Before virtual power brought structured, power-based training to the masses, some of the best indoor training tools we had were cycling videos - download a video to the computer or pop a DVD in the player and sweat it out while following along with the on-screen instructions.
“Go all out now! 10 out of 10! Move those legs fast!”
“OK, now spin easy for the next minute before we do it again.”
Aside from the general weirdness of having our TV tell us to do bad things to ourselves, many of these videos were well done and kept us motivated to train. We had quite a few brands to choose from, including Spinervals, The Sufferfest, and many more. Some of them are still available in that same format, while others have changed their approach. The Sufferfest falls into that latter category.
A Brief History of SufferlandriaFor those of you who are not familiar, The Sufferfest started out with a series of videos that delved deep into the darker humor of the “pain cave.” When you pressed Play on one of their videos - with titles such as “A Very Dark Place”, “Downward Spiral”, or “Fight Club” - you put yourself in a world where suffering is good, better known as Sufferlandria. As you rode along with the video, you became a Sufferlandrian - racing alongside pros while being told what to do by Director Sportif Grunter von Agony, and being further encouraged by the Minions, the citizens of Sufferlandria, and dreams of becoming a Knight of Sufferlandria. The videos were intense, entertaining, and had purpose. It was a bit weird. It was a little dark. But it was fun. The Sufferfest built a Pain Cave culture.
Eventually, somewhere around 2012-2013, some power-based applications such as TrainerRoad and PerfPRO Studio mapped out power profiles for The Sufferfest’s workouts and integrated the videos into their apps. With The Sufferfest providing the content and TrainerRoad/PerfPRO recording metrics, you had a really effective tool set.
Around 2016, seeing where the industry was going, The Sufferfest decided to stop selling standalone videos and offer an app. For some of us, this was a bit confusing - we had the entertaining content and good workouts provided by The Sufferfest, combined with the virtual power, extensive metrics, and relative reliability of TrainerRoad or PerfPRO Studio. Why mess with a good thing? But, in true Sufferlandrian style, The Sufferfest plowed forward and now we’re going to have a look at the results of their efforts, with a tour of modern day Sufferlandria.
Can I be a Sufferlandrian?As with any indoor training app, we need to start with hardware requirements. The Sufferfest app is currently available to Windows PC, MacOS, and iOS users. There is a 14 day free trial, and after that it's $12.99 USD per month or $99 USD per year.
PC users will need Windows 8.1 or newer, a 1.3 GHz processor, 2 GB of memory, and enough hard drive space to download any videos you want to have available offline. ANT+ is supported via a USB dongle, and Bluetooth is now supported natively if you have the Windows Creator (version 15063) version of Windows 10 and Bluetooth connectivity built into your PC or laptop.
For Mac users, you’ll need Yosemite (10.10) or newer and Bluetooth.
iOS users will need iOS 11 with a device that supports Bluetooth 4.0.
Like most indoor training apps, you’ll need an Internet connection, but The Sufferfest allows for streaming or downloading the videos, so you don’t have to have a fast connection if you plan ahead. You’ll need Internet connectivity when you log in to work out and again to upload your results after you finish.
For trainer hardware, The Sufferfest suggests you only need a bike and a trainer - you technically don’t have to have any sensors to do the workouts. But if you want to record metrics, The Sufferfest supports virtual power, so you can get by using only an ANT+ or Bluetooth speed sensor. You can further enhance your experience by adding an ANT+ or Bluetooth cadence sensor, heart rate sensor, and/or a power meter. For maximum suffering, The Sufferfest supports many of the popular smart trainers and bikes on the market today.
Let’s have a look around, shall we?When you first download and open the app, you’ll be greeted with a view similar to the screenshot above. If you explore this home page, you’ll quickly realize that The Sufferfest is much more than a cycling application. Alongside the cycling workouts, you’ll also find yoga, mental conditioning, running and strength-training workouts. If I may inject my opinion here for a moment, this is what sets The Sufferfest apart from the others. As a bike fitter, I work with a lot of athletes at all levels who are looking to improve their overall performance, yet are often held back by their own muscle imbalances. They can often benefit from some sort of cross training. To see The Sufferfest embrace this balanced approach to fitness, or what I like to describe as “building the complete cyclist”, is quite exciting.
Another interesting twist in the plot is what The Sufferfest calls 4DP, short for Four-Dimensional Power. The Sufferfest’s 4DP concept takes power-based training a step farther than FTP (Functional Threshold Power). FTP gives us a number - the average wattage we can sustain for an hour - and allows us to understand what level we ride at and to train accordingly. But, there are a lot of different disciplines within cycling - what kind of rider are you? Are you the kind of person who can push big watts for a short period of time like a MTBer attacking short hills or a crit racer in the final sprint to the line? Or maybe you’re better suited for a time trial on a flat course? Maybe you have no idea?
While FTP is a core metric in helping us understand how powerful we are as a rider, it doesn’t necessarily give us a good idea of which aspect of cycling we excel. 4DP is designed to help us understand not only at what level we ride, but what kind of rider we are, and describes that using four dimensions - FTP, MAP, AC, and NM. You can learn more about 4DP here.
As with traditional FTP tests, you establish your 4DP scores using a baseline test provided by The Sufferfest called “Full Frontal”, which is a 1 hour fitness test similar in concept to a traditional FTP test. Like FTP, those numbers don’t do you any good unless you know what to do with them. For the self-coached athlete, The Sufferfest adds a lot of value because it provides training plans according to these strengths. If you have an event coming up that has some hills, and you want to be a better climber, you can choose accordingly.
Talking about training plans, The Sufferfest offers a wide variety of training plans targeting different types of cycling disciplines or events. At first glance, it appears like there are about 21 plans, including plans for a metric century, a 200 mile gravel grinder, a full distance triathlon, or even a prep plan for the Tour of Sufferlandria, which is coming up February 15-23, 2020.
The plans vary from 1 week to 12 weeks in length, and are tailored according to your 4DP score. Additionally, they can be customized based on your experience level and are also modular - you can add mental toughness, yoga, and/or strength training into the plan, as well. If you don’t see anything you like here, customized training plans are available.
Once you’ve scheduled your plan, you can track all of your activity on your calendar. All of your settings, training plan, history, and workouts are accessible in the upper right corner of the app.
Let’s go for a quick spin!Alright, we’ve touched on some of the highlights, so let’s get in and get that first ride. To ride, simply do the following:
1. Log in and select “Workouts” in the upper right corner of the screen.
2. Choose a workout and select the “Play” button near the upper right corner of the screen.
3. Follow the prompts to pair your sensors.
4. Allow the Minions to tear your legs off. Enjoy the metrics displayed at the bottom of the screen.
That’s all it takes to get in a workout. The Sufferfest app’s interface is pretty clean and straightforward, and one of the better ones out there when it comes to being able to get in and ride.
Of course, The Sufferfest is offering so much more than just a workout and we’ve only scratched the surface. We’ll follow up to discuss some more of The Sufferfest app’s features in an upcoming article, as well as touch on The Sufferfest 4DP and training plans again in some upcoming “Indoor Training 101” articles we have planned.
Thank you for visiting Sufferlandria!