If it were for cyclists to decide, they would never consider the options of riding indoors. But since they do not have that choice, sometimes indoor cycling is inevitable—especially during winter or when the schedule is too tight. As much as it is better than doing nothing all winter, the exercise can be boring. You have to be on a trainer, on your way to nowhere, staring at the wall or TV; and it is very easy to lose focus and give up.
Thanks to technology, however, you can now attain your goals and have more fun doing what you love indoors. Smart bike trainer apps not only give you a more road-like experience, but they also offer you very many options. They will make training much more entertaining, and as a bonus, they record your training for you to assess your performance.
This article seeks to discuss some of the best apps for stationary bike riding and compare them to help you get the one that suits you the most.
Zwift vs. TrainerRoad vs. Sufferfest vs. TrainingPeaks vs. Golden Cheetah vs. BKool Comparisson Table
Zwift is an online gaming app designed for indoor bike training. As you train, it gets data from your bike—can be smart trainer, power meter or cadence/speed sensor (through Bluetooth or ANT+)—which is used to control the game. When you pedal on your trainer, your avatar, which is customized, navigates a course in the virtual space. This software works on any iOS device or computer that meets their minimum requirements.
See, you do not have to be an iconic cycling pro to join in the fun. There are all kinds of riders on the platform. The Zwift virtual cycling app replicates three environments; Richmond UCI 2015 World’s Courses, London Prudential and the Zwift fantasy Watupia Island.
You subscribe with $10/£8 per month (or sign up for their seven days free trial) to access an exciting virtual environment that has races, group rides, courses and power based workouts. The price is quite fair considering the amount of fun, interactive workout you will be having.
What You Need
You don’t really need much- just the basic stuff but with more advanced hardware. Apart from the things common to all workouts, such as water, a towel, a fan, There are four other primary things that you must have;
- A bike trainer/rollers and a BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy)/ANT+ speed and cadence sensor/power meter
- Your bike
- A computer (Mac or PC) or iOS device
- A receiver for the Bluetooth/ANT+ signal
For the trainer, you have the following options;
A smart trainer: It is a good option because most of them are compatible with Zwift. It is also very efficient if you are interested in a natural workout. You want the resistance to adjust automatically depending on the virtual terrain.
Any other trainer/rollers and a power meter: a power meter is very accurate in measuring effort and their main advantage while using Zwift is that you can use any trainers and rollers.
A classic trainer and a speed sensor: if you set up a supported trainer with a sensor, Zwift will calculate your power according to the speed of your bike’s rear wheel. This combination is excellent for beginners.
Indoor Bikes with inbuilt sensors: in case your bicycle has an inbuilt sensor to transmit power, there is no need to get other sensors.
Your computer or iOS device must be compatible with Zwift. Remember, graphics are critical just as in any other game, so if your computer is not too old, it will work. Zwift has set minimum requirements for computers and you can check to see if your machine meets them. The same goes for the iOS device; it should not be a very old edition.
If you are using a computer, you need a receiver that will translate the signal to it to transmit the signal to your PC using Bluetooth, get the Zwift Mobile Link app. For Mac, either use the Zwift Mobile Link App or native BLE. The Zwift Mobile Link App is a Zwift companion app that will make your training easier because you can easily navigate turns, join events or instant message as you ride. For ANT+ you must have an ANT+ USB cable/dongle.
When you have everything and have downloaded the app, pair your devices and pick the replica of your preferred location. Set up your preferences whenever you are ready. To start working out, log in, go to Ride Type menu, click on Select Workout and choose one. You have the option of going with the available training plans or creating your own.
TrainerRoad, just as the name suggests, is dedicated to training cyclists on how to win. You cannot do that by riding aimlessly on your indoor trainer. You need a training plan, guidance and the motivation of other cyclists. With the use of structured interval workouts, motivational and instructional text, and live data on the screen, your skills are bound to improve significantly.
This cycling app has two plans. The first one is a monthly plan, where you pay $12 per month. The second one is the annual plan where you pay $99 annually. The annual plan will save you $45. Both of these plans offer you more than 100 professional training plans, entertainment integrations, ride sync and cross-platform compatibility among other amazing features.
TrainerRoad has a money-back guarantee. If you do not like the app within the first 30 days, you will get back your money.
