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BKOOL Wireless ANT+ Trainer In-Depth Review

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The BKOOL trainer is unique in the market in a number of ways.  It marks the first trainer I’ve reviewed that includes an all-you-can-eat flat-rate approach to riding videos shot outdoors, while indoors.  It’s also the first resistance controlled computerized trainer at 500€.  And, because of that fancy little symbol (Euro) you see there – it’s also the first unit I’ve reviewed that only available today in Europe (Update: Now available worldwide).

But, they’re working to change that – so let’s dive into the unit a bit and see how it enters into the larger trainer market.

Back in October the folks at BKOOL sent me out a unit to try out.  Ultimately, the unit will go back – like everything else I test.  All products are returned to the companies (really, I simply  don’t have room for this many trainers even if I wanted them).

Speaking of which, like all my reviews, they tend to be pretty in depth (perhaps overly so) – but that’s just my trademark DC Rainmaker way of doing things. Think of them more like reference guides than quick and easy summaries. I try and cover every conceivable thing you might do with the device and then poke at it a bit more. My goal is to leave no stone unturned – both the good and the bad.

Lastly, at the end of the day keep in mind I’m just like any other regular athlete out there. I write these reviews because I’m inherently a curious person with a technology background, and thus I try and be as complete as I can. But, if I’ve missed something or if you spot something that doesn’t quite jive – just let me know and I’ll be happy to get it all sorted out. Also, because the technology world constantly changes, I try and go back and update these reviews as new features and functionality are added – or if bugs are fixed.

So – with that intro, let’s get into things.

Unboxing:

Here’s how you’re going to start off the whole BKOOL system experience – with the unit still fresh in the box:

 

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From there you’ll go ahead and take the main white box off, which leaves you with the innards hanging around.  That brown box to the right in the photo below isn’t related.  It’s just photobombing the picture.

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I continue to be happy with trainer companies that don’t require me to put any trainer parts together myself in their final packaging – and this is true of the BKOOL as well.  The whole thing is pre-assembled:

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Let’s quickly dig through what’s in the box.

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First up, is a trainer skewer.  If you don’t already have a trainer skewer on your bike then this takes care of that problem.  If you’re like me and already have one you can continue to use that skewer instead.  Nothing special about this skewer.  The reason you do need a trainer skewer though is that most regular skewers have plastic ends which will otherwise break when you try and lock it in the trainer.  And that would be bad.  Very bad.

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Inside you’ll also find a dedicated ANT+ cadence sensor in there.  Note that this is a cadence-only sensor, and not a Speed-Cadence combo sensor.  From my testing, I can pair to a speed/cadence combo sensor, but it actually doesn’t correctly seem to pickup the cadence portion.  Kinda silly since that’s the most common sensor on earth aside from a heart-rate strap. (Update: A later software version has fixed this issue, combo speed/cadence sensors now work.)

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Anyway, onto the trainer itself:

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This is the resistance unit.  It’s where all the magic happens.  Unlike most trainers it’s actually firmware updatable, which you’ll likely notice when you first install the software.

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The trainer does require external power.  You’ll see that the below is a European plug, which is logical since it’s only sold in Europe today.  Though, the unit accepts 100-240v, so it will work just fine with a 99 cent converter in the US.  You can also see the standard ANT+ USB stick in there too, which is how the trainer communicates with the computer.

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In addition to the trainer stand, you’ve also got a front wheel stand.  Nothing special, but it does the trick and keeps your front bike wheel pointed forward.

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Ok, with everything all unboxed, let’s get onto the setup piece.

Hardware Setup:

The first thing you should do is to put some sort of trainer mat down.  This is beneficial not only to protect your floor (unless you’re in a garage), but also because it typically reduces the sound of the trainer and vibrations.  Once that’s done, plunk the trainer down on top of it:

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You’ll notice on the back there’s a spot to plugin that power adapter they gave you.  Now would be a good time to do so:

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We’ll tackle that USB port you see there a bit later.

You’ll notice the trainer itself doesn’t actually have any support beams for the clamp system.  If there’s not a bike there – it’ll just rest on itself:

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See how if I then start to pickup the clamping portion, it rotates forward:

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Now, I’ll continue rotating it forward until it aligns with my rear bike wheel (I’m assuming you’ve put that trainer skewer on there already).

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Go ahead and clamp it in.  The left system will lock it all in place in a split second.  Probably one of the easiest trainer clamps to date I’ve seen in this area.  Note that the clamp may feel a bit tight when you try and lock it.  Just keep pushing, it won’t break.  Well, hopefully anyway.

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Once you’ve got it clamped in place, the rear wheel will simply rest against the roller.  No downward pressure here or tightening the roller.  Your body weight will do that.

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What you do what to do however is ensure your tire is inflated properly.  For most tires, that’s usually about 120psi.  In my case, for these particular tires that was all the way up to 160psi.

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Now lots of folks ask about dedicated trainer wheels.  Trainer wheels are sorta a ‘religious’ topic.  Some love them, others don’t bother.  I fall into the ‘don’t bother’ category.  In most cases you’re likely going to replace your tire (the rubber part) about once a year or so anyway from a tread perspective.  At least if you’re putting on a fair number of miles.  For me, the cost of tires are generally pretty cheap ($20-$40) – compared to the hassle of swapping out wheelsets or tires onto wheels each time I ride on a trainer (2-4 times a week).  Again, to each their own.

I will point out however that I was surprised with how much tread comes off on this unit.  Now perhaps because the unit is stark white – whereas every other trainer is dark, and no other trainer has a natural ‘catch’ for the material.  But I thought it made for an interesting photo.

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So, everything is setup when it comes to the physical unit – let’s move onto the online piece.

Online Setup:

The primary interface to the BKOOL as far as preparing workouts goes is actually online.  In fact, the platform is fully integrated into an online account where your profile information, planned rides, and ride history is stored.  It’s through that interface that you’ll add and create sessions that you’ll ride later on the trainer and desktop software.  Think of the online site as a shopping cart for trainer sessions.

Within your online profile you’ll also configure display options as well – such as metric vs. statue, time zones and languages.

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There’s really a ton of options here, more so than most online trainer integrated platforms that I’ve seen.

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Of course, probably the biggest decision you’ll be making is just which subscription level you want to buy into.  Unlike most trainer platforms, BKOOL doesn’t charge upfront for the trainer software, or videos or courses.  Instead they have a Netflix model where you may monthly for unlimited access.

Essentially, the core functionality difference between Silver and Gold is the ability to use Real Videos.  And quite frankly, that’s more than worth the 5€ euros a month (about $6-7US).  Keep in mind that most trainer platforms charge about $100US per video.  This is unlimited videos (to the extend their library has anyway).

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With that, let’s dive back to the client software.  You’re going to install a small piece of software called BSIM on your computer.  This software has two components.  The first is a desktop tray app that sits there and watches your online account for changes and synchronizes them to your locally installed desktop client.  This includes your scheduled rides, history, etc…

Additionally, this software enables firmware updates to the BKOOL system.

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Once you’re done setting it up online, you’ll want to be sure that you’re firmware is up to date.  The trainer itself supports firmware updates, and you do so via a USB cable.  Now the only complaint I have here is that the USB cable they give you is pretty short.  In my case, the computer is near the front of the bike.  So that means I needed an USB cable extender to make it all the way to the back of the bike.  I suppose I could have just dragged things around – but having an extender cable is always handy.

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You can see once I’ve connected the cable that the BSIM tray and update software will detect the connection to the trainer and illuminate the nifty icon in the graph:

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You’ll also notice that the ANT+ USB stick is plugged in as well.  This comes with the BKOOL platform, and enables wireless connectivity to the trainer.  The USB cable to the trainer is only for firmware updates, whereas the USB ANT+ stick is used for continuous operation (in other words it always needs to be plugged in).  You can watch the BSIM utility to see the state of workouts that need to be sent to the server.  Typically this happens instantly, but if for some reason your internet is down, it’ll just queue up.  Fear not, as long as you have some sessions sync’d to the trainer, you don’t need live internet connectivity for all tasks.

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With everything set, we’ll go ahead and open up the actual BKOOL application, which is where we can start our sessions from.

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You’ll see it has three main areas.  The first is single player, then multiplayer, and then configuration.  We’ll tackle configuration first since the options are pretty limited.  Remember that most of the options you actually configure online ahead of time.

