you won’t need to do anything, or change your Internet usage. If you are not sure about your monthly data usage, please refer to the Track and Manage Your Usage section below.

We want our customers to use the Internet for everything they want and your service will not be limited to 300 GB. While we believe that 300 GB is more than enough to meet the Internet usage needs of most customers, Comcast will automatically add blocks of 50 GB to your account for an additional $10, should you exceed the 300 GB included in your plan in a month.

In order for our customers to get accustomed to this new data plan, we are implementing a three-month courtesy program. That means you will not be billed for the first three times you exceed 300 GB included in the data plan during a 12 month period. Should your usage exceed 300 GB a fourth time during any 12-month period, an additional 50 GB will automatically be allocated to your account and you will be billed $10 for that data and each additional 50 GB of data in excess of 300 GB during that month and any subsequent months your usage exceeds 300 GB.

Please note that this is a consumer trial. Comcast may modify or discontinue this trial at any time. However, we will notify you in advance of any such change.

For more information on all our data usage plans, please visit www.xfinity.com/datausageplan/expansion

Track and Manage Your Usage

Comcast provides you with several tools to easily track and manage your data plan:

 

 

  • Data Usage Calculator – Estimate your data usage with this tool available atwww.xfinity.com/datacalculator. Simply enter information on how often and how much you typically use the Internet, and the calculator will estimate your monthly data usage.

 

 

  • In-Browser Notices and Emails – We will send you a courtesy “in-browser” notice and an email letting you know how much of the data included in your monthly plan you are using.

If you have any additional questions about the new data usage plan, please visitwww.xfinity.com/datausageplan/expansion

Thank you for being an XFINITY Internet Customer.

Sincerely,

Comcast

Posted under Retail Experiences, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on November 8, 2013 at 8:24 am

Which is Better, UPS or FedEx (SmartPost)?

So, I’m a member of Amazon Prime which means that anything that ships from Amazon comes automatically with 2 day delivery. This is pretty sweet.

A couple of days I shot a note to Amazon because I was a bit disappointed that one of my orders did not arrive when it was supposed to. It arrived two days later. This is not a big deal but I found it a bit annoying that clearly the delivery service (FedEx SmartPost) was – according to their tracking information – basically sitting on the package at their facility (local to me) for two days. Amazon no longer seems to send out mini-surveys asking when shipped items have arrived so I wanted to let them know that one of their shippers appears to be sleeping on the job.

As I look back at some previous orders it seems that UPS has been consistently on time while FedEx… well maybe not so much.

The funny thing is, partly due to their advertising efforts and partly due to past experience, I hold FedEx in higher esteem of the two.

In what turned out to be a kind of mini-test, I ordered two items from Amazon on Wednesday. It happens that one (25 LB Uninterrupted Power Supply) was shipped via UPS, the other (2 lbs Brass couplings) shipped by  FedEx Smartpost.

You look at the tracking information and you can see that the FedEx package actually arrived in Marietta before the UPS package arrived in Roswell. Both of these points are the last hops before delivery. The UPS package arrived today a bit after 3 pm and is sitting here beside me. The forecast for the FedEx package is to arrive maybe sometime before 8 pm on Sunday (two more days).

I’m glad I’m not counting on the second package being here for the weekend…

Posted under Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on September 27, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Fastlane Stained Stainless Steel handle – a small miracle

After a few months of going around with Endless Pools and the folks at DesJoyaux, the DesJoyaux folks hit upon a workaround if not a solution for my issue with the handle on my Fastlane turning a black color.

As you can see from this “Before” picture the handle (and portions of the stainless steel cage below that protects the impeller) was a murky black color. I was unable to wipe it off to any meaningful degree yet enough would come off if you touched it to get on your hands or your bathing suit.

Several weeks ago, Billy Fowler from DesJoyaux said he thought he had hit upon something that might be of use and suggested two cleaning agents to try. He very generously offered to take back any chemical left if I found them to be ineffective which tells me that he is standing behind his research.

Basically I dumped some of this “StainFree” product from “Natural Chemistry” into a bucket with about a quart of water, donned some rubber gloves and used a rag to wipe the handle. After two or three swipes I saw the stainless steel shining through! It’s much more of a chemical reaction than an elbow grease effort. If I soaked the rag and basically squeezed it around a discolored portion of the handle the improvement was immediate. A bit of rubbing helped a bit but as soon as the chemical was spent there was no amount of rubbing that would improve it any more.