There isn’t exactly a free trial option from TrainerRoad. However, they occasionally have free trial and promo codes offers once in a while for clients. Also, if you buy any Wahoo Smart Bike Trainer, you are guaranteed of a 30-day free trial of TrainerRoad.
What You Need
First, you will need a computer, tablet or smartphone. Unlike Zwift, TrainerRoad is more accommodating and works on Android, iOS, PC, and Mac. Next up you need a trainer and an ANT+ or Bluetooth device for connection. A smart trainer or a cadence/speed sensor can act as the wireless link. You don’t necessarily need a power meter with TrainerRoad because the app will approximate your power using your live speed data and trainer model.
You can either set up your trainer and speed sensor, trainer and power meter or your smart trainer and you will be ready to get started. To make sure your devices and equipment are supported, visit the TrainerRoad website and check your devices using their equipment checker. But it supports a wide range of equipment, so it is unlikely that yours will be unsupported—just check though.
The first step is to sign up then install the TrainerRoad software on your device. The second step is to pair your devices using either Bluetooth or ANT+. Before you start training, you need to take the FTP test. FTP (Functional Threshold Power) is your measure of fitness. The test is usually an 8-minute workout (for cyclists who ride for a short duration) or a 20-minute workout (for long-duration athletes). However, if you already know your FTP, plug it into the software while setting up. The final step is to choose a training plan.
The structured training plans in TrainerRoad are meant to make you a better cyclist by building your strength and endurance. They are categorized into three phases.
- The Base Phase: this phase sharpens your basic skills as a rider. It has three training plans. The Sweet-Spot (highly recommended) which is the most efficient for most cyclists, the Triathlon is ideal for multi-sport athletes, and the Traditional, which uses a traditional approach to training.
- The Build Phase: this phase is very demanding and it seeks to build your discipline. It is divided into the Short Power Build, Sustained Power Build, the General Build and the Triathlon Build.
- The Specialty Base: this phase ensures that your fitness level is at peak. Its plans include the Road Racer, Triathlete, Off-Road and Enthusiast.
The Sufferfest Training app center is unique and offers some features that other indoor cycling stimulators don’t. They started off as racing video clips, but today, they are some of the biggest players in the industry. Not only does it help with your cycling skills, but it also helps you train your body and mind off the bike. Their workouts are designed by some of the best minds in the game to help you benefit from the suffering. The app works on PC, Mac and iOS. The Android app is still in beta.
The Sufferfest will cost you $10 for a month of Suffering and $99 for a year of Suffering if you chose the annual plan. You have the option of canceling anytime if you don’t love the services. You are given seven days of free trial. The period is enough for you to decide whether or not it will work for you.
What You Need
You need a computer, iPhone or iPad. They have also minimum requirements that your device has to meet. You also need a bike and trainer, something for you to suffer on. It does not matter whether you have a smart trainer or an old bike stand—although a smart trainer heightens the experience because you can connect it to the app.
The ‘Virtual Power’ feature allows you to train with power even if you do not have a smart trainer or power meter. You just connect a speed sensor to the software and tell them the kind of trainer you are using. They will then estimate your power and offer you a customized workout to suit your needs. To use the virtual power feature, you need to have a speed sensor, compatible bike trainer and an ANT+ receiver.
Download the Sufferfest app on the device of your choice. Set up your account and get the free trial. If you like it, subscribe to your preferred plan. From there you can choose the workout that you like.
The workouts provided in Sufferfest are personal; you will not be racing against anybody. It has a good number of workouts and each one of them has intervals, as well as cadence, power and heart rate targets. The software lets you know if you are above, below or have attained a target.
TrainingPeaks have been around for a while now. They believe that they have the perfect workouts for effective and fruitful endurance training. They have two editions of their software; the athlete edition and the coach edition. It offers scientific tools such as TSS® to help you analyze your training data. You can access the app on the web, iPhone, Android or desktop. They have a Basic option which is free and a paid Premium option.
There are four subscription plans for this indoor cycling training plan. There is the monthly subscription that goes for $19.95, the quarterly subscription for $49, the semi-annual subscription for $79 and the annual subscription for $119.
