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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
EXERCISE APPARATUS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/034309
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device such as a stationary bicycle (1) on which a user may exercise in use, the exercise device having at least one sensor (200, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500) for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise device, and a microprocessor based unit (800) having a display (900), the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to determine, in use, using the output of the or each sensor, the power exerted by the user in their use of the exercise device and from the power exerted determine the ratio of the power exerted to the user's body mass, and to alter the display, in use, according to the determined ratio. Typically, the display would be varied by varying the relative positions of representations of the user (951) and at least one opponent (952).

Inventors:
RICE MICHAEL JOSEPH PATRICK (GB)
Application Number:
GB2008/003053
Publication Date:
March 19, 2009
Filing Date:
September 09, 2008
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
TRIXTER PLC (GB)
RICE MICHAEL JOSEPH PATRICK (GB)
International Classes:
A63B24/00; A63B22/08; A63B69/16
Foreign References:
US20070042868A12007-02-22
US6902513B12005-06-07
US20040103146A12004-05-27
US4542897A1985-09-24
EP1327465A12003-07-16
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HARRIS, David, J. (138 Hagley RoadEdgbaston, Birmingham B16 9PW, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:

CLAIMS

1. A exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device on which a user may exercise in use, the exercise device having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise device, and a microprocessor based unit having a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to determine, in use, using the output of the or each sensor, the power exerted by the user in their use of the exercise device and from the power exerted determine the ratio of the power exerted to the user's body mass, and to alter the display, in use, according to the determined ratio, in which the display comprises an indication of whether, in use, the determined ratio is less or more than the target ratio, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to cause the display to display, as part of the indication, a representation of the user and a representation of an opponent in which the microprocessor is arranged to cause the display to change the relative positions of the representations of the user and of the opponent dependent upon the comparison of the determined and target ratios.

2. The exercise apparatus of claim 1, in which the determined ratio comprises an average over a given period.

3. The exercise apparatus of claim 2, in which the period comprises an exercise cycle, typically from when the user commences a particular bout of exercise to the current time.

4. The exercise apparatus of any preceding claim, in which the display comprises, in use, a depiction of a course, with the representation

of the user typically being ahead of the representation of the opponent in the course should the determined ratio be higher than the target ratio.

5. The exercise apparatus of any preceding claim, in which the position of the representation of the opponent includes a variable offset, such that over a whole cycle the position of the opponent corresponds to the target ratio, but some variation in the depicted position occurs.

6. The exercise apparatus of claim 5 in which the amount of variation depends upon simulated selectable characteristics of the opponent.

7. The exercise apparatus of claim 6, in which the acceleration achievable by the opponent is selectable.

8. The exercise apparatus of any preceding claim in which the position of the opponent is limited to a given distance ahead or behind the representation of the user.

9. The method of any preceding claim, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged so as to set the target ratio by determining the average speed for the representation of the opponent through the course.

10. The method of claim 9, in which the ratio is set based upon the average power to mass ratio the user would exert if he were to travel through the course at that speed.

11. The exercise apparatus of any preceding claim, in which the target ratio is set according to at least one of the age, sex and fitness of a user, their desired duration of race and the body mass index of the user.

12. The exercise apparatus of claim 10 or claim 11, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged so as to select a target ratio, in use, from a predetermined table of ratios for increasing fitness levels for a given gender and duration based upon the user's manipulation of an input device of the microprocessor unit.

13. The exercise apparatus of claim 12, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged so as to only allow access to higher levels of the fitness levels when the user has successfully completed a lower level course at or above the target ratio.

14. The exercise apparatus of any preceding claim in which, in order to determine the power exerted by a user, there is provided a power sensor.

15. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 1 to 13, the exercise device comprising a variable load which can be moved by the user, and means to set or determine the level of the load and to determine the speed with which the load is moving.

16. A method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device, on which a user may exercise, the exercise device having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise device, and a microprocessor based unit having a display, the method comprising the steps of: the user exercising on the exercise device, the microprocessor altering the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, and determining, using the output of the or each sensor the power exerted by the user in their use of the exercise device, and from the

power exerted determine the ratio of the power exerted to the user's body mass, and altering the display according to the determined ratio in which the method comprises the step of comparing the determined power to mass ratio with a target ratio and altering the display in response to the comparison and the step of displaying, on the display a representation of the user and a representation of an opponent and changing the relative positions on the display of the representations of the user and of the opponent dependent upon the comparison of the determined and target ratios.

17. The method of claim 16 in which the display comprises an indication of whether, in use, the determined ratio is less or more than the target ratio.

18. The method of any of claims 16 or 17, in which the determined ratio comprises an average over a given period.

19. The method of claim 18, in which the period comprises an exercise cycle, typically from when the user commences a particular bout of exercise to the current time.

20. The method of any of claims 16 to 19, in which the display comprises a depiction of a course, with the representation of the user typically being ahead of the representation of the opponent in the course should the determined ratio be higher than the target ratio.

21. The method of any of claims 16 to 20, in which the position of the representation of the opponent includes a variable offset, such that over a whole cycle the position of the opponent corresponds to the target ratio, but some variation in the depicted position occurs.

22. The method of claim 21, in which the amount of variation depends upon simulated selectable characteristics of the opponent.

23. The method of claim 22, in which the acceleration achievable by the opponent is selectable.

24. The method of any claims 16 to 23, in which the position of the opponent is limited to a given distance ahead or behind the representation of the user.

25. The method of any of claims 16 to 24, in which the target is set according to at least one of the age, sex and fitness of a user and their desired duration of race.

26. The method of claim 25, in which the target is set dependent upon the body mass index of the user.

27. The method of claim 25 or claim 26 comprising selecting a target ratio from a predetermined table of ratios for increasing fitness levels for a given gender and duration.

28. The method of claim 27, in which access to higher levels of the fitness levels is only be allowed when the user has successfully completed a lower level course at or above the target ratio.

29. An exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device, on which a user may exercise in use, the exercise device having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise device, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit

comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user and at least one opponent through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor and the mass of the user offset by a handicap.

30. The exercise apparatus of claim 29, in which the microprocessor is arranged so as to calculate the progression of the user through the course dependent on simulations any or all of wind resistance, rolling resistance and the force required to drive the representation of the user up or down any hills on the course.

31. The exercise apparatus of claims 29 or 30, in which the exercise device comprises a variable load.

32. The exercise apparatus of claim 31, in which the microprocessor is arranged to vary the load, in use, dependent upon the user's mass as modified by the handicap.

33. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 29 to 32, in which the apparatus further comprises at least one further exercise device each having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how a further user is exercising on the or each further exercise device, the or each sensor being connected to the microprocessor unit such that, in use, the microprocessor unit causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the or each of the further users through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the or each further user dependent upon the output of

the or each sensor of each further exercise device and the mass of the or each further user offset by a further user handicap.

34. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 29 to 33, in which the exercise device supports the user, in use, and is provided with a sensor for the user's mass.

35. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 29 to 34, in which the sensors comprise at least one of a speed sensor, a pedal force sensor and where the exercise device comprises a variable load which can be moved by the user, means to determine the level of the load and to determine the speed with which the load is moving.

36. A method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the method comprising:

• a user of the exercise device exercising on the exercise device;

• using at least one sensor coupled to the exercise device and the microprocessor unit to determine how the user is exercising; • simulating in the microprocessor unit the progression of the user and of at least one opponent through a course represented by data held in a memory of the exercise device, the progression of the user depending upon how the user is exercising as determined by the or each sensor; and • displaying a representation of the progression of the user and of the or each opponent to the user; in which the progression of the user is calculated dependent upon the mass of the user offset by a handicap.

37. The method of claim 36, in which the progression of the user is dependent upon a simulation of at least one of wind resistance and rolling resistance.

38. The method of claim 36 or 37, in which the exercise device comprises a variable load and in which the method comprises the step of varying the load dependent upon the user's mass as modified by the handicap.

39. A simulation apparatus comprising: a control device having a steering angle sensor operable by a user and having an output indicative of, in use, a steering angle selected by a user; and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor unit being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the steering angle sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the steering angle sensor, and in which the microprocessor unit comprises a mapping unit which is arranged so as to map the input from the steering angle sensor dependent upon the speed of the progression of the representation of the user through the course to form a mapped steering angle at an output of the mapping sensor, the mapping unit being arranged such that, in use, as the user's representation's speed increases, the size of the change in the mapped steering angle for a given change in the steering angle decreases.

40. The simulation apparatus of claim 39, further comprising an exercise device to which the control device is fitted and on which, in use, the user can exercise.

41. The simulation apparatus of claim 39, in which the exercise device is provided with at least one sensor for determining how the user is exercising, in use, on the exercise device; the microprocessor being arranged to determine the progression of the user through the course based upon the output of the or each sensor.

42. The simulation apparatus of any of claims 39 to 41 , in which the steering angle sensor comprises a handle graspable by a user and a biasing mechanism, whereby a force is applied to the handle so as to bias it towards a neutral position.

43. The simulation apparatus of claim 42, in which the force applied to the handle by the biasing mechanism increases as the handle is moved towards the neutral position.

44. The simulation apparatus of claim 42, in which the biasing mechanism comprises a resilient means such as a spring, where the force applied increases with displacement from the neutral position.

45. The simulation apparatus of claim 44, in which the force applied by the resilient means increases linearly with displacement from the neutral position.

46. The simulation apparatus of claim 44, in which the resilient means comprises a variable rate spring.

47. The simulation apparatus of any of claims 42 to 46, in which the biasing mechanism comprises an selectable damper, such that the resistance against movement of the handlebars can be selected by the microprocessor unit, and in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to increase the resistance at higher speeds.

48. The simulation apparatus of any of claims 39 to 47, in which the mapping unit is arranged such that the rate of decrease with speed of the decrease in the change in the mapped steering angle as speed increases itself decreases above a threshold speed.

49. The simulation apparatus of claim 40 or any preceding claim as dependent thereon, in which the exercise device is a stationary bicycle and the handlebars of the exercise bicycle are arranged to lean from side to side and are provided with a sensor for the angle of lean relative to a central, neutral position, this angle of lean being used in the determination of the mapped steering angle.

50. The simulation apparatus of claim 49, in which the mapping unit is arranged to map the angle of lean such that the change in the mapped steering angle due to change in the angle of lean increases at higher speeds.

51. A method of simulating the progress of a user through a course, comprising providing a steering angle sensor operable by a user and having an output indicative of, in use, a steering angle selected by a user; and a display, the method further steering using the steering angle sensor, and simulating the progression of a representation of the user through the course and displaying such progression on the display dependent upon the output of the steering angle sensor,

in which the method comprises mapping the output of the steering angle sensor dependent upon the speed of the progression of the representation of the user through the course to form a mapped steering angle, such that, in use, as the user's representation's speed increases, the size of the change in the mapped steering angle for a given change in the steering angle decreases.

52. The method of claim 51, comprising the user exercising on an exercise device on which the steering angle sensor is mounted and determining the user's progression through the course dependent on how the user is exercising.

53. The method of claim 51 or 52, in which the rate of decrease with speed in the change in the mapped steering angle as speed increases itself decreases above a threshold speed.

