This Virtual-Reality Experience Will Get Your Heart Pumping

The coolest new workout doesn't even exist. Well, not IRL, at least.

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I can add as much fist-pumping music to my workout as I want, but it's not always enough to keep a stationary bike from being boring. If it's too cold outside—or if, like me, you live in a city where riding a bike on the street is terrifying—there haven't been many other realistic options. But these days, when reality fails you, that's your cue to turn to the virtual realm.

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Designed to be compatible with HTC Vive, Playstation VR, and the Oculus Rift, Virzoom is a portable stationary bike (it folds up, and weighs just 37 pounds) that lets riders move through immersive digital worlds filled with flying horses, Wild West bandits, and tanks.

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The Setup

I arrive at a midtown Manhattan office space to find my bike already hooked up to a large flat-screen and a Playstation 4, so I hop on and put on the VR visor. Suddenly I'm in a strange, polygonal dream world. The office is completely gone from view; instead, I'm biking through a foggy landscape with a cube in front of me. This cube is the menu from which riders can access individual worlds—and for the sake of this demo, I get to experience each of the four Virzoom environments.

The Wile West Bandit Chase

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Effort Level: 4 out of 10

Fun Level: 8 out of 10

One of the Virzoom guys helps me navigate the menu screen, and the white cube fades away. Now I'm in a dusty, orange desert, and my bike has transformed into a horse. On either side of me are small wooden buildings that look straight out of a trading depot in Oregon Trail. In front of me are bandits whom I have to wrangle before they steal my team of horses. I sway to and fro to lasso as many of these jerks as I can. The faster I pedal, the faster my horse rides.

The Leisurely Row

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Effort Level: 1 out of 10

Fun Level: 5 out of 10

Before long, the screen dissolves again and I find myself in a tranquil pond with my bike having magically become a canoe. This experience is much more relaxing than the western setting; the water around me is totally calm except for the occasional duck that goes paddling by. Spencer Honeymoon, Virzoom's director of business development, says they'll eventually upgrade this level so that you can throw bread at the ducks. Childhood memories of my parents telling me not to feed the ducks out of fear that they might bite my fingers come rushing back. I pedal, and the canoe glides forward.

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The Winter Warscape

Effort Level: 1 out of 10

Fun Level: 5 out of 10

Before long, the screen dissolves again and I find myself in a tranquil pond with my bike having magically become a canoe. This experience is much more relaxing than the western setting; the water around me is totally calm except for the occasional duck that goes paddling by. Spencer Honeymoon, Virzoom's director of business development, says they'll eventually upgrade this level so that you can throw bread at the ducks. Childhood memories of my parents telling me not to feed the ducks out of fear that they might bite my fingers come rushing back. I pedal, and the canoe glides forward.

The Mythical Dreamworld

Effort Level: 10 out of 10

Fun Level: 7 out of 10

Next, I turn into a Pegasus. I'm flying through the air, crashing into trees. The goal of this level is to collect as many floating apples as possible by alternating between pedaling super-fast and letting the Pegasus glide (maybe Virzoom's attempt at high-intensity interval training?). I'm having a hard time continuing to pedal because I feel so out of shape, which I guess is the point of the bike.

The Takeaway

Once the demo is over, the screen shows how many calories I burned during my ride. Next, Sweet's social media editor, Yasmeen, gets on the bike, and I see what I must have looked like, wobbling from side to side, trying to get a hang of these new worlds. It's difficult to adjust to the real world again, even though I was only playing for a few minutes. I say this out loud and Virzoom's CEO Eric Janszen smiles and says, "It's called virtual reality sickness."

The Virzoom is a fun way to get moving, and the virtual realms are pretty compelling—but at times it all feels a bit too straightforward. I can see how someone planning to exercise with it for extended periods might find it tedious after a while—but with the nonstop innovation in the field, this is likely just the tip of the iceberg for VR fitness, and I'm eager to see what comes next.

To learn more about Virzoom, visit virzoom.com.

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