Silly exercise device du jour: One of those automatic bicycles that shifts gears for you.
Depending on the gear ratios on a bicycle, you can shift into an often bewildering variety of gears. These bicycles are designed to simplify the process by determining when to shift without consulting you on the matter. (You can override the automatic function, but in that case why buy the bicycle?)
I can't speak for the Crab, but my feeling is that you really need to learn to shift for yourself. This device earns short shrift here in my corner of Cranky Fitness land. (Not that I ever give anything long shrift, in fact I've certainly never even seen a long shrift, but that's the way the expression goes.)
I'm trying to think of a situation where this would be a good idea.
I can see it can help people who're completely unused to bicycling get used to bicycling, and that's a good thing. My sister, for example, got one of these after not having been on a bike for 20 years. It's a start, like training wheels before you learn to balance. If you feel overwhelmed with trying to keep upright, not wobble to far into the road, and keep pedaling at the same time, it might help to have one less factor to try to deal with. This bicycle might work for taking short trips on fairly level and isolated bike paths , but I wouldn't want to ride it on the road. It's like learning to balance . You need to learn to shift for yourself.
Some examples of when this bicycle would be a bad idea:
* Sometimes you need to be in a gear for a certain reason. If you're trying to warm up, you want to spin in low gears, whereas if you need to get the hell through an intersection before the moron in the red sedan mows you down, you'll want to be practiced enough to shift into a high gear so you can fly.
* I wouldn't use one if your objective is to get into shape. When you're trying to get fit, it's helpful to do a lot of warming up in very low gears. Spinning, they used to call it, in the days before stationary bicycle classes were the rage. If you pedal in a gear that's lower than necessary, you end up doing a lot more pedaling and covering a lot less distance, but you get your blood pumping and muscles warmed up without putting any strain on your knees. (If you start out cycling in a high gear, you can put more strain on your knees.)
* Sometimes you'll round a corner and see a steep hill up ahead . Not to lose momentum, you'll shift down into a better gear a little before you need to. This self-shifting bicycle doesn't come equipped with eyes; it can't see ahead. You'll find yourself losing momentum while the bicycle takes the time to think "hmmmn... getting steeper here, maybe I should shift."
* Also sometimes the terrain is rollers, a situation where you are going up and down over very small hills (like stretched out bumps, really) . If you've got a rhythm going, your body is in a routine, a comfortable cycle of motion that by repetition becomes something you don't have to think about. If your bicycle detects a change in the level of the terrain and decides to shift for you, you're thrown off your rhythm and have to re-condition yourself, get back into the groove. That's a pain.
Okay, yes, I can see a few reasons why you'd want this bicycle. But I can see a whole lot more reasons why you'd be better off with a bicycle that lets you do the thinking/planning/shifting.
Obligatory note: I have read a few positive reviews of auto-shift bicycles. Seems to me that the reviews were written from the perspective of someone who wanted to get around town occasionally and wasn't interested in using bicycling as a way of getting into shape or of seeing the countryside. I'm including the links to these reviews below.
Popular Mechanics thought this bike was the bee's knees.
Crave wrote it was for the "easily daunted" cyclist.
I'd be interested in some more reviews from people who've tried these bicycles. Am I being too critical? Too dismissive? Cranky minds want to know!
p.s. Ending on a positive note, I have to say these Monkey Lights are really cool. You can generate all kinds of neat patterns on your bicycle wheels while you ride.
It's fun. Kind of like putting a baseball card in your spokes when you were a kid, only you can justify the expense of these because it's a safety issue. Yeah, that's it.
(Why do adults have to rationalize the urge to have something just because it's fun? Or at least, why do I?)