Some indoor training fans may have already heard a thing or two about the newest 3D training simulator on the block, Road Grand Tours. It's been in development for a couple of years and now as it nears completion, we got to virtually ride "some of the most breathtaking roads in the world" while getting the lowdown from founder and CEO Alex Serban. Based off very first impressions, could RGT match or even surpass the mighty Zwift?
As you can see from the video I've been enjoying outdoor training a little too much in this warmer weather anyway, so was keen to give RGT a quick go back where I belong in the shade. It works with any smart trainer that supports ANT+, and for the demo we set it up with a Wahoo Kickr and the Wahoo Kickr Climb hill simulator for some extra realism. Currently you need a computer or laptop running Windows 7 SP1+, 8, 10 or Mac OS X 10.12+ and an ANT+ USB dongle, although RGT say they are working on a mobile link and Bluetooth connectivity. Your trainer will also need to have a power meter, or you'll need to connect a separate one with ANT+. You'll also be pleased to know that in its Beta phase RGT is currently completely free to use, you just need to request to join via their website.
To my eye it looks amazingly detailed, with crisp, clear graphics that adds to the realism. You can even see the bike's gear cables moving, and your avatar grabbing the brakes on descents. Before starting there are already numerous options to customise your avatar's looks, the bike and the kit. Various colours of Lazer's bullet helmet, plenty of jersey options and bikes from the likes of BMC, Ridley and even an 8Bar Team fixed gear for racing the 8Bar crit course are available so far, with many more to be added over time.
The courses available to ride are already impressive, with Ventoux, the Stelvio and Cap de Formentor all options. RGT say: "it’s the easiest way to explore, train on and prepare for riding the most challenging and beautiful cycling routes in the world".
RGT claim their main USP is realism; your experience on the trainer is supposed to feel more like what is actually happening on the screen, and therefore what would happen in real life. Zwift courses and races that visually feature hills and tight corners don't necessarily replicate that for the ride, and races are won by those who simply put out the most power. RGT claim their platform can actually allow you to train for events like crits and technical road races indoors, holding you off as you approach corners and then forcing you into explosive efforts to break out of them. 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 (likewise if you fall off the back). It even adjusts depending on your bike and equipment choices. If the features work swimmingly then races and events on RGT should be less power-centric, and better for riders who are concerned about more aspects of their cycling than just functional threshold power.
RGT is designed to be a social platform with a multiplayer environment, where you can enter races and set up rides with friends quickly and easily. It allows users to interact with one another freely during the game, and while at the moment you need to use your computer keyboard to chat, when the mobile app is ready you'll be able to use your phone to avoid having to lean over to your computer during training. RGT are also keen to mention they very much want current Beta users to message their live support team in-game with reports of glitches, suggestions for improvement and general feedback. My quick demo included a ride around a crit course and a section of the Ventoux with my avatar on his own, and while this wasn't nearly enough to judge it compared to the competitors yet, it certainly looks great and I got a feel for the realism when I went through corners. The drafting and peloton riding features sounds intriguing, and could set RGT apart from its competitors if it's as immersive as claimed.
RGT say the platform is close to being finalised, but they still consider it to be a Beta version at this stage; this means it's free to use, and you can sign up to join the via their website here. We'll be trying it out more ourselves on rainy days throughout the summer, and although RGT have no official release date for a full version (and we don't know what the pricing structure will be either, or even if there will be one) we're hoping that when winter comes around, the completed version of Road Grand Tours will be ready to get the full road.cc review treatment...
After cobbling together a few hundred quid during his student days off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story), Jack bought his first road bike at the age of 20 and has been hooked ever since. He joined road.cc in 2017, having previously worked for 220 Triathlon magazine. Jack's preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking (the latter being another long story), and on Sunday afternoons he can often be found on an M5 service station indulging in his favourite post-race meal of 20 chicken nuggets, a sausage roll, caramel shortbread and a large strawberry milkshake.