CycleFX marries exercise and gaming

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When I first ran into Neil Nusbaum, the president of CycleFX, at E3 in 2000 he was showing off an interface he’d developed that would feed into a PC running software that would track mileage, speed, etc. Like I imagine others had, I said, "You should really make it so you can play games on it."

Well, the next year, sure enough, he was showing us the GameRider.

The GameRider is an exercise bike attached to an interface for the Sony Playstation. With it, you can play virtually any Playstation racing game, just by peddling and steering.

In order to test it under as real conditions as possible, I took it home with me and set it up there. It does not come assembled. Building the device was not too complicated, but a bit time-consuming. It took me an hour and 45 minutes to finish it, but I believe a part of that time was due to my housemate being ‘helpful.’ Be warned that the package weighs about 80 pounds, so be prepared to pay a lot for shipping.

Once I got it together, it was very easy to hook it up to the Playstation. As the GameRider is a game controller, you just plug it into the controller socket and you are ready to go. Well, not quite. You have to set the GameRider controls to reflect which button you use for acceleration in the particular game (usually it’s the ‘X’ button, though), and set the accelerator and steering sensitivity to suit (usually they both start in the middle and you adjust them from there.)

One of the most difficult things to get used to about the Game Rider is the way it steers. When you use a normal controller, you push the left and right directional buttons to steer, and the way to do tighter turns is to hold the button down longer. It’s the exact same way with the GameRider – you only need to turn the wheel a little to make it turn, and hold it that way to make it turn a lot.

The temptation to turn the handlebars more to reflect the amount of turn you want to achieve on the screen was at first sometimes too much, and I would end up turning too far and temporarily "breaking" it until I had to stop and straighten the handlebars out again (which was easy enough to do, just turn it the other way until it sits centered again). Eventually though, I trained myself to turn the handlebars correctly, sort of like learning to turn into a skid.

A wide variety of racing games (over 40!) are playable with the GameRider. But just to be certain, my GameRider package came with a copy of Moto Racer World Tour included. This I must add was a nice touch. Not only does this make sure you have something to play, it sort of makes a standard method for setting up and testing out your machine.

After getting the feel of the control system, I raced along a variety of tracks, trying to better my lap times. If you get a race game with the right sound and music, it can be a very pleasant experience, with the beat of the music driving you, and the roar of the crowds as you pass definitely an encouragement. Sometimes you hardly notice that you have exercised as long as you have.

Since I have my Playstation hooked up to the television in the living room, I decided to set the GameRider up there, as a sort of worst-case scenario. The front support bar has casters on it, so wheeling it in front of the television and back is not nearly as much of a problem as I had imagined. When it’s time to use it, I can be in place, up and running in under a minute, and out of the way in the same amount of time.

Remember my "helpful" housemate? Well, he’s not much of a console game player, so when he tried the GameRider, he was always messing up the steering. But, the other day I caught him just using the exercise bike part of the GameRider, and reading a book. So I guess it can be used that way too.

But here is the best part – I lost two pounds in the three weeks I’ve had the thing! Let me repeat that – I lost two pounds playing video games. And that was over Thanksgiving, too with all those tempting foods all over the place. What other in-the-home game peripheral can do that?

Even after three weeks, I’m still not bored with it, and plan on continuing to use it through the holidays to combat the bad eating habits I’ll no doubt have during that time.

The GameRider is an innovative system that allows you to exercise regularly while being entertained by video games. It truly deserves a 5-Gem rating.

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