54. The method of claim 51, in which the handlebars of the exercise bicycle are arranged to lean from side to side, being the exercise device. The angle of lean being used in the determination of the mapped steering angle,

55. The method of claim 54, in which the angle of lean is mapped such that the change in the mapped steering angle due to change in the angle of lean increases at higher speeds.

56. An exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which,

in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor; in which the exercise bicycle comprises a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; in which the microprocessor is arranged to simulate the progression of the user, in use, through the course, based upon a selected gear and, on changing of the gear from a lower to a higher gear, the microprocessor may be arranged to apply an increase in the load.

57. The exercise apparatus of claim 56, in which the increase is sudden.

58. The exercise apparatus of claim 56 or claim 57 in which the increase is transient.

59. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 56 to 58 in which the increase in load is reduced once the user has increased in speed by a certain amount.

60. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 56 to 59, in which the increase decays exponentially, by a certain fraction each rotation of the pedals.

61. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 56 to 60, in which the effect of the gears is such that each gear represents a different ratio of pedal speed to simulated speed of progression through the course.

62. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 56 to 66, in which the exercise bicycle is provided with a gear selector coupled to the microprocessor unit, whereby the user can select a gear in use.

63. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 56 to 62, in which the microprocessor is arranged to select a gear.

64. The exercise apparatus of claim 63, in which the microprocessor changes down a gear once the speed at which a user is pedalling drops below a given limit, and/or changes up a gear when the speed at which a user is pedalling increases above a given limit.

65. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 56 to 64, in which the load comprises a flywheel with a physical or electromagnetic brake.

66. A method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, the exercise bicycle comprising a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; the method comprising: displaying on the display the progression of a representation of the user through a simulated course, calculating the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor;

simulating the progression of the user, in use, through the course, based upon a selected gear and, on changing of the gear from a lower to a higher gear, the microprocessor being arranged to apply an increase in the load.

67. The method of claim 66, in which the increase is sudden, say over less than 1 or 2 seconds.

68. The method claim 66 or 67, in which the increase is transient.

69. The method of any of claims 66 to 68, in which the increase in load is reduced once the user has increased in speed by a certain amount.

70. The method of any of claims 66 to 69, in which the increase is decays exponentially, by a certain fraction each rotation of the pedals.

71. The method of any of claims 66 to 70, in which the effect of the gears is such that each gear represents a different ratio of pedal speed to simulated speed of progression through the course.

72. The method of any of claims 66 to 71, in which the microprocessor selects a gear, by changing down a gear once the speed at which a user is pedalling drops below a given limit, and/or changing up a gear when the speed at which a user is pedalling increases above a given limit.

73. An exercise apparatus comprising a bicycle, the bicycle having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the bicycle, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor; the microprocessor unit being provided with a gear selector; and in which the microprocessor is arranged to select a gear by changing down a gear once the speed at which a user is pedalling drops

below a given limit, and/or changing up a gear when the speed at which a user is pedalling increases above a given limit.

74. The exercise apparatus of claim 73, in which the bicycle is one where rotation of its pedals causes the wheels of the bicycle to move the bicycle along the surface of the ground.

75. The exercise apparatus of claim 73, in which the bicycle is an exercise bicycle and the apparatus further comprises a display, in which the microprocessor is arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor and in which the microprocessor is arranged to simulate the progression of the user, in use, through the course, based upon a selected gear.

76. The exercise apparatus claim 75, in which the effect of the gears is such that each gear represents a different ratio of pedal speed to simulated speed of progression through the course.

77. The exercise apparatus of claim 75 or 76, in which the exercise bicycle comprises a sensor for whether the user is standing or sitting in a saddle of the exercise bicycle; the limits being modified if the user is standing rather than sitting.

78. A method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising a bicycle, the bicycle having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the bicycle, and a microprocessor; in which the microprocessor selects a gear for the bicycle by changing down a gear once the speed at which a user is pedalling drops below a given limit, and/or changing up a gear when the speed at which a user is pedalling increases above a given limit.

79. The method of claim 78, in which the bicycle is one where rotation of its pedals causes the wheels of the bicycle to move the bicycle along the surface of the ground.

80. The method of claim 78, in which the bicycle is an exercise bicycle, the apparatus further comprising a display, in which the microprocessor is arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor and in which the microprocessor is arranged to simulate the progression of the user, in use, through the course, based upon a selected gear.

81. The method of claim 80, in which the effect of the gears is such that each gear represents a different ratio of pedal speed to simulated speed of progression through the course.

82. The method of claim 80 or 81, in which the method comprises sensing whether the user is standing or sitting in a saddle of the exercise

bicycle; and modifying the limits if the user is standing rather than sitting.

83. An exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor, one of the sensors comprising a brake actuator; in which the exercise bicycle comprises a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; in which the microprocessor is arranged to simulate the progression of the user, in use, through the course, based upon the actuation of the brake actuator by the user, and, should the user apply the brake actuator, increase the load.

84. The exercise apparatus of claim 83, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged such that the speed at which the representation of the user progresses through the course depends on the speed with which the user is pedalling.

85. The exercise apparatus of claim 83 or claim 84, in which the load comprises a flywheel with a physical or electromagnetic brake.

86. A method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle, one of the sensors comprising a brake actuator, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, the exercise bicycle comprising a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; the method comprising: displaying on the display the progression of a representation of the user through a simulated course, calculating the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor; in which the progression of the user is determined based upon the actuation of the brake actuator by the user, in which the method comprises, should the user apply the brake actuator, increasing the load.

87. The method of claim 86, in which the speed at which the representation of the user progresses through the course depends on the speed with which the user is pedalling.

88. An exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression

of a representation of the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor; in which the microprocessor unit is arranged such that, in use, the outputs of the sensors are used to change the representation of the user so as to mirror changes in how the user is exercising based on the outputs of the sensors.

89. The exercise apparatus of claim 88, in which the representation of the user comprises a representation of the body of the user on a simulated bicycle.

90. The exercise apparatus of claim 89, in which the plurality of sensors comprise at least one of the following:

• a sensor for whether the user is standing or sitting in a saddle of the exercise device; in this case the microprocessor may be arranged so that the representation of the user's body stands or sits on the simulated bicycle dependent on the output of this sensor; • a sensor for the position of the pedals of the exercise device; in this case the microprocessor may be arranged such that the pedals of the simulated bicycle correspond to the position of the pedals of the exercise device;

• a steering angle sensor arranged to sense the position of handlebars of the exercise bicycle; in such a case the microprocessor may be arranged such that the depicted position of the handlebars of the simulated bicycle depend upon the position of the handlebars of the exercise bicycle

• where the handlebars of the exercise bicycle may lean from side to side, a handlebar lean angle sensor; in such a case the depiction of

the user may lean from side to side dependent on the output of this sensor;

• a brake actuator, the actuation of which may cause the representation of the user to slow down through the course; • a gear selector, the selection of gears controlling the ratio of speed of pedalling of the user to the speed of progression through the course;

• a speed sensor for detecting how fast the user is pedalling or how fast a portion of the exercise bicycle is moving, the speed controlling the speed of the user's progression through the course.

91. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 88 to 90, in which the microprocessor is arranged so as to simulate and display the simulated bicycle as leaning whilst cornering, the plurality of sensors comprises a steering angle sensor and a pedal position sensor, the microprocessor being arranged so as to check the position of the pedals when cornering, so as to display whether the pedals of the simulated bicycle would touch the simulated ground.

92. The exercise apparatus of claim 91, in which the microprocessor is arranged to determine the height of the pedals of the simulated bicycle above the simulated ground.

93. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 88 to 92, in which the exercise bicycle comprises a steering angle sensor and a variable load, the microprocessor unit being arranged to momentarily or continuously increase the load should the user drive their representation off the course.

94. A method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle,

and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, the method comprising: displaying on the display the progression of a representation of the user through a simulated course, calculating the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor; in which the outputs of the sensors are used to change the representation of the user so as to mirror changes in how the user is exercising based on the outputs of the sensors.

95. The method of claim 94, in which the representation of the user comprises a representation of the body of the user on a simulated bicycle.

96. The method of claim 95, in which the plurality of sensors comprises at least one but preferably all of the following:

• a sensor for whether the user is standing or sitting in a saddle of the exercise device; in this case the representation of the user's body may be depicted standing or sitting on the simulated bicycle dependent on the output of this sensor;

• a sensor for the position of the pedals of the exercise device; in this case the pedals of the simulated bicycle may be depicted so as to correspond to the position of the pedals of the exercise device; • a steering angle sensor arranged to sense the position of handlebars of the exercise bicycle; in such a case the depicted position of the handlebars of the simulated bicycle may depend upon the position of the handlebars of the exercise bicycle;

• where the handlebars of the exercise bicycle may lean from side to side, a handlebar lean angle sensor; in such a case the depiction of

the user may lean from side to side dependent on the output of this sensor;

• a brake actuator, the actuation of which may cause the representation of the user to slow down through the course; • a gear selector, the selection of gears controlling the ratio of speed of pedalling of the user to the speed of progression through the course;

• a speed sensor for detecting how fast the user is pedalling or how fast a portion of the exercise bicycle is moving, the speed controlling the speed of the user's progression through the course.

97. The method of any of claims 94 to 96 comprising simulating and displaying the simulated bicycle as leaning whilst cornering, the plurality of sensors comprising a steering angle sensor and a pedal position sensor, the method comprising checking the position of the pedals when cornering, so as to display whether the pedals of the simulated bicycle would touch the simulated ground.

98. The method of claim 97, in which the method comprises determining the height of the pedals of the simulated bicycle above the simulated ground. ~

99. The method of any of claims 95 to 98, comprising momentarily or continuously increasing a variable load acting against the user's exercise should the user drive their representation off the course.

100. An exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device on which a user may exercise in use, the exercise device having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise device, and a microprocessor based unit having a display, the microprocessor

being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the exercise bicycle comprises a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user based upon how the user is exercise on the exercise apparatus, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to alter the level of the load based upon the user's progression through the course.

101. The exercise apparatus of claim 100, in which the microprocessor is arranged to vary the load dependent upon at least one of:

• the gradient of the course at the point which the user has reached;

• the surface of the course at the point which the user has reached;

• wind resistance.

102. The exercise apparatus of claim 100, in which a component of the load dependent upon the gradient is dependent upon the weight of the user and of the simulated exercise device.

103. The exercise apparatus of claim 101 or 102, in which the microprocessor is arranged to determine a component of the weight of the user and of the simulated exercise device that acts along the surface of the course at the relevant point.

104. The exercise apparatus of claim 101 , 102 or 103, in which a component of the load dependent upon the surface of the course represents the rolling resistance of the simulated exercise device.

105. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 101 to 104, in which a component of the load dependent upon wind resistance depends on the square of the speed of the progression of the user through the course.

106. The exercise apparatus of claim 105, in which the wind resistance component depends on whether the user is sitting or standing on a seat of the exercise device and in which the exercise device comprises a user position sensor, that can determine whether the user is standing or sitting in the seat.

107. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 100 to 106, in which the load comprises a component that is fixed throughout the user's exercise.

108. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 100 to 106, in which the load comprises a component that depends on whether the user has actuated a brake actuator of the exercise device.

109. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 102 to 108 in which the components are additive, to form an overall force.

110. The exercise apparatus of any of claims 102 to 108, in which the components are expressed as powers, which are additive to form an overall power, have the overall power being mapped by the user's current speed to determine the load to be applied.

