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Zwift, Sufferfest, Tacx… Rouvy – whether you want to ride around virtual worlds or up legendary climbs there's an indoor cycle training app for you. Here’s how to find it

Nothing really beats riding your bike on the open road, but for various reasons from time to weather riding indoors has always been a useful alternative. We’ve come a long way from basic turbo trainers and watching the clock though, with a whole world of interactive and immersive indoor cycling apps that take indoor cycling to another level.

The development of smart trainers with integrated power meters and Bluetooth/ANT+ control has led to a whole swathe of training apps designed to make the most of these new trainers.

As a result, riding indoors is now much more realistic and compelling than ever before. You can do everything from riding with your mates, virtual or real, take part in racing leagues, follow structured training programmes or ride famous roads and climbs from the world’s biggest races.

Turbo trainers of the pros – What trainers do pro teams use for indoor training?

It all helps to pass the time much more quickly and rather than dread the indoor trainer, you can now embrace it and keep the miles ticking over and hit your training goals ready for the summer.

There are now many apps available to suit all needs, whether you’re simply training, want to get into racing or just need a suitable alternative to dark, cold and wet weather. In this article we’ve rounded up some of the most popular - if there are any we’ve missed do add them in the comments section below.

Most of these apps require a subscription. Many do provide a free trial so if you’re not sure which one is right for you, our best advice is to simply try a few out before you commit to one.

- 6 reasons why using a home trainer is the best way to get fit — and how to make it fun too

Zwift

  • What is it? An immersive and realistic virtual world where you can ride with friends on a recreation of famous roads from Box Hill to Alpe d’Huez
  • How much is it? £12.99/month with no contract
Alpe du Zwift

Tell me more: Zwift’s biggest feature and its unique selling point is the ability to ride in a virtual world against or alongside other people from across the world. It’s totally immersive. It makes indoor cycling a game and the result is that it makes turbo training fun and engaging. If you use Zwift with a smart trainer, the level of resistance adjusts to match the terrain so when you're going up a climb, it really does feel like it.

It’s a massive multiplayer game in essence, and you can race people from all over the world. There are many organised events, from training rides to races, so you can ride with people of similar fitness and get a really good workout. The races are particularly realistic and can push you really hard, because it’s always motivating to chase someone, even in the virtual world.

If you want more structured training, Zwift also offers a wide range of workout modes and there’s everything from sprint intervals to sweet spot sessions. You can conduct an FTP test and follow one of the 12-week plans if you want to enjoy the benefits of a virtual coach to get you fit for a big sportive or race. You can also customise the workouts and make your own, too.

It's also worth adding that Zwift ins moving into esports as well, with the recently launched KISS Super League bringing together professional cyclists as well as launching the British Cycling eracing championships.

Zwift might be getting all the attention at the moment, but there are many other options, as we demonstrate below.

TrainerRoad

  • What is it? Extensive training plans and workouts for the cyclist that needs structured training goals
  • How much is it? $15/month or $129/year (if you’re not 100% satisfied, get a full refund within the first 30 days)
trainerroad

Tell me more: TrainerRoad uses a simple and clean graphical interface that provides all the metrics you need to track your efforts, from speed, any connected sensors like heart rate, cadence and power. A workout is displayed as a simple graph representing your intervals and a line moves across this graph identifying your progress. Motivational and instructional text is provided on-screen to help you stay focused and provide useful tips. Immersive it’s not, but structured and detailed it certainly is.

But by far TrainerRoad’s biggest appeal is the vast number of workouts and training plans it provides. There are a staggering 1,000+ workouts so there’ll be something for all tastes and requirements. You can also follow a training plan (there are 100+) with plans for every type of cyclist, covering early season base work to race preparation. Following a plan is the optimum way of improving your fitness, and it removes the guesswork so all you have to do is concentrate on following the plan. If getting fit is your goal, TrainerRoad is a seriously compelling choice.

