Over the years, I’ve come across many indoor training tools, either as platform or software package, that (claim) to make your ‘mind-numbingly dull’ indoor training more bearable. And at times I’ve written short reviews on them.
As the current indoor season comes to a close, I’m wrapping up my experiences, hoping this will be useful for you.
Last update to this post: November 1, 2016
First off, I should mention that I actually use several of these tools myself. While I enjoy the possibilities that CVT offers, I sometimes just want to watch a high quality video, which I can only find in VeloReality and Tacx TTS.
And while Zwift probably offers the best experience if you don’t mind riding virtual reality only and are into online racing and social (group) rides, I do and I’m not, so I have experienced that after a while, it does get a bit boring, at least for me…
So, as with your choice of online platform to store/share your activities with your friends with, there probably is no ‘one size fits all’, but since a lot of functionality is available in free versions of these tools, you should be able to mix-and-match to satisfy your particular needs 🙂
And yes, I am aware that there are other (serious) contenders out there that have been around for a while – like TrainerRoad and the Sufferfest – and many more that are new or currently in development. At present, I’m particularly interested in Kinomap and Road Grand Tours, which I will try and add in this review in the near future – in the meantime, if you want more reviews, hop over to DCR’s website.
CycleOps VirtualTraining (CVT) is platform that became more attractive when I upgraded the iGenius to a smart model and got Paula a Vortex Smart too. It has a desktop version as well as a smartphone / tablet app (iOS and Android).
As with Zwift and Tacx TTS, I actually only use the desktop version, because that’s hooked up to a 42″smart tv. It performs better than when streaming off a tablet or smartphone, plus the quality of the films is (much) better.
There is a big selection of routes available, many of those with filmed footage. The films by CVT (look for author vtapp) are – in general – of better quality, but not as good as those offered by Tacx*. However, the possibility of creating and uploading your own footage, to ride again during the indoor season, is a very nice addition.
Since I got myself an action cam with GPS (Sony AS200VR), I’m looking forward to creating my first ‘Real Life Video’. CVT offers a good ‘route creation and editor tool’ too, which also enables ‘smoothing’ of the profile before you upload it to the cloud. This may come in handy, as I have experienced that GPS on many devices can be a good deal off from the truth, resulting in erratic profiles.
The latest version of the desktop software offers ‘multiride’, meaning you can hook up more than one smart trainer to your PC and ride together. This was already possible, by using two desktops, but it’s a good addition nonetheless. Obviously, you can also ride with anyone, anywhere in the world…
They also offer you virtual challenges – distance, climbing – sometimes just for the badge, but often with a prize (randomly chosen winners) attached to it. And for those in need of an extra (motivational) challenge, you have the possibility to build a ‘Career’ – I have advanced to ‘Professional’ so far 🙂
CVT website here – subscription starts at $6.99/mo, but the best option is the ‘Premium’ package, starting at $10/mo for yearly subscriptions, which offers you access to all platforms, plus a ‘two user’ license…
*Tacx films are probably the best from a quality point of view – they’re also offered by VeloReality – but they don’t come cheap: prices start at €9.95 for a download version of a short(-ish) ride.
I’ve been trying out Zwift when it was still in beta, but having an Ant+ only Tacx iGenius, it didn’t work very well. However, Zwift went ‘1.0’ late last year, I upgraded the Tacx with a Ant+ FE-C brake unit and Strava gave me two ‘free’ bonus months on Zwift, so I gave it another shot.
After some initial troubleshooting, I finally got it to work right and after my bonus expired ‘zwiftly’, I decided to go for a paid ($10/mo) subscription. Even though you can cancel or suspend anytime – i.e. during summer – continuing to pay the fee, helps develop the platform even more and I’m confident it’s a ‘sound’ investment.
Besides, there will be plenty of days during summer that are just too bad for a wimp like me to go out, and having a dedicated bike on the trainer, makes it very easy to hop on and do some zwifting instead.
If you’re looking for a fun and mostly social* platform to spend your often boring indoor training hours on, give Zwift a try. If you’re looking for a more enjoyable way to get through your ‘recovery rides’ and you’re anything like me, forget it – I find it near impossible to resist going after that jersey, whatever the color…
Zwift website here – there are also numerous helpful resources, to get you set up/started, or to help you troubleshoot a problem. A good Facebook group to get yourself into would be ‘Zwift Riders‘ and you’ll find links to all other resources there.
*Mostly, because – as on any such platform, or Strava – there are always people in or on there that are not. Also, ‘cheating’ seems to be a recurring issue, which – as sad as it may be – you should just ignore.