111. A method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device, the exercise device having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise device, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs

received from the or each sensor, the exercise device comprising a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; the method comprising: displaying on the display the progression of a representation of the user through a simulated course, calculating the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor; in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to alter the level of the load based upon the user's progression through the course.

112. The method of claim 111, in which the load is varied dependent upon at least one of: • the gradient of the course at the point which the user has reached;

• the surface of the course at the point which the user has reached;

• wind resistance.

113. The method of claim 112, in which a component of the load dependent upon the gradient is dependent upon the weight of the user and of the simulated exercise device.

114. The exercise apparatus of claim 113, in which the microprocessor determines the component of the weight of the user and of the simulated exercise device that acts along the surface of the course at the relevant point.

115. The method of any of claims 112 to 114, in which a component of the load dependent upon the surface of the course represents the rolling resistance of the simulated exercise device.

116. The method of any of claims 112 to 115, in which a component of the load dependent upon wind resistance depends on the square of the speed of the progression of the user through the course.

117. The method of claim 116, in which the wind resistance component depends on whether the user is sitting or standing on a seat of the exercise device.

118. The method of any of claims 111 to 117, in which the load comprises a component that is fixed throughout the user's exercise.

119. The method of any of claims 111 to 118, in which the load comprises a component that depends on whether the user has actuated a brake actuator of the exercise device.

120. The method of any of claims 113 to 119, in which the components are additive, to form an overall force.

121. The method of claims 113 to 119, in which the components are expressed as powers, which are additive to form an overall power, the overall power being mapped by the user's current speed to determine the load to be applied.

122. A computer-readable medium carrying microprocessor instructions which, when loaded onto an appropriate microprocessor unit, cause it to carry out the method of any of claims 16 to 28, 36 to 28, 50 to 54, 66 to 72, 78 to 82, 86, 87, 94 to 99 or 111 to 121.

Description:

EXERCISE APPARATUS

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to improvements in exercise apparatus.

BACKGROUND TO THE INVENTION

Keeping fit and active is becoming an increasingly important part of people's lifestyles. Some of the best forms of exercise for keeping fit include cycling, running and rowing as they make the exerciser work aerobically. This both works the major muscle groups and also strengthens the heart and lungs. The result is an increased level of physical well-being.

With increasing demands being placed on people's lives due to work and the family, it is often difficult to find the time to exercise regularly. Also, for much of the year in many countries it may be necessary to exercise in the dark outside of working hours. This can be unpleasant and dangerous.

Current medical reports state that the rapid rise in childhood obesity has been mirrored by an explosion of sedentary leisure pursuits for children such as computers, video games and television watching. Reports also indicate that increased general activity and play rather than competitive sport and structured exercise seem to be more effective. Parents, however, tend to be content with their children staying in the home playing computer games rather than being worried about their safety if playing outdoors.

As well as the pressures of work and family for adults the above points are as applicable to adults as to children. One of the best healthy habits is a regular exercise programme.

To meet the demand for increased exercise in an insecure, busy and often unscheduled lifestyle, a wide range of exercise devices has been developed. The most popular of these are the exercise bicycle, the treadmill and the rowing machine. These apparatus allow the user to perform the same range of movements as they would in the corresponding sport but in the warmth, safety and comfort of their home or gymnasium.

In another arrangement, devices can be purchased that convert all forms of road bicycles (racing bikes, tourers, hybrids and mountain bikes and the like) into an exercise bicycle by arranging for the rear wheel to drive a load against a resisting force such as a turbine or magnetic brake whilst the bicycle is held stationary on a support.

For maximum benefit in the shortest space of time it is recommended that regular exercise consisting of twenty to thirty minutes at least three times every week is undertaken. As anyone who has regularly used an exercise bicycle or the like will know, these blocks of twenty minutes can be extremely tedious. Removing the interest provided by passing varied terrain in varied weather outdoors the act of cycling or rowing is quite repetitive and boring.

As a direct consequence of this monotonous exercise, it is theretore often difficult to maintain the required degree of motivation needed to complete regular exercise using the devices. This is especially the case amongst the younger age groups where modern alternative pastimes such as computer gaming are now more popular.

It is well known to provide a stationary exercise bicycle upon which a person can pedal to simulate riding a bicycle. The rider sits on the bicycle, which is fixed in position and turns the pedals of the bicycle against a resistive load. The stationary bicycle needs at least a saddle, a handlebar and a bottom bracket, which must be held in the correct spaced location. The support for these components usually comprises a metal frame with floor standing feet, which supports the saddle upon which the user sits at a convenient height. The frame also supports the bottom bracket below the saddle, and a crank with pedals which are operated by the users feet. The handlebar is supported in front of the saddle. To fit different people the relative position of the saddle, the bottom bracket and the handlebar must be adjustable, but are usually set up so that the handlebar and the saddle are the same height above the floor as the handlebars and saddle of a normal bicycle.

Dedicated stationary exercise bicycles are very effective at developing the specific leg muscles of a user but can be very tedious to use. Also, they do not provide a very realistic experience as the position of the handlebars is often fixed when in use whereas on a normal bicycle the bars will move as the cyclist turns or lean to negotiate corners or stands up on the pedals.

The present invention is applicable to all forms of exercise cycle, including specific exercise bicycles as well as converted road or mountain bicycles used with a turbotrainer or the like.

It is known from the PCT patent application published as WO03/018391 to provide a set of moving handlebars to a stationary exercise bicycle to provide upper body training and to mimic the movement of the bars of a bicycle as the rider is standing up on the pedals. It is also known from that document to provide for different input devices which pass input

signals to a microprocessor in turn to control the operation of a game displayed on a display screen. Basic sensors disclosed in that document include a handlebar position sensor, a wheel sensor, a reed switch that detects the a passing of a magnet fitted to the pedals that acts as a crank position sensor and a seat pressure sensor that indicates whether the rider is seated or standing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

According to a first aspect, the invention provides an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device on which a user may exercise in use, the exercise device having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise device, and a microprocessor based unit having a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to determine, in use, using the output of the or each sensor, the power exerted by the user in their use of the exercise device and from the power exerted determine the ratio of the power exerted to the user's body mass, and to alter the display, in use, according to the determined ratio.

Measuring a user's performance by means of their power to mass ratio has been found to provide useful feedback for a user.

In one embodiment of the invention, the microprocessor comprises a comparison unit, arranged to compare, in use, the determined power to mass ratio with a target ratio, and to alter the display in response to the comparison. Setting a target ratio, rather than a target power or speed, has been found to be particularly convenient, as it inherently takes account of the user's mass.

The display may comprise an indication of whether, in use, the determined ratio is less or more than the target ratio. This therefore provides the user with an indication of whether they need to exert more or less effort during the workout so as to know they will achieve a result greater than their target at the end of the workout. This therefore provides a meaningful method of pacing people. It is known that people tend to under-exert or over-exert and either way stop exercising due to lack of results (from not pushing hard enough to produce physical improvement) or from the pain of pushing too hard.

The determined ratio may comprise an average over a given period. The period may comprise an exercise cycle, typically from when the user commences a particular bout of exercise to the current time. The indication on the display may comprise an indication of both the ratio of the energy exerted by the user so far in the cycle and the energy that should have been exerted by the user if they had been performing at the target ratio. Given that energy is simply the integral of power over time, this can give a user an indication of how they are performing.

The microprocessor unit may be arranged to cause the display to display, as part of the indication (s) a representation of the user and a representation of an opponent. The microprocessor may be arranged to cause the display to change the relative positions of the representations of the user and of the opponent dependent upon the comparison of the determined and target ratios. The display may comprise, in use, a depiction of a course, with the representation of the user typically being ahead of the representation of the opponent in the course should the determined ratio be higher than the target ratio. If the determined ratio is lower than the target ratio, then the representation of the user may appear behind that of the opponent in the course.

This provides a user with a simulated opponent to race, and means that they will need to meet or exceed the target ratio in order to win the race; they are therefore encouraged to meet the target by the appearance of a race. Furthermore, the opponent may act as a pacer for the user, preventing the user from pushing too hard or not hard enough.

The position of the representation of the opponent may, in addition, include a variable offset, such that over a whole cycle the position of the opponent corresponds to the target ratio, but some variation in the depicted position occurs.

The amount of variation may depend upon simulated selectable characteristics of the opponent. This allows different types of opponents to be simulated. This is particularly useful where the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user and the one opponent through the course.

In one example, the acceleration achievable by the opponent may be selectable. This means that, given the overall constraint on the representation of the opponent to achieve the target ratio, the opponent may vary in apparent behaviour between short hard bursts of acceleration followed by falling back (typical of mountain bikers) or slower but sustained acceleration (typical of road racers) .

The acceleration achievable by the opponent may be expressed as a percentage above and/or below the target ratio that the instant opponent power to mass ratio can be and for how long such over (and under) exertion can/must be sustained. For example, a downhill mountainbiker could exert instant ratios over double the target ratio but this can only be

sustained for a short while and then a short recovery is often required. Comparatively, a cross country mountainbiker would only exert an instant power ratio perhaps 1.75 times the target ratio but they could sustain this much longer.

In this way, simulated races over varying terrain can be set by a microprocessor whereby the actual effort level will be the same no matter the variability in different trails. In addition, this can simulate the true to life representation of physical characteristics of different riders.

The microprocessor may be arranged to set the ratio by determining the average speed for the representation of the opponent through the course. The ratio may be set based upon the average power to mass ratio the user would exert if he were to travel through the course at that speed. Thus, if the user is achieving the desired power to mass ratio, he will exceed the determined average speed and so appear ahead of the representation of the opponent.

In a further extension to the invention, the position of the opponent may be limited to a given distance ahead or behind the representation of the user. This means that if a user is exercising much harder or weaker than the target ratio, then they will neither be overly disheartened by their lack of ability, nor will they be able to ease up as their opponent will still be chasing them. If the opponent reaches the limit, the target ratio may be reduced (if the opponent is too far ahead) or increased (if the opponent is too far behind) in order to equalise the progression of the representations of the user and the opponent.

The target may be set according to the age, sex and fitness of a user, and depending upon their desired duration of race. The microprocessor unit may be arranged so as to select a target ratio, in use, from a

predetermined table of ratios for increasing fitness levels for a given gender and duration based upon the user's manipulation of an input device of the microprocessor unit. The target may be set dependent upon a fitness index of the user, such as the body mass index of the user.

The microprocessor unit may be arranged so as to only allow access to higher levels of the fitness levels when the user has successfully completed a lower level course at or above the target ratio. This means that the user is forced to "prove" himself before being allowed access to more difficult courses.

In order to determine the power exerted by a user, there may be provided a power sensor; alternatively, the exercise device may comprise a variable load which can be moved by the user, and means to set or determine the level of the load and to determine the speed with which the load is moving. In the example of an exercise bicycle, the load may be a flywheel with a physical or electromagnetic brake, and the speed measuring means may comprise a rotational speed sensor.

According to a second aspect of the invention, there provided is a method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device, on which a user may exercise, the exercise device having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise device, and a microprocessor based unit having a display, the method comprising the steps of: the user exercising on the exercise device, the microprocessor altering the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, and determining, using the output of the or each sensor the power exerted by the user in their use of the exercise device, and from the

power exerted determine the ratio of the power exerted to the user's body mass, and altering the display according to the determined ratio.