TrainerRoad also has a calendar functionality that logs all your outdoor rides too and keeps track of your overall Training Stress Score. If you don’t have power data for an outside ride you can get an estimated TSS based on your level of effort.

Sufferfest

  • What is it? Training with race footage and motivational instructions and messages
  • How much is it? $12.99 USD/month or $99 USD/year. Free trial available
sufferfest 2

Tell me more: Sufferfest is one of the original training services that made riding indoors more appealing than staring at a wall or watching reruns of the 1988 Tour de France. It combined actual real pro cycling racing footage with instructions telling you when to ride easy and when to attack!

It’s all based on the solid theory of interval training, not just pedalling around in circles, so you maximise the time you spend on the trainer. There are more than 50 structured interval workouts to choose from, designed by world-class coaches, and tailored to help you meet whatever goals you’re working towards.

It might not provide a virtual world to cycle around, but the real pro race footage, music and storylines are very compelling and provide a great distraction and keep you pedalling hard. The company has also developed what it calls Four-Dimensional Power, or 4DP for short, which it reckons goes beyond FTP in using four metrics to help personalise the workouts to your exact needs.

And now, beside actual training, Sufferest is branching out by offering yoga, mental toughness and strength training programmes aimed at the needs of cyclists.

VirtuGo

  • What is it? Virtual worlds based on real-life climbs with decent training plans
  • How much is it? Free Beta stage at present
VirtuGOPulseville5

Tell me more: Much like Zwift, VirtuGo offers 3D virtual worlds based on real locations, like Coll de Sóller, and Willunga Hill, based on the Mallorcan and Australian locations respectively. There’s also Pulseville which is totally made up, a bit like Zwift’s Watopia. The graphics provide a very realistic environment with crisp detail and great colours. You get loads of data on your current pace and the progress of the workout if you’re not just free riding, and other riders will be accompanied by their current watts/kg so you can decide if you want to ride with them or not.

VirtuGo has put a bit emphasis on training plans with structured training a key part of its appeal. You can import rides from the real-world or use VirtuGO’s training sessions and programs that are apparently all WorldTour-tested to make training indoors effective and engaging. The sessions are based on different types of cyclists, from Time Trialist, Climber, Criterium, Sprinter to All Rounder, with the training sessions targeting a specific requirement.

But like Road Grand Tours, VirtuGo is currently in Beta and it’s offering free downloads on Mac and PC.

Road Grand Tours

  • What is it? Detailed simulation of real-world iconic climbs
  • How much is it? Free beta test currently
roadgrandtours

 Tell me more: Clearly inspired by the success and popularity of Zwift, Road Grand Tours is another online training platform that provides a 3D simulation of the real-world to cycle around. It provides amazingly detailed, with crisp, clear graphics that add to the realism, and you can tailor every aspect of your avatar and bike.

No make-believe worlds here, instead you have accurate recreations of some of the most iconic climbs in the world. There’s Ventoux, the Stelvio and Cap de Formentor and the realism of riding up this famous climbs from the comfort of your own home is incredibly appealing.

Road Grand Tours is intended to be a social platform providing multiplayer races and rides, allowing you to interact with other users via the mobile app. Racing is intended to be accurate, the simulator also takes drafting and peloton dynamics into consideration, so when you hit the front of the peloton you'll need to put out considerably more power than if you were in the pack.

It all sounds really good on paper, and we were impressed with a quick spin, the only snag is it’s still at the beta stage with the final product not yet ready for release. Given time, it could be a decent rival to more established platforms but in a fast-growing and rapidly maturing market time isn’t a luxury it has.

Check out our first look at Road Grand Tours here.

Bkool Simulator

  • What is it? Real-world simulated riding or 3D simulator with thousands of famous roads and climbs to experience
  • How much is it? £7.99/month and 30-day free trial
bkool_simulator_2

Tell me more: The Bkool Simulator software provides real-life footage shot from a cyclists point of view  (or, more likely, a camera mounted on a car)  with a variety, of course, to choose from. The harder you pedal, the faster the footage plays, and if you have a smart turbo, the resistance will vary with the gradient of the hill. It does provide an immersive experience and if you’d rather watch real-world footage than a pretend world, this could be the training package for you. It looks best if you've got a nice big telly set up in front of you, and a decent internet connection is also needed.

The appeal of Bkool Simulator isn’t in the social angle, it’s in the appeal of riding up an actual hill and measuring your effort and time, with actual real weather and headwind. And there are thousands of real-world routes and climbs to choose from, including Alpe d’Huez, Col du Galibier, even the Isle of Wight if you ride to ride somewhere closer to home. So it’s a good way to prepare for riding those climbs in real life or just a better distraction than a virtual world.

If you have a video camera you can create your own video sessions to ride, but unless you’re going to film your cycling holiday I’m not sure there’s much interest in riding your local rides indoors. You also have the choice of riding in a 3D world where you can race against rivals from around the world, and this appears to be the new focus for the Bkool Simulator, moving away from video to providing virtual options of all major climbs.

And just in case you’re wondering, you don’t have to have a Bkool smart trainer to use the Bkool Simulator.

Rouvy (formerly CycleOps

  • What is it? Real-world video with augmented reality development
  • How much is it? $6.25/month and two week free trial
rouvy_ar_screenshot1

Tell me more: If you want to ride real roads then Rouvy focuses on reality, providing a staggering 125,000 miles of video routes from around the world. But it’s USP is augmented reality, with 3D avatars appearing over the real video footage. It’s currently still in public beta phase, they plan to roll out 2,000 real-life geo-synced video routes with augmented reality, but it’s an exciting development and if you want realism this could be the app for you.

There’s a lot more on offer too, including structured workouts, training diary, pedalling technique analysis, fun challenges, races and leaderboards so you can see how you compare to friends.

FulGaz

  • What is it? Ride real worlds from around the world
  • How much is it? £7.49/month and 14 day free trial
fulgaz

FulGaz is another new kid on the block that lets you ride real roads indoors.

Tell me more: This training app combines real video footage from road races, so if you want to ride Alpe d’Huez from the comfort of your home, FulGaz lets you do just that. The videos have been filmed in 4K from a camera mounted to a bike and the footage is sped up or slowed down to match your actual performance. It’s as close to riding the real thing as it gets.

It’s currently offering 415 routes and 7,903km, so plenty of exploring to be done.

Tacx

  • What is it? High-quality films and structured training plans
  • How much is it? Free or €9.99/month for premium (includes films and training plans)
tacx

If you’ve bought a Tacx trainer this winter then it could be worth trying the company’s own training software. Like some other apps here, it provides high-quality films so you could ride anywhere from the Alps to the spring classics. The library is growing all the time with more videos being added. You can also upload your own routes by linking your Strava account or uploading GPS data, and follow a 3D map view. There’s also the options to ride with live opponents or enlist virtual training partners, and there’s also structured training plans with a calendar function.

Elite My E-Training 

  • What is it? A virtual coach with real videos
  • How much is it? €£8.99/year, RealVideo €15/year

Tell me more: Designed to work with Elite’s wide range of trainers, this app provides a virtual coach by giving you training programs to suit all levels of fitness and ability. It also provides real videos with a growing library. However, the app lets you record your own routes so you could film a route and then play it back on the indoor trainer. Or you can ride routes that other users have shared. You can also create your own 3D course by using Google Maps to ride anywhere in the world.

Kinomap

  • What is it? Huge library of user-uploaded ride videos
  • How much is it? €9.99/mo, €79.99/yr
kinomap

Tell me more: Kinomap lest you ride, from the comfort of your house, real roads that its users have shared in its growing library. This takes the emphasis away from the company providing videos and encourages users to upload videos. And there’s a lot to choose from, with 142,048km of routes to choose from. The quality does vary quite a bit. Still, if you want to ride real places that you’ve never been before it’s a good choice. You can also participate in group rides with a ride taking place every hour. There are multiplayer sessions, interval training sessions and races availble on the platform too.

