Only a few years ago, I scoffed at the thought of cycling indoors over the winter. I was one of those people who would ride in just about any kind of weather, particularly in winter. I’ve got a fat bike and tons of winter gear so there’s no excuse for me not to get out.
However, in the last couple of years, the motivation for bundling up and getting out on my bike in winter has been diminishing. After some recent winter rides, I’ve noticed that physical exertion in sub-zero (C) temperatures has made my lungs burn and I often end up with a cough.
Excuses aside, I’ve been drawn to indoor training when the weather isn’t favourable. Over the past couple of winters, I’ve been upping my indoor cycling game. After years of resistance, I purchased a power meter (an older-version PowerTap hub). And I began my quest for finding the best training software that suited my needs. In the winter of 2018-19, I signed up for TrainerRoad, which seemed like an affordable option for me (at the time, it was around $15/month, in comparison to Zwift, which was $20/month).
I found that the format of TrainerRoad helped motivate me through the first few months of 2019. I ended up having other setbacks, but I did get some good indoor time on the trainer. I cancelled my subscription once the snow melted and I was able to ride outside without having to wear 3-5 layers of clothing.
When late 2019 approached and daylight hours were getting shorter, I began to look at new options for winter training over the 2019-2020 winter. TrainerRoad bumped their monthly fee to $20 USD/month, which was no longer offered a price advantage, so I decided to look into other options.
Within my circle of cycling friends, Zwift is easily the most popular indoor cycling training option. It’s now more affordable than TrainerRoad, at just under $20 CAD/month. Zwift is a cycling video game, with fancy graphics and many options for cycling workouts. It allows you to cycle against other Zwifters from around the world on countless different courses. I also tried Sufferfest, which is available for $14.99 USD/month. I did one workout with a video where instructors led me through a workout. It was a good workout but it didn’t really inspire me.
I considered Zwift this winter, but I have no desire to compete, plus I am not motivated by the graphics. The reason TrainerRoad worked for me was that I found that I am motivated by numbers. If I select a workout that tells me to ride for 20 minutes at a specific power number, then I am motivated to follow it. Others I know are motivated by the features of Zwift. Another option with a similar graphical interface is Rouvy. I didn’t try it, but the website states that prices start at $10/month (I’m assuming that is in USD).
I also looked into a website called Xert. This option is similar to TrainerRoad in that it’s numbers-based. Late in the summer of 2019, I decided to purchase Xert for one year, at a cost of $100 USD (pay-by-the-month is $9.99 USD). When I started to prepare for indoor training with Xert, I learned that it works through your phone or tablet, rather than through a Window or Mac-based computer. This means that your devices (heart-rate monitor, power meter, cadence/speed sensor) have to be Bluetooth compatible. My gear is older, so it only transmits via ANT+. So I’d have to invest in more hardware to take full advantage of Xert.
After that disappointment, I decided to try a free option. There’s a free downloadable software package called Golden Cheetah. I’ve used it to analyze my rides for a couple of years, and it has a “workout” feature that I thought I’d try. It seemed to have all the requirements I needed. I did a couple of workouts on Golden Cheetah before Christmas but it just didn’t click with me for some reason.
Finally, I discovered Perf PRO Studio, which, like Golden Cheetah, is a downloadable software package that runs on your PC. PerfPRO offers a 30-day free trial, so I had nothing to lose. Within that 30 days in early 2020, I was hooked. I was able to easily create my own workouts and make use of the library of workouts that come with the software. There’s also a PerfPro analyzer, which provides me with hours of analysis time. I liked it so much that I decided to purchase it for a one-time fee of $99.95 USD. I’ll be able to update PerfPRO at no extra cost, infinitely.
Around the same time, I discovered an online cycling analysis tool called intervals.icu. Like Golden Cheetah, this website provides detailed analyses of physical activities. It has helped me track the progression of my fitness and provides all kinds of fun numbers and metrics for a numbers person like me!
While this blog entry is far from a comprehensive evaluation of the options for indoor training for cycling, it offers some options that I’ve spent some time evaluating. My main criteria are: cost (including cost of the software/website and cost of any upgrades I need to make to use each option), ease of use, nice graphics (but not necessarily fancy avatars), easy setup and use of intervals based on FTP.
Here’s the list of software I’ve tried. As mentioned, I’m currently using PerfPro, plus Golden Cheetah and Intervals.icu for analytics.
Golden Cheetah (free to download, runs directly on PC)
PerfPRO ($99 USD one-time cost, runs directly on PC)
Xert ($9.99 USD per month, or $99.95 USD billed annually, runs on smartphone or tablet)
TrainerRoad ($19.95 USD per month or $189 USD billed annually)
Zwift ($18.99 CAD per month, no annual option)
SufferFest ($14.99 USD per month or $129 USD billed annually)
intervals.icu (free website for cycling analytics)