The method may comprise the step of comparing the determined power to mass ratio with a target ratio, altering the display in response to the comparison. Setting a target ratio, rather than a target power or speed, has been found to be particularly convenient, as it inherently takes account of the user's mass.

The display may comprise an indication of whether, in use, the determined ratio is less or more than the target ratio. This therefore provides the user with an indication of whether they need to exert more or less effort.

The determined ratio may comprise an average over a given period. The period may comprise an exercise cycle, typically from when the user commences a particular bout of exercise to the current time. The indication on the display may comprise an indication of both the ratio of the energy exerted by the user so far in the cycle and the energy that should have been exerted by the user if they had been performing at the target ratio. Given that energy is simply the integral of power over time, this can give a user an indication of how they are performing.

The method may comprise displaying, on the display, as part of the indication(s), a representation of the user and a representation of an opponent. The microprocessor may be arranged to cause the display to change the relative positions of the representations of the user and of the opponent dependent upon the comparison of the determined and target ratios. The display may comprise, in use, a depiction of a course, with the representation of the user typically being ahead of the representation of the opponent in the course should the determined ratio be higher than

the target ratio. If the determined ratio is lower than the target ratio, then the representation of the user may appear behind that of the opponent in the course.

This provides a user with a simulated opponent to race, and means that they will need to meet or exceed the target ratio in order to win the race; they are therefore encouraged to meet the target by the appearance of a race. Furthermore, the opponent may act as a pacer for the user, preventing the user from pushing too hard or not hard enough.

The position of the representation of the opponent may, in addition, include a variable offset, such that over a whole cycle the position of the opponent corresponds to the target ratio, but some variation in the depicted position occurs. The amount of variation may depend upon simulated selectable characteristics of the opponent. This allows different types of opponents to be simulated. This is particularly useful where the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user and the one opponent through the course.

In one example, the acceleration achievable by the opponent may be selectable. This means that, given the overall constraint on the representation of the opponent to achieve the target ratio, the opponent may vary in apparent behaviour between short hard bursts of acceleration followed by falling back (typical of mountain bikers) or slower but sustained acceleration (typical of road racers) .

The acceleration achievable by the opponent may be expressed as a percentage above and/or below the target ratio that the instant opponent power to mass ratio can be and for how long such over (and under)

exertion can/must be sustained. For example, a downhill mountainbiker could exert instant ratios over double the target ratio but this can only be sustained for a short while and then a short recovery is often required. Comparatively, a cross country mountainbiker would only exert an instant power ratio perhaps 1.75 times the target ratio but they could sustain this much longer.

In this way, simulated races over varying terrain can be set by a microprocessor whereby the actual effort level will be the same no matter the variability in different trails. In addition, this can simulate the true to life representation of physical characteristics of different riders .

The method may comprise setting the ratio by determining the average speed for the representation of the opponent through the course. The ratio may be set based upon the average power to mass ratio the user would exert if he were to travel through the course at that speed. Thus, if the user is achieving the desired power to mass ratio, he will exceed the determined average speed and so appear ahead of the representation of the opponent.

In a further extension to the invention, the position of the opponent may be limited to a given distance ahead or behind the representation of the user. This means that if a user is exercising much harder or weaker than the target ration, then they will neither be overly disheartened by their lack of ability, nor will they be able to ease up as their opponent will still be chasing them. If the opponent reaches the limit, the target ratio may be reduced (if the opponent is too far ahead) or increased (if the opponent is too far behind) in order to equalise the progression of the representations of the user and the opponent.

The target may be set according to the age, sex and fitness of a user, and depending upon their desired duration of race. The method may comprise selecting a target ratio from a predetermined table of ratios for increasing fitness levels for a given gender and duration. Access to higher levels of the fitness levels may only be allowed when the user has successfully completed a lower level course at or above the target ratio. This means that the user is forced to "prove" himself before being allowed access to more difficult courses. The target may be set dependent upon a fitness index of the user, such as the body mass index of the user.

The power exerted by a user may be measured by means of a power sensor; alternatively, the exercise device may comprise a variable load which can be moved by the user, and the level of the load may be set or determined, and the speed with which the load is moving may be determined.

According to a third aspect of the invention, there is provided an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device, on which a user may exercise in use, the exercise device having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise device, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user and at least one opponent through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor and the mass of the user offset by a handicap.

By using a handicap, which offsets the user's mass in one direction or the other, it is possible to provide a simple adjustment to the simulation of the progress of the user through the course in order to change how hard a user must exercise to achieve the same result in the simulation.

The microprocessor may be arranged so as to calculate the progression of the user through the course dependent on simulations any or all of wind resistance, rolling resistance, wind resistance and the force required to drive the representation of the user up or down any hills on the course. Handicaps may be placed on any of these variables also.

The exercise device may comprise a variable load; in the case of an exercise bicycle, the load may be a flywheel. The microprocessor may be arranged to vary the load, in use, dependent upon the user's mass as modified by the handicap. This is particularly useful when simulating the effects of hills, as a "heavier" user would find it harder to pedal up a given hill.

In a further embodiment, the apparatus further comprises at least one further exercise device each having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how a further user is exercising on the or each further exercise device, the or each sensor being connected to the microprocessor unit such that, in use, the microprocessor unit causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the or each of the further users through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the or each further user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor of each further exercise device and the mass of the or each further user offset by a further user handicap.

This can allow multiple users to race against one another; indeed, the or each further user may form an opponent. By giving each user a different

handicap from their normal mass, users of different abilities can race against each other and still enjoy the racing experience without particularly fit or unfit users winning or losing the race without question; with an appropriate handicap it is possible for a less fit user to beat a fitter user using an amount of effort that is within their capabilities but is less than the capability of the fitter user.

Whilst (physical) mass handicaps are known in such fields as horse racing, the inventor has appreciated that simulated mass handicaps can be applied to the simulated progression of users through a course, based on the physical effort that they are exerting. In effect, it is possible that a user with a large handicap - that is, a user that has a large amount of mass added to his actual mass - will have to exert more effort in order to progress as fast or as far through the course than a user with a lower handicap, and so less mass added to (or even mass taken away from) their actual mass.

There is a significant benefit to this in the field of exercise equipment as, due to handicapping, both users will get a good quality workout. The lower ability user will get a good workout and the fitter person will have more loading and therefore they will have to travel at a slower pace, but overall they will be keeping with the cadences/loads that they would have if riding normally.

The exercise device may support the user, in use, and be provided with a sensor for the user's mass, typically by measuring their weight. This sensor may be connected to the microprocessor unit. In an alternative, the microprocessor may be provided with an input, such as a keypad, through which the user's mass can be entered.

The sensors may comprise a speed sensor, a pedal force sensor or, where the exercise device comprises a variable load which can be moved by the user, means to determine the level of the load and to determine the speed with which the load is moving.

The display may comprise a video display unit (VDU) such as a television, monitor or computer screen. Alternatively, it may comprise selectively displayable symbols depicting the user and the or each opponent, which can be displayed in different positions relative to each other dependent on the progression through the course of the user or the or each opponent. In such a case, the selectively displayable symbols may comprise individual elements of a Liquid Crystal (LC) or Light Emitting Diode (LED) display.

According to a fourth aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the method comprising:

• a user of the exercise device exercising on the exercise device; • using at least one sensor coupled to the exercise device and the microprocessor unit to determine how the user is exercising;

• simulating in the microprocessor unit the progression of the user and of at least one opponent through a course represented by data held in a memory of the exercise device, the progression of the user depending upon how the user is exercising as determined by the or each sensor; and

• displaying a representation of the progression of the user and of the or each opponent to the user; in which the progression of the user is calculated dependent upon the mass of the user offset by a handicap.

The progression of the user may also be dependent upon a simulation of at least one of wind resistance and rolling resistance. Handicaps may be placed on any of these variables also. The amount of resistance due to wind may depend on the square of the simulated speed of the user and the mass of the user. The amount of resistance due to rolling resistance may depend on the mass of the user.

Where the exercise device comprises a variable load (such as, in the case of an exercise bicycle, a flywheel) the method may comprise the step of varying the load dependent upon the user's mass as modified by the handicap. This is particularly useful when simulating the effects of hills, as a "heavier" user would find it harder to pedal up a given hill.

According to a fifth aspect of the invention, there is provided a simulation apparatus comprising: a control device having a steering angle sensor operable by a user and having an output indicative of, in use, a steering angle selected by a user; and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor unit being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the steering angle sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the steering angle sensor, and in which the microprocessor unit comprises a mapping unit which is arranged so as to map the input from the steering angle sensor dependent upon the speed of the progression of the representation of the user through the course to form a mapped steering angle at an output of

the mapping sensor, the mapping unit being arranged such that, in use, as the user's representation's speed increases, the size of the change in the mapped steering angle for a given change in the steering angle decreases.

Simulating devices such as bicycles, which require a greater effort (but less change in angle) to steer as the vehicle speed increases, using stationary exercise devices and a steering angle sensor can lead to an unrealistic steering feel and can make the device hard to control at speed. According to this aspect of the invention, the change in steering angle which a user must generate in order to achieve the same mapped steering angle is increased at higher speeds. This means that the user will need to put more effort into steering, enabling a more a real-life feel. The inventors have realised that this possible more real-life feel can be achieved by the counter-intuitive modification of increasing the steering angle change necessary to achieve the same mapped change.

The apparatus may further comprise an exercise device to which the control device is fitted and on which, in use, the user can exercise. The exercise device may be provided with at least one sensor for determining how the user is exercising, in use, on the exercise device; the microprocessor may be arranged to determine the progression of the user through the course based upon the output of the or each sensor.

The steering angle sensor may comprise handle graspable by a user and a biasing mechanism, whereby a force is applied to the handle so as to bias it towards a neutral position. Typically, the force applied to the handle by the biasing mechanism will increase as the handle is moved towards the neutral position. The biasing mechanism may comprise a resilient means such as a spring, where the force applied increases with displacement from the neutral position; such displacement can be (non- exclusively) linear or angular.

Such a biasing mechanism in combination in the simulation apparatus discussed provides for the feel of a greater force as the handle is rotated further, thus possibly adding to the more realistic feel possible with this invention. Typically, the force applied by the resilient means increases linearly with displacement from the neutral position (such as is the case with a standard spring) ; however, in order to tailor the feel of the device, the resilient means may comprise a variable rate spring.

The biasing mechanism may comprise an selectable damper, such that the resistance against movement of the handlebars can be selected by the microprocessor unit, and in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to increase the resistance at higher speeds.

The microprocessor unit may be arranged so that the speed of the user's representation through the course may depend, and may be directly proportional to, the speed with which the user is exercising.

The mapping unit may be arranged such that the rate of decrease with speed of the decrease in the change in the mapped steering angle as speed increases itself decreases above a threshold speed. This may have the effect of desensitising the steering at higher speeds, which may be desirable in itself.

In the preferred embodiment, the exercise device is a stationary bicycle. In such a case, the handle of the steering angle sensor typically comprises a pair of handlebars. Furthermore, the microprocessor may be arranged such that the speed of the user's representation through the course is proportional to the speed of the bicycle, typically that of a wheel of the bicycle.