They do not have a free trial but since the Basic option is free, you can try it out to see how it works. As usual, the Basic option has little features available compared to the Premium option. For instance, you cannot plan future workouts, sync your calendar with Google, Outlook, etc when you are on the Basic plan.
What You Need
Just as with the above software, you need the basic equipment to be able to use TrainingPeaks. You require a bike, a trainer and a device (computer, phone or tablet).
This training app is compatible with a good number of devices and equipment to help accommodate as many riders as possible. Once you are sure you have all you need, you are ready to get started.
- Log in and personalize your account by updating personal information, changing your calendar’s layout and other settings.
- Next, check your account type and bring your payment information up-to-date.
- Find a coach. You can go with the one shared with/attached to you, ask for a new one or share yourself with one by keying in their email address.
When you are done setting up, go to “Home” to see your fitness level, your goals, upcoming events and workouts.
If you were using Garmin Connect before you joined TrainingPeaks, here is some good news; you can link the two accounts and you include your last 30 days of workout.
The Golden Cheetah app is a program that allows cyclists to track and analyze their riding performance against recorded data. You collect your training information as you ride your bike trainer. This cycling software is ideal for riders who have a power meter. Otherwise, you will not enjoy most of the features—although you can still use it. The app is available for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows.
Golden Cheetah Price
Golden Cheetah is free—that’s right, you pay nothing.
What You Need
- A trainer/rollers
- A computer
- Power meter
- ANT+ or Bluetooth device
This software supports the CompuTrainer.
After installing Golden Cheetah, you need to do the initial setup for you to use the platform. First, set your training zones by going to Tool > options > Athlete.
Enter your FTP (referred to as CP on Golden Cheetah) by clicking on the Power Zones tab. If you wish, you can set up your Heart Rate Zone, but it is not really important on GC. You are also allowed to upload/import a file and the app supports a wide range of file formats. Connect your Garmin Edge and import the files.
Golden Cheetah has an instructional video on their user guide to help new users navigate the program.
The BKool Cycling Stimulator is designed to ensure that your indoor training sessions are lively. It may even make you forget the outdoors altogether—well, maybe not exactly. But it offers some very cool (kool?) features that will keep you glued to your trainer all winter long.
It has more than 500,000 training routes, in 3D, and you can participate or create rankings or leagues. It also allows you to workout with up to 100 friends, regardless of where they are in the world. It is compatible with Windows (7 or higher), Mac (OSX 10.8 – 10.12.6), iOS (7 or higher) and Android (4.3 or higher).
The BKool Premium software goes for $9.99 a month. You can, however, enjoy 30 days free trial before you purchase the plan. If you buy the BKool Premium turbo trainer, you get a whole one year free trial period.
What You Need
The essentials of the BKool cycling app are no different from those of the other simulators above. You need a bike, a trainer, a computer/phone/tablet and a Bluetooth or ANT+ device. The program supports a wide range of smart trainers and controls them.
It also supports other trainers without electronic control but does not control them.
Getting started is very simple. Follow these simple steps and you will be ready to start training in no time.
- Register at bkool.com
- Download the simulator on your device
- Activate your BKool Premium coupon if you have one.
- Set up your trainer
- Activate your Bluetooth connection or connect the USB ANT+
- Pair your devices
- Pick a session and start your workout
So, you will find that all these apps are great. Actually, it is very hard to tell you which app is the best for you. Preferences vary. For instance, take Zwift vs. TrainerRoad, the two giants in the cycling software game. Although Zwift is cheaper than TrainerRoad, it does not have an Android version. Moreover, Zwift’s free trial only lasts seven days, compared to TrainerRoad’s which lasts 30 days.
TrainingPeaks is the most expensive of all the above. However, it has a free Basic package, something that the other programs do not have. It also has a coach and athlete option, so it is pretty cool. You can agree that the Golden Cheetah is also super amazing, considering the fact that it is free for life. The main downside is that if you do not have a power meter, you may not enjoy it much.
Sufferfest is an outstanding app, especially if you are looking to suffer so that you can laugh at events. Although training with it is a solitary affair, you will improve your cycling endurance and overall skills as a cyclist. BKool is not doing so bad itself, what with countless 3D routes and an amazing offer if you purchase the BKool Premium Turbo trainer?