IGrupetto

  • What is it? Virtual rides
  • How much is it? Free
IGrupetto

Tell me more: Here’s another app that offers virtual rides from around the world, including the Alps and Pyrenees, so if you want stunning landscapes to ride through when it’s cold and wet outside, this could be for you. It’s not the biggest catalogue but there are some interesting choices, such as the Quebrantahuesos gran fondo. When you ride you can see upcoming hills and all the data you need such as speed, power, distance and time.

One Lap 

  • What is it? A Zwift copy
  • How much is it? TBC
onelap

Tell me more: China’s answer to Zwift, One Lap appears to offer a similar virtual world to cycle around in with your own avatar. It offers a physical model that simulates the gradient, wind and drag resistance. We’d love to tell you more but the English (or US) version of the website is a bit rubbish.

It’s currently only available as a PC download, there’s no Mac or smartphone support at the moment. That’s why we’ve yet to try this app, but if you have let us know what it’s like, please.

Name Website Multiplayer? Virtual worlds? Video? Legendary routes? User routes? Workouts? Training plans? Racing?
Zwift £12.99/mo - -
TrainerRoad $15/mo, $129/yr - - - - - -
The Sufferfest $12.99/mo, $99/yr - - - - -
VirtuGo Free beta - - -
Road Grand Tours Free beta - - - -
Bkool simulator £7.99/mo -
Rouvy $6.25/mo - - - -
FulGaz £7.49/mo - - - - - -
Tacx €9.99/mo (premium) - -
My E-training £8.99/yr (£15.99/yr with video) - - -
Kinomap €9.99/mo, €79.99/yr - -
iGrupetto Free - - - - - - -
OneLap TBC - - -

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

20 comments

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kil0ran [1302 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Perfect timing, very useful summary. Going to be trying out a few of these, particularly the free betas. 

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gmehje1 [30 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like

Tried a lot of these.

Fulgaz hands down is the most stable and most used. 14 day free trial.

Try Sa Calobra or the new 4k Passo dello Stelvio (from Prato) - would be seriously impressed if anyone got under 1hr 45m. Full ride list here: https://fulgaz.com/fulgaz-rides/

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PRSboy [416 posts] 2 weeks ago
3 likes

For those of us living in areas where there is rubbish BT broadband or training in a room with no coverage, TrainerRoad works on an 'offline' mode so no net access is required during the session.

It would be interesting to know the MBPS required to run the software.  Zwift for example runs OK on 4G and actually uses less data than I expected.

Also, what hardware is needed... FulGaz only works on an Apple device which will rule it out for many.

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andynic [76 posts] 2 weeks ago
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I use a Wattbike in my local gym - does anyone know if you can use any of these in conjunction with the Wattbike? (given that I don't own or have admin rights over the Wattbike).

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maviczap [295 posts] 2 weeks ago
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What about BigRingVr?

High quality videos of most of the major climbs, nice and stable and improving all the time.

One post in FB Tacx Neo user group suggests that it will have multiple rider format like Zwift and Bkool as a future development.

I loved it for my pre Pyrenean trip last year for riding the climbs I would be doing, so when I did do them I could recognise landmarks

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Gizzard [37 posts] 2 weeks ago
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Onelap user here. My understanding is Magene plan to operate on a freemium model and use the software as a promotional tool to drive hardware sales. The free version has a workout builder  (Onelap Training Manager) and challenges available, not sure about races. Some kit options and group rides require a subscription. As Onelap is aimed at the Chinese market you'll need a Wechat wallet in order to pay for it or you'll need to obtain an annual subscription code from Magene. Both of these are a little difficult to obtain as a westerner outside China! As the review notes, there is a bit of a language barrier on the website, but you can get past this using browser translation tools. The PC software itself is functional and there's Android apps available if you don't mind sideloading.

