My Le Tour De France Indoor Cycling Bike from ProForm.com trainer continues to have a problem during incline/decline – it “pops” as something in the piston catches the base.   It’s not debilitating, but hugely annoying.   Icon Health and Fitness, the company behind Pro-Form, seems to have stopped wanting to communciate with me, so it’s time for escalate this issue to the powers of the internet.   My best guess is they are overwhelmed with complaints. From my past blog posts and YouTube videos, I know others are having similar problems. However, the bulk of my experience comes from personally dealing with a Pro-Form Le Tour De France trainer. 

For starters,   looking at the Better Business Bureau reports,  ICON HEALTH AND FITNESS has had 194 complains closed in the last 12 months.   http://www.bbb.org/utah/business-reviews/exercise-equipment-dealers/icon-health-and-fitness-in-logan-ut-2000054/complaints .  I will prepare the 195th as soon as I finish writing this blog entry. 

I did videos and blogs, which for the most part were – in my eyes – reasonable.  I reiterate I like the Pro Form TDF Trainer, but I want it to work properly.  In this blog, I am releasing all of my history from dealing with the company.

History of e-mails related to Le Tour De France Indoor Cycling Bike (aka TDF trainer) from September 24th order inquiry through December 9th where the initial problem continues to be unresolved. 

Me 9/24/2011 Hi Chase,
I was pretty patient so far, but between the negative facebook posts and lack of communication, I am getting pretty pessimistic about my TDF trainer.  I stayed quiet and let you guys catch up on production; I find it a little disheartening to check order status today and see it’s closed/shipped…  Normally, I would be happy, but I do not believe it’s actually en-route.  I received no emails, no tracking info, nada… Can you please explain what’s going on with this order (XXXXX)?

Thanks.
Chase 9/26/2011 Thank you for reaching out to me directly. I apologize about the wait time on your order. Your order did ship to you last week, and will be arriving within 7 –10 business days. Normally, our system will automatically send an email with your tracking information. I have included that below:

Tracking Number: XXXXXX
Tracking Website: http://www.cevalogistics.com

Please allow 24 hours for this to process on their website. If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me directly.

Me 9/26/2011 No worries, thanks for checking in.     I was concerned it may have just gotten closed in error since no other info came my way.   Glad to hear it, thank you.
Me 9/26/2011 Actually, if it shipped last week than I would expect CEVA to have it listed in their tracking info, but it is not.  http://www.cevalogistics.com  shows no-records found.

I see you said “allow 24 hours” but I would imagine that’s from the moment they ship?
Chase 9/26/2011 Please allow 24 hours from today. All of the information should be available by tomorrow morning. We are just waiting for CEVA to update their information. The bike is currently in transit to you.

Best,
Chase
Me 9/26/2011 You rock.  Thanks for the responses.   
me 9/27/2011 We’re at 30 hours since your email and nearly two weeks since it “shipped”…   Ceva Logistics shows nothing enroute.
http://www.cevalogistics.com
Chase 9/27/2011 Sorry about the delay. Tracking number should now be working for you.

Thanks,
Chase
Me 9/28/2011 Yupp, I saw it this morning.  Still not quite clear on how it shipped “last week” if the tracking info says it shipped yesterday, but that matters little. Happy it’s on the way and hopefully arrives in one piece.

Me (ORIGINAL COMPLAINT) 10/06/2011 Chase, the unit arrived on Monday.

I’ve used it for about 60 minutes and noticed a few things that seem
to be what other customers are reporting:

- console starts an ifit workout , runs for 6 seconds, and stops recording
- gears show a value of 0 suddenly
- incline shows 20% when it’s level
- hear a weird clicking noise when i am manually adjusting the incline
– at certain points…

I did a maintenance incline calibration

- said it had a bad trans value of 0 and remained in 20% incline


So, as the moment, the unit is not usable…
Chase 10/6/2011 I am sorry to hear that you are having issues with your TDF trainer. I have CC’d Andew Stevens on this email. He is head of Customer Care for Social Media and will be happy to help you troubleshoot your new TDF bike.

Andew- Please send troubleshooting tips to Karl and help him with this problem.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. If you need anything further, don’t hesitate to contact myself or Andew directly.

