Cycling training Apps, which one suits your personality?

I first wrote this article in January 2019 for TriRadar magazine and indoor training has boomed since then mainly due to the pandemic and global lockdowns. Now it seems like a good time to revisit this topic and update to see what are the Top Cycling Training Platforms for your smart turbo. 

There is an amazing amount of cycling Apps on the market and in the beta test stage but which one will keep your winter training blues at bay? 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of cost versus benefit and reading specification sheets, technology versus data output concerns so maybe a more fun way is to match your personality to the App? 

I spent a year testing Cycling Apps back in 2018 in the run-up to completing my annual quest. That year it was to earn the London Classic’s medal also known as the “dinner plate”. The challenge is to complete the London Marathon, RideLondon-Surrey 100 and the two-mile event at Swim Serpentine. I had already completed the London Marathon twice so needed to get entry to both the other events and complete them (getting accepted was a challenge in itself!). For the RideLondon-Surrey 100 I put my hands in the online Apps to see if it could be done. My goal was to only use Apps to get me fit and able to complete the event and see what each one had to offer. For the swim I just thought I would just turn up. What could possibly go wrong? 

We will look at each cycling App I tested in turn and add in an “Cyclist Type” or avatar to help you see if its for you. Once you narrow it down to say 2 or 3 Apps you can usually get a free trial and test them out in the comfort of your own home or pain cave. I did also construct a large spreadsheet with all of the technical data and minimum hardware needed to set yourself up (after all I am an engineer!). I can share this with you if you need that level of detail.

The Sufferfest (Now part of Wahoo and rebranded SYSTM)

Cyclist Type: “Wahooligan” – great sense of humour but training is about suffering and pain! This athlete wants an in-depth FTP test and result, is interested in trying Yoga, Strength & Conditioning sessions, Mental Training and Wahoo have added swimming workouts and running sessions. The new swimming and running sessions have to be written down and taken with you to your training venue, they have not been integrated into the App (yet). The bike workouts still reference the Sufferfest, have the same 4DP feedback and sense of humour.

It’s good to see that even with the buyout by Wahoo the Tour of Sufferlandria will continue so we can still raise money for the Davis Phinney Foundation and their programs to help those affected by Parkinson’s Disease.

Website: wahoofitness.com

Platform: Mac, Windows or iOS 

Minimum hardware: Classic turbo and a speed sensor (ANT+) for virtual watts, 

Power meter or Smart turbo trainer

Wireless support: ANT+ and Bluetooth

Price: $14.99 / month or $129 / year

Free trial: 14 days

Disciplines supported: Cycling, Yoga, Strength & Conditioning, Swimming, Running and Mental Training

Zwift

Cyclist Type: “Miss. Sociable” Duathlete – Cyclist and Runner – wants to train in both disciplines with 

others in groups. This athlete wants the option to train on their own and in groups. 

They want an app that enables them to cycle and run in a virtual world. Miss Sociable also wants structured training sessions and even to ability to “go pro” via the Zwift Academy. She also likes 

The idea of “branding up” with the clothing and accessories from their online shop. 

There were rumours of them adding rowing, but their focus has shifted to training plans.

Now you can be even more sociable with the new Club feature which enables seasoned riders (level 20 and above) to create Clubs and schedule club events, share activities and have Club chats. 

 

Website: zwift.com

Platform: PC, Mac, iOS or Apple TV

Minimum hardware: A standard turbo with Bluetooth speed and cadence sensor but it’s 

preferred to have a Smart turbo. For running you will need a foot pod-like Stryd or the Zwift RunPod.

Wireless support: Bluetooth ANT+ (need an ANT+ dongle and USB cable)

Price: $14.99 per month

Free Trial: 7 Days

Running and children under 16 can Zwift for FREE

Disciplines supported: Cycling and Running (you can row on it, but it can be complicated and is 

not officially supported but fun to row and see your bike moving in the Zwift virtual world).

 

Rouvy

Cyclist Type: “Traditionalist” – likes to ride on real video tour routes, with over 300+ AR routes from more than 32 countries. Wants to compare indoor and outdoor rides and create their own routes. Wants to know their FTP and test for this. Has a family so can share their app with them on several platforms. Wants to use training peaks for integrated training. 

