Sunday, January 29, 2012

PROFORM LE TOUR DE FRANCE ONGOING REVIEW…

January 29, 1944

From the daily diary kept by S.Sgt. G.C. Watts, while stationed in Naples, Italy during WWII… “Week of 01/25 through 02/01 has note “Huge Air Forces operating over Germany) Daily note for 01/29/44 – Go to air field. Joe E. Brown comes down and gives us some good laughs. Eat supper and go to Foggia to USO and see Humphrey Bogart and wife. Cold- …”

 

This may not be pretty… Even after a night’s sleep, I still may have a RANT getting ready to erupt. Just be warned. Maybe it won’t be more than a mini-rant. It will certainly be about my ongoing review of the ProForm Le Tour De France spinner bike.

But first… A cyclist’s dilemma…

Cyclist's Dilemma

(This is a test provided by a local survey crew…What’s a cyclist to do?)

Imagine if you will…

you are a cyclist heading west to east on the approved bike route of US 74 near Waynesville, NC. You’ve just topped Balsam Mountain gap (3300’ elevation) and are descending in the “gutter” of the highway. Note on your left high speed traffic, consisting of many 18 wheelers and heavy trucks, that virtually always runs faster than the posted speed limit. Note also the rumble strips near the fog line that would prevent you from safely (were that even possible) from merging into the high speed traffic to get around the finely placed obstruction of a surveyor’s sign. Perhaps it required too much energy to place the sign on the outside of the guard rail even though sufficient room existed for it to be placed there. I’m sure the crew never even considered the results of their action when placing the sign along the roadway. (I noted this on a recent return trip from nearby Sylva so just had to take a shot of it…)

The Ongoing Review of the ProForm Le Tour De France spinner…

I posted my initial review of this product on November 9, 2011 after having finally received it following the delay of the 2 week guaranteed delivery date in September of 2011. To put this ongoing review into context, I suggest you start with the initial review above.

My struggles with getting the heart monitor function to work continue to this date. In my latest round of conversation with customer service, I was told that the console on my original shipment wasn’t working and a new one would be sent. Of course, there was a backorder so I was looking at an “end of the month” delay in getting it. (Backorders and delays in shipping have been my constant experience with this company thus far.)

The second console finally arrived this week, which is 3 weeks later from my phone call to customer support. My first opportunity to install it was yesterday (Saturday). I asked the Navigator to add her lovely set of eyes to the mix and to help me be certain that I wasn’t crimping or straining the wiring harness.

First up was removing the original console. I had reinstalled it so that I could use the bike while awaiting the new console. We held the new console and started the connection process and discovered within 30 seconds that the new console is wired differently than the original.

TdF Console number 2

(Note there are 4 plugs on this console)

My first console had only 3 plugs to be connected. 2 were on the right hand side and one was on the left hand side. At this point, I’m thinking that I’ve been sent a console for the 2nd generation of this TdF product. We decided to go ahead and connect this console to see if the heart rate monitor would work and perhaps just not use the extra wire as I’m surmising it is for the bar mounted gear shifts on the 2nd generation model. (I’ve previously been told that my first gen model wasn’t able to be upgraded even though they shipped my model at the same time that they were shipping 2nd gen models.)

Not so fast… as it turns out, one of the male plugs on my first gen model that must be plugged in has a matching male plug on this new console that I received sooooo…. Yep, can’t connect the new console to my current wiring.

TdF Console wiring view

(Note the 4 plugs. On the right hand side are two male plugs.)

The small plug on the right has to be a female adapter in order to connect to the male plug coming from the bike. There is nothing on my first gen model to connect to one of the two plugs on the left hand side of the console. I now have one non-working console and one unusable console. What’s a guy to do…?

Who Ya Gonna Call!

But wait, customer service is open. Their listed hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. MOUNTAIN time and, hey, I’m in EASTERN time and it is only 4:30 p.m. here so it is really only 2:30 p.m. there. Why don’t I give them a call? “Ring…ring…ring…”Welcome to the Proform Customer Care line… we are currently closed!” (or words to that effect). The bottom line was that yet again no help is available when needed. So, now I’ve written to them via their customer support email address (256 characters allowed) and received back a reply “

“We have received your email and will process your request as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.” Oh yeah, accompanying the message was “DO NOT REPLY”.

More On-Line Research…

I decided to do some additional research to see if anyone else had run into this problem and returned to one thread I’ve been following at CycleRide. No new posts were on-line but the general dissatisfaction with ProForm customer support is pretty readily available. I found a reference to the Bike and Gear forum on Bicycling magazine’s site. So, I checked it out.

A quick read further adds to the weight of consumer dissatisfaction with this product and especially with the quality of customer service provided. Frequently, you find warnings “ have been on hold for hours several times and they know nothing about the product except that they are inundated with calls about problems. STAY AWAY!”, “Finally made it through to customer service and they wanted ME to take the thing apart and try to repair it despite the fact that I bought an extended service agreement”, and “Do Not Buy This Bike! The bike itself is by far the best indoor trainer I have ever ridden. But the service if you have a problem is beyond terrible.” (Note: comments in quotes are directly from the forum postings. There are in excess of 7,000 posts on this subject.)

I did find one nugget of potentially helpful information and that was one poster indicated he had to buy an additional $99.00 adapter for the heart monitor to work. I’m now beginning to think that the Extension Wire (part 101) that has thus far been unexplained to me by any of the customer service reps I’ve spoken with must have to plug into this adapter. Of course, the manual doesn’t say this.

The first mention of the extension wire is on page 9 of the accompanying manual and merely says to follow the directions that came with the OPTIONAL heart rate monitor if purchased. (At the time of purchase, I wasn’t told that the heart monitor functioning was an optional purchase so, guess what, I didn’t purchase it.) The manual then refers you to page 22 for further directions for the heart monitor function. Being relative literate, I turn to page 22 and sure enough, I find a BOLDED caption for The Optional Heart Rate Monitor. The sum total of information in this section is that it is important for a good workout to maintain the proper heart rate during your workouts. A sentence (in bold typeface) then refers you to the front cover of the manual. The heart rate monitor itself isn’t addressed but there is a one line query “Questions?” followed by contact information. Thus, the loop is complete and no help is provided.

A quick review with the Better Business Bureau shows that Icon Fitness is not a BBB accredited company. Using the Logan, UT address, I found the following BBB results.

Icon Fitness Better Business Bureau reports

(Note that 400 of the 536 complaints related to product/service)

I don’t know how the complaints break down when looking at specific ProForm or Icon Fitness products. There are apparently many different products put out there by this company. Given my experience of them thus far, I’m surprised at the relatively low number of complaints.

Of course, my 30 day guarantee is long gone, the box in which the product was shipped is long gone, even if I could return it, it would cost me a 10% restocking fee according to their literature. That would be near $130.00.

The parts of the bike that I have been able to use have worked well and I’ve not had the problems that so many people have had with connecting to their home networks. I keep holding out hope that with some improved customer service I just might get this thing resolved. I would REALLY like to talk a) someone within a reasonable time and b) to someone, who isn’t looking a the same product diagram that I’m looking at and telling me what I can see on the page in front of me.

It is starting to be a beautiful day here so I’m going to get out and enjoy it and put thoughts of customer service away for awhile. If you are still reading, thanks for taking the time to “listen” to this mini-rant!"

Until later,

- Zeke

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