Hacking the ProForm Tour de France (part 2)

hacking the proform tdf

So tonight I rode Stage One of the 2012 Tour de France on the ProForm TDF bike.  Here’s a link to my ride on iFit.com.

tour de france stage 1
stage 1 ride data, first attempt ever
tour de france stage 1
tour de france stage 1


It was a lot easier than I imagined it would be, as it was mostly flat.  I’m sure it will get a lot harder in the next stages as I hit the foothills and then the mountains.  Some quick observations:

  • Google Maps LiveView does actually work, but you have to hit the LiveView url on iFit.com only after you’ve actually started the ride.  If you hit it before that, you get a strange error page claiming that something went wrong, they are aware of the problem and working on it…in other words, complete BS.  It works both on the desktop browser (chrome) and on the iPad (again I was running chrome, didn’t bother trying it in safari).  There have been a lot of reports of it only working in chrome but I haven’t bothered to test.
  • I was able to view the ride afterward on iFit.com, but only on the non-beta version of the site, for some reason on the beta site none of the maps or charts show up.  On both versions of the site, the UX is horrendous.  It took me quite a while just to figure out how to get to the workout I did and not someone’s else’s version of the same workout…very strange and stupid.
  • iFit.com doesn’t bother to report the cadence or power data from the Proform TDF bike.  Those are actually the stats I care the most about.  Major #FAIL.  I am definitely going to need to hack the bike itself, as the data I want to log isn’t on iFit.com at all – yes I checked the page source – I see the GPS data, speed/time, but not power or cadence.  I had gotten feedback from another developer who was scraping his Treadmill data from iFit.com and then creating a .gpx file from it, but I don’t think this is going to be enough for me since not all the data I care about is in the source.
  • I was very easily able to telnet from my Mac into the Linux box that is the computer of the Proform TDF bike and peruse all the files and directories therein, as Bruce Potter mentions in his blog post, http://cycleoverride.org/review-proform-tour-de-france-stationary-bike/ .  I wrote to Bruce asking him for more details on his experiences hacking the TDF but haven’t heard from him, yet.

So first I need to figure out the scripts on the TDF box that are communicating data back and forth from iFit.com, then figure out how to capture that live from my own script.  Then I need to write that to a .gpx file, plus merge it with the Heart Rate data from the .gpx file on my Garmin – since my Garmin HR monitor isn’t compatible with the Proform.  In fact, my version of the Proform TDF is advertised to work with Polar HR monitors – they even stuck a Polar HR technology sticker on the bike – but if you look on the product site they don’t say anything about HR monitoring, and one user posted that while they originally advertised that it in fact does not work with any HR monitor.

I guess, ideally it would be awesome if I could create an iPad app that communicated directly with the TDF, displayed the Google street view as the live-view currently works, and then on top of that overlaid my data plus goal data similar to how they do it on trainerroad.com.  Then again, maybe that’s a bit ambitious for a personal hacking project…I guess we’ll see…

In summary,

  • This was my first trainer ride, EVER (well first time I tried a trainer for more than two minutes).  I had resisted doing stationary trainer rides because I love riding on a real bike and I figured the trainer would be extremely boring
  • I stuck to 90 rpm b/c that’s all I could remember about cadence from the spin class I took with a friend of mine.
  •  Secondly, now I’m actually really motivated to read that training with power meter book another cycling buddy recommended.  Especially b/c the stupid iFit site doesn’t bother to capture any of the cadence or power data coming off the TDF bike.
  •  thirdly, I have even more motivation to hack the damn bike, I just really want to log that data.  Call it techie if you want but from my perspective it’s incentive to train more.

After the ride I felt, really, really good.  As the sweat dripped off my face I kept picturing the Tour de France pro guys when they would warm up for their time trials, on a stationary trainer with Apple headphones in their ears and sweat pouring off their faces.  Even though I didn’t get enough sleep the night before – I was dead tired the entire day and drinking lots of tea, plus started the day with a cappuccino – several hours after my trainer ride I am wired, wide awake, and writing blog posts.  Also my legs feel awesome.  I can see myself doing this regularly, insha’Allah.  Who said trainer rides are boring?

(part one of this series is here)

tour de france stage 1
my proform TDF setup with Live View showing me the streets of France as I go through Stage 1.

3 responses to “Hacking the ProForm Tour de France (part 2)”

  1. I hope you stick with this as I would love to see what you come up with. I just got the same model of TDF you have (about 120 miles in the past week). No mechanical problems but all of the same issues you have. (firmware update, trouble connecting and limitations of ifit in general). Still, as an indoor trainer, it is far better than any other alternative I have found

  2. I’d be very interested in any follow-on you’ve been able to work. Sat down a couple weeks ago with pretty much the same goals you had, and after getting about as far as Bruce’s post (I wish I’d found it before I started, would’ve saved a lot of time), decided to see if anyone else had already solved it. While it’s no replacement for being on a bike, it’s a good trainer with a lot of capability that definitely isn’t exposed through ifit.com, and I’ve had some very good workouts on it. By the way, mine has a Polar HR with it, and works great. Don’t know how you’d pair it with one though, if it ever failed.

    • I pretty much gave up on hacking the bike for now, am way to busy with other projects. However I found for me the best solution for now is to just use TrainerRoad when on the bike. I use one of the TDF courses while I ride the bike, so I get variable incline and resistance which mixes things up a bit. I used an iPad and a laptop simultaneously, one with google maps street view for the TDF course and the other for TrainerRoad with a video. I find the video is a nice distraction but I have to make it something I’ve seen before, because I don’t really pay full attention to the video. The TrainerRoad training is awesome b/c they tell you when to pick up the pace, what cadence to use, etc. TrainerRoad will work with just a HR monitor, I use a USB stick to pair my bluetooth HR monitor (from Garmin) with the laptop and report the data back to TrainerRoad, live. They can then guestimate your cadence based off just that. I would prefer to send live cadence data back as well, but that would require an additional purchase – on the cheap end a cadence sensor I can rubberband to the crank, and on the high end a set of power meter pedals like the ones from Garmin. I’m actually thinking about putting my Proform up for sale. I’m not to happy with them as a company – they are a bit on the sinister side of corporations. And the bike is huge and heavy – not at all portable. It would be nice to get something I could pack in my car and take with me and my road bike whenever I travel, which I do quite a lot. My bike is custom fit for me – the Proform I have to do my best to adjust it, and it doesn’t fit well at all for my wife. With a trainer that I can put the real bike on, either one of us could use it with our own bikes.

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