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Best cycling training apps to make you a better cyclist in 2022

Cyclist magazine
4 Jan 2021

Get the most out of turbo sessions with the seven best cycling training apps for iPhone, Android and more

In the past, the closest thing to an interactive element during home training sessions was to plug in a VHS and listen to Phil Liggett on full blast, barely audible over the whirring of your turbo trainer as you try to ‘keep up’ on a mountain stage while forgetting about the discomfort of sitting still.

Thankfully, though, that’s all changed. The latest generation of training apps works across multiple platforms from PCs to smartphones and tablets. They offer hundreds of virtual places to ride with or against other riders, with realistic, real-time graphics or video.

They can also connect to the latest generation of smart trainers to vary the resistance automatically, making the experience more authentic than ever.

Here we look at seven training apps to see how they stack up. It’s quite an investment in time and potentially cost to try them out, and not all will suit your needs or tastes.

So plug into our guide to discover which one can provide the kind of indoor-training environment you’re looking for.

Here are the best cycling training apps

1. Zwift

Like Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, the graphics of Zwift aren’t quite Hollywood CGI, but we found them so engaging that we soon forgot we weren’t actually riding.

Saddle time is rewarded with XP points, which allow you to upgrade kit and equipment and adds an extra level of interest and possibly motivation.

In the ‘Just Ride’ mode, the resistance responds to the gradient and the Zwift programmers must be commended for providing a fantastically smooth and realistic feeling.

If you want something more structured, you can enter one of the many group rides scheduled daily, or follow your own workout programme.

In these cases, the resistance responds to the particular training block and the groups are held together regardless of how much power an individual rider is producing.

With thousands of riders Zwifting at any one time, we were never on our own for a ride, further increasing engagement with the app.

Apart from a small number of connection issues, everything worked as it should making for a seamless experience. And for anyone with a place in this year’s RideLondon, you can train on the slopes of a virtual Box Hill and hone your sprint finish down the Mall too!

Platforms

iOS/Mac/Windows

Summary

Lacks serious in-depth data but turns tedious turbo sessions into a fun, sociable experience

Cost

£12.99/month

Find out more

zwift.com

2. BKool Simulator

You’ve got to be cool and patient to make the perfect attacking move on a ride, or so they say, and BKool’s expansive offering will help you build the legs needed to execute it.

We found the real-world rides challenging and engaging, particularly in the 3D virtual renderings with fellow competitors to keep you company and crowds to cheer you on.

Getting through the complicated interface and scheduling tried our patience a tad, and we also found that the resistance changes were a little too sharp for our liking.

But on the plus side, any ride can be turned into a BKool session (by linking to your own GPS tracks) and enjoyed in an aerial map mode.

The velodrome sessions add another extra element of fun, allowing you to compete against other riders in a pursuit or kilo time-trial, with the only limitation being the number of other users online when you want to ride.

We also really enjoyed the structured sessions offered by the video workout classes with the instructors keeping us motivated and offering insights into the benefits of particular workouts; just watch out for the classes held in Spanish. ¡Hola!

Platform

iOS/Android/Mac/Windows

Summary

With such a wealth of content, BKool is one of the most engaging and best value apps out there

Cost

£7.99/month

Find out more

bkool.com

3. Sufferfest

As the old saying goes no pain, no gain, and the Sufferfest dishes both out in spades. With its unique blend of tough-love motivation, inspirational race footage and targeted intervals, it’ll help any rider gain access to their personal pain cave and emerge a stronger rider.

At the core of the app are the Sufferfest workout videos; combining race footage and music to match the effort demanded by a particular interval.

We thought this worked really well, pushing us on to the finish as Peter Sagan rode to glory in the Tour of Flanders in front of us.

One slight criticism is the arbitrary and sudden changes in the soundtrack that left us feeling like we were watching an episode of Homes Under the Hammer.

It took a little while to get used to the amount of information displayed on the screen, but it wasn’t enough of a problem to distract from the workout itself.

Uniquely offered is the use of 4-Dimensional Power using the Full Frontal workout, whereby the app builds a 4-D profile and identifies your strengths and weaknesses with recommended workouts to build on these.

With 50 or so workout videos, there’s enough to keep you coming back to Sufferlandria for a whole world of pain – again and again. Read our full Sufferfest review.

Platforms

iOS/Mac/Windows

Summary

A good choice of workouts, lots of data and a user-friendly interface. Fun, as long as you like pain

Cost

£7.50/month

Find out more

thesufferfest.com

4. Trainerroad

If you want a no-nonsense app that’ll make you a faster cyclist, then this is the one for you. Don’t get us wrong, no-nonsense is not a euphemism for poor quality or lacking in features – quite the opposite.

TrainerRoad is a well thought-out and easy-to-use app with industry-leading features.

It focuses on delivering high-quality training sessions and doesn’t require you to have a degree in sports science to use it – simply choose your discipline, development area and volume to arrive at your multi-week training plan.

Following the Winter Base plan, we knew exactly what we had in-store each day, so there was no wasted time before each session deciding what to do.

The PowerMatch feature does an excellent job of working with your bike’s power meter to control the resistance of your smart trainer, making indoor sessions comparable with those completed outdoors.