Best,
Chase
Me 10/6/2011 Weirdly, I shut the unit off and unplugged it, I took the handlebars off, checked the connections (which are uber-tight, that thing pretty much only goes in, not out),  reassembled it, and powered it on.  Went to calibrate again and it started working normally.. no errors.    Obviously, a little concerned b/c there seems to be quite of a bit of online chatter about these kinds of issues.   You will see in my order notes, that my purchase guarantees me a no risk return; but I like the device.   So, I would like to know whether you would suspect this is a problem in the unit, or a weird quirk from a new gadget.  Thanks.
Andrew 10/07/2011 Thank you for your email. From what you have described, it sounds like a weird quirk of a new machine. This sometimes happens when a new machine is set up, and is actually listed as a troubleshooting method in the back of the owners manual. If you have any issues with the machine in the future you can contact me directly and I would love to assist in any way that I can.

Andew Stevens
Customer Care Lead
Proform Social Media Team
Me 10/7/2011 Thanks for the reply.

It’s seems to do few things repeatedly:

Console routinely stops  processing telemetry data from the machine. Shutting the unit does not solve it, but unplugging it makes it go away.  I can repeat this on a daily basis.
Had the machine get stuck once so far, but only used it 4 days.
Hear a loud pop whenever the machine moves past the 1% gradient.   (only at 1%). This happens repeatedly during exercise as the 1% marker is frequently passed when going over hills.

So, I am a bit uneasy. At this point, if I send it back I lose nothing.  At the same time, I like the unit, I realize it’s a new product, and I am willing to work with quirks if Pro-Form provides some backing.  Can you upgrade me to the 3 year service plan?


Finally, nothing you can do about this, but there is a design flaw.  The connector for the console is wider than the opening in the post, which means you have to jam it in there.  This means you cannot unplug it easily later and the plastic does bend on the way in.    I’ve checked and rechecked it, it’s ok for now, but I really don’t know how I am going to replace the console if I ever have to.  There just is no room to work with the connections.

Me 10/12/2011 Howdy, did no hear back on the last message.   Resending (attached below).
Andew 10/12/2011 Have you tried re-calibrating the machine?

Andew
Andew 10/12/2011 I apologize for my last question. It seems that you had mentioned that you had already run the calibration mode.  I will speak with our developers and get their input and get back to you shortly.

Andew
Me 10/12/2011 Yes.  Last calibration was successful but the “POP” sound still happens.  I can do a quick video on my phone and send it to you if it helps.  It would be easy to trigger it.  Interestingly, yesterday it was at the 3.5 degree inclination, not 1%.  Even so, I have not had a single ride where it does not occur.  My main concern is that something is wonky inside and will give out eventually.    The good news is the console has been responsive for the past 3 days without the need for a power cycle.
Andew 10/12/2011 Please send the video, I feel that would be helpful.
Me 10/12/2011 Video uploaded to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oS3FZEcfN7s
Andew 10/12/2011 Thank you for the video. It makes it very clear. I will go and look at our test model and get a better feel for what could be causing the noise.
Andew 10/12/2011 Quick Suggestion: Down by the pedals is a rubber sleeve called a flex cover. Underneath the rubber flex cover is a plastic zip tie that holds the some of the wiring back. This may be getting caught on the on the flex cover and then slapping down on the plastic causing the popping noise. When listening to the audio in your video it does not sound mechanical/electrical to me.  Will you check to see if this is what is causing the noise.

Andew
Me 10/12/2011 I am not sure if I am looking at the right thing, but the one thing you can’t see in the vid is that it sends a shock through the unit.  So, whatever it is, it has quite  a bit of energy when it springs.   Like, if I were to put a seismometer on the floor 3 feet away from the unit, it would easily detect the vibration.   You can feel it when you stand next to the unit barefoot and it does it.  So, I don’t think it’s a strap.
Me 10/12/2011 Alright, I will go back to the machine and explore some more.
Andew 10/12/2011 I think we have found the noise maker. There is a plastic gear in the motor that can sometimes be dislodged during shipping. Unfortunately this error requires that we send out a new incline motor. I will place an order for the new incline motor. I do know the motor is on backorder, but I will likely be able to get it allocated in a week. I will also upgrade the shipping of the unit so that it arrives quickly after allocation. Also I will send a a return label for the old motor. We have some engineers here that would love to take a look at it to see if this could be a common issue in the future.  I will provide you with the order information after it has been placed.

