Wednesday, 24 July 2024

Exercise Bikes

Precor RBK 815 Recumbent Exercise Bike Review

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The Precor RBK 815 Recumbent Bike features in the company’s Experience Series 810 Line, alongside the UBK 815, EFX 815, and AMT 813, amongst others.

Being the earliest recumbent bike in the Experience Series and the next bike up from the RBK 615 of the Assurance Series, means that you can enjoy many of the unique design features of the RBK 835 and 885 models, but at a lower price.

In this review we take a look at these features in more detail, to help you decide on the best choice of recumbent bike for your own home workouts.

Two-stage drive system for a smoother cycle

Although the two bikes may look very similar, there’s at least one very important difference between the design of the RBK 615 and the RBK 815.

Precor RBK 815 Recumbent Exercise Bike

This difference lies in the type of drive system that’s contained within the front crank arm casing at the front of the base frame.

While the single stage drive system of the 615 still offers progressive resistance and a smooth cycling experience, the two-stage drive system of the 815 takes this a step further. The result is even quieter operation, with a lower level of start-up resistance, and a more consistent resistance progression as you move through the 25 different levels.

Both bikes actually use the same eddy current resistance system, but it’s this more advanced drive system that results in a wider watts range, measuring 18-750 watts compared to the 22-500 watts of the RBK 615.

Another subtle difference in design can be found with the pedals, which are now dual-sided instead of single-sided. This allows you to choose between cycling with or without the integrated pedal straps, with extra-wide support for a wide variety of foot sizes.

Designed with efficient cycling biomechanics

When Precor started developing their RBK and UBK exercise bike collections, they wanted to find a way to reduce shear force on the knee at the same time as increasing cycling efficiency.

This has been achieved through the RBK range through careful positioning of the seat rail (15 degree angle) and offset from the crank axle (also known as Knee Over Pedal Spindle, or KOPS).

With your knee over the ball of your foot when the crank arms are approaching parallel, this creates the most efficient angle for transferring the driving force from your knees and feet through to the pedals.

This type of attention to detail with the positioning of the seat is often even more important with recumbent bikes, where you’re at a reclined angle due to the low-impact, non weight bearing nature of the exercise.

To provide maximum freedom of motion in your legs without compromising on comfort, Precor have contoured the padded seat to taper where your legs point towards the pedals. The 15 degree angle of the rail is also carried through to the seat, enhancing lower back protection and support.

Precor RBK 815 Recumbent Exercise Bike

Precor RBK 815 – Features Summary

  • Easy step-through design
  • Six workout programs
  • 25 resistance levels
  • Built-in touch sensor for heart rate
  • Compatible with popular telemetry transmitters
  • Patent-pending air flex seat with high-ventilation seat back
  • Dual-sided pedals

Step-through design and seat adjustment

A key feature of any high quality recumbent bike is a low-profile base frame and wide step-through design. The Precor RBK 815 manages to achieve both, with a step-over height of just 4 inches, and space between the pedal crank casing and seat rail of 14 inches.

This is one of the largest walk-through spaces of any recumbent bike in the industry, and is a significant improvement over lower priced designs like the Schwinn A20, and even the popular Sole Fitness LCR.

Adjustment of the seat is possible with just one hand, from both seated and standing positions. Seated adjustment is often considerably easier when you’re looking to achieve the most efficient cycling position, where your legs maintain a slight bend when the pedals are furthest from you.

The patented air flex seat and thick cushioning also help you to maintain a comfortable cycling posture during longer workouts.

P10 stream-lined LED display console

Precor RBK 815 Recumbent Exercise Bike

Despite differences between the P10 Console (RBK 815) and their standard console (RBK 615), the workout feedback, button functions, and optional entertainment upgrades are identical.

Although you’re missing any form of historical workout tracking, you can still keep track of progress through your current workout via 5 LED screens. This includes your calories burned, heart rate, resistance level, and speed.

Quick Select workout buttons let you choose from any one of the 6 preset workout programs, with one available in each of the 6 categories.

Unfortunately you can’t create user profiles to store personal information against for each use, which may not be an issue if you aren’t using the heart rate program or tracking calories burned. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that you will need to enter at least your age each time you use the program to increase the accuracy of the heart rate feedback.

Providing this information is made easier thanks to the numeric keypad, with quick start and stop buttons also provided if you don’t want to follow any of the preset workouts.

In terms of entertainment options, you might have noticed that Precor aren’t a company that tend to place much focus on cooling fans and speakers.

On other bikes these are often the features that receive the most negative feedback in reviews, due mainly to their poor quality. By not including them as features on Precor’s consoles, it also allows for a much more streamlined and aesthetically attractive interface.

But that’s not to say you can’t add optional entertainment features if you wanted to. The P10 console supports Precor’s full range of entertainment options, including their Personal Viewing Screen (PVS), Personal Entertainment Player (PEP), and Entertainment Cap.

6 Preset workout programs

Unless you have the space and budget for different types of cardio equipment, such as an elliptical and exercise bike, then you’re probably looking to get the widest variety of workout programs from your recumbent bike.

This is one of the areas that we feel Precor could improve upon, and is partly why we haven’t given this bike our full 5 star rating. However, this tends to be a fairly common limitation with recumbent bikes, and there are few designs that offer more than 10 programs.

However, it’s not just the number of programs we’ve taken into account when calculating our rating, but also the number of custom programs and whether or not user profiles can be created.

For example, Precor’s RBK 835 provides you with 12 programs, but these are all preset. In comparison, the LCR from Sole Fitness only offers 10 programs, but two of these are programs you can create yourself (custom). In this instance we would likely apply the same rating to both the RBK 835 and LCR bikes.

Precor RBK 815 Recumbent Exercise Bike
Quick-select buttons offer easy access to the 6 preset workout programs

Back to the RBK 815, and because it uses Precor’s P10 console, this means you have 6 different programs to choose from, from 6 unique categories. If you feel like switching between programs mid-workout, your stats will actually be carried across to the new program and continue where you left off. The only exceptions to this are the Weight Loss and Heart Rate programs.

6 workout programs in 6 categories

  • Weight Loss – With a fixed duration of 28 minutes, and consisting of 7 four minute work and rest intervals, the Weight Loss program is designed to keep your heart rate within the range that’s considered optimal for weight loss (50% p 70%).
  • Heart Rate (Basic HRC) – After entering your bodyweight using the numeric keypad, you can then choose to either hold the touch sensors or wear a chest strap to transmit your heart rate to the inbuilt receiver.The Basic HRC program will then maintain your target heart rate by automatically adjusting the resistance. This makes it an excellent choice of program for aerobic conditioning.
  • Performance (Hill Climb) – Designed to help increase lower body strength, Hill Climb is a favourite program for Precor consoles, automatically adjusting the resistance to emulate the feeling of cycling up hill.
  • Variety (Random) – Together with the Manual program, this is the only workout that doesn’t follow a set profile. However, whereas Manual requires you to set the resistance, the Random program actually creates a new profile each time it’s selected, then adjusts the resistance automatically.
  • Interval (1-1 and 1-2) – The P10 console actually features two variations of interval program, one with two minutes of work and two minutes of recovery (1-1), and the other with four minutes of work and two minutes of recovery (1-2).Although the resistance for each segment is pre-determined, if you choose to adjust the resistance for either the recovery or work stages, the console will remember this new setting for each upcoming interval.
  • Manual – Following no preset profile, Manual requires you to make any changes you need to make as your workout progresses, and won’t automatically adjust the resistance level.

Ease of assembly / Maintenance required

Before buying any new piece of fitness equipment, particularly one in this price range, it’s important to take into account the assembly process and level of maintenance required to keep the warranty coverage valid.

Although Precor have one of the highest levels of warranty coverage in the industry, they also include a recommendation in their user manuals to follow a basic maintenance routine.

Most of the steps are very basic, such as the wiping down of the console and outer covers after each workout, and the cleaning of the internal resistance system every few months.

This last step is made easier by the RBK 815 having a removable shroud covering the pedal crank system, which can quickly be clipped on or taken off when you need to clean inside.

Being a recumbent bike also means you don’t have to worry about checking slipping belts or wear on the running deck the same way you would with a treadmill, or check slipping internal belts the way you would with an elliptical trainer or AMT.

Being self-powered also means you don’t have to worry about positioning the bike near a power outlet, or checking for frayed power cords.

Recommended cleaning solutions

  • External covers – 30 parts water to 1 part Simple Green, applied with a soft cloth
  • Console screen – 91% isopropyl alcohol solution, applied with a lint-free cloth. You can usually pick up a bottle of this from your local Walgreens for around $2 per 16oz bottle.
Assembly instructions are mostly for connecting the wires from the base frame to the console

Assembly process
With such a similar frame design, we expected the step-by-step assembly instructions to be similar throughout the RBK 800 series. We found this to be the case when comparing the RBK 815 with the earlier RBK 615 model, with the majority of instructions related to cable connections.

This particular step can be quite time consuming due to the threading of the cables through the frame of the base unit, but the base unit itself actually arrives already pre-assembled. This includes the seat rail, pedal crank arms, and internal belt drive system.

Despite having a total weight in excess of 200 lbs, once you have the base stabilizers in place it’s really just a case of attaching the seat, upright console support, and main display console.

The entire process shouldn’t take longer than 45 minutes, with detailed steps in the user manual walking you through everything from the parts in the hardware kit to verifying the heart rate display.

What’s covered by the warranty?

  • Frame and welds: 10 years
  • Parts and wear items: 5 years
  • Labor: 1 year

Related articles:

Recumbent Bike Reviews – Best Recumbent Exercise Bikes
Schwinn 270 Recumbent Bike Review
Exerpeutic 900XL Recumbent Bike Review

Review Overview

Overall Review Rating

4.5 / 5

Precor has been building equipment to withstand the repetitive, rigorous workouts of health clubs, hotels and spas for years, so they earn their reputation on quality and durability.

The RBK 815 offers a number of important improvements over the earlier 615 model, being the first in the RBK collection to offer the smooth two-stage drive system and maximum power level of 750 watts.

Workout variation should also prove enough to help prevent muscle adaptation, particularly with the Random program, and the entertainment upgrades are always a nice option to have for the future.

Overall, if you are looking for a high quality recumbent bike that will last for years and is backed by one of the most comprehensive warranties in the industry, the RBK 815 would make an excellent choice.

In case you were wondering, there are three main reasons we haven't rated the RBK 815 the full 5 stars. These are the lack of custom workout programs, lack of user profiles, and no built in workout tracking.

Product dimensions: 67" (L) x 23" (W) x 49" (H) Product weight: 210 lbs Weight capacity: 350 lbs User height range: 60 to 76 inches

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