We can surely all agree that nothing beats the freedom of riding on an open road or trail. Nevertheless, winter is approaching fast and, along with a variety of other reasons, sometimes it is just necessary to ride indoors. A practical solutional, turbo trainers have come a long way since they first hit the market. These days, there’s also a great selection of online apps to provide you with an interactive and immersive indoor cycling experience.
Zwift has been the front-runner in the training app race for a while now and not without a reason. Essentially a huge multiplayer game, one of Zwift’s most attractive features is the ability to ride in a virtual world against or alongside other people from across the globe. It’s totally immersive and there are many organised events, from training rides to races. You can also follow plans or customize your own workout, and it’s worth mentioning that Zwift is moving into e-sports as well. They’ve recently launched KISS Super League, which brings together professional cyclists as well as launching the British Cycling e-sport championships.
But although Zwift might be getting most of the attention at the moment, there are many other options to choose from that offer a somewhat different experience. This is by no means an exhaustive list but here are some of our top picks for Zwift alternatives and the features they provide.
Less social than Zwift, TrainerRoad is more about getting fit and achieving your goals quickly. It uses a clean graphical interface that provides all the metrics you need to track your efforts and connected sensors can monitor heart rate, cadence and power. By far though, TrainerRoad’s biggest appeal is the vast number of workouts and training plans on offer. With over a thousand workouts to choose from, you’ll have no problem finding something ideally suited to your tastes and requirements. What’s more, there are 100+ training plans to help keep you focused over the long term. Although it doesn’t give you the immersive experience that some of the other options can, you’re sure to make some serious progress if you stick with this one.
This app includes 2,000 high-quality video routes, multiple workouts, group rides, online races, motivating challenges and a career program. The most interesting thing is the Augmented Routes, which is a unique feature based on augmented reality. AR combines high-quality 2D video routes with animated 3D Riders and objects. Nothing beats seeing your competitors on the road. Connects with Smart Control trainers using iOS or Android apps or Bluetooth® Smart-equipped Windows computers.
Among the first training services to make a name for itself, Sufferfest was ahead of its time in combining actual pro racing footage with instructions telling you when to ride easy and when to attack. They’ve become a lot more sophisticated since the early days but are still rooted in the same solid evidence that supports interval training. With more than 50 structured interval workouts available, the app is designed to help you reach your goals using race footage, music and compelling storylines that help keep you distracted and pedalling. The company has also developed what it calls Four-Dimensional Power, which uses four metrics to help personalise the workouts to your exact needs. Above and beyond the actual training, Sufferest now also offers yoga, mental and strength training programmes aimed at the needs of cyclists.
Moving towards the world of VR and offering a 3D experience, Bkool is focusing their efforts on developing virtual options for all major climbs. The Bkool Simulator software provides real-life footage shot from a cyclist’s point of view with a large variety of routes to choose from. Best experienced with a smart turbo, you’ll notice that the resistance will vary with the gradient of the hill and the footage will play faster as you pedal harder. It does give you the escape of an immersive environment, but the real-world footage is a nice alternative to those who don’t enjoy pedalling along imaginary roads. If you want to get a real sense of the time and effort it would take you to climb a particular hill, accounting for real weather and headwind, this is a great option. Maybe you’ve got a cycling holiday coming up and are eager to do some filming? With Bkool, you can create your own video sessions to ride once your back at home.
If you’ve got a Tacx trainer, you’re probably aware that the company has also developed its own training software. Although there were a few snags in the beginning, especially for Mac users, they seem to have resolved the problems and are now providing high-quality films of many an attractive destination. The library is growing all the time and you can also upload your own routes by linking your Strava account or uploading GPS data and following a 3D map view.
Let nothing stand between you and your ride. Cycle year-round with Edge® bike computers, Tacx® indoor smart trainers and more. Get the @Garmin gear you need today: https://t.co/1MlclYaZxA pic.twitter.com/WithGF07Ub
— Tacx (@tacx) October 29, 2019
Using real footage from road races, FulGaz is a fairly new app that allows you to tackle everything from the Alpe d’Huez to the Butler Creek Gravel Ride from the comfort of your home. Like other apps mentioned here, the footage will move according to your performance and there are currently 415 routes and 7,903 km on offer to explore. A fun way to experience some of the routes you might have only dreamed about riding in the past, FulGaz is about as close to the real thing as it gets.
As you can see, you have lots of options. Most of these apps are just continuing to get better and are constantly adding more films to ride and explore. Many also offer a free trial period, so take your time and check out a few different options until you find the right fit. Whether you end up realizing you’re a Zwift junkie or that prefer something else, you’re sure to agree that indoor training is anything but boring.