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September 14, 2015 – We’ve been riding with two new friends, Matt Dixon and Lesley Paterson. We actually don’t know these two coaches, Matt is the founder of Purple Patch Fitness and a guru to many pro triathletes, while Lesley Paterson is a world champion X-Terra athlete, but they are our new riding buddies thanks to PEAR Sports Personal Coaching.
To be perfectly frank, we wrote off PEAR Sports as a fitness buff’s nine-day wonder when we began to do our research. Consisting off an app, a heart rate monitor and headphones it claims to do many things – including calculate VO2 max to deliver a fitness ‘number’ to help you track and improve your overall level of fitness. There are a number of ways to estimate V02 max without the specialized equipment to actually measure exhalation, but without it, they are rough estimates at best and PEAR is no different in this regard. That estimate can form the basis for someone who is untrained to measure improvement, but for the fit cyclist it will likely not deliver much usefulness.
However, what PEAR does very well is quickly and simply turn any solo ride into a much more informative, appealing and efficient training ride. It does this in two ways. First, download a workout. PEAR lacks any true cycling coaches, but the triathlon coaches they have deliver solid programs on the bike from 90min steady state interval workouts to crushing 30min interval rides. You can really suffer if you stick to the plan.
Secondly, talking to the bluetooth heart rate monitor the app keeps you honest when it comes to staying in the right zone. Both the robotic ‘Mr. Pear’ and the coach of your choice will let you know if you are going too easy or too hard for the prescribed interval. That is the app’s true genius. The coaches talk you through every aspect of the ride – warm up, the real workout block, and cool down. Perhaps, most importantly the app tracks your progress and learns as you get fitter, asking more of you as your fitness improves.
Once you find a coach that appeals to you, in our case we enjoy Dixon and Paterson, a workout goes very quickly with them in your ear. Ride to your own music choices and listen as the coach guides you through the workout. They never talk so much it is annoying, PEAR has really nailed just the right amount of input. In fact, just when we wonder what’s next or how long we have left in an interval, they chime in with the right information. If we’re going too hard Matt drops an ‘Easy, cowboy’ on us or Lesley says in her Scottish lilt, ‘Woah… back it oh-ff.’ There is enough variation in their responses that it never feels to repetitive.
The headphones are serviceable from an acoustic standpoint, but from a fit perspective they are fantastic. Based on a design for US Special Forces, they stay put and provide good audio for the coach’s voices. They also allow enough ambient sound to keep you safe. While PEAR recommends using its app and products on the trainer, which is really the only place you should, if you happen to already ride on the road with headphones (which, we reiterate, you should not do.) the PEAR Stride headphones are very good. In fact, we ride with them just in the right ear, leaving the left ear open to listen for traffic and still the coaches voices come in loud and clear. A handy button on the right ear allows you to get instant heart rate info which is nice since the PEAR heart rate monitor is Bluetooth only, so if you ride with an ANT+ Garmin you won’t see your heart rate on your display.
To really enjoy all PEAR, and Dixon and Paterson, have to offer requires ponying up not only for the headphones and heart rate strap but for workouts beyond those provided for free. Most individual workouts cost just .99¢ and with the limited amount of cycling workouts currently in the system buying a la carté makes more sense than paying for a full subscription – $4 a month or $30 a year. If they add more cycling specific workouts that metric may change.
But the bottom line is, we’ve been getting more out of solo rides thanks to PEAR and Dixon and Paterson have become an integral part of our week, to the point that a ride without them feels like a ride we didn’t fully take advantage of. It’s not always perfect on the road, intersections and downhills can get in the way, but find a nice long road or solid climb and you can complete an entire workout in the saddle with no issues. If weather or limited daylight forces you to ride indoors, PEAR is a quick, easy and simple way to make the most of trainer time.
PEAR Training Intelligence Kit Price: $100 (Stride Headphones, Bluetooth Heart Rate monitor, App) Subscriptions; $30 Workouts: .99¢. More: pearsports.com