Built-in trainer and power meter calibration is another feature that shows the developers at TrainerRoad are serious about accuracy.

We loved the workout explanations and apart from some minor setup issues, the only thing we reckon you need worry about is when pals complain they can’t keep up.

Platforms

iOS/Android/Mac/Windows

Summary

With loads of data, training sessions and plans, it’s ideal for those who take their indoor training seriously

Cost

£15/month

Find out more

trainerroad.com

5. FulGaz

If you’ve ever heard the Classics racers give a post-race interview you’ll probably have heard the term ‘full gas’. It’s when you’re going as hard as you can and there is nothing left. Which provides a helpful clue as to what this video-based simulator is all about!

Using physics modelling to reflect the ride sensations by altering resistance on your smart turbo trainer, along with high-definition videos of real races, it really pulled us in, to the point where we naturally chased the wheels in front of us and even leant into corners.

On occasion the turbo resistance felt lumpy and out of sync on the steeper gradients, but adjusting the settings of rider weight, aerodynamic resistance and gear ratios certainly improved things.

FulGaz has a vast library with over 250 global videos that cover from 1-100 miles, and offers three ride modes: ‘Steady’ plays the video back at the speed it was recorded, making it ideal for fixed-duration workouts, whereas the ‘Reactive’ and ‘Challenge’ modes respond to how hard you’re working.

For an added incentive, you can use Challenge mode to race against a ghost of yourself or an online rival.

Platforms

iOS only

Summary

Great for anyone who wants to turn watching pro races on the TV into a more interactive experience

Cost

£9.99/month

Find out more

fulgaz.com

6. Rouvy

According to the developers behind Rouvy, the name is enshrined in cycling legend, being the nickname of a wild sheep-like animal ridden by a court jester up the steep hills of Central Europe that was supposedly the inspiration for the first bicycle. Or something.

Legends aside, this app is based on years of development with a mixed offering of real-world video rides, interval training sessions and a selection of competitive modes that are sure to see you outpacing the local wildlife.

With routes from a variety of worldwide locations, there’s plenty to keep you entertained. The user-submitted videos are a real highlight and of excellent quality.

We did find the technical side of the ride experience was lacking, however, with brutal resistance changes and the video going slowly out of sync with the resistance.

If you’re using TrainingPeaks, you can pull your workouts from there, which is a nice touch; it’s also compatible with Sufferfest workout videos.

The option to join scheduled races is good, although we struggled to find enough ride companions. In theory, there should have been enough content to keep us entertained but in reality we were left a bit underwhelmed.

Platforms

iOS/Android/Windows

Summary

Suffers from a few technical glitches and lack of users, but still a worthwhile indoor companion

Cost

£9/month

Find out more

rouvy.com

7. GoldenCheetah

The fastest land-based animal may not be a realistic target, but GoldenCheetah should help you become a faster cyclist without costing a penny.

A pioneer of open source ride data analysis, GoldenCheetah’s freely available, and we were keen to explore its built-in training mode to see if it could provide a viable alternative to paid-for apps.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, GoldenCheetah isn’t as polished as others, but looks can be deceiving and below the surface you’ll find analysis tools to satisfy even the geekiest rider.

However, we found this complexity made the app and specifically the training mode, difficult to use – especially figuring out how to setup our trainer with the software.

Another issue was finding a workout: 1,000s of user-made workouts are available through the online ERG database tool, but with searching almost impossible, it’s like looking for the proverbial needle in haystack.

It is, however, a doddle to make your own workouts, so if you have a selection of your own pre-made workouts these can be input and used in ERG mode with your smart trainer.

Not for the faint-hearted, but if you’re used to following paper training plans and already make use of the analysis tools, GoldenCheetah, could prove a very cost-effective solution. 

Platforms

Mac/Windows/Linux

Summary

Great in-depth stats make it a good choice for geeks, but the complex interface is not for the casual user

Cost

£free

Find out more

goldencheetah.org

How to choose a smart trainer

Many turbo trainers offer the option for the user to vary resistance via a remote switch mounted on the handlebars. This works by adjusting the level of magnetic resistance in the flywheel, enabling riders to recreate the effect of, for example, riding up steep gradients.

Smart trainers do away with this manual resistance control, instead linking up with computers, smartphones and compatible bike computers which can control the resistance level for you.

This has created a whole market of interactive training apps and simulators that have two benefits.

The first is the ability to follow preset workouts, with resistance changes coming at set points without you needing to intervene. It’s almost like having your own coach.

The other benefit is being able to link your turbo sessions to realistic online worlds – either computer-generated or linked to real-world videos – where you can ride with/against others, with the resistance of your turbo trainer increasing every time you hit a virtual hill.

Entry-level models such as the BKool Smart Go cost around £350 and include everything needed to get started, but for a more realistic experience check out the Tacx Neo Smart, which among its many features is able to simulate road vibration and has a bone-shaking price tag to match – £1,299.

Just make sure any prospective purchase includes both ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart, the two most widely used wireless protocols, maximising app compatibility including all those featured in this guide.

Read our Zwift guide, best cycling apps for your phone and best turbo trainer workouts

• For information on how the Wattbike Atom can help you achieve your training goals, visit wattbike.com/gb

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