Dumb trainers having been presented here (the smart trainers overview is upcoming), let's talk about what kind of stuff you can do on the dummies.
Of course, you can just ride them. You can also race aboard them, in a virtual race, and that discussion is also upcoming. Today I'm writing about structured training.
There is no lack of structured training plans and workouts available (from magazines, coaches, training software, club training sessions, reader forums, your buddies) as well as methods for recording these workouts. This article will certainly be a debatable analysis (the debate taking place via Facebook comments below or on the Slowtwitch Reader Forum) and let us commence straightaway.
Choosing training software can be more complicated than choosing your trainer. Your training software is often dependent upon such factors as: Are you using a computer or mobile device to control the trainer? Windows or Mac? Bluetooth or Ant+? Do you have a coach or are you self-trained? Do you want to watch videos during your workout? Is the software platform compatible with your smart trainer? Does it have preloaded workouts or training plans? Let's review some of the most discussed (or maybe overlooked) training software available for desktops and apps for individual users.
Wahoo Fitness App
For those with smart trainers, this is probably a great place to start, as long as you have a Kickr (which is a smart trainer, so, that is one limitation). It's got only basic features, but it's free, is available on both iOS and Android, and more importantly it just plain works. You are limited to setting a wattage (Erg Mode) or grade (percent), but you can also upload workouts to nearly any training software (e.g., TrainingPeaks, Strava, Garmin Connect, etc.). You can listen to music while you ride, and works on both Ant+ and Bluetooth.
This is only for iOS devices. It expands upon the features available on Wahoo Fitness App (also only for Kickr) and for $6 you also get access to a small library of predefined structured workouts, ability to create your own structured workouts, and a nice feature where you can import your workout from TrainingPeaks into the app so it is visible during your workout. Now, if iMobileIntervals managed to automatically structure the workout for your Kickr as well, that would have been impressive.
This was, and remains, my favorite app of all those I have used, and is one of the most robust. It bests iMobileIntervals with its recently expanded platform in structured workouts (over 200 and growing), including some Sufferfest workouts, and the ability to create and save your own workout from your tablet (iOS or Android). Although you may prefer using the desktop version of VirtualTraining to create workouts, and it's required to set your power and heart rate training zones, nearly all features can be done on the app alone. It also saves your workouts in the cloud along with pushing to nearly all the training software sites.
It also uses Ant+ and Bluetooth, will work with the Kickr, Cyclops (for tension adjustment) and (this is where dumb trainers enter) offers virtual power for those not using a power meter or smart trainer. It's available on a monthly ($6.99) or yearly subscription ($69.99).
With all the above, I think it's important to add that its niche is really in virtual rides and races, so the fact it contains all the above features for structured workouts makes it a popular app. We will look at virtual racing in another feature article.
Sufferfest workouts have been popular for some time and they recently added structured plans as well. These workouts are video-based and are available on all the operating platforms, available for desktop or mobile device, and can be used on any trainer.
They are structured video workouts that are motivating and hardcore. Most of the applications or software in this review can utilize these videos as part of their structured workouts.
The combination of a Sufferfest video with a resistance controlled trainer is the gold standard in training software. They have also recently added structured triathlon training plans ($199 with videos), but to give them their due, their niche is the hardcore workouts and videos they're famous for.
Peripedal and PerfPro
PeriPedal ($79) and PerfPro ($99) are both Windows desktop applications. They have many of the same structured workout and training plans features as TrainerRoad but work only with Ant+ devices.
PerfPro builds upon the existing features of PeriPedal by including virtual power and can control resistance on the Kickr, CycleOps, and Computrainer. It is also more advanced and technical in its features and analysis capabilities. It is a very popular platform among Computrainer users and its strength lies in its multi-rider front.
What are the advantages of these two? First, you pay a one-time fee which means in one year you start saving money. They also give you the ability to analyze your workouts if you are not using TrainingPeaks or another software that performs the analysis function, a nice feature. And to be fair, the analysis capabilities of PerfPro seem to far exceed TrainingPeaks.
All that established, I have limited hands-on with each of these.
There is a reason why TrainerRoad gets so much attention on the Slowtwitch Reader Forum: It meets the needs of nearly everyone and it just plain works. It works for most smart trainers (Kickr, CycleOps, Computrainer, Kurt Kinectic InRide) and for all the dumb trainers, Ant+ or Bluetooth sensors, and with virtual power. It is available for Windows or Mac, and most recently joined the iOS world.
It has the ability to save to the Cloud as well as some export capabilities for other training software platforms (e.g., TrainingPeaks). It has a massive database of structured workouts, over 800, but more importantly, for those without a coach, it has quality structured training plans for triathletes and other disciplines. This sets it above the rest. Initially I found the training plans a bit complicated to navigate, but with their recent update in January, 2015, and with more to come, they really smoothed things out.
There are many other nice-to-have features on the desktop version such as their workout creator; ability to add videos to workouts; movies for those long easy rides; and the ability to watch your metrics at the bottom of the screen.
Another nice feature, not found in other training software platforms, is the use of teams within TrainerRoad. If your tri club or coach created a "team" on TrainerRoad, it can grant you access to the shared or custom workouts. Why waste time creating your custom workouts when someone already has?
TrainerRoad has also teamed up with Best Bike Split to allow subscribed users to import a race plan ride prepared by Best Bike Split as a structured workout: a great addition for serious racers. You get all of these features for $10 a month or $99 a year.
In speaking with TrainerRoad, their current priority is on further developing their training plans and the iOS app. Currently, the app works well, but there is room for improvement to meet the likes of VirtualTraining. It's new, but I expect the same quality in their app as their desktop version in the near future. And hopefully followed up by an Android app.
Finally, and not to take away from a couple of the other training platforms that have active representatives on the Slowtwitch forums, but the gang from TrainerRoad (e.g. Nate and Trevor) have been on the forum answering questions and following up on Reader Forum feedback to further develop their product. In fact, their ongoing thread has more than1500 posts and is one of the longest ongoing threads on Slowtwitch.
So after all the information, which one do is the best? A better question is which one is best suited for me, and this may help: