I have just experienced the most strenuous and dare I say the best stationary bike exercise I've ever had. I'm no fitness buff, but in the past couple of years, I've made a concerted effort to lose weight and keep it off. Fifteen minutes five days a week on a stationary exercise bike in front a TV was the main weapon.
The problem was, even after a couple of years, I still dreaded that fifteen minutes on the bike. It didn't hurt anymore... yes, embarrassingly it did when I started and I don't want to talk about it. No... it wasn't the actual workout or pain... it was the boredom of it all. I mean come on... what active digital artist full of ideas has 15 minutes to spend on a bike going nowhere as fast you can? Never mind the fact we can blow 15 minutes just staring at the screen or work order for our project or have time to sneak in a phone game or two for much longer than 15 minutes. But I digress as that is not the point.
The point is... I had FUN exercising this morning and had to force myself to stop to go be creative! The even more intriguing part is I plan a session this evening too. As you get older it's not hard to adhere to a schedule once you up make your mind to do so. Even bored almost to the point of death (ok... maybe not that bad but close) I still managed to put in the 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week for the past couple of years on my old, obsolete... gasp... non-VR exercise bike. Did I actually HAVE one of those things???
Another little thing I might mention in passing is that in those two years or so of bike riding... I never broke a sweat. Don't know how I did it but I managed to take the weight off without ever sweating one drop. Not so after this workout. Without even knowing it I was already heating up and burning calories just going through the simple tutorials. This brings up a point... the unventilated Vive HMD that I hooked the bike up to. I had read about sweaty masks and icky things but I must say it wasn't that bad. I had already looked into VRCovers and this seems a good solution. Some of us are going to sweat and that will be transferred to the band that hugs your face. A washable cover is a solution at the moment for those that don't want to share sweat and I don't blame them.
Assembly is required and there is nothing to it except for the cheap wrench they send along. I believe I used a 12mm from my toolset but the tool provided will work if that is all you have. I certainly can't blame them for not wanting to send along a shop grade wrench with the package. Pull the pin, swivel open and lock most of the already assembled bike. Add two pipe-type feet with four bolts. She's now upright and ready for the handlebars... then stick in a couple of batteries (it says not included but they were) in the brain box. Plug in the wireless USB dongle (a very small USB device) that provides the Bluetooth connectivity to your computer. It took about 20 to 30 minutes at a very leisurely pace with no curse words involved. That last one is a big plus for a lot of grouchy old folks. No problems in connectivity with the Bluetooth dongle either. It was automatic. Another word us older folks like when it comes to this sort of thing.
When I first sat down on it... I didn't like it. I think it was the old man syndrome kicking in again, the driving force that doesn't like anything that's different from the previous experience. My old bike was a recumbent and this one is not so that most likely triggered the attitude. I used the recumbent due to pain in a bad knee but guess what? Never missed the bike once I gave VirZOOM a chance. My knee, at times towards the end of the workout, hurts a bit but not enough to stop even after the most grueling workout I've had on a bike. Ok... maybe grueling is stretching it a bit but it was a good, hard work out for me.
The VirZOOM Arcade on Steam is an easy and straightforward download/install like any Steam based game. It has several game types to choose from including a horseback game that has you lassoing the bad guys from your trusty steed. An Indy type race car game, a paddleboat in a nice pond with ducks and a little scenery, a Le Tour cycle race and a flying Unicorn which is way cooler than it should be for an adult on an exercise bike. There is a helicopter and tank game for those needing a little more excitement. The graphics are nothing to write home about but they are adequate and better than staring at a TV. The games are basic but if you have even an ounce of competitiveness in you... they will drive you to a better workout as intended. You can also sign up for an account to set goals and track your progress. I found this to be very handy. There is also a Unity SDK available at the Unity Asset Store. Combine this with the easy to use tools like the VR Toolkit for Steam or Oculus Utilities and you can do it your way.
I can't wait to tell my cardiologist about this, when you get my age you tend to have one of those on retainer, and I hope to lose more weight by the next checkup. That would be great since I have hit a wall on that with my present system of torture... errr... exercise. So far the new hasn't worn off but I can't imagine it ever being as boring as a bike in front of a TV. I've not spoken to anyone at the developer for this review as I am a customer not just a reviewer in this case. All I know in terms of future development is that they are always looking to improve the games. This is good news because that is the only negative in this whole equation but in fairness... and being a VR developer myself... this is still frontier country in terms of what a wide audience of computers can handle. A LOT of VR games suffer from subpar graphics based on today's bells and whistles which is more like comparing apples to oranges. If everyone had high-end computers these problems would disappear but this is an industry in its infancy and will have to mature like all new tech.
It's hard not to like something that burns up calories while being occupied/entertained. Thanks to VirZOOM exercise is not torture anymore. In fact... it's... gasp... dare I say it... FUN!!!
VirZoom on Steam
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.