 

Here is the after picture. I cleaned the handle, pulled the top off the unit and replaced the sacrificial anode (which was designed for  outboard engines) with a much smaller one but which was purchased from Endless Pools.

Now the question remains: Is this a permanent fix that resolves a one-off issue or will I need to periodically revisit my stainless steel pieces?

Posted under On the Home Front, Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on April 7, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Message to Elan Financial (They Manage EmigrantDirect’s Visa)

I sent the following (in two parts) to Elan Financial. Am I being unreasonable?

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction thus far with Elan Financial services who are managing my EmigrantDirect Visa card.

1) When received my first statement in January I immediately went to the Elan Financial website and signed up to have my bill paid in full each month from my bank account. According to a recent exchange I had through this messaging system I apparently should have been aware that, even after having double checked that the payment date was showing as February 6 (two weeks in the future), Elan’s system would not actually make the withdrawal since, inexplicably, this is not enough time for a financial institution in the 21st century to set up such a connection.

I saw no indication on the website that I was to ignore the listed payment date and go ahead and send in what to me would seem to be a duplicate payment via snail mail.

I am astonished that a financial company, managing the credit card portfolio for an ONLINE ONLY Banking service, is incapable of both setting up a funds transfer in under 6 weeks and is further incapable of communicating that fact on the website through which the financial arrangements are being made.

2) A few days ago I received a letter from Elan welcoming me and letting me know that I should activate my card and that my reward rate would be at 1% – no mention of the 1 1/4% that I signed up for and am ostensibly receiving. This was a bit confusing since I have actually been using the card for a month and a half now. Has Elan reneged on the original offer? Is Elan unaware that I am using the credit card?
3) Coincident with the above welcome letter I received a notice from Elan’s collection department whining about my not having paid my first bill. This in spite of the fact that I have been in contact with Elan via this secure messaging system and had clearly set up my account to fully pay my bill fully two weeks prior to the first due date. Can it really be that Elan’s various departments have no contact with each other nor do they have access to my account records?
4) My first attempt at crafting this secure message on the Elan website was lost when the website timed out after 15 minutes of “inactivity” and did not even retain a draft of the message. I again emphasize the primitiveness of a system, in 2013, that would be so unyielding as to not allow the customer a chance to either confirm that they are still using the site or to at least provide a mechanism to retain the work in progress. The page literally vanishes and is replaced with one showing that the session has expired. Also Elan’s website limits these messages to 3500 characters but does not actually tell you this until you submit and then doesn’t tell you by how many characters you have exceeded the maximum.
5) My recent communication with Elan regarding the minimum amount of points required to obtain a statement credit resulted in the unhelpful response that I should phone the rewards department during business hours. Ignoring the fact that the reward website needs to actually say what the minimum rewards amount should be rather than simply responding “You do not have enough rewards points to purchase this item”, I emphasize again that it is no longer 1980 and that email is a common and acceptable way to communicate. One of the reasons I deal with an ONLINE BANK is so that I can communicate asynchronously and not waste my time on hold waiting for a representative to get around to working with me.
I need the following from you:
1) Acknowledgment that my bill will be paid by your online system as it currently indicates that it will on March 6
2) Acknowledgement that my rewards rate is at 1 1/4% as was agreed upon with my initial application
3) Acknowledgement that I will not be fined or assessed any fees as a result of my trusting Elan Financial’s website when it indicated it would withdraw funds through a system that I, in good faith, set up weeks ahead of the payment due date.
4) Confirmation of the number of reward points required to redeem a statement credit.
I await your reply,
Marc

Posted under Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on March 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm

I Vote for Mars 2016

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Olympics. But I have no illusions that it does anything positive for the economies of the hosting countries. In fact I suspect that the ultimate cost to a country of the Olympics is far, far greater than any space mission would cost if they could be bothered participating. I just get peeved when folks start trying to tell me that the Olympics (or any new stadium for that matter) will do anything but suck money out of a city.

Just be honest, these provide entertainment, not prosperity, and we can all get along..

FAIL Blog: Pictures and Videos of Owned, Pwnd and Fail Moments

via School of Fail: I Vote for Mars 2016.

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on August 20, 2012 at 10:12 pm