 

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OR_biker [53 posts] 2 weeks ago
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Been using Road Grand Tours for a couple weeks and have enjoyed it.  I don't have a smart trainer (just a fluid trainer but with PowerTap pedals) so my experience may be different from others.  I still typically have a tablet playing videos in front of me but I like having something different to track my rides with, and it helps mix up the training a bit.

I'm a big fan of free, so am wanting to check out VirtuGo as well.  Used Rouvy initially (this is sort of the official partner app of PowerTap if you're not using an iOS device), but don't like that they limit you to only an hour of free ride time if you don't have a paid subscription.  I understand limiting when you're not paying, but you already can't access all the other routes/videos anyways without paying, so why not give you more time when you just want to track your metrics indoors?

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Gizzard [37 posts] 2 weeks ago
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OR_biker wrote:

Been using Road Grand Tours for a couple weeks and have enjoyed it.  I don't have a smart trainer (just a fluid trainer but with PowerTap pedals) so my experience may be different from others.  I still typically have a tablet playing videos in front of me but I like having something different to track my rides with, and it helps mix up the training a bit.

I'm a big fan of free, so am wanting to check out VirtuGo as well.  Used Rouvy initially (this is sort of the official partner app of PowerTap if you're not using an iOS device), but don't like that they limit you to only an hour of free ride time if you don't have a paid subscription.  I understand limiting when you're not paying, but you already can't access all the other routes/videos anyways without paying, so why not give you more time when you just want to track your metrics indoors?

If you're just looking to track your ride data, have you looked at Golden Cheetah (https://www.goldencheetah.org)? There's a video training mode on that piece of software. Costs nothing to download or run and will grab workouts from ErgDB.

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CXR94Di2 [2436 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like

You missed our BigRingVR- HD quality videos of famous climbs and routes from around the world.  It has racing too.  Im a big fan of Zwift and Trainer-Road, having migrated away from Bkool due to unstable simulator and non Bkool trainers are disadvantaged in performance against Bkool's own turbos.  

 

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Rick_Rude [18 posts] 2 weeks ago
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Is the Bkool interface still rubbish? Last time I used it you had to use the website to 'book' a location to ride so I got bored it of very quickly. This was a few years ago though.

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DaveWave [1 post] 2 weeks ago
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Gizzard wrote:
OR_biker wrote:

Been using Road Grand Tours for a couple weeks and have enjoyed it.  I don't have a smart trainer (just a fluid trainer but with PowerTap pedals) so my experience may be different from others.  I still typically have a tablet playing videos in front of me but I like having something different to track my rides with, and it helps mix up the training a bit.

I'm a big fan of free, so am wanting to check out VirtuGo as well.  Used Rouvy initially (this is sort of the official partner app of PowerTap if you're not using an iOS device), but don't like that they limit you to only an hour of free ride time if you don't have a paid subscription.  I understand limiting when you're not paying, but you already can't access all the other routes/videos anyways without paying, so why not give you more time when you just want to track your metrics indoors?

If you're just looking to track your ride data, have you looked at Golden Cheetah (https://www.goldencheetah.org)? There's a video training mode on that piece of software. Costs nothing to download or run and will grab workouts from ErgDB.

 

I too use Golden Cheetah. Works on most platforms, open source, free... I've tried/used many of the programs listed here on the smart trainer, but over time I've decided my preference is to have an interface that gives me a power profile for my workout, the ability to see sensor data, and upload my workout info to Strava... I usually find watching TV preferable to seeing other CG riders.

As a bonus, I haven't seen analysis tools in the other apps that can compare to Golden Cheetah.

And again... Free...

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kil0ran [1302 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes
gmehje1 wrote:

Tried a lot of these.

Fulgaz hands down is the most stable and most used. 14 day free trial.

Try Sa Calobra or the new 4k Passo dello Stelvio (from Prato) - would be seriously impressed if anyone got under 1hr 45m. Full ride list here: https://fulgaz.com/fulgaz-rides/

Are you using it with AppleTV?

