If you're going to buy an indoor cycling bike, it would make sense to me to look at a brand with over 10 years of experience in doing them, right? This was at least my internal thought process when I first saw the StagesBike sitting in the meeting room at the Red Mountain Spa at the Suunto Team Summit back when in-person group gatherings were still cool.
Sturdy, heavy and a little weird looking with the huge iPad holder was my first thought when I walked up to it as I grabbed the handlebars to throw my leg around the women’s style top tube.
Being a lover of all things cycling and very much not a lover of all things winter, I have spent my fair share in studio rooms grinding it out with other spin class attendees. Waking up earlier than needed to “get a spot“ was the thing to do before online signups and yoga was popular. I would venture to say that I have been on every single spin bike ever put into a gym (at least in America, and possibly outside of America too).
In the triathlon community, Stages is probably most commonly known only for its power meters; dang good ones, I might add. What most people don't know is the legacy that Stages has in the indoor cycling/spin bikes space they have: years and years. We aren't talking about a couple of years of some athletes that hook up a bike to it and ride 4-5 times a week 5-6 months out of the year. We are talking every single known human body type getting on the bike 4-10 times a day. 7 days a week. Sweat, cleaning materials, etc.: you name it, these bikes go through it. So when I grabbed the handlebars and sat on the Stages Bike for the first time. I could feel that history of R&D.
In this review, I want to cover 5 things: 5 things that matter to me and also what I feel like would be the 5 things that matter to the average person that would be looking at purchasing this type of bike.
#1 Quality of ride
#3 The Basics of the Software needed to use the bike (StagesLink)
#4 Connecting to Zwift or some other platform
#5 My overall rating and my shortlist of Pros and Cons
Quality of Ride: Rating 8+
It doesn't come with any automatic lift and lower features that some of you might think is cool or needed. It also comes with what I would consider a pretty narrow handlebar that moves a little. Why can't someone just make something perfect, right? Or maybe I'm the one with a personal issue. (It's probably that).
What I can say is that after riding this on and off for the last 2 plus months, this bike rides as smooth as they come if not better. I would say it's the most stable indoor training bike you can buy today. I haven't ridden them all but I have ridden enough and I have gotten on a couple at the same if not more expensive price point and I felt like I was on a bike with a bottom bracket that needed to be greased and tightened, aka the dreaded squeak.
Let's talk about something big. No, I'm not talking about my watts. But I am talking about what makes them count on this bike (2200 watts @3200 RPM to be exact). And that is the 50 pound flywheel that, I would say, is what makes up the secret sauce for Stages. It really does allow and makes it possible for all the smart bike claims to become a reality.
ADJUSTABILITY Rating 9+
It’s safe to say that click holes (you know, those huge holes up and down the indoor cycling seat post that you click into) are not a thing on this bike at all. Micro adjustments are the name of the game. Stages claims that riders from 4’11-6’4 will fit on board this bike. I agree.
I can say this because I also used this bike for a photoshoot and I had a 5’0 and a 6’3 model on it and we still had plenty of room in both adjustment ranges if needed.
Adjustability on this bike is legitimately easy. It flows up, down, in, and out very smoothly; this isunlike the first generation peloton bike that needed a plumbing wrench to move a ½ inch in any direction.
The crank comes with 165cm, 170cm, 172.5cm, and 175cm; small crank devotees will be left out in the cold. That said, for the majority of riders, it'll be easy to dial in the same stack/reach and crank length numbers you use out on the road.
The bike comes with two 2.4 A USB plugs. I will say while it's super nice to have these. The BIG QUESTION Aero bars, yes they are a thing and they can be done. I will be doing a follow-up piece soon as I know bar-end shifters are available as an accessory.
SOFTWARE NEEDED Rating 7+
StagesLink is cool, but there's just too much going on.
-Inbox (another inbox?)
I can't imagine anyone needing anything else in life when it comes to this app as far as information at your fingertips. The issue is you’re already late to the game on where people store this data. I'm not sure how many people are going to move their digital life to the app for all their training needs. I could be wrong.
I will say that once I have gotten into the device manager. Which is all I really need at this point. It’s very easy to navigate (Rating 9) I'm Greeted by the first screen to make sure I like all my gearing ratios (That’s right you customize all of those) Please see DC rainmakers review HERE for more information on this subject and he does a really nice job at explaining those. And I'm moving on.. UPDATES ( LOTS OF THOSE THE LAST 8 WEEKS) I make sure my Stages Bike is good then I move to my Crank Arms and Crank length. Oh look, another update. I will say that sometimes it takes a couple of tries to get the Zero Rest to complete. (so keep going) I will be going into more detail on the Stage Links in my next review when I'm done with the Dash (Largest, Hugest, Bestest bike computer display I have ever used)
CONNECTING WITH ZWIFT Rating 8
Anytime I review a product I have one universal rule I stick by: I don't read the manual at first. Why? Simple. Most people don't ever read the manual. So if most people aren't going to read the manual, I feel as if I should approach the product in a manner that most people are going to experience. That said, there are a couple of issues I had and some tricks I learned about connecting to Zwift while not reading the manual.
At first connecting with Zwift was hard. Why?
Which one? 3 choices. And if you stall for a moment because you are confused, or lift your head for a second, sometimes Zwift chooses for you. It must choose the right one, right? That's what I thought, but after a couple of times getting totally smashed 5 minutes into Hilly Vanilli, I knew something was up.
I called my new friend Sean at Stages. Just a side note. Sean claims that it's his job to talk to people like me. But you can tell when someone is just doing their job and when someone clearly loves what they do. Sean is the latter. He quickly connected me to one of his tech reps Tony, who is another person who clearly loves what he does. After promising Tony I would call him twice at a certain time, we finally connected. After speaking with Tony for about an hour, it turns out that the Right Crank is not the crank you want to have connected to Zwift. Because of the way the two power meters read and talk to each other, the right crank arm only computes 50% of your power reading. So the 300 watts I was turning out only computes to 150 watts in game, and if any of you have been in the B category on either of our Thursday rides: 150 watts gets you left in the dust. As soon as I got off the phone with Tony I hopped on my bike and I did 2 things.
#1 I renamed my Stages Bike to (Stages Bike Connect to Zwift ).
#2 I got down low and put the left crank ANT ID in my head.
Ever since then. I have lasted at least 35-40 mins before being dropped on those rides.
Now here is my thing with Zwift. I'm just your average indoor rider and I have always wanted to be your average indoor rider. I don't read ZwiftInsider, or know all the tricks and tips of how to use powerups. I can't with any level of honesty tell you that the Stages Bike works perfectly on Zwift or any other platform. What I can say is that when I'm in game cruising around virtual New York it’s a great ride but up and down and all around. In my opinion, this is all a person that wants to buy an indoor bike at this price point really cares about.
In Conclusion, let me leave where I started. Over 10 years of building power meters and indoor cycling bikes and all the internal lessons is what you are buying here. It's clear that the team at Stages love riding bikes and bringing that experience to others. That's what you are getting with this purchase.
Things They Nailed
Construction of the bike
Adjustability both with the fit and also gearing
50 Lbs flywheel It really allows for much more than you can think.
Things that I feel need to be looked at.
The frame should have some bottle cage holders on it. I want my bottles on a seat tube and my down tube.
Figure out a way to make it easier to switch out the pedals (Give the households with 2 or more riders an easier way to switch it up)