Andew

Andew 10/12/2011 I can set up the service request for a technician.
Me 10/12/2011 Right on. I guess I’ll touch base with you when the part arrives?
Me 10/12/2011 Sounds Great. I will file the request when the part arrives. The
technician will contact you at that point to arrange a time that is
convenient for the both of you.
Andew 10/12/2011 Karl what is your shipping address?
Me 10/12/2011 [Address]
Andew 10/12/2011 Great, Thank you. UPS was telling me your address does not exist. I will try again.
Me 10/12/2011 Definitely does and sine i buy most of my stuff on Amazon, I guarantee they are here several times per week.
Me 10/22/2011 Andew and Chase,

I would like to know if you have any tracking/time-estimate on the
replacement part.

This week the unit took a turn for the worse; the tilt functions do not
work at all. The unit goes through calibration without ever moving.  I’ve
gotten a couple hours of use out of a very expensive piece of equipment,
so naturally I am frustrated.

I’ve done a few positive blogs about the ProForm TDF
(http://kwjblogs.blogspot.com/), but the reality is I feel the future of
this unit will be much like the first few weeks.  Social media networks
are filled with persons in variable degree of frustration, I hope that
I’ve been reasonable thus far.

I suggested that ProForm (or whoever does the retail) comp me a warranty
on the unit in a message earlier in the thread (pasted below for your
convenience).  I would like to see you follow through on my request, as I
am fighting the urge to ship it back daily.  I want this to work out, so I
am willing to work with ProForm with the inconveniences as long as the
company stands behind the product.
Andew 10/25/2011 We have been able to allocate the part for the bike. It should ship out
either tomorrow or Thursday. :) I have expedited the shipping so it should
arrive at your home Saturday or Monday.

Andew
Me 10/31/2011 Part got here today.

I am available any day of the week; work from home.
Me 10/31/2011 Hey, I just sent an email saying I got the part. I am willing to swap it out myself to get this thing working sooner, but need some guidance.  Do you have an assembly/repair manual you can send me.  I can’t figure out where the plastic case is anchored and how to deal with the pedals.
Me 11/1/2011 Chase/Andew,

I realize have not heard back yet. Itching to get this fixed.   

Please respond with either:

Appointment for tech to come out
or detailed replacement instructions.  For this, I need to know what type of crank puller is required as the one I have does not appear to fit the pedals.

Also, left unanswered is the question about warranty.  Sent it twice already.
Andew 11/1/2011 The part can be pretty tricky to install. I have set up a work order for a technician to come out and install the part without charge. The work order number is #1789439. You will be contacted within 48 hours by the technician and he will work with you to set a time that is convenient for the both of you.

Andew
Me 11/1/2011 I figured.   Figured I would at least try — I got less than 2 hours of use out of this thing and it’s been here for several weeks.   Can you tell me what company/contact/etc the techs are from so I can call if I don’t hear back by Thursday?
Andew 11/1/2011 The Company that has been assigned is
Mcduff Euipment Repair<http://www.manta.com/c/mt1260t/mcduff-euipment-repair&gt;
83 Ward Road
Topsham, ME 04086-6000
map<http://www.manta.com/cmap/mt1260t/mcduff-euipment-repair&gt;
Phone: (207) 319-5180
Me 11/1/2011 Cool, thanks.   I’ll call them Thursday if I don’t hear from them by then.   That’s not too far either, they are only about 1/2 hour away.  Looking forward to getting this unit working again.
Andew 11/1/2011 Sounds good, if you need anything let me know. I don’t want you to slip through the cracks.
Me 11/9/2011 Mechanic (Pierre) came out yesterday and helped me replace the part.  The unit has serious problems – all seemingly centered at lack of quality control during production – that I would like to share with you:

The popping noise that I recorded in the videos was not the actuator/incline-motor.    After taking the unit apart and removing the motor we could swivel the machine back/forth and the pop was the piston the unit is attached to the frame.  It was happening with each “rotation” and preventing a smooth incline/decline. It was powerful enough to jam the machine on some rotations (as you hopefully me recall saying).   Taking the piston partially apart and putting in some silicone lube solved the issue.  The root cause of the problem  is an overtorqued right-side bolt that holds the piston in place.    We were unable to loosen the bolt, but the left-side bolt did come off and a combination of that plus lube seems to have solved the problem.

