First, let’s do a little checklist of all the hardware you need to enjoy these kinds of virtual training apps in full.
You’ll need one of these three devices:
Then, one of these three tools:
• A smart trainer – it’s best for a realistic ride quality including simulating road resistance and incline
• Power meter – great for accurate workout data
• Classic trainer with speed/cadence sensor – more affordable than a smart trainer but with not as realistic results as power is virtually calculated, also no resistance control
Important side note: before you download a free app or fork some cash for a subscription, be sure to check if all your devices have an operational system compatible with the training platform you chose. We also published a handy guide on how to set up your indoor training space a while ago, be sure to check it out. Now onto the apps themselves.
Although the price might deter a few potential riders, TrainerRoad is worth every penny of that monthly subscription. It offers a clean user interface, it’s based on FTP (functional threshold training) and, most importantly, contains a huge workout catalogue of about 2,000, which can also be modified to “Do outside” versions as soon as riding out is feasible.
It’s best for focused training and performance progression and the training plans are built around the rider’s goals. The plans are composed and tweaked by Trainer Road’s Head Coach Chad Timmerman who has over 25 years of experience. Another great thing about TrainerRoad is that it offers a customized experience according to your preferred cycling discipline – be it time trial, cyclocross, climbing, road racing, triathlon or general fitness riding.
Make sure to calibrate that trainer or power meter! pic.twitter.com/WqYQleaJCD
— trainerroad (@TrainerRoad) November 2, 2020
2. The SufferFest
The first thing you notice about The SufferFest is the special universe you find yourself in. You follow dark-humoured storylines and sessions are set in ‘Sufferlandria’ where you often represent the Sufferlandrian team. What started as a batch of single-download videos the founder David McQuillen threw together in his spare time became a full-blown training site. What he did was basically take a real UCI race footage and apply some music and a funny storyline you have to follow to hit your goals and voilà – The SufferFest was born.
Besides cycling, the cycling app will cover all your activity bases also featuring running, strength and mental training, and yoga sessions. Just like with TrainerRoad, The SufferFest can also base its intervals off FTP but they also developed their own evaluation tool called 4DP, which takes into account your neuromuscular, anaerobic capacity and threshold to better tailor your workouts. And if you’ve seen all the storylines and are growing a bit weary of them, the new app version also offers a “no-vid” section just for pure training.
Just in time for the indoor season, we're dropping two new SUF workouts – The Cobbler & The Attacker!!
— Wahoo SYSTM (@WahooSYSTM) October 26, 2020
Of course, we couldn’t not feature the app we praise at almost every turn. Rouvy is perfect for those who don’t have a strict idea or a precise plan with their training – it simply offers a bit of everything but without breaking the bank. It’s available for all major OS and all routes control your connected trainer to give you a life-like experience of what you see on the screen. Feel like riding up Mont Ventoux? No problem with Rouvy.
Their outdoor route catalogue is quite sizeable and the plans feature structured workouts and virtual racing where you might chase time against the app or invite some of our friends to join in AR (augmented reality) – you’ll see them on the screen right alongside your virtual avatar on the road. Rouvy also stands out on our list because one of the cheapest monthly subscriptions, compared to cycling apps of similar quality and range of features.
Read a story of ROUVY athletes! 🙋♂️🚴🇪🇸
Meet Larry, a 60+ old rider, who is taking part in all of the La Vuelta stages.
How has his look on professional racing changed after riding the same routes as the PROs on the Vuelta?
— ROUVY (@gorouvy) November 4, 2020
4. RGT Cycling App (Road Grand Tours)
If you’re looking for realistic virtual-world riding with or against other cyclists around the globe, look no further than RGT Cycling. Despite offering only eight real-world rides so far, one can’t help but notice that the app was no doubt developed by experienced gamers-slash-riders thanks to the sheer realistic feel. It could easily be compared to Zwift but Road Grand Tours team has worked on improved graphics and precise rider movements when cornering, drafting or braking, which are all integrated into the gameplay.
The app is free to access but you can get a monthly Premium subscription that will unlock Magic Roads, structured workouts and will allow you to organise rides and events with other paying users.
🏁 TORO ONE DAY 🏁
🏁 TWO DAYS 🏁
Race our recreation of Stage 13’s – Muros to Mirador de Ezaro.
➡️1.8km climb – 14% avg
Join the event in the Mobile App.
— RGT Cycling (@rgt_cycling) November 4, 2020
The Spanish company BKool originally started out as an indoor trainer manufacturer but eventually decided to pursue creating riding software full time. Their namesake app is great for setting goal and challenges. They focus solely on providing the best indoor riding experience no matter what trainer you use and, with over 100,000 active users, you might say that they’re certainly onto something.
You can choose from four types of sessions: ‘Route’ for road riders with Grand Tours at heart, ‘ Workouts’ for personal goals, ‘Velodrome’ to give you that Keirin and pursuit race feel, and the must-have FTP test. The unique thing about BKool is that you can choose from three points of view and switch them as you like – either ride in the first-person view, with a virtual 3D avatar or you can even use the map view.
Do you feel part of #TeamUnlimited?
Let's prove it!💪
— BKOOL (@BkoolSport) November 2, 2020
Their company motto states “Less virtual, more reality” and that is precisely what you’ll get. The best features about the FulGaz app are plenty: a huge catalogue of rides, real-ride footage, physics-modelled rider and road surface responses, immersive feeling and more. The app not only adjusts resistance based on what’s happening on screen but even the footage will realistically react to your performance and how you’re currently riding.
FulGaz takes your weight and power into account and uses real elevation data control the smart trainer accordingly. The 4K footage has been from the handlebar POV and the route library now offers 596 rides ranging from the infamous Alpe D’Huez to Sunshine Canyon in Colorado.
— FulGaz App (@FulGazApp) October 26, 2020
It’s a name being thrown about and justly so – Zwift serves as a model example of an all-round indoor cycling app. The rides take place in a variety of real environment and made-up fantastic worlds such as Watopia (featuring e.g. the lush Mayan Jungle map) and will both challenge and entertain you along the way. Zwift’s key feature is that it allows indoor cyclists to join group rides where they can battle it out against others without leaving the comfort zone of their homes.
The true testament to Zwift’s rideability, interactivity and good programming is that the annual National E-Racing Championships and the debut 2020 UCI E-Racing World Champs were held on the platform. You can customize your avatar, have structured workouts, there’s always someone to ride with and the app’s developer team adds new features and routes pretty regularly. The app wasn’t the first to offer virtual riding but it spearheaded introducing the social aspect to it – in Wattopia, you can chat with and even draft off of your riding mates. Zwift is truly leading the way in gamifyng indoor training.
Let the FUN-DO action begin! 🤩 The Zwift Fondo Series returns Nov 8th! 🚴♀️🚴♂️
— Zwift (@GoZwift) November 5, 2020
8. Tacx Training
Tacx is a smart trainer manufacturer so it comes as no surprise they eventually came up with their own training software. Like some other apps, it lets you enjoy riding anywhere from the Alps to the spring classics via high-quality videos. If you upload your Strava or GPS data and routes, it will create 3D riding maps for you to follow.
The biggest downside is that it’s only compatible with Tacx smart trainers, so if you don’t have one, you are sure to choose from some of the cycling apps above.
When the real or virtual road kicks up, power to weight ratio comes into play. Here's why it matters and what you can do to improve yours.
— Tacx (@tacx) October 14, 2020
Let us know if we’ve missed any of your favourite cycling apps. Stay fit and #StayNegative (COVID-19-wise, of course!)