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What you see above is about all you get within the app itself (except the ability to toggle Google Earth on/off, which is not shown in the above screenshot).  The only additional accessible option is to pair devices, which you can do via the ‘Indoor Pairing Devices’ screen, which takes you to the below:

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A pretty straightforward pairing menu, with your common ANT+ sensor types.  Note that it doesn’t pair to an ANT+ power meter, instead, it will only pair to the heart rate and speed/cadence sensor types.  Also note that it’s only reading sensor data from those, and doesn’t transmit the data back out to ANT+ head units.  Meaning, your Garmin or similar device won’t be able to pickup signals from the BKOOL.  Personally, I’d love to see this – as it really makes for a much more flexible training platform because it allows end users to control their training data on the device of their choice.

Back to the main menu we’ll go.

From here, we dive into the Single Player options.  This will now show sessions that are either ‘in queue’ for me to complete (ones I’ve added online), or, ones that I’ve marked as favorites.  You can see some of the sessions in this flipbook style screen contain simple non-graphical workouts (like the one labeled Barcelona), some are Real Videos (like the one to the right), and some are more game-like – such as the Velodrome one.

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I’ll dive into each of these types in a few sections.

Finally, we’ve got the Multiplayer option.

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Once in here you’ll see the available multiplayer sessions currently being hosted on the server.  These can be scheduled ahead of time, or launched at any time.  In the case of the above, I simply clicked in to see what was available and was able to then join the above noted session with two other riders in it.  Again, I’ll cover all this in a minute as we dive more deeply into those sections.

Trainer Accuracy (Power/Wattage):

Before we dive into all the details on how the different trainer modes work, let’s take a short detour about accuracy, as it’s one of the most common questions I get about the trainer.

In vast majority of situations, most high-end trainers are highly accurate (speaking about the industry as a whole).  This is primarily because there are far less variables than on-bike power meters – such as temperature drift, part configuration, or limitations on space.  Typically when I measure accuracy I’m doing so against multiple on-bike power meters.  In some cases, other 3rd parties have long-since established accuracy of a trainer (i.e. the CompuTrainer), so doing so in a less scientific manner than those testing entities is a bit silly.  But for newer entrants on the block where such data doesn’t exist – I try to take my best shot at it.

The challenge though with the BKOOL is that it doesn’t actually save your power meter data into a downloadable format.  Thus making the whole process a wee bit more difficult.  During the ride, and upon completion of the ride it provides your instant/current power, as well as your overall averages.  So my initial comparisons were fairly limited in that I was just looking at visual tracking comparing power meter values on my bike (via head unit) with those on the trainer via the screen.

And in general, these averages were astoundingly close.  I say ‘astoundingly’, because unlike most trainers- the BKOOL trainer does not have any calibration mechanism.  There is no standard roll-down test like those offered on most other electronic trainers.  Thus, they can’t compensate for differences in tire pressure, or other measurement accuracy factors.  So I was highly skeptical as to how accurate the trainer would actually be.

But after getting on it and placing the power meter display right up next to the power meter numbers from the BKOOL, I was blown away at how well they tracked:

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In fact, they were almost always within 5%.  I found that they were closest on climbs (lower speed efforts), and they drifted more at higher speed efforts such as descents.  Constant efforts on flats would be pretty much treated the same as climbs – assuming you weren’t just light-pedaling.

Ride after ride, the numbers ended up surprisingly close:

Below: Power2Max at 210w, PowerTap at 210w, BKOOL at 204w:

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Below: BKOOL at 208w, PowerCal on FR910XT 208w, PowerTap on iPhone at 213w, Power2Max (older) on Edge 800 at 212w

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(Remember: All power meters displayed here have accuracy rates +/-2% – thus it’s possible any one or multiple of them is inaccurate. All are calibrated at the start and 10-minute markers.  Except the PowerCal, it doesn’t really do calibration in this sense.)

But, I was curious – how close were they when it came to instant-power at a given point in time if I lined up the two units on paper in graph form?  So I reached out to the BKOOL folks and asked if they could export out my ride files.  The data is all there behind the scenes, it’s just that today they don’t have an export function on their site (they have committed that it’s a feature coming soon).  No problem they said, and sent me the XML files.

Unfortunately, you know you’re in deep trouble when even Golden Cheetah can’t open up your cycling file.  While this was fairly straight forward XML, it’s not something GC was able to parse (it’s what I use for all data comparisons as it allows me to normalize the data against other sets).  I’m going to poke at it a bit more to see how the second-by-second data looks.  But hopefully, they’ll get the XML function up and running and export to something like .TCX which everyone supports (also an XML variant, but one that’s effectively an industry standard in the cycling world).

Update June 4th, 2013: The BKOOL System now supports updating of files to the following formats: Indoor Sessions: .fit Outdoor Sessions: .fit, .tcx, .gpx (Shortly coming to both: .HRM) – it does require a gold subscription however.

A few other things I noticed.  First is that if you do a standing climb (or any standing), your accuracy immediately goes out the window.  The reason being is that the BKOOL trainer depends on your weight on the bike to hold traction down on the rear roller.  So you see that you’ll get highly underreported numbers (i.e the BKOOL might report 125w, and I could be doing 400w).

The wheel doesn’t lock down onto the roller, rather, it floats based on your body weight.  By standing up, you shift your weight away from the rear wheel (since your seat is roughly above your rear wheel), you’re decreasing force holding the whole thing together.  As soon as that happens I see both skipping of the trainer wheel, as well as loss of accurate power meter figures.

Again, the primary purpose of the BKOOL trainer is keeping you fit while training indoors, and doing so at a much lower price than others – focused on entertainment.  Thus, at half the price of the other units out there, I expect less on the accuracy side.  But even with expecting less, it certainly exceeded my expectations.

A detailed look at using the BKOOL Trainer in different modes:

There are several types of workouts that you can execute on within the BKOOL training platform.  Each one offers a slightly different experience depending on whether you’re aiming to train somewhat solo, or train more in a group setting.  And then from there, the experience differs whether you’re looking to replicate something found in real life, or just looking to get in a good workout.

I’m going to walk through each of the types of sessions that you can emulate.

Now all of these session types are pre-configured online ahead of time.  Meaning that in order for you to ride the trainer you have to have some forethought and prepare your ‘Session’ ahead of time.  However, you can do what I do which is to mark all of them as favorites.  That way if I happen to forget, I can still access one listed as a favorite.  Otherwise, once a session is completed it’ll be removed from the home screen on your trainer.

Again, starting with the online piece first, via the BKOOL website.  All sessions (think planned workouts) start out via the first two steps, which are selecting “Create Session” from the left-hand pane, and then selecting the ‘Indoor’ session type.  From there, you’ll choose individual.  Of course, I’ll talk about multiplayer a bit later.

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Now that the baseline is set, let’s dig into each of the options presented to you after the above screen.

Workout Session Type: Individual

Workout Category: BKOOL Session

This particular session type is based on me first selecting an ‘Indoor’ workout, which means I’ll be executing it on my trainer (versus on my phone for outside workouts).  From there, I can choose the elevation profile of the workout.  Essentially you’re creating a filter for the system to find the perfect route for you.

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After specifying the elevation profile, you can then specify the duration in either time or distance.  I’ve found that the minutes estimates are actually fairly reasonable.  Occasionally I’ll beat them by a couple minutes, but they tend to work out fairly well.

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Note how if I change from a flat to an alpine workout – both with 50 minutes, it knows to shorten the duration.  Alternatively, I can just set a given time by selecting the bottom.

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Once you’ve clicked ‘Continue’, it’ll come back with a few options, depending on the distances provided.  In the below screenshot, I changed the length of time to 15 minutes:

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Lastly, it’ll allow me to personalize the session.  Again, session essentially means ‘Workout’ in BKOOL terminology:

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Above you can see the session settings on the main tab – such as a time trial versus free ride, as well as being individual or multiplayer.

On the opponents tab, I can go in and add virtual opponents and specify how good they are.   There are varying levels from Elite to Professional to different more age-group focused levels.

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I can create alerts, though strangely the values are locked to 5 increments (i.e. 135, 140, 145). This is moderately annoying as most peoples heart rate zones (or any zones) don’t tend to be locked to a given 5-step increment (especially heart rate).  On the bright side, the warm-up and cool-down options are appreciated.

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By clicking the ‘Change Terrain’ tab, I can change when it looks like virtually.  In my case, I’m going with Dirt.  It’s the fall (ok, it was when I started writing this) – cyclocross season and all.  Don’t overthink this tab, it just changes the color of the elevation profile.  It’s not doing anything fancy.

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As noted, the only thing this really does though is just change the graph color.

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Lastly, we have a map of where this particular route was actually pulled from.  Remember that it’s simply selecting known routes, and thus, every route comes from somewhere on earth.

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Once we press Save Session, it’s ready for us to ride.  From there I’d switch to the trainer app and startup the single-player session and choose the session above.

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Once you’ve selected the course to ride it’ll first give you a 10-minute warm-up.  You can cancel this at any point by simply not pedaling.  In the case below, you’ll see a slightly different course shown, but it’s the exact same workout format as above.  Once you’re ready to start riding after cancelling the warm-up, you’ll be in the regular mode and ready to begin.

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As you ride you’ll find your metrics shown along the bottom of the screen, as well as in the upper right corner.

Bottom (from left to right): Current heart rate (BPM), Average Heart Rate, Current wattage (Watts), Average Watts, Current Speed, Average Speed, Current RPM, Average RPM, Current Calories Burned, and Calories/Hour.

Top right: Current time, then estimated time to completion, followed by distance to completion, followed by current incline/decline.

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You’ll notice above that the text is red in the km/h box.  That’s because I’ve just crested a hill and am going downhill and am currently exceeding the estimated pace for this particular workout.  Anytime I’m above or below the estimated paces I’ll let me know.  And also, as noted above, you can change this all to statue instead of metric (MPH instead of KPH).

Within this workout mode, this is about all you’re going to see.  It’s about as simple as it gets.  You can see above a random photo I took showing the current power (206w per BKOOL) compared to the power on the Power2Max (214w).  Pretty good.

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Once you’re workout is complete, you’ll get a bit of a summary screen.  All of this information is also available later on online, as the workouts are synchronized just after completion.

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Workout Type: Velodrome

In this category, you’re on an emulated Velodrome.  To start off, you’re going to specify either how many laps, or how many minutes:

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From there you can configure how the session will work.  Be it free ride (start and go), time trial (only shows you opponents times at various points), or Running Start (allows you time to build up prior to start).

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I can add either automated opponents, or take ones from the right hand side and just simply drag them over:

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Finally, I can specify alerts like above, but I can’t change terrain or maps (meaning, there’s no ability to switch to different velodromes).

Once that’s done my session is scheduled and ready to go:

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Once I had it queued up on my computer, I was ready to roll:

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As you enter the session you’re able to start with a warm-up, as all BKOOL sessions allow for.

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It’s bizarre – I never though I’d actually enjoy riding in a computerized velodrome.  But…this was surprisingly addicting.  No, really, for real.  I set out to just do a quick test ride of this section since I didn’t think it would interest me.  But sure enough, I ended up doing a whole bunch of these for fun.

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In this particular instance, the robot kicked my butt.  But given I was screenshotting and taking photos at the same time, I don’t feel too bad.  Next time robot…I’ve got ya.

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Afterwards, you’re afforded a cool down.

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Workout Type: GPS Route

This allows me to utilize a GPS route from a past or previous activity – be it one that I’ve recorded myself, or one that someone else has uploaded.

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I can then specify if I want fixed time  or fixed distance.  I prefer distance, so I can race against previous attempts of my own:

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At this point it takes me to here, which makes no sense:

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Now, in this mode by default the end resultant isn’t any different than the previous section.  The only training difference is that you’re riding against a known GPS route somewhere in the world.  Otherwise, it’s just like above.

But, the newly released functionality this week that changes this is the Google Earth mode. This mode enables you to see the course as if you were within Google Earth.  I played around with it a bit on one of my GPS routes (oddly enough, from running this past weekend in a 10K race), but it provided a good completely random sample of how things might look.

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In general, the terrain was pretty sparse.  The blue line is my current/planned track.  You can clearly see the roads and some terrain, but it’s pretty slim.

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It seems as though I may have picked a fairly sparse area (though, this is pretty much in the heart of Paris).  You can however see some buildings off in the distance – for example, the Eiffel tower.  There aren’t any configuration options to increase density, so it’s a bit of a ‘however is shows up’ experience.  Since this feature is just now available (literally in the last day), I’m looking forward to seeing them fine tune it.

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Here’s a video they put together, that shows you the potential in a few others areas.  As you can see, some areas are solid with great coverage, and other areas are a bit slim:

Now I’ve personally never found too much excitement in the current implementations (across all vendors) in Google Earth trainer riding, it’s just not clean enough yet for me – it doesn’t pull me in.  But, to each their own.  I’d much prefer to see real life videos.  Which…just happens to be the next section. ;)

Workout Type: Real Videos:

Videos are perhaps the most valuable use of the BKOOL Training system, simply because they’re all effectively free after you’ve paid your monthly subscription.  Like I’ve said elsewhere – a bit of a Netflix approach.

To start off with, we’ll choose ‘Video’ from the list, and then dive into ‘Find videos’.

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Then I’ll specify a distance or time based duration parameter.  After which we have two options.  The first option will change the speed of the playback based on your cycling speed.  You go slower, the video goes slower.  The second will simply take you along for the ride.  Think of the second option as being tied via a rope onto the back of a car.

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Once you’ve selected your video playback methodology of choice it’s time to select the video itself.  Here’s a handful of options shown based on the parameters I’ve entered.  You can see a quick screenshot on each one.  In general, you’ll find most videos are Spain based – likely due to the company being based in Spain.

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After selecting the video, you can go ahead and configure the usual options around opponents/alerts/etc… along the bottom.

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Finally, once you’re done you’ll want to click ‘Save Session’ to save it into your library.

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Once that’s completed, you’ll be able to open it up on the desktop application and choose it (or any other video you’ve saved) as a session to ride:

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Like other sessions, there’s an initial warm-up that’s offered.  After which, you can ride as normal.

The details shown on the screen are largely the same as other workout types within the platform.  The only difference is that the text boxes have a transparent aspect to them to avoid overshadowing the video too much:

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Overall, I’m fairly impressed with the videos.  The above screen may not be the pinnacle of video quality, but you’ll see in later shots, it’s more than sufficient.

Below, you can see my setup where I have the video off to the side, easily within view.

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As I noted earlier, I think the real strength of the BKOOL system is the unlimited videos at this price point.  Now, most of the videos are within Spain, so I do believe a broadening of the video library would be ideal – inclusion of races, and other non-Spanish events would help it to appeal to a more worldwide audience.

Workout Type: Multiplayer:

Last but not least, multiplayer.  Multiplayer enables you to ride against other riders, either within a video setting or one of the other session types.

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In this mode, you can choose all of the same workout types as before.  Once that’s complete, you’ll specify the length of the activity in either distance or time – just like before.  Ultimately, that’ll give you options to choose from:

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Finally, you’ll specify a time for the session to start.  For the most part, these will be created just ahead of the actual ride time, as you can’t specify dates in the future – just times in the future.

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Once that’s all set, you’ll go into your multiplayer session and find the active sessions which you can join:

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After starting your session, you’ll see your ranking against other riders in the top corner.  You’re position along with how far back is displayed:

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If other riders join, they’ll be added into the screen as well.  For the most part though, the only thing that’s different in this mode versus single-player mode is that you see the small ranking chart in the corner.

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The one aspect that was a bit of a bummer was that there’s no indication overlaid onto the screen that you’re coming up onto someone or about to pass them.  Meaning, no virtual cyclist is displayed.  It’s merely that you overtake the person listed within the rankings.

Take for example the below shot.  At this point I’m either overtaking or just overtaken another rider.  But beyond the ranking chart – nothing else is shown within the video.  Obviously, since it’s a real video from outside you can’t exactly just put a real person there.  But it would be nice if there was some sort of overlay that shows as you pass a virtual cyclist – especially useful if two cyclists are pushing hard and trying to edge each other out.

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Since we’re on the multiplayer feature, now’s a good time to mention groups.  Now groups aren’t explicitly part of multiplayer, but they’re roughly related.  Groups are ways that people can compete together or against each other in a team fashion.

You can create a new group within the platform, or you can join other groups.  You can see some of these groups below have hundreds of members on them.

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Groups are typically tied to events – like a league.  In the case of the La Vuelta 2012 league, the riders are given a set time period (Days) to complete various portions of stages – ultimately helping them in rankings:

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Overall, it’s a cool concept and one that’s clearly caught on within the groups – given the pretty impressive participation numbers – there were nearly 100 people that finished this one particular stage.  The stages are in more reasonable bite-sized chunks (picking the best parts) than the full stages in real life.  But of course that’s up to the race organizer, so you could make them just as long and painful if you wanted.

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Other Workout Types:

Finally, just to briefly mention that in addition to everything else I’ve mentioned above, you can also go ahead and do some basic FTP type tests within the platform also:

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From there they’ll help you define your various zones and then display those zones within the workouts.

Importing GPS tracks into BKOOL:

In addition to utilizing the existing courses and routes within the BKOOL platform, you can also import GPS tracks and re-ride them. For example, I could import the track file for Ironman France (Nice) that’s freely available from any number of courses (MapMyRide, Garmin Connect, Strava) and then create a session from it.  Further, I could then re-ride a Google Earth session based on that, as seen above.

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Importing Sessions (other activity data):

Importing sessions is slightly different than importing tracks.  Importing sessions is used when you want to add an outside ride (or from some other device) into your BKOOL history.  In this way, it’s offering a method to import in something like a race into the BKOOL training log.  Essentially anything recorded outside the BKOOL system.

image

In doing so the one minor benefit here is that you can then also ride these courses later on.  Further, I’ll point out that I’m fairly impressed with the parser they added, it’ll consume just about most of the major devices out there today (Garmin/Polar and their various file formats).  Not too shabby.

Online/Ride History:

At present, the only method for viewing history is doing so online, and it’s somewhat limited.  Within the online site you can dive into your past rides, and get high level graphical information about the ride.  Additionally, you can also get some baseline metrics such as speed/distance/power and heart rate.  You’ll dive into the ‘Your History’ page, and you can use a basic calendar view to divide up weeks/quarters/years and look at the results within that.  Take for example this week back in October:

image

From there I can click on a given activity and get more detail about it.  Along the side of the activity I have little pop-outs that will change the size of the graph, display more detailed information (such as below), and show zone information.

image

If I remove the pop-out, you can see the graph below it.  I can also expand the graph to full screen:

image

In addition to seeing my own history, I can also create associations (friends) with various folks on the platform.  In doing so I see their activities in my feed, sorta like a Facebook or Twitter feed.  It works fairly well – and offers a good incentive to keep from slacking off when said friend does daily multi-hour rides….

image

In general the level of detail in history is sufficient for basic logging purposes and the ability to remember roughly how you did on a given activity.

However, the real limitation here is that they don’t support any exporting of data out of the site.  This is a pretty significant limitation, as you can’t then export the data to other platforms (Training Peaks, Strava, etc…).  I pushed them a little bit on this, and it sounds like they’ll be offering it shortly.  Their primary goal was getting out this week’s Google Earth update, and now that that specific development effort is behind them, they’ll be working next to add an export mechanism for activities.

Update June 4th, 2013: BKOOL has now added export functionality in the following formats: Indoor Sessions: .fit Outdoor Sessions: .fit, .tcx, .gpx (Shortly coming to both: .HRM)

Trainer Market Comparison:

You can utilize the below comparison table that’s dynamically updated over time (so as features change via firmware) to compare the different trainers that I’ve reviewed. Note the key part being ‘I’ve reviewed’. There are no doubt many other great trainers on the market, it’s just that if I haven’t reviewed it, I don’t feel right including it based on some marketing fluff.

Also, as you’ll probably notice, these are higher end trainers. If you’re looking for lower-end options, see my general trainer recommendations post.

Function/FeatureBKOOL TrainerLeMond RevolutionWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx BushidoKurt Road Machine (with inRide)
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated July 20th, 2014 @ 11:47 amNew Window
Price for trainer€500/$650$499$1,099.00$940$199 + $340
Is Software Bundled for free?YesN/AYesNoYes
Cost of software if not bundledN/AN/AN/A$185N/A
Cost of software if monthly-based$5-10N/AN/AN/AN/A
Available today (for sale)YesYesYesAvailable todayAvailable today
Availability regionsGlobalGlobalUS/Canada/Europe/Aus/NZGlobalGlobal
Connects to computerYesNo3rd Party RequiredYes3rd Party Required
Uses mouse/keyboard as control unitYesNo3rd Party RequiredYes3rd Party Required
Has standalone control unit (handlebar)NoYes, seperatelyNoYes3rd Party Required
Uses phone as control unit (handlebar)No (Summer 2014)NoYesNoYes (with inRide)
Can use tablet as control unitNo (Summer 2014)NoYesiPad - Q1 2013Yes (with inRide)
Wired or Wireless data transmissionWirelessWirelessWirelessWirelessWireless
Wireless between trainer and controllerPrivate ANT (ANT+ coming shortly)Private ANTANT+ & Bluetooth SmartPrivate ANTBluetooth Smart
Power cord/supply requiredYesNoYesNoNo
ResistanceBKOOL TrainerLeMond RevolutionWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx BushidoKurt Road Machine (with inRide)
Can manually control resistance (increase/decrease)YesNoYesYesNo
Can specify wattage level (i.e. 200w)NoNoYesYesNo
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoNoNoNoNo
Maximum wattage capability1,200w2,000w3,000w
FeaturesBKOOL TrainerLeMond RevolutionWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx BushidoKurt Road Machine (with inRide)
Ability to update unit firmwareYesPowerPilot YesYesYesinRide Yes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNoNoNoNoNo
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)NoNoNoNoNo
AccuracyBKOOL TrainerLeMond RevolutionWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx BushidoKurt Road Machine (with inRide)
Includes temperature compensationNoYesYesNo
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)NoNoYesYesYes
Supported accuracy level+/- 10%+/- 5%+/- 2%+/- 2%
SoftwareBKOOL TrainerLeMond RevolutionWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx BushidoKurt Road Machine (with inRide)
OS Compatibility (included apps)Windows (iOS/Android/Mac in Summer 2014)N/AiOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod)WindowsiOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod)
OS Compatibility (3rd party apps)YesN/AWindows/Mac/LinuxNoneMac
Has real-video type functionalityYesNo3rd Party RequiredYesNo
Has computer-generated course functionalityYesNo3rd Party RequiredYesNo
Has Google Earth-style functionalityYesNo3rd Party RequiredYesNo
Has Google Streetview-style functionalityNoNo3rd Party RequiredYesNo
Has coaching mode (ability to pre-create workouts)NoNo3rd Party RequiredYesNo
Has online multi-player racing/competitionsYesNo3rd Party RequiredYesNo
Can create workout based on outdoor GPS rideYesNoYes, Wahoo Segments AppYesNo
Can export data/history files post-rideYesYesYes, All Wahoo AppsYesYes
3rd PartyBKOOL TrainerLeMond RevolutionWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx BushidoKurt Road Machine (with inRide)
Allows integration with other software applicationsYesNoYesNoYes
Integrates with TrainerRoadNoYesYesYesYes
Can upload history files to TrainingPeaksYes (3rd party)YesYesYesYes
Can upload history files to Garmin ConnectN/Avia Golden CheetahYesYesYes
Can upload history files to StravaYes (3rd party)via Golden CheetahYesYesYes
Can open history files in WKO+Yes (3rd party)YesYesYesYes
Can open history files in Sport TracksN/AYesYesYesYes
Can open history files in Golden CheetahN/AYesYesYesYes
Data integrationBKOOL TrainerLeMond RevolutionWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx BushidoKurt Road Machine (with inRide)
Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+NoNoYesNoNo
Data IntegrationBKOOL TrainerLeMond RevolutionWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx BushidoKurt Road Machine (with inRide)
Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartNoNoYesNoYes
Can receive ANT+ power meter broadcastNoNoApp yes, trainer noYesNo
Can receive ANT+ speed sensor broadcastNoNoYesNoNo
Can receive ANT+ cadence sensor broadcastYesYesYesYesNo
Can receive ANT+ heart rate sensor broadcastYesYesYesYesNo
Can receive Bluetooth Smart HR sensor broadcastNoNoYesNoYes
Can receive Bluetooth Smart cadence sensor broadcastNoNoYesNoNo
Can receive Bluetooth Smart speed sensor broadcastNoNoYesNoNo
PurchaseBKOOL TrainerLeMond RevolutionWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx BushidoKurt Road Machine (with inRide)
Amazon LinkLinkN/AN/ALinkLink
Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10WHP)LinkN/AN/ALinkLink
DCRainmakerBKOOL TrainerLeMond RevolutionWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx BushidoKurt Road Machine (with inRide)
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Remember to click the ‘Expand Results’ button as it’ll show a gazillion more rows than the quick preview above.

