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Elite SA fitness centre one of a kind

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If it had rained as heavily as predicted two Saturdays back, David Parsons’ business would have received a 5-star endorsement before it even opened.

With talk of a “once in 30 years” downpour, international teams in Adelaide for the Tour Down Under asked if he could have his new cycle training facilities on Pulteney Street ready for them to train off-road but still at an elite level.

He made sure they were, only to be disappointed by a bright sunny day.

“I was probably the only cyclist in Adelaide hoping it would pour down,” said Parsons, who until recently rode with a professional team in Belgium.

The contact came via Adelaide-based 2004 TDU winner Patrick Jonker, who has been a mentor to Parsons and understands the calibre of the centre he is establishing at Ergo Fitness. It’s the only one of its kind in Australia, using state-of-the-art equipment.

While developing Ergo (which is a widely-used nickname for cycling trainers) he also became part of The Engine Room, a networking and development concept established as a catalyst to help Adelaide businesses reach their potential and receive some recognition at home.

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To look at it’s just seven bikes on stands (or, more accurately, seven stands for bikes, as most people bring their own) in front of a large video screen.

The game changer is the small but expensive load unit placed close to the back wheel. This allows the customised computer system to monitor and measure rider performance based on the power they are generating rather than, as with conventional systems, their heart rate.

“Heart rate can be affected by variables such as caffeine or tiredness and so does not always give you an honest picture of your performance that day,” Parsons said.

The load units also allow side-to-side movement on the bike, thus simulating real riding conditions, and optical sensors can read your cadence and tell whether you are pedalling smoothly and in balance, or are favouring one side or the other.

Parsons recently worked one-on-one with a keen cyclist recovering from a stroke. The system was able to tell them that, rather than being weak on the affected left side, the rider had worked so hard on a standard fitness bike to get back into shape that he was actually over compensating and delivering more power on the left.

For group training sessions, the aim is to measure every possible parameter and to set specific conditions for all riders on each “ride”, however different their fitness levels and experience may be. A plethora of data is recorded every second and displayed on the screen.

The computer program will demand that everyone move to, say, level 5 output at a certain point of the ride (which on the screen may be a nasty hill climb in the Alps), but each individual’s “level 5” will depend on their fitness levels and training aims.

Parsons imports most of the equipment from the US, but customises it to suit specific needs.

His head coach, Kevin McIntosh, says “power training” is now the accepted approach for leading cycling teams, though there are still surprisingly few such centres in Europe.

“Sometimes even established countries are slow to pick up on things, particularly where they don’t have central training institutes to set the pace,” he said.

McIntosh knows more than most about training programs. He is a former head coach of the Institute of Sport cycling divisions in Victoria and WA and, more recently, was national coach in cycling-mad Korea.

He previously coached Parsons and later hired him as a junior coach to help the Koreans gain strength and endurance.

In 2012 Parsons moved to Belgium with Pro Cycling Team Tomacc. He had success and was offered another contract, but decided to come home to Adelaide to explore new business and cycling options – and Ergo was the result.

Life isn’t all business, however. Parsons rides as a pilot for the world-renowned Paralympic cyclist and multiple gold medallist Kieran Modra, and a trip to the Rio Olympics is on the cards.

And he’s still only 24, so a return to Europe is far from out of question. In fact, a successful business venture may provide the financial security to again live the dream.

Ergo Fitness opens to the public on Monday. Classes will cater for all levels of expertise in the same session, and solo training is an option.

This article is part of a special Engine Room series in InDaily which features some of the “undiscovered gems” of SA business.

The Engine Room is dedicated to championing the growth of South Australian companies – for more information go to www.theengroom.com.au.

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