Spirit XBR55 Smart Recumbent Bike and Zwift

Hey Watopians,

After multiple injuries, stops and starts in my journey to get in better shape, my doc recommended switching to a recumbent stationary indoor trainer. I didn’t want to give up on Zwift, so I looked at a few different recumbent trainers (Spirit XBR55, Schwinn 270, and the Sole R92) and ended up getting the Spirit recumbent as it was available from a local shop (ABT) around Chicago. I’ve seen a few posts asking about smart recumbents and so I’ll try to share the facts and what I liked/didn’t like about it in case it helps anyone else. I have no agenda here nor am I being compensated by anyone for doing this, just sharing what I’ve seen so far after a week of riding.

Pros:

  • Reports Cadence and Power to Zwift via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
  • Solidly put together, doesn’t feel cheap or unstable at all even for a 245lb/111kg old fat guy like me
  • Comfortable mesh back rest and seat, with adjustable seat position and back rest incline. It’s not quite an overstuffed recliner with pedals but I could easily nap in this thing.
  • Very low hassle in getting it to recognize in Zwift, just power it on and fire up Zwift and pair it up. Assembly and delivery was a different matter. It’s over 100lbs/45kg and I paid for indoor delivery and let two 20 year olds assemble it and carry it down to my basement for $75, they also hauled away the giant box it came in. If you’re in the type of shape/age that you’re looking at a recumbent, maybe consider inside delivery.
  • Comes with nice heart rate chest strap (didn’t test, used my Apple Watch). Also has heart rate hand grips and they appear to be within 1-2 bpm of other HR meters.
  • Easy to reach thumb buttons increase/decrease “gearing” though they do not show up as gears in Zwift, just increases/decreases power output.

Cons:

  • Cost. At $1900 USD (I paid $1600 at a local ABT shop) it’s an exceedingly expensive smart recumbent. It’s high quality and it “just works” so I don’t have a ton of buyer’s remorse. but it’s certainly not a budget-friendly option.
  • Reports “Controllable” via BLE, does not appear to increase difficulty on hills though, so I don’t think this functions today as advertised. I’ve mailed Spirit support and will follow up with this post if they let me know
  • The power readings are…mushy? in terms of accuracy and that was acceptable to me as someone who won’t be racing with it or trying to hit precise interval training goals. It didn’t feel like it was artificially boosting my numbers nor sandbagging me too much though, it just doesn’t feel nearly as precise or responsive as my Wattbike Atom (expected, they’re apples and oranges in terms of different design goals, one is an elite racing trainer and the other is a very comfortable chair with pedals)
  • It’s a recumbent, so you’re not going to get any weight over the pedals and muscle your way up a hill. If you do overdo it and try to grind too much on a recumbent, you’ll likely feel it in your hamstrings and knees a lot more. My doc strongly recommended lower wattage (140-160w) and lower cadence (70-80rpm) for at least a month or two to see how my knees and hamstrings feel before attempting to push any harder. In short (too late) it’s not winning any KOMs.
  • Seat distance adjustment appeared to move in 1" increments, and while I was able to do heel-on-pedal downstroke trick and get it dialed in for me, it seems a little bit less granularly optimizable than some higher end trainers. My wife did point out that picking a slightly longer distance from the pedals and then putting a folded towel behind your lower back in-between you and the seat would help get that perfect pedal length sweet spot though.

That’s all I can think of. Going to post a few pics of my setup and one of my first workouts with it just in case those help too.