Summary:

Overall I’m fairly impressed with the BKOOL trainer given its price point.  When I first heard of it and saw it at Interbike, I wasn’t convinced there was a market for a trainer that had limitations around lack of calibration options.  But once I got it and started playing with it, the accuracy is close enough for most users needs.  No, it’s not 100% perfect, but it’s pretty good for the money.

Further, this trainer ultimately isn’t targeted at the power meter junkie.  From a price point it’s targeted at folks that want a way to pass the time away during the winter on a trainer.  It has a good collection of videos and rides, and the ability to import GPX rides into Google Earth means you can download anything you find on sites like MapMyRide and Garmin Connect.  Which is pretty much any ride/race/route on earth.

From a price standpoint, at 500€/$650US, it’s a good buy.  But how does it compare with more expensive trainers?  Well, aside from accuracy there’s a lack of graphics polish that’s present in other platforms (for example Tacx and CycleOps).  The BKOOL graphics seem a bit sparse, be in in simple menus or just general views while riding.  So if you’re comparing a Tacx Bushido to this unit, no, they aren’t in the same league.  Like Minor League to Major League ball.  But at the same time, with the Tacx system you’re paying for every video you ride, whereas here it’s all you can eat.  And on the CycleOps system while the videos are all you can eat, you’re still paying upwards of $349 for the initial software buy-in (plus nearly double the cost of the unit itself).  It’s simply a game of choices and budgets.

Pros:

- Considerably cheaper than most trainers in this category
- Good blend of entertainment and training details
- Ride videos are all free with monthly package
- Accuracy is actually pretty darn good, despite lack of calibration
- Ability to join race leagues, teams, competitions (and compete online)

Cons:

- No roll-down/calibration procedure available for power meter
- Can’t export workouts (Update: As of June 4th, 2013, added)
- The online site graphics are a bit rough
- The desktop software is fairly limited in configuration

With that, thanks for reading!  As always, feel free to leave comments/questions below and I’d be happy to try and answer them as best as possible.

Found this review useful?  Or just wanna save a bundle?

Hopefully you found this review useful.  At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device.  The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love).  As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers an exclusive 10% discount across the board on all products (except clearance items).  You can pickup the BKOOL Trainer from them (as well as accessories). Then receive 10% off of everything in your cart by adding code DCR10WHP at checkout.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get a sweet discount.  And, since this item is more than $75, you get free US shipping as well.

BKOOL Resistance Controlled Trainer

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the unit or accessories (though, no discount on either from Amazon).  Or, anything else you pickup on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells).  If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.  Though, Clever Training also ships most places too and you get the 10% discount.

Finally, I’ve written up a ton of helpful guides around using most of the major fitness devices, which you may find useful in getting started with the devices.  These guides are all listed on this page here. Thanks for reading!  And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.  And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below.  Thanks!

Tags: ,

114 Comments

  1. Damien

    Youhou, what a wonderfull surprise this morning !
    I was waiting for this article. Now I'll read it carefully.

    Thank you, and merry christmas. :)

    Reply
  2. Lieven

    Thanks for the detailed post. The one thing that wasn't completely clear to me is the restrictions in an offline environment. Can you cache the video's for offline usage? Can you setup trainings without network connection? etc...

    btw, it would be cool if they'd have a velodome-movie you could ride with instead of the top-down view.

    Reply
    • Pajak replied

      I'm interested in the same subject (my training room is in the attic.. and there's no network access :( )

      And what about third parties RLV files (I've got some Tacx movies, there are a tons of free RLV available) Can I use them with the trainer/software?

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, you can't use 3rd party platforms/services for real videos - only those provided by BKOOL.

      Reply
  3. Efraim Shaw

    Do u leave the trainer skewer on all the time, even when riding out doors?

    Reply
    • Moss replied

      I do. Why not?

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Indeed, I do as well. No issues. Some find that it may not be as light or efficient. But for me, the simplicity of just leaving it in far outweighs it.

      Reply
  4. Amanita

    More cons: it's available for a part of Europe only -- some largest countries: Germany, UK, Spain, Italy; maybe a few more, but not much; the rest of EU "is not Europe" :( Make sure you can buy subscriptions before you buy the trainer. It seems they accept credit cards registered in a few countries only, no PayPal option.

    Reply
  5. miguel

    I was waiting for this review too.

    5% error,but with a minimun of 2% nowadays I see it as a half price for 3% error (maximum)

    I target it for my birthday (christmas is already chosen ;) )

    thankhyou dc

    Reply
  6. Thom Figueroa

    Would be a great Chirstmas song...if only I was on the non-US side of the pond. :D

    Reply
  7. Daniela S.

    Great review. BTW you are featured on Slowtwitch:
    link to slowtwitch.com

    Reply
  8. Niklas

    Do you know if and how this would integrate with Trainerroad?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, not today anyway. In order for the TrainerRoad folks to be able to integrate with it, one of a few things have to be known/available:

      1) An established power curve
      2) Ability to communicate/control it

      In this case, it's private ANT, so BKOOL would have to open it up to them (possible). The power curve isn't possible because resistance is changeable by the end-user, so TR wouldn't know that it was changed. That said, I think if users ask BKOOL for them to integrate with TR, I'm sure we'll see it happen.

      Reply
  9. Jan

    Great review, as all ways - but in the comparison to the Tacx Bushido, you primarily focused on the software part - how does the hardware match up to the Tacx trainers? and others?

    regards
    Jan

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hardware wise they're both pretty sturdy. I actually slightly prefer the attachment point on the Tacx to teh Bushido.

      The BKOOL is a bit awkward to carry around because things flop around a bit, whereas the Bushido 'stays put'.

      Of course, the BKOOL doesn't force the back wheel down on the trainer, so stuff like standing (from a riding standpoint) doesn't give you accurate data, whereas on the Tacx it does.

      And lastly, the Tacx doesn't need a power cord, whereas the BKOOL does.

      Reply
  10. Hi RM great reviews on the Bkool which I'm thinking of getting myself, already created a group on Bkool site, there was one thing that wasn't mentioned, I've seen some of the vids about the Bkool, there's a small black box which I think comes with the kit, on Bkool site this can be used outdoors, simply put it in your back pocket and that's it... Does this record the rides outside or just monitors your speed .. cheers

    Reply
  11. I'm a Bkool user really disappointed with the power measurement accuracy.
    In my opinion, it is a major fault that you have not checked in depth. The higher is the slope, the worse is the accuracy. Surprised you haven't checked it properly.

    I have some data in my blog if you are interested: link to donostri.net. It is in Spanish, but I could trasnlate it to English if you needed.

    Anyway, interesting review.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi Wallace-

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Just read through your review, good stuff, and I agree with much of what you've written (which seems to generally come to the same conclusions as I around where the device is aimed at).

      On the power, actually, I did some videos where it was pure climbing, and I was keeping track of both values at once. As I noted above - if I was doing any standing - the values immediately separated significantly. But for seated accuracy, they actually did track quite closely. Again on downhills, not as much, but for climbing it's where I found it the most accurate in my case (against two additional power meters).

      At any rate, more data is always good. I too just wish they would add in a roll-down calibration method.

      Reply
    • Snemmel replied

      Hi DC, maybe you just had optimal tire pressure erc. and thus did not need the calibration and the accuracy was good. For other persons this might me different.

      On the other hand inaccurate power could be find for people who already have another PM on their bike, which they can use for tracking purposes.

      Reply
    • RARORAC replied

      Hi DC, maybe you just had optimal tire pressure erc. and thus did not need the calibration and the accuracy was good. For other persons this might me different.

      On the other hand inaccurate power could be find for people who already have another PM on their bike, which they can use for tracking purposes.

