First look at the BKOOL ANT+ resistance controlled trainer

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This morning I spent a good bit of time getting to try out the BKOOL trainer, which is a resistance controlled trainer that enables you to create and ride specific workouts while automatically changing the resistance/load based on the terrain or course.  In addition, it also does real video style rides with recorded video of both known major cycling events as well as interesting locations.

The engaging piece here is really the pricing aspect, which is about half the price of the competition, at between €450 and €500, depending on the exact country within Europe.  Yes, you did read that right – Euros – but the main reason they are here at the show (in the US) is to get distributors on board here in the US.  So for now they’re just shipping within Europe, but I suspect that’ll change soon.

But they offer an interesting package for that price point, with features that frankly aren’t out on other units.  So let’s dive into it. Oh, and this will be a quick overview, since I’ll have a unit in my hands next week.  And I’m going to try and see if I can squeeze it in with the rest of the trainers in early October – but at the moment things are getting clogged up a bit in the review pipeline.

The BKOOL kit has two major components – the trainer itself, and the cloud driven software suite.

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The software itself is heavily web based when it comes to tracking your rides, creating workouts, and competing in contests against other.

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You can select courses to ride, as well as view your past activities.  As you can see above in the menus, the online software suite spans both the trainer, as well as their iPhone and Android apps.  So it offers a bit of a one-stop-shop when it comes to tracking your rides, whether they are indoors our outdoors.

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In playing with it this morning, it’s clear their biggest selling point (aside from price) is around the group-riding and stage competition events.  On the group-riding side they can support up to 100 concurrent racers at once, all via the Internet.

Additionally, they can do both live shared racing, as well as individual stage racing where each person has a given set time period to complete the stage.  In the competition shown below (which anyone can setup), you see that there are five stages, and each stage they get about a week to complete it.  Sorta like checking back in your library book.  You do still use your local library, right?

Then, below the stage listings you need to complete, you can see the various classification rankings (individual/teams/spring/mountain/etc…).

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In some ways, it’s like some components of Strava – but without the graphical prettiness of Strava (or sheer volume of users).  They do things that Strava doesn’t really do (such as these stages races), and Strava does things they don’t do.

In addition to competitions, you can always just ride a given route on your own.  You can create a workout based on a GPX file from your device, or select and existing route.  Or just create a simple workout that depends on you hitting various zones/parameters (like a coaching mode).

Additionally, you can choose from about 100 course videos to ride.  All of the online content costs a flat rate of $10 per month.  This is unique, as almost everyone else charges per-video (which you have to buy), and usually cost between $50 and $100US+.  Effectively they’ve created a Netflix-style ‘all you can eat’ model.  I love that.

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Once the video is selected and the ride starts, you’ll see your various ANT+ data (speed/cadence/power/HR) shown along the bottom.  You connect and pair your sensors via an ANT+ USB stick that’s included.

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You can also clean up the screen and just show the view.  While in video mode, you can select to have the vide playback either done at your cycling speed, or at the recorded speed.

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In addition, in competitions you can see how far ahead/behind you are other rides, as well as the course terrain.  Quite a bit of flexibility on the display front.

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While the graphical interface isn’t as polished as some of the other offerings out there, it does get the job done.  And once you’re in one of the video modes, you don’t notice it and just enjoy the ride.

The hardware aspect includes a single trainer assembly that does require power be supplied to it (just plug it in the wall).  However, all communications with your computer happen wirelessly over ANT+, similar to the TACX units.  Today, they’re using private ANT+ for the resistance control piece, but now that ANT+ has finalized the spec around the resistance control device profile, they may make that more open in the future.

From a trainer use and accuracy standpoint, there’s a couple of things to be aware of.  First is that you can’t adjust the tightness of the wheel against the trainer.  Instead, it’s mainly using your own body weight.  In my playing around with it (including a couple of climbs), I didn’t see any immediate issues with this design.  But I reserve that judgment to ensure slippage isn’t happening until I can play around with it more.

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The second notable aspect is that while the unit is pre-calibrated at the factory, it can’t be calibrated by you at home.  Instead, it relies on you entering in your accurate weight as well as correct tire pressure for the wheels.

This means that you can’t do a roll-down test to calibrate the power meter, and thus validate power meter accuracy is 100%.  As you can see from the bike above, they had a PowerTap wheel on there, and in their testing they’re finding accuracy within about 5%.

From my perspective, at this price point, I think that’s actually alright given the product.  At the roughly $500 price point, your primary goal in buying this trainer is likely on the entertainment (videos/courses) and group riding/competition aspects – and not on having a power meter that’s within the typical industry accuracy rate at +/-2%.  Again, this is just my opinion – but it seems to match others I’ve talked with in the industry over the course of the day.

Anytime you drop the price that substantially from the competition (who are $1,000+), there’s tradeoffs to be made.  In this case, it’s going from the standard +/-2% to +/-5%.  Each person will have to decide if that’s a tradeoff they want to make.