Overtorquing of screws is also present in the metal bracket that holds the LogicBoard.  In order to get to the electronics, it should be removed.   However, manufacturing used soft aluminum screws and tightened them to a point where the forward screw could not come out.   We were prepared to drill it out, but opted to remove the belt and drive wheel instead.   That gave access to the console and revealed the connection problem.  The wires were simply not plugged in “straight” so over the first couple of weeks of use (and presumably due to the periodic “pop” the machine suffered which did send a vibration through the unit), it eventually must have popped out far enough to prevent the unit from tilting entirely.   In other words, the cable running through the frame was inserted at an angle into the PCB/LogicBoard inside the unit.   The cables connecting the telemetry and gears were tight enough, but the side with the cables for the incline motor came loose overtime, and that is why the unit stopped tilting.  It was not a seized motor, but low low standards during assembly.  Once properly connected, the plastic will ensure the connector stays put (it would not separate during shipping if it was done right).

That leaves the motor.   The motor suffered due to the Jam’s of the piston and the bad data it was receiving due to the bad connections, but the motor itself is still functional.  We replaced it because it looked worn and, personally, I rather have a new part given the stresses the machine already suffered.  However, this was not the cause of the issues nor was it the primary problem.  Had the piston and connections not be remedied, the machine would have remained damaged.

I hope this helps Icon/ProForm/whoever deal with the future of the unit.   There is no doubt in my mind that the manufacturing needs to increase oversight and improve quality control, we were able to document very clear evidence that QC is lacking.  If production simply paid more attention to the torque of the bolts and inspected the components, my unit would have been the excellent piece of fitness equipment I expected it to be.

So, you guys sort of dodged my request at an extended warranty on this unit.   I’ve sent it twice so far.   
This is my third request, and I think I’ve remained reasonable throughout the whole process.  For an order I placed in August 24th, Inquired on September 26th,  finally shipped September 27th,  Received October 3rd, reported broken October 6th, new part finally shipped October 25th, and waited until November 08th to have it repaired — that’s a total of 77 days, or 1848 hours;  I got to use it for 2 hours out of that:  0.0011 percent.   Please find my request and respond/review so we can move forward.  Thanks.

Me 11/28/2011 Andew and Chase,

I feel ignored since I did not get an answer on the warranty question.     I understand if the request got missed – you did help me extensively so far to get the unit working.   However, even though I said the unit is 100% back to normal,  a few days ago the popping noise returned (from the over-tightened piston).    So, it’s not all well, and I frankly I am more than a little frustrated.    

I am venting my frustration on the internet and getting an interesting mix of responses from people in similar situations.  For your reference, I am listing the resources that are returning high on Google organic search results (ex search phrase: “ProForm TDF Incline”).  You will see it is a mix of good and the bad;  I would like to have more positive things to say — and part of that is seeing a company stand behind a somewhat crummy product.  


Blog Articles:

http://kwjblogs.blogspot.com/2011/11/in-my-view-proform-tdf-trainer-suffers.html
http://kwjblogs.blogspot.com/2011/10/pro-form-tour-de-france-and-google-ifit.html
http://kwjblogs.blogspot.com/2011/10/setting-up-pro-form-tour-de-france-tdf.html

Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI22zGj7fys
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fSrMA8e41s
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_Da8RSWLYA
Andew 11/28/2011 I don’t mean for you to feel ignored. I just missed the request. What was your warranty question?  I am sorry that the popping noise has returned. Do you feel like you would want another technician out to take a look at the machine, or would you like to order the parts??

Andew
Me 11/28/2011 Hi Andew,
Thanks for the response.  This is the original text pertaining to the warranty is pasted below.

From thread on OCTOBER 7, 2011:  “So, I am a bit uneasy. At this point, if I send it back I lose nothing. At the same time, I like the unit, I realize it’s a new product, and I am willing to work with quirks if Pro-Form provides some backing.  Can you upgrade me to the 3 year service plan?”