      Reply
    • Mr_Dave replied

      Pretty disappointed with the power measurement here too! It is definately accurate if you keep it at a 2% slope, but as soon as you get onto a hilly bit, then the accuracy is out the window. It'll over-read by a good 15% according to the powertap.

      But I guess at least you can do an accurate power test as thats done on the 2% slope

      The main problem for me in the UK is the awful connection to the http://www.bkool.com server. Its down probably 3 time out of 10, so I can't set up a session or do any multiplayer or video streaming stuff. Its down again now and was down yesterday at this time too (4pm UK time)

      I contacted the guys about it back in November and they told me that some server upgrades were coming.... but thats clearly not happened!

      It'll also seem to loose connection with the PC from time to time (maybe 1 in 10 of my sessions) and your power reading and speed will hang, yet it'll still read the cadance and HR fine, so its not the dongle or a PC issue. You can stop pedalling and it continues with the video and the 'hung' power reading for anything from 20 secs to 5 minutes or can still be going once you're out of the shower. I've already swapped it for another unit and tried it on 3 different PC's so I'm pretty sure its a bug in there.

      Anyone else have this issue...?

      Reply
  12. Maurice Hassell

    Hi

    I recently got one of these, but need to get a new laptop to run the BSim, can anyone recommend a make and model that will run the Bsim system without and problems.

    thanks

    Maurice

    Reply
    • Uffe Lindhardt replied

      To my big surprise Bsim (incl. video mode) runs OK on my old EEE netbook. I think it will run on any laptop you can buy new today.

      Operating System: Windows XP Home Edition (5.1, Build 2600) Service Pack 3
      System Manufacturer: ASUSTeK Computer INC.
      System Model: 1000HE
      Processor: Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU N280 @ 1.66GHz (2 CPUs)
      Memory: 1016MB RAM

      Reply
  13. earl rise

    Ray
    Long time reader of your blog here - keep up the good work.
    Thinking of buying a Bkool but stalling for two reasons :
    Bkool won't allow use of Powertap data instead of estimated (by Bkool) software power.
    Not sure if I can upload own route from outside (via a Garmin) plus GO Pro footage to create own video.
    Can you confirm this?
    Cheers

    Reply
    • Mr_Dave replied

      Earl rise, you can upload from most things inc. the Garmin, plus you can also create a profile on gpsies.com or similar.

      Despite its few niggles, its a great bit of kit for the money. I'm using mine to train for the Haute Route and its just the thing to make you kill yourself on the turbo day after day without boredom - get one :)

      Dave

      Reply
  14. Uffe Lindhardt

    I think you got the red speed numbers wrong. I see the numbers go red, when the screen numbers differ from the speed of the rear wheel as seen on my Garmin. In other words the red numbers are to compensate for the BKOOL not having a motor to drive the wheel on descends. I reckon the speed is estimated from the delivered power, rider weight and slope of the downhill.

    "You’ll notice above that the text is red in the km/h box. That’s because I’ve just crested a hill and am going downhill and am currently exceeding the estimated pace for this particular workout. Anytime I’m above or below the estimated paces I’ll let me know. And also, as noted above, you can change this all to statue instead of metric (MPH instead of KPH)."

    Reply
  15. earl rise

    Managed to pick up one of these quite cheap on eBay and I must admit after a few early teething problems I'm very impressed. Most impressed with how accurate the power measurement is - I'm using with a Powertap and the figures are very close as measured by the Bkool - and the smoothness of the turbo. At the moment I'm using for intervals so haven't really explored the videos available but did have a short go at the Col de Madeleine and it seemed suitably hard.
    Intend to posts a you tube review when I get chance but if anyone wants any further information post a question.

    Reply
  16. Sue R

    I've recently bought this trainer, and subsequently bought a second hand powertap pro+ rear wheel. I find that power readings are fine and track closely for small inclines, but once the gradient goes over 3 or 4% then I am seeing the Bkool power readings differ significantly for example on a 6-7% climb bkool = 233W, powertap pro+ 168W that;s a difference of over 50W which is a bit more than 5%. That's for seated climbing at a steady pace, my tyres are usually 90psi. Maybe I should use higher pressures? I am new to using powermeters so find it all a bit confusing. Is the problem the bkool trainer or the powertap hub, not sure if there are any calibrations I can to with the Ptap. It's zero when coasting so seems ok. Any helpful comments most welcome!

    Reply
    • Rob replied

      Sue,

      168W on a 6-7% climb seems very little to me or are you doing 6km/hr, I guess the BKool figure is right

      Reply
    • Mr_Dave replied

      Rob, the Bkool is always way out when the going gets steep;) Get to a 10% hill and it can read at least 20% higher than both my SRM or Powertap. Which do you trust? a £2000 powermeter that the pro's use or a £300 turbo trainer? ;)

      Its accurate at 2%, so just do your power numbers at that incline and ramp up the gears.

      Dave

      Reply
    • Uffe Lindhardt replied

      168 W 7% 6 km/h makes you 120 kgs on bikecalculator.com !

      What "Sue R" is reporting is consistent with what I see on my Power2max power meter, and also what is reported above by "wallace78"

      Reply
    • Robert replied

      @Uffe and Mr_Dave
      Thanks for the math. I'm in need of a 2nd trainer besides my KK road machine which I ride with a PT pro+ setup with PerfPro.
      The Bkool still has some nice features and since I'm based in Spain I can pick it up for 314 eur ex. subscription!
      Very tempting.

      Reply
    • Gutisiano replied

      I bought a Bkool unit two days ago and Im running some tests. Tough I don't have a power meter the first thing I did was to upload a little part of a track with a 6% climb I did some days ago and tried to "copy" my pace (easy, I only had to follow my own "ghost"). The results: while on the road I was at 173ppm on average, with bkool it was at 143ppm.

      I have to try again with a flat track and see what happens. I hope it works that way, as people say, otherwise I don't want this device.

      In conclusion: it's a trainer just to have some fun while you train. After that, if you want to track your workouts, trust only your HR file. And I'd like to see the ANT+ implementation for trainers soon, being able to run 3rd party apps. It'll be much more valuable with that.

      Alejandro

      Reply
  17. Hi Ray,
    after reading your ticket, I asked and received the BKOOL home trainer for a one month test
    with Gold subscription.

    I started to train with a gpx trace, and after some minutes of pedaling the
    simulator (BSIM) show a window asking if I want to end the session. After that, everything looks
    like not working anymore. If I continue to pedaling, the system show nothing.

    I'm just wondering if you have experienced a similar behaviour and eventually how you fixed it.

    Thanks for any your feedback.

    Salvio

    Reply
  18. DJENANS

    I just picked one of there up today in Australia. Ive noticed the one i have has a different roller on the trainer to the one in this article. Mine has a grooved silver coloured steel roller. I wonder if mine is a new model and this is an amendment to prevent slippage when standing ? Or is mine maybe an older model and the one in article is the new model?

    Reply
  19. DJENANSail.com

    ok update to my previous post. Turns out Bkool have recently changed the roller to a serrated metal one to minimise tyre slippage when standing and pedalling, which was resulting in drops in power. They also claim: "slightly reducing tyre wear compared to previous model roller"

    Reply
  20. Enrico

    I confirm even today the bkool is not yet available in small countries (Luxembourg in my case). I just don't get it, what is the problem as they do not have a physical presence?

    Reply
  21. Rob

    Last week I had the chance to test the BKool unit intensively. I urge everyone to do the same because I was very disappointed with its performance when climbing.
    It doesn't come close to the real feel NOR intensity....

    Its a nice gadget but not suitable for serious training uphill.
    I needed a second trainer for the holiday home so decided to buy another Kurt Kinetic Road Machine (5 turns of the adjustment knob and 9 bar gives accurate power readings with a Continental GP4000S)

    Reply
  22. Sue R

    Hello readers, interesting debate around powermeters, despite the errors I see between powertap hub and the Bkool estimated power (error gets worse the steeper the incline is) I still think this is a fantastic machine for training for alpine climbs. I used this to train for the Etape and I thought it was invaluable, so long as you understand its flaws. This seems to be similar to something Taxc virtual reality turbo trainers went through as a friend of mine recently bought a new one and found all the old power readings were far too low on her old taxc machine. I would love to see Bkool sort this one out as I think their product is a real winner.
    To the gentleman in an earlier post who did a power calculation for 168 watts @ 7%, I am quite small, only 55kg and would be climbing at a steady 14-15km/hr at that power output. I could sustain 220w but only for an hour; I'm not getting younger or faster unfortunately!!