The handlebars of the exercise bicycle may be arranged to lean from side to side. As such, they may be provided with a sensor for the angle of lean relative to a central, neutral position. This angle of lean may also be used in the determination of the mapped steering angle. The mapping unit may be arranged to map the angle of lean such that the change in the mapped steering angle due to change in the angle of lean increases at higher speeds.

According to a sixth aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of simulating the progress of a user through a course, comprising providing a steering angle sensor operable by a user and having an output indicative of, in use, a steering angle selected by a user; and a display, the method further steering using the steering angle sensor, and simulating the progression of a representation of the user through the course and displaying such progression on the display dependent upon the output of the steering angle sensor, in which the method comprises mapping the output of the steering angle sensor dependent upon the speed of the progression of the representation of the user through the course to form a mapped steering angle, such that, in use, as the user's representation's speed increases, the size of the change in the mapped steering angle for a given change in the steering angle decreases.

The method may also comprise the user exercising on an exercise device on which the steering angle sensor is mounted and determining the user's progression through the course dependent on how the user is exercising. Determining the user's progression may comprise sensing at least one characteristic of the user's exercise using at least one sensor.

The speed of the user's representation through the course may depend, and may be directly proportional to, the speed with which the user is exercising.

The method may comprise simulating the steering of the representation of the user on an equivalent exercise device as the user is exercising on. Typically, the equivalent exercise device will be the non-stationary version of the exercise device. For example, where the exercise device is a stationary exercise bicycle, the equivalent exercise device will be a (normal, non-stationary) bicycle. In such a case, the method may comprise the step of simulating the steering of the equivalent exercise device so that the energy input into the steering angle sensor by the user is translated into an amount of energy input into the simulated steering of the equivalent exercise device. The translation may be directly proportional.

The rate of decrease with speed in the change in the mapped steering angle as speed increases may itself decrease above a threshold speed. This may have the effect of desensitising the steering at higher speeds, which may be desirable in itself.

The handlebars of the exercise bicycle may be arranged to lean from side to side. As such, they may be provided with a sensor for the angle of lean relative to a central, neutral position. This angle- of lean may also be used in the determination of the mapped steering angle. The mapping unit may be arranged to map the angle of lean such that the change in the mapped steering angle due to change in the angle of lean increases at higher speeds.

According to a seventh aspect of the invention, there is provided an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle

having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor; in which the exercise bicycle comprises a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; in which the microprocessor is arranged to simulate the progression of the user, in use, through the course, based upon a selected gear and, on changing of the gear from a lower to a higher gear, the microprocessor may be arranged to apply an increase in the load.

This therefore simulates the effect of changing gear on a real bike. On a real bicycle, the wheels are generally in contact with the ground, and so when a gear change occurs upwards, changing the ratio between pedal speed and wheel speed, an almost instantaneous change in pedal speed will occur and the user will have to pedal harder to rotate the pedals at the same speed. On an exercise bicycle, where there is no connection between the pedalling and any movement, if the simulation were merely to change the ratio of pedal rotation to (simulated) wheel rotation, then a user would not have to pedal any harder to achieve a faster simulated speed.

Preferably, the increase is sudden (say, over less than 1 or 2 seconds) , and may be transient. The increase in load may be reduced once the user

has increased in speed by a certain amount. It may decay exponentially, by a certain fraction each rotation of the pedals.

The effect of the gears is typically such that each gear represents a different ratio of pedal speed to simulated speed of progression through the course. Changing to a higher gear may have the effect of increasing the ratio.

In one embodiment, the exercise bicycle is provided with a gear selector coupled to the microprocessor unit, whereby the user can select a gear in use. In an alternative, the microprocessor may be arranged to select a gear. It may do this by changing down a gear once the speed at which a user is pedalling drops below a given limit, and/or changing up a gear when the speed at which a user is pedalling increases above a given limit. This therefore represents an automatic way of selecting gears, without the complexity of determining the force being applied to the pedals by the user.

The load may be a flywheel with a physical or electromagnetic brake.

According to an eighth aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, the exercise bicycle comprising a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; the method comprising:

displaying on the display the progression of a representation of the user through a simulated course, calculating the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor; simulating the progression of the user, in use, through the course, based upon a selected gear and, on changing of the gear from a lower to a higher gear, the microprocessor may be arranged to apply an increase in the load.

Preferably, the increase is sudden (say, over less than 1 or 2 seconds), and may be transient. The increase in load may be reduced once the user has increased in speed by a certain amount. It may decay exponentially, by a certain fraction each rotation of the pedals.

The effect of the gears is typically such that each gear represents a different ratio of pedal speed to simulated speed of progression through the course. Changing to a higher gear may have the effect of increasing the ratio.

In one embodiment, the exercise bicycle is provided with a gear selector, whereby the user can select a gear. In an alternative, the microprocessor may select a gear. It may do this by changing down a gear once the speed at which a user is pedalling drops below a given limit, and/or changing up a gear when the speed at which a user is pedalling increases above a given limit. This therefore represents an automatic way of selecting gears, without the complexity of determining the force being applied to the pedals by the user.

The load may be a flywheel with a physical or electromagnetic brake.

According to a ninth aspect of the invention, there is provided an exercise apparatus comprising a bicycle, the bicycle having at at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the bicycle, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor; the microprocessor unit being provided with a gear selector; ; and in which the microprocessor is arranged to select a gear by changing down a gear once the speed at which a user is pedalling drops below a given limit, and/or changing up a gear when the speed at which a user is pedalling increases above a given limit.

This therefore represents an automatic way of selecting gears, without the complexity of determining the force being applied to the pedals by the user.

In one embodiment, the bicycle is a "true" bicycle, that is one where rotation of its pedals causes the wheels of the bicycle to move the bicycle along the surface of the ground. In such a case, the gear selector may act to control a set of physical gears of the bicycle.

However, in another embodiment of the invention, the bicycle is an exercise bicycle, the apparatus further comprises a display, in which the microprocessor is arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor and in which the microprocessor is arranged to simulate the progression of the user, in use, through the course, based upon a selected gear.

The effect of the gears is typically such that each gear represents a different ratio of pedal speed to simulated speed of progression through the course. Changing to a higher gear may have the effect of increasing the ratio.

The exercise bicycle may also comprise a sensor for whether the user is standing or sitting in a saddle of the exercise bicycle; the limits may be modified if the user is standing rather than sitting. The limits may also depend upon whether the user is on a portion of the course that is uphill or downhill or level.

According to a tenth aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising a bicycle, the bicycle having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the bicycle, and a microprocessor; in which the microprocessor selects a gear for the bicycle by changing down a gear once the speed at which a user is pedalling drops below a given limit, and/or changing up a gear when the speed at which a user is pedalling increases above a given limit.

This therefore represents an automatic way of selecting gears, without the complexity of determining the force being applied to the pedals by the user or the need to provide a physical gear selector.

In one embodiment, the bicycle is a "true" bicycle, that is one where rotation of its pedals causes the wheels of the bicycle to move the bicycle along the surface of the ground. In such a case, the gear selector may act to control a set of physical gears of the bicycle.

However, in another embodiment of the invention, the bicycle is an exercise bicycle, the apparatus further comprises a display, in which the microprocessor is arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor and in which the microprocessor is arranged to simulate the progression of the user, in use, through the course, based upon a selected gear.

The effect of the gears is typically such that each gear represents a different ratio of pedal speed to simulated speed of progression through the course. Changing to a higher gear may have the effect of increasing the ratio.

The method may also comprise sensing whether the user is standing or sitting in a saddle of the exercise bicycle; the limits may be modified if the user is standing rather than sitting.

According to an eleventh aspect of the invention, there is provided an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of

the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor, one of the sensors comprising a brake actuator; in which the exercise bicycle comprises a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; in which the microprocessor is arranged to simulate the progression of the user, in use, through the course, based upon the actuation of the brake actuator by the user, and, should the user apply the brake actuator, increase the load.

This is therefore a simple simulation of the effects of braking. If the user brakes, the system would not otherwise necessarily show the user slowing down if they continued to pedal at their previous speed.

The microprocessor unit may be arranged such that the speed at which the representation of the user progresses through the course may depend on the speed with which the user is pedalling; in this case the effects of the increased force will cause the user to slow down, slowing down the progression of the representation of the user through the course. The user may try and pedal against this load - but the increased load should train them not to (as they would never do it in the real world) .

The load may be a flywheel with a physical or electromagnetic brake.

According to a twelfth aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle, one of the sensors comprising a brake actuator, and a microprocessor unit comprising a

microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, the exercise bicycle comprising a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; the method comprising: displaying on the display the progression of a representation of the user through a simulated course, calculating the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor; in which the progression of the user is determined based upon the actuation of the brake actuator by the user, in which the method comprises, should the user apply the brake actuator, increasing the load.

This is therefore a simple simulation of the effects of braking. The speed at which the representation of the user progresses through the course may depend on the speed with which the user is pedalling; in this case the effects of the increased force will cause the user to slow down, slowing down the progression of the representation of the user through the course.

The load may be a flywheel with a physical or electromagnetic brake.

According to a thirteenth aspect of the invention, there is provided an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit,

in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user through the course, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to calculate the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor; in which the microprocessor unit is arranged such that, in use, the outputs of the sensors are used to change the representation of the user so as to mirror changes in how the user is exercising based on the outputs of the sensors.

Such an apparatus leads to a more realistic simulation of the user's exercise and so may lead to greater user satisfaction with their exercise experience.

The representation of the user may comprise a representation of the body of the user on a simulated bicycle. The plurality of sensors may comprise at least one but preferably all of the following:

• a sensor for whether the user is standing or sitting in a saddle of the exercise device; in this case the microprocessor may be arranged so that the representation of the user's body stands or sits on the simulated bicycle dependent on the output of this sensor;

• a sensor for the position of the pedals of the exercise device; in this case the microprocessor may be arranged such that the pedals of the simulated bicycle correspond to the position of the pedals of the exercise device; • a steering angle sensor arranged to sense the position of handlebars of the exercise bicycle; in such a case the microprocessor may be arranged such that the depicted position of the handlebars of the simulated bicycle depend upon the position of the handlebars of the exercise bicycle • where the handlebars of the exercise bicycle may lean from side to side, a handlebar lean angle sensor; in such a case the depiction of

the user may lean from side to side dependent on the output of this sensor;

• a brake actuator, the actuation of which may cause the representation of the user to slow down through the course; • a gear selector, the selection of gears controlling the ratio of speed of pedalling of the user to the speed of progression through the course;

• a speed sensor for detecting how fast the user is pedalling or how fast a portion of the exercise bicycle is moving, the speed controlling the speed of the user's progression through the course.

The microprocessor may be arranged so as to simulate and display the simulated bicycle as leaning whilst cornering, as it is well known that cycles do. Where the plurality of sensors comprises a steering angle sensor and a pedal position sensor, the microprocessor may be arranged so as to check the position of the pedals when cornering, so as to display whether the pedals of the simulated bicycle would touch the simulated ground. In effect, the microprocessor is checking for whether the user is taking, for example, a tight left-hand corner with their left-hand pedal down. If the pedal would touch the ground, the microprocessor may be arranged to display a message on the display, or illustrate the depiction of the user crashing.

The microprocessor may be arranged to determine the height of the pedals of the simulated bicycle above the simulated ground.