The last mechanic that was here could not get the bolt loosened on the right side of the unit that goes into the “piston” (excuse the lack of correct term here).   Even though he was professional and skilled,  I am reasonably sure I had more experience working with the insides of this unit than he did.  Never-the-less, he was able to get the issue under control: the left side bolt came out, so he squirted silicone lube in and that helped for a while. Unfortunately, it gradually came back.    

There were two main issues that I see as just quality oversight:  improperly made connections and over-torqued bolts/screws.   The first issue is resolved (stuck incline).  The second issue remains.  Effectively, something is catching as the unit swivels, builds pressure, and pops.    Over-troqued bolts seem to be the common denominator — more than one on this unit do not loosen without a fight.     
Me 12/9/2011 Andew and Chase,

Last reply was November 28th – still waiting.    I imaging you guys are slammed with issues, but that does change the fact my unit remains broken.  I am at point where I am filing a complaint with the BBB hoping it helps me get to a resolution in some reasonable time frame.       Hate to waste time this way.  

The outstanding issues are:

- need to replace the parts that attach the unit to the base (my guess it’s busted).  That’s the source of the “popping” noise I described first OCTOBER 06, 2011.
- need to have a qualified mechanic come out and do it with the proper tools.  The last one was unable to actually un-torque the bolt to check the piston.
- answer warranty extension question that’s been ignored repeatedly.

Here is a history for your reference:

[pasting this table through today]   

The good news is that my ProForm Le Tour De France (TDF) Trainer is back to 100% operation.  I can finally say that I closed a chapter that was effectively open for 1,848 hours (77 days), out of which I got to spend 2 on the TDF Trainer.   In all fairness, 5 weeks were spent waiting on the unit, but since they contribute to my frustration I’ll count it against the ProForm/iconfitness/TDF Trainer folks.

Timeline:

  1. Order I placed in August 24th from ProForm (http://www.proform.com) via chat.
  2. Inquired on September 26th, via Facebook and E-Mail.
  3. finally shipped September 27th,  
  4. Received October 3rd, 
  5. reported broken October 6th, 
  6. new part finally shipped October 25th, 
  7. November 08th to have it repaired.

The Problem.

I originally complained of a loud popping noise the ProForm TDF Trainer was making while moving back and forth on the incline.  To help ProForm, or actually iConFitness, diagnose the issue I created this video. It summarized the problem to a point.  Within a week of this video, the TDF Trainer seized entirely, and would not incline/decline at all. 

The Attempted Fix

After four weeks of reporting the problem, I received an actuator/incline-motor to be replaced.  ICONTFITNESS determined that this part was to blame.  As I began working on the unit, I kept a video diary of my progress.

The Solution

The popping noise that I recorded in the videos was not the actuator/incline-motor.    After taking the unit apart and removing the motor we could swivel the machine back/forth and the pop was the piston the unit is attached to the frame.  It was happening with each “rotation” and preventing a smooth incline/decline. It was powerful enough to jam the machine on some rotations.   Taking the piston partially apart and putting in some silicone lube solved the issue.  The root cause of the problem is an overtorqued right-side bolt that holds the piston in place.    We were unable to loosen the right-side bolt, but the left-side bolt did come off. Since that was enough to expose the piston, and that’s how we got the lube into the piston.

Overtorquing of screws is also present in the metal bracket that holds the Logic (PCB) Board.  In order to get to the electronics, I felt the it should be removed.   However, manufacturing used soft aluminum screws and tightened them to a point where the forward screw could not come out.   We were prepared to drill it out, but opted to remove the belt and drive wheel instead.   That gave access to the console and revealed the connection problem.  The wires were simply not plugged in “straight” so over the first couple of weeks of use, it eventually must have popped out far enough to prevent the unit from tilting entirely.   In other words, the cable running through the frame was inserted at an angle into the PCB/LogicBoard inside the unit.   The cables connecting the telemetry and gears were tight enough, but the side with the cables for the incline motor came loose overtime, and that is why the unit stopped tilting.  In my view, it was not a seized motor, but low low standards during assembly.  Once properly connected, the plastic will ensure the connector stays put (it would not separate during shipping if it was done right). 