    Reply
  23. Chris

    Rainmaker,

    Excellent review, it sounded so good I went and ordered one myself! Unfortunately mine didn't ship with a USB cable, do you know the type I would need to buy separately to connect the turbo? It looks like a mini USB to me but I can't be sure.

    Thanks,
    Chris.

    Reply
  24. pugsly

    thanks for the in depth review. i`ve been looking at investing in a turbo trainer with more features than a standard turbo so i can tailor my training with a bit more structure. just going to to scour the `net now to try and find the best deal.
    thanks

    Reply
  25. ljcico

    HI,
    I wonder whether you can write workouts alone with intervals. currently i use the Tacx Satori and Garmin 800. I prepare on Garmin intervals with multiple repetitions. Does this also allows bkool?

    Reply
  26. Austin

    Hey,

    I'm looking at this unit, but I'm confused because it says it can't ship to the US, but I see it on amazon for $650. Can I not purchase this if I live in the US? Are there any support concerns?

    Thanks,
    Austin

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Distribution to the US market just opened up a few weeks ago. I'll be sure to correct the post above. Note that if you pick it up through Clever Training, you will save 10% and support the site. Cheers!

      Reply
    • Austin replied

      Wow, lightning fast reply Ray! I really appreciate it! I'm torn between this unit and the Kurt Kinetic+inride. (I'd love the Kickr, but can't fork that one right now!) The two would be in about the same price range, and If I don't plan on paying the $12/month subscription, does that completely undermine the value of the BKool? Or do the free BKool services still make it a preferable option to the kinetic in your opinion?

      Thanks again!

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I'd go BKOOL honestly. The upcoming ANT+ firmware update will open it up to tons of apps, though many will initially be paid, albeit at varying price points. But, some will likely be opensource by next summer or so.

      Reply
    • Austin replied

      Thanks for your advice. That's what I was hoping you would say!

      Appreciate your insight and all the tips provided in your replies and your blog as a whole!

      Reply
  27. Kreso

    Nice review.
    It would be nice to see Bkool vs Elite Qubo digital review.

    Reply
  28. Rafael B. Conceicao

    Ray I'm looking to get a trainer for this Christmas and I´m wondering as to which CycleOps, TACX and Elite models does the BKOOL trainer compare to in terms of feature set?

    Has the OS X version of the desktop software been since made available as mentioned in your article?

    Of the three brands which do you recommend in terms of software feature set and future possible "open" expansion?

    Reply
  29. ljcico

    Hi, friend is testing Bkool trainer. But he can not start session. He uses the garmin cadence.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I'd suggest he ring up BKOOL support and have them troubleshoot. That's definitely the quickest path to getting it working again.

      Reply
    • ljcico replied

      hi, we found the problem. trainer was to far from the laptop. i used it for the first time yesterday and i am impressed so far. i am awaiting option to add your video.

      Reply
  30. 6co

    Ray,

    I am confused, ,,, in the comparison chart, under features it says;
    RESISTANCE: CAN SPECIFY WATTAGE LEVEL (I.E. 200W) NO for the BKOOL but YES for the KICKR

    but then in your 2013 recommendation you say that the BKOOL can control resistance just like the KICKR.
    Can you please confirm whether this is a typo?
    THX!! 6co

    quote The key item that tends to make a high-end trainer…well…a high end trainer, is that it’s resistance controlled. Meaning that it controls the resistance on your trainer, rather than you changing gears (though, you can do that too). So it can simulate the terrain automatically, or hold a precise 225w. Your choice. All trainers in this section have this capability, as does the BKOOL trainer in the next section. end of quote

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Sorry for the confusion.

      As of today (December 13th), the BKOOL can be controlled using their software and can control the resistance of the terrain to follow terrain. They are releasing an update to their app that allows you to specify a wattage value, though my understanding is that is more spring-like.

      However, they are also (separately) going to be updating the trainer for the ANT+ resistance control spec, which they've already demonstrated. That will allow it to work with any app, including ones which allow controlling a set wattage value (i.e. 225w).

      Finally, in the case of the KICKR, the BKOOL software can control the resistance of the KICKR, but only just like it controls the BKOOL trainer - to simulate terrain. Not yet to a set value.

      Sorry for the confusion, I'll add a bit more context in the 2013 recommendations.

      Reply
    • 6co replied

      thanks a lot for the very clear reply.
      I dont know which continent you are on right now, but your always on top of it it seems, at whatever time of the night or day! many thanks again
      regards from Congo

      6co

      Reply
  31. ljcico

    hi,
    Is there a possibility that I can prepare a specific training based on watts?

    Reply
  32. Do you have any idea when the BCool trainers will start to use the new open Ant+ protocol & how long before it comes out of Alfa? We have the highest quality rides on the market but until now only Lynx, Computrainer & Kickr users can ride them with full grade control...

    Reply
  33. If anyone has a BCool trainer & wants to try our software maybe it will work anyway if it shares the same protocol as the Kickr? http://www.veloreality.com software is free & there is a couple of short Demos from Alpe d'Huez & Galibier. Would be very interested in knowing if its compatible or not! link to facebook.com has some screens. Software is less then 5MB & runs from its own exe so nothing to install, but you need a 64bit fast PC to run our full HD films that are made with expensive cinema kit.

    Reply
    • René Rolighed replied

      Downloaded and started your software. Also downloaded both the free sessions. I can start and play the video sessions but riding speed is very slow (video runs veeery slow and watts are only just above 50) with no resistance on the trainer. Please give me specific directions for testing if you want to know more.

      Reply
  34. Nigel Pond

    Mine arrived today from CleverTraining (thanks for the discount code!). Looks like they have changed the USB port on the trainer - mine has a mini USB.

    Reply
  35. Nigel Pond

    Anyone else getting Google Earth plugin errors? How to fix? I have the latest version of the plugin.

    Reply
  36. Lynn

    Just got one of these for Christmas, was very excited until I learned that the Bsim software is not compatible with Apple MacBooks. It was a bit misleading as well considering they have the Apple logo on the side of the box. I'd be interested to know if anyone has found a way to overcome this problem without the need to install Parrallel on my Mac and then buy Windows as well?
    I'm in Australia.

    Reply
  37. 6co

    Hello Ray,
    I just got my BKOOL yesterday and it is extremely disappointing!! Even before I sat on my bike or started using it!
    Listen to this: I bought my BKOOL in Italy, shipped it to France, then from France, DHLed it to Congo, Central Africa where I was lucky to get it out of customs before the New Year.
    Now I am setting it up, and guess what? Congo (my IP address) is not supported by BKOOL, and therefore I can not get the GOLD subscription. And then things start cascading.... I because I have no GOLD subscription, I cannot DONWLOAD my data!! I am so furious.... I dont even mention I can t do video rides now. But my data!!! It's mine and I want it.
    So then I start looking around other platforms that I could use the BKOOL on. Well guess what, Trainer Road wont support the BKOOL and wont give you the power curve for this one!
    Now I am down to trying to hook up my Sporttracks live recording with Power Trainer plug in so that I can get my training recorded while going through the training programs of online platforms...

    anyway, this is insane I think. Just because they would not accept me paying from Congo, I have now acquired a trainer for outstanding features that is does not have and would have been better off with a stupid basic tacx...
    What if I paid my subscription form anyother country and want to use the trainer from any other country in the world like they still stay on their site.
    Don t get me wrong, I know the reasons why I chose this one trainer, and I was so excited about it. But now, I am like, this sucks!!
    thanks for reading me, I needed to vent this off...

    any tip?

    6co

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Eek, sorry to hear that. But, I think it's actually an easy fix. Hit up BKOOL and have them unblock Congo. I suspect it's not on purpose (though I could be wrong). I find they're very friendly people and pretty reasonable.

      As for TR, no, it wouldn't be able to have a profile today, because it's computer-controlled. That said, I think very shortly as soon as the BKOOL trainer implements the beta for public use of the ANT+ Resistance Control protocol, I'm sure we'll see it supported near immediately by TR as well.