Bkool & FulGaz
FulGaz offers many ‘real life videos’ like CVT or Tacx, but many – if not most – are filmed from a bicycle. I do not particularly like that kind of footage – apart from the handlebars, shifters and other visible cyclist’s attributes or even other cyclists ‘around you’, the images often sway with the motion of the bike.
But, that is a personal preference and if you’re the opposite and just like to ride ‘in the bunch’, it offers sufficient variety. However, it’s smartphone / tablet only and Apple only at that. Sadly, it doesn’t work well with Apple TV (yet) and you’ll need the lightning to HDMI adapter to get it hooked up to your big screen, which kind of defies the purpose.
Probably the most attractive part of FulGaz is that it offers footage from famous events and routes like the Tour de France, Ironman races and the Olympics.
Bkool offers much more than RLV only – it’s a mixture of that AND Zwift. It has virtual worlds, velodromes, multiplayer races and apparently it offers ‘3D real weather’, meaning you can set/simulate whether or not it rains, what type of wind you’re ‘enjoying’, etc.
However, it was initially (exclusively) set up around their own smart trainer(s) and although it’s now getting more and more open to other brands of trainers as well, I could not yet get it to play nice with my Tacx. At least not in the time I had available on the free trial and I was not yet ready to dive in and get a paid subscription, which I think starts at around €10/mo, but I cannot easily verify that on the website…
Bkool looks very promising to me though, and I will check back often and eventually try it with a subscription, once I’m certain it will work with our trainers.
I also had a look at VeloReality
, but couldn’t get that work properly at all and frankly, it doesn’t offer much more than Tacx TTS. The only advantage is that the software is free, but TTS Advanced came with my iGenius, so for me that’s not much of an issue. But if you’re looking for a good alternative for TTS, give it a try – both for quality and price, the films are equal to the ‘short rides’ / downloads that Tacx is offering…
I eventually got it work not too long after posting this, and it has one major advantage over TTS, in that it offers ‘virtual gearing’. Virtual gearing is found in Zwift as well, where it is confusingly labeled ‘difficulty slider’, but the principle is the same.
If you enable virtual gearing, you can set it to ‘top’ at – say – 10% inclines max and you can also set a minimum below which you do not want any modification. This means if the road incline is more than the minimum – 5% in my case – the program will gradually adapt resistance, up to the set maximum.
I don’t know the exact numbers, but for example: 6% corresponds to or becomes 5.4%, 8% becomes 6.1%, 10% will ‘feel’ like 7.9% and 16% will not feel more difficult than 10%. However, your virtual speed is also reduced – Watts are Watts and you’re not actually putting out more, so you’ll go slower. But, at least you’ll have enough gears to continue to pedal more comfortably, i.e. with higher RPM, instead of stomping your virtual way up.
Tacx’s TTS only offers a ‘power mode’, which – in the reduced mode – is like having a small motor in your bike – you’ll go faster, without having to increase your effort (Watts output)…
And while the author of much of the video footage VeloReality sells is the same, I cannot use my already purchased Tacx films – I have bought a couple (okay: a few more than a couple) but I’m not keen on spending a lot more on virtually duplicating my collection. Plus, it’s rumored that Tacx will release a new player, which would also incorporate virtual gearing…
If you are a number/data/statistics nerd, you’re probably using Golden Cheetah or TrainingPeaks WKO to analyze your workouts. Obviously, this will also depend on the hardware you have available, like a power meter, and your level of competitiveness.
As WKO was too pricey for my taste and the free Golden Cheetah made me dizzy (but I’m still trying to master that too), I took a shot at PerfPRO Studio.
PerfPRO Studio is a stand-alone training application, supporting more than one connected trainer at a time too. It comes standard with many workouts (including the Sufferfest*) pre-installed, but it will also let you ride RLV, provided you have a GPX file with your video (Tacx own TTS files won’t work).
And if you want to build up and sync a workout from your own action cam video you can do that too. This is similar to CVT functionality – I have not tried this yet either and it may well be easier to use Sony’s own software for this.
To satisfy your need for numbers and graphs, PerfPRO Analyzer is included in the package. This will analyze ALL of your workouts (bike, run, swim) with data taken from just about any device (Garmin, PowerTap, Stages, SRM, Tacx). It is a complete performance analysis tool producing more detailed (statistical) information on your performance than you can imagine.
Unless you’re used to any of the other power packages, of course – I have barely scratched the surface, but I’m hoping to master it by the time I want to get ready for another mad climbing expedition in the Alps.
PerfPro website – full license (3 rider limit, to be used on max 2 PC’s) is $99.95
*No videos are included – you will still need to buy them if you want the full workout.