Furthermore, where the exercise bicycle comprises a steering angle sensor and a variable load, the microprocessor unit may be arranged to momentarily increase the load should the user drive their representation off the course. This represents a warning to the use that they are off course. In an alternative, the microprocessor unit may be arranged to

increase the load for all of the time the user is off course. This penalises a user for not cycling correctly round the course.

According to a fourteenth aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise bicycle, the exercise bicycle having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise bicycle, and a microprocessor unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, the method comprising: displaying on the display the progression of a representation of the user through a simulated course, calculating the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor; in which the outputs of the sensors are used to change the representation of the user so as to mirror changes in how the user is exercising based on the outputs of the sensors.

The representation of the user may comprise a representation of the body of the user on a simulated bicycle. The plurality of sensors may comprise at least one but preferably all of the following:

• a sensor for whether the user is standing or sitting in a saddle of the exercise device; in this case the representation of the user's body may be depicted standing or sitting on the simulated bicycle dependent on the output of this sensor;

• a sensor for the position of the pedals of the exercise device; in this case the pedals of the simulated bicycle may be depicted so as to correspond to the position of the pedals of the exercise device; • a steering angle sensor arranged to sense the position of handlebars of the exercise bicycle; in such a case the depicted position of the

handlebars of the simulated bicycle may depend upon the position of the handlebars of the exercise bicycle;

• where the handlebars of the exercise bicycle may lean from side to side, a handlebar lean angle sensor; in such a case the depiction of the user may lean from side to side dependent on the output of this sensor;

• a brake actuator, the actuation of which may cause the representation of the user to slow down through the course;

• a gear selector, the selection of gears controlling the ratio of speed of pedalling of the user to the speed of progression through the course;

• a speed sensor for detecting how fast the user is pedalling or how fast a portion of the exercise bicycle is moving, the speed controlling the speed of the user's progression through the course.

The method may comprise simulating and displaying the simulated bicycle as leaning whilst cornering, as it is well known that cycles do. Where the plurality of sensors comprises a steering angle sensor and a pedal position sensor, the method may comprise checking the position of the pedals when cornering, so as to display whether the pedals of the simulated bicycle would touch the simulated ground. In effect, the microprocessor is checking for whether the user is taking, for example, a tight left-hand corner with their left-hand pedal down. If the pedal would touch the ground, the method may comprise displaying a message on the display, or illustrating the depiction of the user crashing.

The method may comprise determining the height of the pedals of the simulated bicycle above the simulated ground.

Furthermore, the method may comprise momentarily increasing a variable load acting against the user's exercise should the user drive their

representation off the course. This represents a warning to the use that they are off course. In an alternative, the method may comprise increasing the load for all of the time the user is off course. This penalises a user for not cycling correctly round the course.

According to a fifteenth aspect of the invention, there is provided an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device on which a user may exercise in use, the exercise device having at least one sensor for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise device, and a microprocessor based unit having a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, in which the exercise bicycle comprises a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; in which the microprocessor unit comprises memory which, in use, stores data relating to a simulated course and in which the microprocessor unit, in use, causes the display to depict the progression of a representation of the user based upon how the user is exercise on the exercise apparatus, in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to alter the level of the load based upon the user's progression through the course.

Accordingly, the user's experience becomes more realistic in that the effort required to exercise depends on the course that they are exercising through.

In the preferred embodiment, microprocessor is arranged to vary the load dependent upon at least one of: • the gradient of the course at the point which the user has reached;

• the surface of the course at the point which the user has reached;

• wind resistance.

The component of the load dependent upon the gradient may be dependent upon the weight of the user and of the simulated exercise device. The microprocessor may be arranged to determine the component of the weight of the user and of the simulated exercise device that acts along the surface of the course at the relevant point. Accordingly, the component of the load dependent upon the gradient may increase or decrease the load dependent upon whether the user is cycling up or downhill.

The component of the load dependent upon the surface of the course may represent the rolling resistance of the simulated exercise device. As such, the data relating to the course may comprise a rolling coefficient for each position on the course. The component may depend upon the weight of the user and/or the simulated exercise device. The component may also depend upon the speed of progression of the user through the course. It may also depend upon the exercise device simulated.

The component of the load dependent upon wind resistance may depend on the square of the speed of the progression of the user through the course. It may also depend on whether the user is sitting or standing on a seat of the exercise device; to this end the exercise device may comprise a user position sensor, such as an ultrasound device, that can determine whether the user is standing or sitting in the seat.

The load may further comprise a component that is fixed throughout the user's exercise. This ensures that the user always experiences a minimum resistance so that they will be forced at all times to exert some exercise.

The load may further comprise a component that depends on whether the user has actuated a brake actuator of the exercise device.

The components above that depend upon speed may also depend upon the selection of a gear by a gear selection apparatus of the exercise apparatus. The speed may be scaled dependent upon the selected gear.

Where a handicap system is employed, such as in the third aspect of the invention, any of the components may be increased dependent upon the user's handicap.

The above components may be additive, to form an overall force. However, the components may be expressed as powers, which may also be additive to form an overall power. The overall power may then be mapped by the user's current speed to determine the load to be applied. In effect, this mapping allows for a calibration of the load.

The microprocessor unit may be arranged to increase the load should the user drive their representation off the course. This represents a warning to the use that they are off course. In an alternative, the microprocessor unit may be arranged to increase the load for all of the time the user is off course. This penalises a user for not cycling correctly round the course.

The increase may be only momentary, whilst the user is driving off- course. However, the increase may persist after the user has returned onto the course. The increase may be made larger the longer the user persists in driving off course.

According to a sixteenth aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of operating an exercise apparatus comprising an exercise device, the exercise device having at a plurality of sensors for monitoring, in use, how the user is exercising on the exercise device, and a microprocessor

unit comprising a microprocessor and a display, the microprocessor being arranged to alter the display in response to inputs received from the or each sensor, the exercise device comprising a variable load against which the user of the bicycle may, in use, exercise, the level of the load being controllable, in use, by the microprocessor unit; the method comprising: displaying on the display the progression of a representation of the user through a simulated course, calculating the progression of the representation of the user dependent upon the output of the or each sensor; in which the microprocessor unit is arranged to alter the level of the load based upon the user's progression through the course.

Accordingly, the user's experience becomes more realistic in that the effort required to exercise depends on the course that they are exercising through.

In the preferred embodiment, microprocessor is arranged to vary the load dependent upon at least one of: • the gradient of the course at the point which the user has reached;

• the surface of the course at the point which the user has reached;

• wind resistance.

The component of the load dependent upon the gradient may be dependent upon the weight of the user and of the simulated exercise device. The microprocessor may be arranged to determine the component of the weight of the user and of the simulated exercise device that acts along the surface of the course at the relevant point. Accordingly, the component of the load dependent upon the gradient may increase or decrease the load dependent upon whether the user is cycling up or downhill.

The component of the load dependent upon the surface of the course may represent the rolling resistance of the simulated exercise device. As such, the data relating to the course may comprise a rolling coefficient for each position on the course. The component may depend upon the weight of the user and/or the simulated exercise device. The component may also depend upon the speed of progression of the user through the course. It may also depend upon the exercise device simulated.

The component of the load dependent upon wind resistance may depend on the square of the speed of the progression of the user through the course. It may also depend on whether the user is sitting or standing on a seat of the exercise device; to this end the exercise device may comprise a user position sensor, such as an ultrasound device, that can determine whether the user is standing or sitting in the seat.

The load may further comprise a component that is fixed throughout the user's exercise. This ensures that the user always experiences a minimum resistance so that they will be forced at all times to exert some exercise.

The load may further comprise a component that depends on whether the user has actuated a brake actuator of the exercise device.

The components above that depend upon speed may also depend upon the selection of a gear by a gear selection apparatus of the exercise apparatus. The speed may be scaled dependent upon the selected gear.

Where a handicap system is employed, such as in the third aspect of the invention, any of the components may be increased dependent upon the user's handicap.

The above components may be additive, to form an overall force. However, the components may be expressed as powers, which may also be additive to form an overall power. The overall power may then be mapped by the user's current speed to determine the load to be applied. In effect, this mapping allows for a calibration of the load.

The microprocessor unit may be arranged to increase the load should the user drive their representation off the course. This represents a warning to the use that they are off course. In an alternative, the microprocessor unit may be arranged to increase the load for all of the time the user is off course. This penalises a user for not cycling correctly round the course.

The increase may be only momentary, whilst the user is driving off- course. However, the increase may persist after the user has returned onto the course. The increase may be made larger the longer the user persists in driving off course.

For any of the aspects of the invention, the microprocessor based unit and display may be provided within a housing that can be fixed to a portion of the exercise device, such as the handlebars of a bicycle. This may be a common housing that also includes the processor that processes the signals from the sensors.

Alternatively, the microprocessor-based unit may be located remotely from the or each exercise device. It may be a personal computer, or a games console such as the Playstation 3 (RTM) from Sony. The display may comprise a video display unit (VDU) such as a television, monitor or computer screen.

The or each exercise device may comprise a stationary bicycle, typically as are commonly referred to as exercise bikes. Alternatively, the or each exercise device may comprise a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or so on.

According to a seventeenth aspect of the invention, there is provided a computer-readable medium carrying microprocessor instructions which, when loaded onto an appropriate microprocessor, unit, cause it to carry out the method of any of the even-numbered aspects of the invention. There will now be described, by way of example only, embodiments of the present invention with reference to and as illustrated in the accompanying drawings of which:

LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1 is an overview of an exercise bicycle fitted with a number of sensing devices connected to a processing unit with a display to provide feedback on performance to a rider;

Figure 2 is a front view of a handlebar assembly as fitted to the bicycle of Figure 1;

Figures 3 (a) and 3(b) show the paths taken by reflected signals sent from an embodiment of a rider position sensor, fitted to the bicycle of figure 1 of the drawings;

Figure 4 shows an alternative arrangement of a complete exercise apparatus including a bicycle, a microprocessor based unit and a display screen;

Figure 5 shows a flowchart of the operation of exercise apparatus according to a first embodiment of the invention;

Figures 6a to 6c show the display of the first embodiment showing sample displays in the cases where the user is exercising (a) above his or her target ratio, (b) below his or her target ratio and (c) at his or her target ratio;

Figure 7 shows the equipment used in the exercise apparatus of a second embodiment of the invention;

Figure 8 shows a flowchart showing the operation of the computer of Figure 7;

Figure 9 shows a sample display as shown on a display of Figure 7;

Figure 10 shows the operation of the mapping unit of a third embodiment of the invention;

Figure 11 shows a sample display as shown on the display of the third embodiment of the invention;

Figure 12 shows an enlargement of the representation of the user shown in the display of Figure 11, showing different changes possible to the representation of the user; and

Figure 13 shows a table of target ratios for use with either of the above two embodiments.

DESCRIPTION OF SPECIFIC EMBODIMENTS

Figure 1 shows an exercise bicycle that is fitted with a number of features that form embodiments of the invention in accordance with different aspects of the present invention.

