Cobb's Move Into Stationary

Is triathlon going up or down in 2017? I don’t know. But here’s one rising category: Stationary. No doubt about that. Cobb Cycling either noticed this or didn’t; is either prescient or isn’t; this company best known for its saddles is either lucky or smart or both by adding stationary to its offerings. (Doesn't Don Park look like he knows something we don't?)

This should surprise no ardent Slowtwitch reader, because I interviewed Cobb Cycling’s new owner Don Park earlier this year and we got into his background. A little bit of this man’s brain sits inside on a lot of treadmills you might run on via Kimatek, his main company.

What is this treadmill you see here? It’s branded Cobb. Mr. Park says this is a commercial quality treadmill, heavy duty enough to be in health clubs. It’s got a speed up to 16mph so unless you’re Allyson Felix you’re probably not going to outrun it. John Cobb maintains it will cost around $4,000 which seems to me pretty inexpensive.

One interesting part of Cobb’s tech is the software, which looks a lot like what VirtualRunner does. That company strikes deals with race organizers, heading out onto a course with a camera on a Segway just before the gun. You buy this video and watch it as you pretend you are the “first Kenyan” in the race. Cobb’s software adds an avatar, changeable, with changeable kit, like Zwift offers. And, the treadmill inclines and declines as the course changes in terrain. Other avatars are added to the course as your friends virtually join your run.

There are quite a number of courses already, as you can see, and you can add your own. One imagines a Garmin Virb attached to your head or to a bike, with both a video and GPS file. If I understand right this is all you need to create a course like this.

The true ambition for this tech is a crowdsourced library of courses, user generated, perhaps not unlike Strava with a camera. You send your file to Cobb, which has a deal with an Asian company that enhances the file, adds the elevation synced to the terrain of the video, adds a cheering crowd if you want, whatever floats your boat. I’m a little fuzzy on this. Just, you now have an enhanced run (or ride) -ready course for stationary training for your solo or group virtual experience. (See the video of a video just below.)

The treadmill has all of what I’ve been asking for over the past couple of years: a beefy, commercial grade inclinable product without graphics on the console, and with a console that swings out of the way. The treadmill is a smart slave and Cobb leaves the graphics, the software, the display up to those who know now to do that (whether it’s Cobb itself, or Zwift Running, or VirtualRunner).

But wait! There’s more!

Cobb has stuck it all into a bike trainer too, that inclines just like the newly introduced KICKR CLIMB. The Cobb cycling trainer inclines and declines according to the software’s commands. It is neither a wheel-on nor a direct drive trainer, rather the wheel sits on a concave mandrel rather like a roller. This type of rear (lack of fixed) connection might solve the front dropout issue that the KICKR CLIMB solves in its unique way.

John Cobb said his company’s new trainer is powered by the rider, with a supplemental assist from AC power. Claimed is the ability to resist 2000 watts, so even if that is an ambitious number by double that’s enough for anybody’s training needs. And, same thing, film the course and if it’s a video synced with GPS the trainer inclines the bike as the course inclines.

While the treadmill seems a no brainer great value, the stationary bike trainer, expected to be priced at $3,500 to $4,000, will face competition at the $1,200 and $1,600 direct drive trainer price thresholds, especially considering the $600 add-on price for the CLIMB.

Bear in mind what you’re reading here is the farthest thing from a review. The treadmill runs on 110v AC which surprises me but then getting the most out of a smaller current is what Kimatek does. The treadmill is projected to be for sale around Thanksgiving. The bike trainer’s projected ship time, it’s definitely not proof-of-concept, Cobb is pedal to the floor to get it done this season, but I sense the treadmill will ship before the bike trainer because the bike trainer appears to be entirely new tech.

We'll keep you posted.