At the moment, training has been challenging; not because of fitness although I doubt that anyone is either not as fit or fast as they would like. In reality, despite having been injured and requiring surgery, my fitness is returning.
The problem has been the weather, we’re under the third flood warning inside a month now in West Yorkshire and frankly the trails are waterlogged. I am also reasonably considerate of my environment and realise that riding washed out trails and even fire roads is simply destructive to the trails, causing far more erosion than I am happy with. Therefore, it’s that time of year when ‘turbo training’ becomes sensible.
Basically, this indoor cycling with a twist. Personally, my budget meant sticking with a more basic ‘Smart Trainer’, a TACX Satori, which is ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible and links to various apps.
Now, personally, I like metrics: I like facts, figures, graphics and being able to assess progress or weakness. My autistic brain works well with being able to look over these metrics and compare one week with another and one ride with that performed by another rider. This is possibly less important if you’re not intending to compete, but for me, in preparation to compete, it’s invaluable information.
Indoor cycling is, by and large, a hot, sweaty and highly uncomfortable task; many referring to their sessions as ‘a pain cave’. It hurts, it’s also incredibly boring. Hence, the industry has created various apps, linking to these Smart Trainers to make it less dull.
In interests of getting the best deal, all of these are essentially a premium product, i.e. you have to pay for any real functionality. All of them offer a limited free trial, some a week and others up to a month, or a limited mileage. Make no mistakes, this is now big business with apps such as Swift having a massive share of the market and sponsoring large scale corporate events and competitions as well as having close sponsorship links with events including the UCI Road Racing World Cup.
So I thought that I would give some of these a short review; the benefits and the pitfalls as well as my personal opinions. I will state that I do not receive any endorsements, sponsorships or inducements at all from any of the companies mentioned here.
As I said, big business: According to Wikipedia, as of January 2018, there were over 550,000 accounts. According to Forbes, the company is estimated to be worth $180 million.
This particular app blends training with the world of computer gaming. Allowing riders (and runners with a compatible treadmill) to compete on various courses, including UCI World Championship stages and one which is purely fictitious, called Wattopia.
It’s rather social, you can join friends on rides, compete in events and there are a limited number of training plans: although, these are all very specific to road racing. The app is compatible to Apple TV and, as I am an Apple fanboy, this appealed to me. However, I found constant glitches with the system between my trainer and the app itself. The avatar representing myself only seemed to pedal on rare occasions, the app rarely recognised my cadence (speed of pedal rotation) and this eventually bugged me.
Add to that, it was rather buggy in recognising my heart rate monitor. I also tried both a Bluetooth and ANT+ heart rate sensor.
For the most expensive product, it simply didn’t work for me.
I am aware, although I haven’t tried it, that there is now a mountain bike trail in Beta stages but this requires another sensor and to be honest, I’m not going to spend the money on something that isn’t perfect.
Appropriately named, this is a serious training app for serious people. It’s not at all game-like. Again, it’s orientated towards road cycling, but I feel that it’s something I just have to tolerate; road cycling attracts far more money in most of the world and many roadies still think of mountain bikers as neanderthals or stoners (not that MTB attracts anywhere near the drug cheating, but that’s an aside.)
Graphics on this app are simply footage taken from various stage races; the content is actually secondary to the training programme itself. It also offers a rather holistic training programme; incorporating motivational training and yoga.
In short, for me, there is some real positive benefits to this app for my purposes. What let’s it down is that watching race footage from road stage races, is, in my opinion as a mountain biker, rather boring.
I installed this two days ago. I uninstalled it today. Ride information doesn’t seem to be able to synch to social media, or to Garmin Connect or Strava; both of which I use to record my rides.
The video footage is also rather limited and a lot of rides seem to be simply following a trail on a map. The video footage is nice when it’s available, although strangely the developers felt the need to incorporate a dog taking a crap in the video footage; not sure why, but I rather suspect that the childish joke would get rather tired after the one time.
I’m currently still on my free trial, but so far this seems reasonably good. However, it’s still not ticking all of the boxes.
Footage is very clear, there plenty of routes to ride, you can ride GPX tracks if you wish and upload your own route maps. It’s early days on this app, so I’m going to hold off on a lengthy review at this stage. However, Tacx has been acquired by Garmin, yet, there is not an obvious way to upload virtual rides to Garmin Connect: I feel that as a company, this is missing a trick.
As I’ve said, I don’t think that any one product is perfect, nothing actually beats being able to simply get out and ride, enjoy being in the outdoors and feeling the wind on your face and fresh air feeling your lungs. However, under the current lousy weather conditions, indoor training has it’s place.