That leaves the motor.   The motor suffered due to the Jam’s of the piston and the bad data it was receiving due to the bad connections, but the motor itself is still functional.  We replaced it because it looked worn and, personally, I rather have a new part given the stresses the machine already suffered.  However, this was not the cause of the issues nor was it the primary problem.  Had the piston and connections not be remedied, the machine would have remained damaged.

There is no doubt in my mind that the manufacturing needs to increase oversight and improve quality control, we were able to document very clear evidence that QC is lacking.  If production simply paid more attention to the torque of the bolts and inspected the components, my unit would have been the excellent piece of fitness equipment I expected it to be.

Google Maps, and specifically Street View, is invading my life from every direction. I have already been using it to get familiar with hotels, businesses, and travel related situations; then I began using it for real-estate shopping.   With websites like Trulia.Com, it became a huge tool in looking at homes.  Now, it’s part of my workout, as I get to ride my normal streets, and new places, right from my Pro-Form TDF Trainer.

ProForm Tour De France Trainer with MacBook Air Setup.

The Pro-Form Tour De France Trainer has been in my home for just over a week, and I am absolutely loving the iFIT LIVE features of the system. When you create your own maps, you can have iFit.Com open and actually see street views of the road! 

The iFIT Live Button is not always visible, and I had no idea the feature existed when I bought the Pro-Form TDF Trainer.   I noticed the banner above that opened up a whole new world of realistic workouts.

My setup is very simple.   I decided the cup-holder was pointless and removed it.  That gave me a solid platform to secure my laptop.  I have my MacBook Air’s audio port connected to the iFit console; with iTunes or Pandora I get to jam to music throughout the workout.   The screen in front of me shows me a street-view snapshot of the road I am on, and updates every couple seconds with an updated picture.  Combined with the incline and resistance, it is very closely replicating the real thing.

MacBook Air connected to iFIT Console.  Through WiFi connection, I am able to open http://www.ifit.com, and click the iFIT LIVE button (only visible during a workout) to see the Street Views of the roads I am on.  Totally Awesome!

Thus far I have created a few of the routes I ride on my Canondale Synapse. Between the visual queues from Street View, the smooth resistance of the Pro-Form magnetic trainer, and the incline/decline adjustments, the realism of the Pro-Form TDF Trainer is striking.

Arguably, the feature is masked and difficult to see.  The button for iFit live does not appear until you start a workout on a real map.   For non-tech people, all of this may be a little much.  I am not the one to write a manual on this whole thing, but the basic outline is like this:

  • Get your iFIT Console online, and update the firmware.
  • Find the iFIT Activation Code in your Pro-Form TDF Trainer paperwork. If it’s not there, get the model and serial number from under the appliance.   Contact iFit’s customer support, and get them to send one to you.
  • Create an account on iFIT.Com.  You can add up to four people to one device.   Setup profiles for each person.  The weight and height matter, as the device is supposed to calculate for wind-resistance.   You will be asked to create usernames and passwords for everyone, but only yours is needed on the iFIT appliance.  I suggest you aim for things that are easy to enter using the iFIT Console…
  • Create a short map.  Do something in your neighborhood, just so you can test the features.
  • You have to schedule that map in order for your console to display it. So, check the SCHEDULED WORKOUTS tab to see what is there. If you do not see your map, just go to the My Maps link, and click the “REPEAT” button on the map you created. It will schedule it for a workout.
  • On your console, log into your iFIT account.  This takes some time, as this is not a touch-screen.
  • Start a workout. The console will download your next scheduled workout – it should be your map.
  • Start pedaling.  The moment you do, your laptop/computer (that you hopefully have near you) will display the iFIT Live icon in the top-right part of the website. Click it, and you will get Street View.

Sure, I can be vain sometimes. Why not. It’s all in the spirit of competition.

In some ways, this is better than the real thing.   I think all cyclists – definitely myself – are a little vain and competitive.  When I ride, especially when decked out in Team Liquigas gear, I don’t want drivers (or fellow cyclists) to see me huffing and puffing – something I hope the TDF trainer will help me minimize.  Looking good is part of the equation.  However, that means having to conserve energy, plan ascents, ride efficiently, and make descents last.  Well, on the Pro-Form TDF Trainer, none of it matters.  I can burn every ounce of energy because of pause and resume.   The Pro-Form TDF Trainer has managed to make imaginary workouts real, and any possible judgement the figment of my imagination.