Website: rouvy.com

Platform: Window PC, iPad, iPhone or Android phone

Minimum hardware: Smart turbo, power meter or standard turbo with Bluetooth or ANT+ speed sensor

Wireless support: Bluetooth or ANT+

Price: Standard is $12 per month or $144 per year

Free Trial: 14 days

Disciplines supported: Cycling

FTP Test: 40 min basic test. First 10 mins at half predicted FTP, then 20 mins at predicted FTP and then 10 mins cool down at half predicted FTP. Hard test with no motivational tips or music.

TrainerRoad

Cyclist Type: “Statto” – This athlete wants a no-nonsense workout with lots of statistics and on-screen data with coaching instruction. They like training plan structure and the option to write their own plans or use those from their coach on the TrainerRoad platform. The training is science-based and goal-driven which adapts to you using machine learning. They like the Ramp fitness test for FTP. They also want to listen to their own music or watch their own videos or films. They also like the YouTube channel for extra information and training tips.

Trainer Road also has a good group workout feature, which allows you to see each other and do the same workout, but at your own level.  The picture quality and audio are stable making this a great feature to work out with friends.

Website: trainerroad.com

Platform: PC, Mac, iOS and Android

Minimum hardware: Speed sensor and trainer (virtual power), power meter and trainer or smart trainer

Wireless support: Bluetooth and ANT+

Price: $19.99 per month or $189 per year 

Disciplines supported: Cycling

 

Global Cycling Network (GCN)

Cyclist Type: “Thrifty” – this triathlete does not have much spare cash and may not be able to afford a smart turbo or the online app subscription. They want a structured training session and the feel of training with others. They have internet access and are comfortable watching YouTube videos.

Website: GCN YouTube Channel 

Platform: PC or MAC or anything that you can watch YouTube videos on.

Minimum hardware: Any basic turbo trainer – no need for power or cadence but may be good for a better workout

Wireless support: N/A

Price: Free

Disciplines supported: Cycling

Road Grand Tours

Cyclist Type: “Gamer” – this triathlete maybe a younger athlete who has grown up with video games and wants an experience like this with more realism, high end rendering and realism. They are happy to try something new and would like a structured training plan from TrainingPeaks. RGT has teamed up with coaches to provide plans via TrainingPeaks to both free and subscribed riders. They want a proper cycling simulator. Lifelike cornering, drafting and group riding. They have a phone to run the control App and another device to run the screen App. The dual app set-up also allows enables much greater configuration control without having to quit the ride screen, for example, you can change your view of the ride from the first person, moto camera, drone camera and a race static camera.

Website: https://www.rgtcycling.com/

Platform: Mac or PC download

Minimum hardware: Any trainer, power meter, cadence sensor and heart rate monitor that respect the open ANT+ communication standard are compatible with RGT. CycleOps, Wahoo Kickr & Computrainer are known to work.

Wireless support: ANT+ and Bluetooth

Price: Free or Premium for $9.99 per month (14-day free trial)

Disciplines supported: Cycling

Big Ring VR

Cyclist Type: “Engineer” – The user interface is not very slick like the others and will appeal to engineers and techies. No nonsense or gaming feel just get on and ride using HD videos. Written by software engineers who like to ride. It’s certified by Strava so you can log your rides and you get a free family plan.

Website: https://www.bigringvr.com/

Platform: BigRingVR can be used on Windows 7 or higher (32 and 64 bits) and Apple Mac OS X Yosemite (10.10) or higher.

Minimum hardware: ANT+ FE-C Smart Trainers, ANT+ Trainers, Power meters and sensors

Wireless support: ANT+

Price: $10 per month or 12 months for $99.60

Free trial: 14 days

Disciplines supported: Cycling

502 rides from 17 countries (more coming)12,347 kilometres, 361,380 meters of elevation gain.

FulGaz (Now part of IRONMAN®)

Cyclist Type: This was the “Apple Fan” but now they have added support for Android and Win10 plus have been purchased by IRONMAN then it has to be the “IRONPERSON”.

It will appeal to those who love their Apple products but now also works on Android and Win10 devices. Athletes who like to ride on “real” routes in the form of HD video with GPS data.

It will appeal to athletes training for an IRONMAN event as you can ride the route before your race. You can also add your own workouts from TrainingPeaks, Today’s Plan and Final Surge.