The bicycle 1 comprises a frame 2 of aluminium construction having two base support legs 3,4 that carry four feet (two feet 3a and 4a being visible in the figure) . The legs 3,4 support the frame 2 securely in an upright position. At the front of the frame 2 is a pair of spaced lugs that carry an axle 5 of a relatively heavy flywheel 6. At the top front, above the flywheel 6, the frame has a tube that receives a handlebar assembly 100. Further back towards the rear the frame 2 has a seat tube that receives a seat post 7. The seat post in turn supports a saddle 8. Both the saddle 8 and the handlebar assembly 100 can be raised relative to the frame to suit different sized riders.

In the centre of the frame 2, below the saddle and about 30 cm in front is a bottom bracket shell that provides a rigid mounting for a bottom bracket cartridge that includes a crank axle 9. A crankset 10, as is known in the art, is attached to the crank axle and supports pedals 10a, and a chain 11 which runs between the crankset and a gear sprocket carried by the flywheel 6. The gear sprocket in this embodiment is connected to the wheel through a freewheel cassette so that if the rider stops pedalling suddenly the front wheel can continue to turn.

In use, the rider sits on the saddle 8 and turns the pedals 10a with their feet that in turn makes the flywheel 6 spin. A electromagnetic brake mechanism 20 is also provided which acts on the flywheel and provides some resistance to the turning of the flywheel 6. By increasing the amount of resistance applied by the brake the amount of effort needed to turn the wheel increase, making the rider work harder to maintain a given cadence (pedal revolutions per minute). Loosening the brake reduces the

amount of resistance and makes pedalling easier for that same given cadence. The brake mechanism 20 may be, in an alternative, a physical brake. It is a controllable brake mechanism, such that the load can be varied on the command of a microprocessor unit.

As shown in perspective in Figure 2 of the accompanying drawings the handlebar assembly 100 comprises a base portion or support 101 which is held securely in the frame of the bicycle. The stem has an upper portion 110 which can rotate relative to a lower portion clamped to the bicycle. The bars 120 (shown by dotted lines) are clamped within a cradle 130 attached to the upper portion 110 which can be tilted from side to side by the rider to mimic the movement of the bars that would be made whilst riding a real bicycle. At each end of the handlebar 120 is a handgrip (also not shown) of soft rubber and a brake actuator 150. The brake actuator comprises an analogue switch connected to the handlebar assembly.

The bicycle 1 is fitted with several sensors and an interface unit 600. These can be seen schematically in Figure 1, which primarily serves to show the approximate location of the sensors. All of the sensors produce an output signal which is fed through wires (although the signals could easily be transmitted wirelessly) to the interface unit 600.

A first sensor 200 is connected to the bicycle 100 in such a way as to detect revolution of the flywheel 6 of the bicycle. This comprises a magnet fitted to the wheel and a Hall effect sensor or reed switch fitted to the frame such that the magnet passes close to it as the wheel rotates. The output will be a pulsed signal with each pulse occurring as the magnet passes. The rate of the pulses indicates the wheel speed.

A second sensor 300 is connected to the handlebars, which measures their position relative to a central rest position. The output of the sensor indicates whether the handlebar is tilted to the right, to the left or is in the centre. It may comprise a simple rotary potentiometer that is turned as the handlebars are tilted.

The bicycle is also provided with a steering angle sensor 350, coupled to the handlebars. It detects the angular displacement of the handlebars 150 relative to the frame 2, and so can be used to detect movement of the handlebars by the user in order to indicate steering. As such, it can comprise a simple potentiometer, or a digital rotary encoder or other such appropriate device.

In addition to the handlebars and the sensor, the bicycle is fitted with a crank sensor 500. This comprises a device that has a moving part 510 that is fitted to the chainset and a fixed part 520 that is fixed to the frame near the bottom bracket. A rotary encoder on the fixed part 520 means that relative movement of the two parts 510, 520 can be detected and so the output of this sensor can be used to determine the rotational position of the pedals relative to the bike.

The bicycle is also fitted with a rider position sensor 400 which detects the position of the rider on the bicycle. In particular, it determines whether the rider is seated or standing, and optionally whether they are sitting tall with arms stretched away from the handlebars or crouched down low with chest dropped towards the handlebars. The position sensor is shown in Figures 3 (a) and (b) of the accompanying drawings, and is shown in position in Figure 1 of the accompanying drawings.

The position sensor can be used as an alternative to a pressure sensor fitted to the saddle or seat post but could in fact be used in conjunction with a pressure sensor 450.

The position sensor comprises a small housing that is fitted to the centre of the handlebars. It contains a self-contained time of flight ultrasonic sensing assembly which has a source of ultrasound waves and a receiver which is responsive to incident reflected waves. The housing also includes the drive circuitry for the source and for determining time of flight from the received signals.

The housing therefore includes the necessary drive circuitry for the source and receiver and processing means for determining the time of flight from the received signals. Such sensors are well known, although until now have only been used as safety devices for vehicles, so called parking sensors. In fact, the time of flight data is preferably converted into a position indication signal by comparing the time of flight with the times expected for a rider being in a known position. For instance, if the flight time is below a threshold level it may be assumed that the rider is leaning forward, and above this that they are leaning back. A simple "forward/back" signal may therefore be provided at the output.

In an alternative, infra red light could be transmitted and received instead but this has been found to be sensitive to lighting conditions and the colour of clothing worn, which may be a disadvantage.

The sensor housing is fixed to the frame just by the handlebar stem so that the waves are directed towards a rider's torso and will be reflected from the torso back to the sensor. The path for transmitted waves is therefore upwards at an angle of about 45 degrees to the horizontal in a direction facing the rear of the bicycle.

Figure 3 (a) shows the path of reflected signal for a rider who is sat in an upright-seated position on the bicycle. Figure 3(b) shows the different path for a rider who is crouched into a racing tuck. In the later case the distance from the torso to the sensing assembly is shorter, resulting in a shorter time of flight for reflected radiation for the sensor 400. The output signal produced by the device is therefore made dependent on the time of flight.

The signals from the various sensors are combined in the interface device and communicated to a microprocessor unit, such as, in the embodiment shown in the Figures, a personal computer 800. This is shown in Figure 4 of the accompanying drawings, where the computer is located on the floor some distance from the bicycle. The microprocessor unit 800 also has control over the level of load applied by brake mechanism 20.

The computer includes a display driver and is connected to a display 900, being a flat LCD monitor, upon which images can be presented as generated by the computer. The computer 800 can run a game or training program in which the images on the display screen 900 are modified according to the output of the sensors. The exercise bicycle 1 , the computer 800 and the display 900 together form an exercise apparatus. Whilst the computer 800 is depicted as an IBM-compatible personal computer (PC), the invention is equally to other kinds of personal computers, such as Apple Computer's Mac range, or to games consoles such as Sony's Playstation 3, Nintendo's Wii or Microsoft Corporation's Xbox 360 (all RTMs) .

The computer 800 contains memory 801 containing program instructions and a central processing unit 802 (a microprocessor) which can run those

instructions. Instructions can be loaded into memory from DVD-ROM drive 803.

The programs which run on the computer form part of the embodiments of the invention. In a first embodiment, depicted in Figure 5 of the accompanying drawings, the computer 800 first, at step 850, determines the user's mass. In the simplest embodiment, it does this by asking the user via an on-screen prompt to enter their mass on keypad 805.

Alternatively, the computer could interrogate the pressure sensor 450 to determine the user's mass from the force he or she is applying to the saddle .

Next, at step 852, the computer determines a target power to mass ratio. This can be selected directly by a user, or there may be a selection of levels. Example target ratios for various fitness levels, genders and durations are shown in Figure 13 of the accompanying drawings. Normally, a user will only have access to the lowest levels until they have successfully completed a course at or above the target ratio for that level. The selection of the target ratio may include determining the user's body mass index (that is the user's mass in kilograms divided by the square of their height in metres), which is a useful, if slightly crude, tool for assessing the build of a user. Typically, the target ratio for women is a proportion of that for men - say, 15% less. Furthermore, different tables may be provided for users of different ages.

The memory 801 contains data relating to a simulated course 950 shown on an example display in Figures 6a to 6c. The user watches this display and commences exercise. The depiction is that of a race against a computer-simulated opponent. Representations of the user 951 and of the opponent 952 are shown on screen, as well as a depiction of the course 950. Whilst the depiction shown in the drawings is that of a side-on,

two-dimensional view, it is equally possible that a first person, three- dimensional view would be used.

From the data received from wheel speed sensor 200 and the load applied by the brake mechanism 20 or from a power sensor the computer 800 calculates at step 854 the power being exerted by the user, and from that their power-to-mass ratio. This is used to determine how the user is progressing through the course.

Conversely, the opponent is simulated as exercising at the target power- to-mass ratio. This may be conveniently be achieved by determining (typically at step 852) the equivalent average speed that would need to be exerted by the user given his mass in order to achieve the target power- to-weight ratio. The opponent is then simulated as travelling at that average speed, the average being taken over the entire course.

This leads to a comparison being made at step 856 between the user's current power-to-mass ratio and the target. If the user is exercising above the target, then as at step 862, the representation of the user 951 is displayed as being ahead of the opponent 952 (Figure 6a). If the user is exercising below the target, then at step 858, the representation of the user 951 is shown behind that of the opponent 952 (Figure 6b) . Where the user is exercising at the target power-to-mass ratio, as at step 860, then the user and the opponent are shown as neck-and-neck (Figure 6c) . Thus, the user will be encouraged to exercise harder, in order to win the simulated race, when they are at or below the target ratio.

The use of a ratio is useful, as it allows the same program to be used by multiple users of differing masses (rather than simply considering the power exerted by a user, for example).

The determination of the user's ratio at step 854 and the comparison of the ratio at step 856 then repeat. The comparison 856 may be instantaneous, or may include an element of averaging over the race in question, or over a moving window - say the last 30 seconds.

In an alternative embodiment, the position of the representation of the opponent 952 is shifted by an offset that varies over the race, but which is removed by the end of the race. This means that the user will sometimes be striving to work over their ratio and sometimes under - a form of interval training. The overall target ratio remains the same, however.

Opponents with different properties can be provided. Typically, the acceleration profiles of the opponents would differ, within the overall contstraint that their average power to weight ratio remain constant over the whole race. For example, a simulated "mountain biker" might be capable of high acceleration, but be unable to keep up high speeds for long times, whereas a simulated "road racer" might be capable of lower acceleration but higher speeds for longer times. Furthermore, their capability at handling gradients may differ - obviously, a "mountain biker" would find it easier to ascend gradients.

Furthermore, in order not to dishearten users that have selected too difficult a course, or to prevent users winning too easier on easy courses, the maximum distance the opponents can be ahead or behind the representation of the user is capped. This has the effect of "rubber banding" the representations of the opponents to the representation of the user and so prevent them from getting too far ahead or behind. In alternative, the microprocessor unit may be arranged to as to drop or increase the target ratio by a level should the opponents get too far ahead or behind.

In one embodiment, the power exerted by the opponent may be limited where the course includes corners and the opponent is cornering. The limitation on the power may depend on the radius of the curve. This simulates the real-life fact that one must slow down (or at least accelerate less) for corners in order to safely negotiate them. It also encourages the user to generate a good technique by appropriately easing off round corners, even though a stationary bike need not necessarily be steered.

The bicycle 1 further comprises a gear selector 442 (Figure 4) . This allows the user to select the ratio between the speed at which their pedals are moving and the speed with which the microprocessor moves their representation around the course. In order to prevent a user simply selecting the highest ratio, on moving up a gear, the microprocessor causes the brake mechanism 20 to apply a sudden spike to the load applied against the user.