I've got a power meter, trainer, and heartrate strap all dual-mode capable - any restrictions on connecting all that to the AppleTV? Rather than use the power readings from the trainer I'd prefer to use the power meter, but still have the app control the trainer resistance. Looks like you can only pair either a power meter or the trainer?

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demondig [12 posts] 2 weeks ago
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If you're not after virtual rides, but just workouts (in the manner of Trainerroad), and you don't want to subscribe to something, but you're happy with a one-off payment with free (and very regular) updates for life, PerfPro is great: it also comes with some analysis software, for lots more data. The initial setup isn't as simple or as smooth as with Trainerroad, and it isn't so good for pre-determined structured plans, but it's nonetheless very good software. It also provides a massive number of workouts and courses, to while away sweaty hours indoors.

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Mike69 [2 posts] 2 weeks ago
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Kinomap isn’t free 

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Mike69 [2 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Kinomap isn’t free 

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maviczap [295 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes
Rick_Rude wrote:

Is the Bkool interface still rubbish? Last time I used it you had to use the website to 'book' a location to ride so I got bored it of very quickly. This was a few years ago though.

It has evolved and is more user friendly now, although still not as nice as BigRingVr, where its much easier to find a climb or ride. But it's got stricter training and it's more compatible with other brand trainers now.

 

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FatTed [22 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
PRSboy wrote:

For those of us living in areas where there is rubbish BT broadband or training in a room with no coverage, TrainerRoad works on an 'offline' mode so no net access is required during the session.

It would be interesting to know the MBPS required to run the software.  Zwift for example runs OK on 4G and actually uses less data than I expected.

Also, what hardware is needed... FulGaz only works on an Apple device which will rule it out for many.

Sufferfest works offline

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sherbertflyingsaucer [8 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
andynic wrote:

I use a Wattbike in my local gym - does anyone know if you can use any of these in conjunction with the Wattbike? (given that I don't own or have admin rights over the Wattbike).

 

I have a Wattbike and use the Sufferfest app, you can connect the wattbike to your iphone or other via bluetooth and away you go (instructions below), also add a bluetooth heart rate monitor to your phone and you will have all metrics.

https://support.thesufferfest.com/hc/en-us/articles/215757023-Connecting...

The new sufferfest app allows you to turn off the music on the video, so if you fire up your Spotify you can have your own music playing to the vid. I've just come back to Sufferfest because of this update.

Enjoy.

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kil0ran [1302 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

Road Grand Tours is currently ANT+ only - support docs say they were planning to add BT support in December '18 but nothing in the Mac app yet.

VirtuGo is the same.

Disappointing because I was looking forward to trying Cap de Formentor...

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kil0ran [1302 posts] 4 days ago
0 likes

This article needs updating (or, more specifically, the summary table)

I'm trialling Rouvy at the moment and it offers User Routes and Training Plans, and there are also options to create races.

So far, I'm more impressed with it than I am with Zwift:

  • You can upload your own activities (with or without video) to ride your usual routes indoors
  • Premium subscription includes 2 partner/family accounts that are fully-separate - no faffing around with changing wheel sizes or FTP
  • It works on Windows 10 Bluetooth - unlike Zwift. So if you have a decent laptop there's no need for an ANT+ key (assuming your sensors do BTLE)
  • The Augmented Reality stuff is good fun
  • The new user interface is very clear, easier to keep track of your key metrics than Zwift
  • Loads and loads of routes already available
  • Offline mode - download the video and ride it disconnected, a big plus for those of us training in the shed/garage
  • Price - substantially cheaper than Zwift (and most of the competition)
  • 14-day unlimited trial

I guess the only thing it's lacking is user numbers, if it's important for you to be riding alongside others it's not for you. The app is a little clunky with a dated UI in places but it's certainly very configurable.

I should also say that I'm riding with a basic Smart trainer (Qubo Digital B+) but I do have a separate power meter, so that might be a factor in reflecting how accurate it is.