Website: https://fulgaz.com/

Platform: iOS – iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, Windows 10 and Android

Minimum hardware: Smart trainer, Wattbike ATOM. 

Wireless support: Bluetooth and ANT+

Price: €10.99 Per month or €97.99 Per Year

Free trial: 14 days

Disciplines supported: Cycling

Kinomap

Cyclist Type: “Multi-sporter” who likes to share – Kinomap is perfect for someone who wants to cycle, run and row regularly. Some athletes use rowing to train for the swim if they don’t have access to a pool. Athletes who like to share their routes and training sessions – you can upload your own videos and structured workouts. It now supports structured workouts

Website: https://www.kinomap.com

Platform: iOS or Android App

Minimum hardware: Most Smart bike trainers, Bluetooth 4.0 treadmills and rowers (like Concept 2 with PM5)

Wireless support: Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+

Price: €11.99 per month or €89.99 per year or lifetime for €269.99

Free trial: 14 days

Disciplines supported: Cycling, running and rowing.

Access amazing trails from all over the globe and play videos at your own speed, based on your motions. You have an easy way to save your training history and track your progress and can monitor your strength, speed, distance, time and heart rate. Upload your favourite tracks and trails, challenge friends, family, or users to try the multiplayer option. Create playlists and post videos on social media.

Intelligent Cycling

Cyclist Type: “Gym Bunny” – Intelligent Cycling will appeal to athletes who like to spend a lot of time in the gym or home gym. It was designed for gyms and cycling instructors, but you can use it at home for free! It provides matching Spotify playlists so you can get the full home gym experience. It has over 30,000 workouts you can try.

Website: https://intelligent-cycling.com

Platform: iOS or Android App plus Win10 and MAC

Minimum hardware: It connects to most intelligent indoor bikes like Wattbikes and Stages plus smart turbos.

Wireless support: Bluetooth

Price: Free for home use

Disciplines supported: Cycling

New Kids on the Block and the others

There are others on the market such as those from the smart turbo manufacturers such as BKool, Elite (My E-Training) and TACX but I did not have a chance to test them fully. They are playing catch up to the bigger players like Zwift and Wahoo so from my brief look not as sophisticated as this is a bolt on to their core business of selling the hardware. 

In my previous article, I mentioned new entrants to the market like VirtuGo and CVRcade. VirtuGo is no more and CVRcade has been rebranded a Cadesport. VirtuGo could not compete with Zwift even though the graphics were excellent they could not get enough revenue from users and in-app advertising. User acquisition cost is high for indoor training apps and you need deep pockets to stay the course.

Cadesports is aimed at gamers who like fitness so you will need a powerful gaming computer to run this. Downloads have been suspended until they launch version 1.0 and you can check release dates on social media.

Conclusion

There is a cycling App out there to suit all personality types and pockets. With so many offering a free trial you can find the right one for you. The market is however becoming a little overcrowded and it will be interesting to see how it develops. I think the winners will be those that integrate more sports like running, rowing, yoga, strength and conditioning etc. I also believe that there will be a big shakeup on offerings with maybe buyouts from companies such as TrainingPeaks so that they can offer a fully integrated training package with an App to control your Smart Turbo and programmes written by your coach delivered seamlessly to the athlete. The latest rumour is that Zwift will merge with TrainerRoad so we may get a “Sociable Stato”?

 

What happened with the London Classics medal? It’s proudly displayed in my pain cave as a reminder you can complete events by training on online Apps if you need to. But if your routes are challenging or include an open water swim then getting out there on my bike, running in the mountains and swimming in the local lakes and sea is better for my mind, body, spirit and motivation. Doing a combination is probably the best compromise depending on where you live, your target event and how much time you have to train.

 

Written by: Karen Parnell

Karen is a British Triathlon Federation (BTF) Level 3 High Performing Coach and Tutor and ASA Open Water Swimming Coach. She is also a qualified NASM Personal Trainer, Nivel 3 Técnicos Federados FATRI España and IRONMAN® Certified Coach as well as being a Stryd running with power coach. Karen is based near Malaga in Southern Spain where she runs ChiliTri coaching and camps. You can find training plans for swimming, cycling, running and triathlon on TrainingPeaks, Training Tilt and FinalSurge.