Overall though, I’m excited to spend more time with the unit, and see some how it responds off the show floor.

As always, if you have any questions – feel free to drop them below in the comments.  And thanks for reading!

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17 Comments

  1. “While in video mode, you can select to have the vide playback either done at your cycling speed, or at the recorded speed.”

    It sounds like then, from the same video, you can run it in ErgVideo mode or RealCourseVideo mode (to use the CompuTrainer terms). Is that correct?

    As for the calibration, I’d actually be fairly happy with +/- 5% if its really, honestly, +/- 5% with no calibration headaches. However, I’ve had the CT vary more than that between cold and warmed up, so I’m a little hesitant to accept those numbers (looking forward to your testing, especially to see if the “cold” bike is different.

    And I *love* the body weight idea if it actually works. Avoids the current trainer problem, exasperated with the CT’s lack of a quick release, wherein leaving the bike on the trainer dents the tire (which I’m guessing reduces its lifespan) but releasing it totally screws up your calibrations.

    The trainer market is getting fun!

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Does this thing do slope mode and erg mode? Can you set it to 200 watts and it keeps that changing resistance based on speed/cadance?

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    menu’s? you’re primary goal?

    I wish you’d proofread these posts, the spelling is often grating. But otherwise, love the site.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Ray–Unlike anon above, I’m more concerned about you have to say than I am about your posts having perfect spelling. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  5. I guess for training the important bit would be consistency across sessions, not so much absolute power numbers.
    Looking forward to your full review!

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    I bought one year ago and it’s a good way of training. You can define a target and obtain a power-based training plan to reach your aim. The weak point is that You can’t export the training to your sporttracks or similar
    Notwithstanding, i love it

    Reply
  7. Pablo

    Any comments on noise level? I’m in the market for a trainer and the main thing I need is the quietest trainer money can buy. I have a 2-month old baby in the house.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  8. It wasn’t noticeable on the show floor, but then again, almost nothing is.

    Good news though is that in my bag besides me I’ve got a decibel meter – good times ahead!

    Reply
  9. Anders

    Hi and thanks for this wonderful resource you provide! To top off this fouthcomming trainer shootout, i would be super happy if you could include the new Monoura Live Ride 760 trainer. It seems to be a nice product but there is very little user input/feedback on that trainer. Its an intresting budget alternative to these hi-tech trainers, especially if their app Live Ride is upp to snuff.

    I also am really interested in finding the most quiet trainer out there. It is such an importand factor for those of us living in apartments etc.

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
  10. Hello from Spain. I’m an user of Bkool for one year and it is superb for training at home. Power measure is accurate and you can really make a good training with it.

    It is very easy to put it on/out the bike and the noise is very low with a road bike.

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    Can someone please slap Anonymous in comment 3? Thanks.

    Reply
  12. It’s alright, I was operating on about 2.5 hours of sleep…a bit rough that day.

    For those that are interested however, the trainer arrived this morning. While it might be about 10 days before it hits the queue (have others on deck), it’s at least here.

    Pic of box: link to facebook.com

    Reply
    • Damien replied

      Hi Ray,

      thank you for all these usefull reviews !
      I’m Belgian and regular reader of your site.

      Did you have some time to post the full review of the Bkool please?
      I’m looking to buy a virtual trainer and wait for your recommendations.

      Thank you,

      Damien

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Should be next week. I was waiting for a few new little software features they were going to release, but I’ll probably just go ahead and update later.

      Reply
  13. Here’s my slap to Anon about the spelling comment and I’m not going to be Anonymous. Clearly Anonymous has more time on their hands than Ray does. Why? Because Ray has more important things to to do like bring us great reviews. Anonymous, thees wuns fer yu for folkussing on the stuff that reelie matters.

    Reply
  14. I’ve been trying to get on with this trainer now for a short while. The software seem, from my experience, to be a little buggy. If I do a video course the software sits on “Please wait…” for literally hours before I can start a ride. Bkool support are blaming my Internet connection speed which isn’t particularly slow. I gather it must be downloading the video while I wait but no indication of progress or time remaining. Not good when you gear up for a 30 minutes session and can’t do it straight away. I’ve tried a hill session without video and about 80% through the distance progress locked and I had to just quit the session.

    The body weight idea is great. In theory body weight should be sufficient but as the roller is not directly below the tyre and the plastic has much less friction than the road it slips on every peddle stroke (my Q-rings may be a factor here) and getting out the saddle just completely messes things up.

    Not being able to export session to upload them to Strava/Training Peaks is a bit of a bummer too.

    I can’t wait for an ANT+ resistance controlled trainer and resistance control to be built into TrainerRoad. Here’s hoping!

    Reply
  15. From what I’ve seen with Bkool and the app and on the pc looks awesome, and the weather we’ve had it would be well worth the money, I like the idea you can challenge other riders like strava, but this is one step head and you can challenge riders on your own routes on Bkool … This will rock around the world for sure and is loads cheaper than TACX …. looking forward to ordering one soon …

    Reply

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