Daylight Savings Time marks the true end of the outdoor riding season for me. That means by 6 pm it is dark. The weather is also beginning to get colder with daytime highs only in the 30s and lows at night in the 20s. That means it is time to pull out the trainer for indoor training sessions.
Two years ago, I decided to splurge and obtain a smart trainer. I rationalized this purchase a lot because these devices aren’t cheap, but it was right around my birthday, which is in December, so it didn’t take too much consideration. Plus, in the midwest, the winters are long and I spend two to three days a week on my trainer, so I took the plunge.
After I got the smart trainer, I installed my bike and started doing training sessions. I have to say I was stunned. Riding these types of trainers is a vast improvement over riding standard bike trainers.
For one, you don’t have to attach your bike to the trainer via the rear wheel. Instead, you install your cassette (or even a spare cassette if you don’t want to remove the one from your wheel) to the trainer’s hub. The best part is no wear and tear on the rear wheel nor on its installed tire.
The smart trainer interfaces with your bike computer. In addition to transmitting information about your speed, cadence, and power, one can also control the tension.
Video Training Sessions
Usually, when I ride my trainer, I do hour-long sessions guided by cycling-specific videos. These rides are shorter than an actual road ride where I might be out for three to four hours but, I’d argue, are much harder.
Before I started using videos, I would jump on the trainer and basically meander for a half hour or 45 minutes, not really pushing myself very hard at all. It was also incredibly boring!!! The videos changed all that.
Created by Chris Carmichael, the videos focus on a specific discipline, such as climbing, sprinting, endurance riding, etc. By the end, you are sweating profusely and you definitely feel like you’ve done an intense workout. I have these videos on DVDs (remember those?) but now you can either download or stream them for free here.
Virtual Training Platforms
If you have a smart trainer, however, and you’re only using it when you watch training videos or to see the readout on your bike computer, you are seriously underusing its capacity. Smart trainers are meant to be connected to virtual training platforms (VTP).
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t used a virtual training platform before, even though I’ve had the smart trainer for a couple years. Why is that? Well, perhaps it is because I’m a creature of habit. But the real reason might be that the setup seems complicated and some of these platforms require a paid subscription, something I don’t really like.
Those reasons aside, VTPs are community-based. That means you ride with and against other cyclists (sometimes even in a simulated race). Meanwhile, your trainer (connected via Bluetooth and ANT+ to whatever platform you are using) responds to the virtual changes in the road. You see an avatar of a rider that is the “virtual” you. So, if the on-screen rider is doing a climb, the trainer’s tension will increase to simulate the grade.
Virtual Training Platforms are the big thing in indoor bicycle training for bicyclists. And the companies creating this software build their apps with the best technology available.
While Zwift is the biggest name in VPTs, there are now several companies competing with it: MyWhoosh, Wahoo-RGT, and Rouvy to name a few. The UK online cycling website road.cc does a nice breakdown of these different platforms as well as recent updates they’ve made.
So, if you have a smart trainer, you owe it to yourself to try out one of these virtual training platforms. Just keep in mind some of them are subscription based. If you don’t like any of the platforms I’ve mentioned, you always go back to using videos.
Do any of you have a smart trainer? If so, have you used a virtual training platform? Please like, comment, and share if you liked this post.
4 thoughts on “Radonnee (Midweek Post) for November 16, 2022 – Virtual Training Platforms”
I’ve been using a direct drive smart trainer for a number of years now (Tacx NEO). It was expensive, but so much better than a “classic” trainer or even a wheel-on smart trainer. Saved my fitness when I was working long hours in the city.
I’ve got 1000’s of “miles” on Zwift, plus tried most of the others such as Trainer Road, Sufferfest, FulGaz, etc. They are all subscription based though. If you don’t fancy avatars or animations maybe give the FulGaz free trial a go. They’re all real rides with the majority shot from a bike giving a very rider-like perspective.
Hey Tempocyclist: I agree. Smart trainers are exceedingly better than “classic” trainers. I genuinely hope they become standard in the bike industry, which means the price would drop and become more affordable to everyone. It can’t be much more expensive to build a smart trainer versus the old standard.
And thanks for your input about virtual training programs. Obviously, you know a lot more about them than me. I hope to explore one of them this winter and then write a more honest, in-depth review.
By the way, thanks for following my blog!!
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You’d think prices would have dropped considerably over the past few years as the tech hasn’t changed all that much since they got popular. The new “Zwift Hub” trainer has undercut the market so that might trigger some price reductions in order to compete. Enjoy your app testing!
I would like to think the prices are dropping on the smart trainer. I think if more people could have access to them, that would be a real boon for the whole cycling industry. Of course, there is the whole silly Peloton thing for people who aren’t true bicyclists but obviously acknowledge the health benefits bicycling can provide.
I don’t know how much the tech has changed for smart trainers. I haven’t really researched them much since I got mine. I’m sure they’ve improved, though. Again, that’s probably something you know more about than me.
Thanks for your comments. Good talking with you.