During the Northern Hemisphere’s outdoor season, I played around with the different virtual cycling and training apps available on iOS. Here are my rankings and notes about the various products. Why would I do this, when I already had The Sufferfest? Well, Suff came with my Kickr and it was the first app I’d ever used. Committing to it right off the bat would’ve been like marrying the first girl I ever kissed.
First, here’s my ranking of the “cycling simulator” apps:
And the training apps:
(Honorable Mention: FitBod. It’s a weightlifting app, so kind of a whole different thing. But I love it.)
And … all together, with notes:
SYSTM Really fun, and funny, training program (as opposed to cycling simulator). Great video. This is the only app that will teach you to improve your form. Excellent yoga that doesn’t require blocks and straps. Unique and very useful Mental Training Program grounded in legit performance psychology. Strength program, but more “strength for cyclists” than “let’s get huge.” Strong “excellence,” vice “wellness,” orientation. No front camera or Garmin watch connectivity, so not good for hotel gym Lifecycles or treadmills - must rely on RPE. Downloadable videos. Strava connectivity. Kickr integration. Terrific message board community - very supportive and offers a direct line to coaches, developers, and CEO.
Zwift Nice, gamey (SVGA-level), graphics. This avoids the uncanny valley effect I feel in Rouvy AR. Well-executed and compelling gamification with levels and customization. Very full world with many participants, some of whom I know IRL. This, too, is compelling. Good treadmill program with Garmin watch connectivity. Requires internet connection. Strava connectivity. Kickr integration.
Rouvy AR SD video. Free, good treadmill program with Garmin watch connectivity. Strava connectivity. Doesn’t upload rides directly to Garmin. No sound effects. Selecting virtual training partners a crap shoot, since I don’t know what my time on a given course will be. Should allow me to sort by W/Kg or learn my riding style and automatically add virtual riders in my range. Nice visual representation of w/Kg in real time. Superimposed virtual rider does not improve my sense of immersion; actually, it distracts me. Kickr integration. Good PC interface. Downloadable videos. Wish it had a top-down map, like FulGaz. No training programs - just a straight-up bike simulator.
BitGym Beautiful video and nice interface. Structured workouts available. No notification of other people. Downloadable videos. No Strava connectivity. No Kickr integration. Small library of free runs and rides. Really nice stereophonic ambient sound - you can hear water running as you run by a stream, or crowd noises as you run through a tourist area: I like this a lot. Camera mode, so works in hotel gyms and on rowers & ellipticals.
KinoMap Similar to BitGym. Beautiful video and nice interface, with large fonts for older eyes. No AR overlay, but five other people on the course whom I could “race” via the leaderboard. Downloadable videos. Strava connectivity. No Kickr integration. Camera mode, so works in hotel gyms and on rowers & ellipticals.
BKool Premium for Strava & FTP Test. SD video. Real-world participants out there, but empty when I used it. Kickr integration.
Peloton Digital Good yoga. Don’t enjoy the runs and rides - I simply don’t care for the whole “spin class” thing. All those instructors shouting encouragement at me really pull me out of my headspace. No Strava connectivity. No Kickr integration.
RGT Sub-MFSX graphics. Empty, except during structured, event rides -of which there are many. Nice community on FB and a limited, free, option. Can’t get HR monitor to work. No structured workouts. Internet required. Kickr integration.
FulGaz HD video. Dizzying array of rides - hard to pick the right one. Video taken from bikes instead of motorcycles - bike shadows really help me feel “there.” Rides don’t come with screenshots in menu, so a bit of a crap shoot. Nice little “bike computer simulator,” but could use some drone shots or sound effects or something. Route selection menu locked up on third ride and wouldn’t function after several restarts. Frustrating - pressed for time that day. Tried deleting iPad app, then reinstalling. Now it won’t let me log in at all, though I can log into the website on my PC. If not for this tech issue, FulGaz would be my #2 overall. Not social. Strava connectivity. Downloadable videos. Poor PC interface. Kickr integration.