This has the effect of immediately slowing their pedalling down, as would be the case if a real cyclist changed up a gear when travelling along the ground. The spike in load can be allowed to decay relatively gradually and exponentially compared with the initial application of the load, so that the user can gradually regain his previous cadence.

In an alternative or addition to a gear lever 442, the microprocessor may be arranged to change the gear ratios automatically. It will do this when the speed with which the user is pedalling drops below a certain threshold (say 70 rpm), in which case the gear will drop, or above a different threshold (say 80 rpm) , in which case the gear will increase and the user will experience the load spike explained above. This enables automatic gearing, without the complication of having to determine the force that a user is applying at that time.

However, the gear may only be changed if the speed passes the threshold for a certain length of time. For changing down a gear, this may be Is, whereas it may be 3s for changing up a gear.

Furthermore, the limits may depend upon whether the user is cycling up or downhill on the course. This is because it is good form to keep a higher cadence when climbing up hills (to maximise power and reduce loads by having a higher rpm) and good form to do downhill in higher gear at a slower rpm. For example, when going uphill (gradient more than 5% up), the limits may be 65 and 90 rpm respectively, whereas when going downhill (gradient more than 5% down) the limits may be 40 and 80 rpm respectively.

In addition, the limits may depend on whether the user is determined to be sitting in the seat or standing. This is because all cadences tend to be slower when standing. The limits may be reduced by, say, 10 rpm, when the user is standing.

If the user actuates the brake actuator 150, then the microprocessor will increase the load on the brake mechanism 20, simulating the effect of a real world brake by slowing the flywheel down so that the eventual cadence equates to the slower speed that would have been achieved had the gear change been on a real- world bicycle.

Should the user steer off the suggested course, then the microprocessor will increase the load as a warning to the user that they have strayed. This could either be a transient increase, lasting of the order of Is, or a continued increase until they return to the correct path, and may even stay after the user returns to the path as a penalty. The increase may be larger the longer a user cycles off the correct path.

In a second embodiment of the invention shown in Figure 7 of the accompanying drawings, a plurality - here four - of exercise bicycles Ia, Ib, Ic, Id are provided connected to a central server 800. Each exercise bicycle Ia, Ib, Ic, Id is provided with a display 900 (although there could be one common display) . The central server 800 and displays 900 are, as far as hardware is concerned, the same as the computer 800 and display 900 of the first embodiment.

This set up allows four users to race each other. However, it is common for groups of friends or so on that wish to race one another to have differing levels of fitness. Accordingly, each user is assigned a handicap. The handicap may simple be self-assigned by each user depending upon their perceived levels of fitness, or may be assessed by previous experience with the equipment forming this embodiment of the invention.

Indeed, they may be taken from the fitness levels that the user would normally exercise at with the embodiment of the first aspect of the invention. The users could take the appropriate power to weight ratio from the table of Figure 13 and then use that to set all the handicaps relative to one another. For example, for a 10 minute workout, if one player is male at level 15, the appropriate ratio is 2.28W/kg. If the other is a male at level 8, the appropriate ratio is 1.55W/kg. The ratio of one to the other is 147%, and so the fitter user receives a handicap on their mass, rolling resistance and frontal area for wind resistance as will be explained below.

The method is depicted in Figure 8 of the accompanying drawings. As in the first embodiment, the users' masses are determined at step 1150 by the computer, whether by direct entry or measurement via pressure sensor 450. The computer also determines at step 1152 the handicap of each user; again, this is by direct entry using the keypad 805.

The users commence exercising on their bicycles. Their progress is again depicted on the displays 900 (shown in Figure 9) as a race over a course 1250 held in memory 803 of the computer 800. On any given screen, there will be a depiction of a user 1251, and of his or her opponents 1252, 1253, 1254.

At step 1154, the computer determines each user's progress through the course. This is calculated based upon the output of the sensors, and most particularly the speed sensor 200. The mass of each user as offset by their handicap is used in simulating how far the user progresses through the course.

In order to determine the load to be applied to each user's bike, a physics model is applied. This operates as follows.

It is to be noted that all the values are smoothed so the calculated value is the one it tends to over a brief period of time rather than suddenly shifting the load value for changing circumstances.

The load is eventually calculated as a value between 0 and 255, 0 being the lowest, and 255 the highest.

The load is calculated from the power curves for various RPMs that the rider is pedalling at. These are used as a reverse lookup, giving a load value looked up from the power calculated (see below) .

Onto this calculated load value an extra nudge is given when you change up a gear.

This spike is based on the relativity of the change in the gear. If it is a bigger change - a bigger spike is applied to help slow the flywheel quickly as if in contact with a real load.

In an enhancement to this, we take the change in the gear multiplied by the cadence to give the change in speed which gives acceleration and apply an additional load based on F = ma.

Additionally, an extra amount of load (or reduction in load) is applied based on the difference between the calculated cadence and the flywheel speed. This can be scaled by a flywheel lag resistance. This is where the user has slowed their pedalling but (due to the simulation) the load being applied has not slowed the flywheel enough relative to the change in cadence.

The power needed to propel the bike at its current speed is worked out as:

RollingResistance + WindResistance + Gravity + BrakingForce + FitnessMinimum

The BrakingForce is calculated quite simply as the maximum BreakingPower multiplied by the breaking input from the bike (as selected by the user using their brake actuator) .

The FitnessMinimum value is there to provide a floor value on the flyweight resistance. It is a constant throughout a race.

Rolling resistance is calculated as:

Gravity ( = 9.8) x RiderMass x speed x RollingCoefficient x RearWheelCoefficient

The Rider Weight has the handicap applied to it.

The RearWheelCoefficent depends on the surface being ridden over, as specified by the various SurfaceType values in the script files for the courses . Also, this varies relative to the type of simulated bike and choice of tyres.

This whole value is than scaled according to the current gear ratio by a value equal to

1.0 + (currentGearRatio - GearWindRollCenter)/GearWindRollScale

Wind resistance is calculated as:

WindCoefficient x AirResistance( = 1.226) x FrontalArea x speed 2

Frontal Area is 1.0 if the rider is seated on the saddle, and 1.25 otherwise. With the ultrasonic sensors we can apply this much better based on the rider's actual position - down to, eg, 0.6 if in the crouch, 1.0 is seated, 1.25 if hanging off the back and 1.5 if standing tall. We also have a range of different coefficient based on the choice of bike (the downhill bike is 1.2 and the cross-country bike is 0.9 - simulating the narrower bars therefore smaller frontal areas) .

As with RollingResistance, this is then scaled by a value equal to

1.0 + (currentGearRatio - GearWindRollCenterJ/GearWindRollScale

The effect of gravity is calculated as:

RiderMass x gravity ( = 9.8) x gradient

Again, the Rider's Weight can be given a handicap modifier in multiplayer games.

The Gradient will be negative if the user is going downhill, positive for uphill and zero on the flat meaning that the gravity modifier can increase of decrease the power required.

The results are then displayed on the screen (step 1156) - the relative positions of the users will depend on their progression through the course relative to each other. The determination of progression through the course 1154 and display on the displays 1156 repeats until all the competitors complete the race.

In any simulation of a bicycling experience, it is important that the feel of the system is realistic, particularly when it comes to the steering of the bicycle. The handlebar assembly comprises return springs 108a and 108b. These bias the handlebars 120 back to a central, neutral, straight- ahead position. As such, this spring can be used to synthesise a more realistic feel for the steering of the bicycle.

A third embodiment of the invention makes use of this feature. It uses the hardware of the first aspect of the invention, but the skilled man would have little trouble extending it to other embodiments. In this embodiment, the depiction of the progress of the representation of the user is shown from a first person, three-dimension point of view as depicted in Figure 11 of the accompanying drawings. A representation of a user 1401 is depicted on a bicycle 1402 travelling along a course 1403. Data describing the course are held in the memory 803 of the computer 800.

RECTIFIED SHEET (RULE 91) ISA/EP

In order to successfully traverse the course, the user will need to steer round the various bends in the course 1403. The computer makes use of the output from the steering angle sensor 350 to determine the angle at which the user is holding the handlebars 350. However, in order to improve the steering feel, the steering is mapped as shown in Figure 10 of the accompanying drawings. In this, the output of the steering angle sensor 350 is mapped by a mapping unit 1301 embodied by software running on the computer. The output of this mapping unit is used in the steering algorithm 1302 of the computer 800 in calculating how the representation of the user 1401 steers through the course 1403.

The mapping unit 1301 itself maps the input measured steering angle to a mapped steering angle, so that as the speed of the representation of the user through the course increases, the effect of changes in the measured steering angle has less effect on the mapped steering angle.

In this example, the scaling of the angle may be a multiplicating scale as follows:

Here, a dead zone is applied which means it takes the user to turn the bars + /- 20% of the turn before any change in the mapped steering output is felt. Moving up to 80% of the steering range applies only up to 50%

of the "mapped output signal", then finally the output gets up to 100% across the last 20% of the range of movement. This desensitises the physical sensing in the middle, maps it slowly over the next range.

Further to the above mapping, a further multiplicative factor dependent upon the speed of the user through the course is applied. This has the form below:

Accordingly, it is only possible to get the maximum, 95% mapped steering angle output if the steering bars were turned to maximum and the bicycle was moving through the course at less than 5 km/h. This factor is increased for the case where the user is standing.

The angle of lean of the handlebars can also be mapped in the same way; however, the multiplicative function will instead increase with speed, as the bicycle would become more sensitive to being leant at speed. An example table follows:

The speed of the user's representation is based upon the measured speed of the exercise bicycle as determined by the speed sensor 200, possibly as modified by the techniques of either of the first two embodiments of the invention.

By mapping the steering angle such that movement of the handlebars has less effect at higher speeds means that at higher speeds the user will have to turn the handlebars further and so exert more of a force against return springs 108a, 108b. They will therefore feel more of a force steering at higher speeds, in line with the true feeling of steering at higher speeds.

In an extension to this embodiment, the computer can make much use of the outputs of the various sensors in changing the appearance of the representation of the user. This is depicted in Figure 12of the accompanying drawings. The rider position sensor 400 is used to determine whether the rider is sitting down in the seat, standing up, leaning forwards or sitting up as discussed above. This can be mirrored

in the representation of the user 1401 displayed on the display 900. In Figure 12, the user is depicted sitting upright (solid lines) , sitting leaning forward (dashed lines) and standing up (dot-dash lines) .

The pedal position sensor 500 can be used to model the representation of the pedals 1501 on the bicycle 1402. The position of the pedals of the exercise bicycle 2 is known from the output of the pedal position sensor 200 and so the pedals 1501 of the representation of the bicycle can be shown at the same position 1502 as the user cycles. Furthermore, as the steering of the user is simulated, the representation of the bicycle can be shown to lean 1503 as it steers.

In this case, the computer 800 also calculates the distance of the pedals above the simulated ground of the course 1403. Should the pedals hit the ground, the computer will either display a warning 1405 or display the representation of the user 1401 crashing. This encourages proper technique of keeping the inner pedal higher when cornering.

The output of the steering angle sensor 350, as mapped by the mapping unit 1301 , can be used to depict the handlebars of the representation of the bicycle rotating 1504.