      Reply
    • 6co replied

      Ray, thanks for the tip! Those guys are awesome!
      I wrote to them with some ranting, as you suggested, and they quickly replied back offering me a two weeks free GOLD subscription until they get Congo sorted out into their list of countries !
      Very reactive, very pro!
      I have not tried it yet with the New Year eve and all, but I am happy and exicited.
      again, thanks for the help, and great new year to you!

      6co

      Reply
  38. John Barlow

    I got the Bkool a few months ago based on your great review.
    It worked fine until I bought a new laptop. (The old laptop is really old and slow). I have downloaded the Bsim plus Directx and all seems to work except for the resistance on the trainer which doesn't alter according to the on-screen profile. I'm getting frustrated now because Bkool haven't replied to my messages asking for help! Do you have any ideas please?

    Reply
    • Salvio replied

      Hello
      I started to have the same problem some weeks ago; the Bkool support said me to avoid any interferance (mobile phone) between laptop and trainer... I haven't tested yet but may be it could be the key to fix such issue.
      Regards
      Salvio

      Reply
  39. Brett

    Hello,

    I have had this for a while now and love it.
    Does anyone know f this can be put in 'manual' mode so I can use it with training DVDs, ie sufferfest, chris Carmichael etc.

    Many thanks
    Brett

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, not quite yet. As of today (December 30th), the BKOOL can be controlled using their software and can control the resistance of the terrain to follow terrain. They are releasing an update to their app that allows you to specify a wattage value, though my understanding is that is more spring-like.

      However, they are also (separately) going to be updating the trainer for the ANT+ resistance control spec, which they’ve already demonstrated. That will allow it to work with any app, including ones which allow controlling a set wattage value (i.e. 225w).

      Finally, in the case of the KICKR, the BKOOL software can control the resistance of the KICKR, but only just like it controls the BKOOL trainer – to simulate terrain. Not yet to a set value.

      Reply
  40. René Rolighed

    In regards to the updating. I'm (agressively) waiting for Bkool to update their firmware, so their trainer can become compatible with TrainerRoad (TrainerRoad told me they are waiting for Bkool).

    But I'm not quite sure how the update process will commence? Will I be notified by the Bkool software, that I need to connect the trainer with USB to start the update process? Or will I need to try connecting the USB cable once and a while to see if the firmware starts updating?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Historically the upgrade process has been driven via USB for BKOOL, though, that could be different in the future. If you subscribe to the blog, I'll definitely make note of it when BKOOL publishes.

      Also though, if I remember correctly the little BKOOL software notifier will pop-up that an update is available.

      Reply
    • René Rolighed replied

      You wouldn't happen to have any insight to what the status is for the Bkool implementation of the ANT+ Bicycle Trainer profile? You've seen it yourself in a working state at Interbike more than a quater of year ago, so I would think that the current version should make it fine as a public beta release?

      As TrainerRoad answered me: "We'll support Bkool when they support the ant+ bike trainer profile. It isn't even available from ant yet, though. We'll keep everyone abreast of any updates!"

      Cheers
      René

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It was supposed to be released in beta approx Dec 15th, I'll get an update on Tuesday from ANT+.

      Reply
    • René Rolighed replied

      Any news? (as I wrote - waiting agressively ;))

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi René-

      Just as a heads up, I posted the BKOOL CES related announcements here: link to dcrainmaker.com

      Enjoy!

      Reply
    • René Rolighed replied

      Yep. Saw it. Thanks a million and keep up the great work!

      Reply
  41. Lars Thier

    Hi

    How is the noise compared to the Wahoo kickr?

    Thanks.

    Best regards
    Lars

    Reply
  42. ash

    Cracking review and advice...so if i read correctly i can use my existing spd cad sensor from my garmin

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, as of earlier while I can pair it to that sensor, it wasn't reading correctly from a combo sensor. Something may have changed since then however, but as of then, it wasn't working.

      Reply
    • Simon Andrews replied

      I'm using my Garmin Speed and Cadence sensor without any issues.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Perfect, great to see they've fixed that issue! Thanks for chiming in!

      (I'll update that section in the review in a second).

      Reply
    • René Rolighed replied

      I'm also using my Giant ANT+ RideSense Sensor with no problems. Both speed and cadence!

      Reply
  43. Ted H

    the amazon link in the article is for a product "no longer available" but this link is for another amazon vendor
    link to amazon.com

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Strange, looks like at some point some vendors split the SKU, which is sorta annoying as now there are multiple SKU's of the same product. In any case - updated the tables - appreciate the heads up!

      Reply
  44. Julian Allen

    Hi,

    Great review thanks!

    Can you advise how 'natural' it feels compared with riding a bike on the road (apart from standing up), and how intrusive the noise level is?

    Thanks,

    Julian

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Not as natural as some other trainers on the market. But those other trainers either have less functionality/features (such as the LeMond Revolution Pro, which can't be controlled), or cost twice as much (such as the KICKR).

      Reply
  45. Austin

    A previous comment mentioned not being able to use the trainer with a macbook computer? Is it true there is no functional support with apple? If so, do you know if they have any plans to potentially change this?

    Thanks for the helpful review!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      That's correct. It's planned for later this spring. See a post from CES titled 'BKOOL' for a bit more detail there.

      Reply
  46. Jawaad Bokhari

    I find the PC setup tedious. On one side I like that it has PC integration but sometimes I just want to get on and ride... an Ipad control unit would be a great addition. Other than that, its a great piece of kit that helps pass these miserable winter months indoors.

    Reply
  47. enrico

    hi all
    just found out BKOOL is finally available in my country :)
    Two questions:
    - is there a cheaper or better alternative to the training mat they offer for EUR 55?
    - how good has to be the PC in order to run the videos? (Only have 5-6 year old Mac and laptop...)

    thanks
    enrico

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I'd search on Amazon.de or similiar. I find 55 Euros for a trainer mat pretty high. It's just a mat, anything will do - heck, even a Yoga mat.

      5-6 years old may be a bit tough. I do believe BKOOL lists specs on their website.

      Reply
  48. Fran

    I completed my first session on a bkool today. The workout took more than 2 hours to show up on the website, only to learn than export to other formats is no longer available (at least for interval sessions, as their website reads). So I cannot get my ride out of their site ans into Sporttracks.

    Very dissapointed, to say the least. I do not understand this step back, in the opposite direction of ANT+ profile adoption.

    Maybe you should update again, to avoid misleading potential buyers looking for a (currently) open system

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Are you on their 'Gold' plan? It looks like they've allocated export to that plan these days.

      Reply
    • Fran replied

      Yes, I am using the two month gold plan in-the-box coupon.

      Reply
    • Fran replied

      I just read in some spanish bike forum that this is happening since october at least, apparently they removed exporting in some update...

      Reply
    • Fran replied

      Confirmed by the people in BKOOL "interval workouts cannot be exported".

      I won't bother to check if velodrome or video sessions can. This is not what they advertise in their website and elsewhere, I was careful enough to check here and on their site. Now I feel I've been cheated (I am NOT including you here). And to make things worse, they don´t offer a solution, or timeframe for a fix ( other than a vague "in the coming weeks").

      Ruined my experience because of their half baked website, but they better get it working before they implement the ANT+ trainer profile or everyone will run elsewhere!

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      In talking with them a short bit ago, you can export time based sessions, but not distance ones. They've never enabled exporting distance ones. As you noted above, it's coming up here shortly (for adding distance), but an exact date hasn't been defined.

      As for 'getting it right before they implement the ANT+ profile', actually, it's sorta the opposite. That's the entire point of the profile, you don't have you use their website or software. You can use any of the 3rd party apps, some of which have better exporting (well, most of which).

      Reply
    • Fran replied

      That's my point. As soon as the profile is implemented, you'll see me (and I suspect many others) looking for other software options, unless they drastically improve their site.

      I hope you do a brief overview of options once the profile is published :)

      Reply
    • Fran replied

      oh, and for the record, my session was time-based... I asked them which type of trainer sessions can be exported. No answer so far.

      Reply
  49. Harald

    Hi,

    Thank you for a thorough assessment of the Bkool trainer. Two things I need clarification on:

    - Is it watts alone or the ratio between watts and cadence that affect the outcome/end time?
    - How does tire pressure affect the outcome? What is the optimal tire pressure?

    Harald

    Reply
  50. JOHN DEVEREUX

    Excellent review of the kit which has encouraged me to by one. Mainly looking for fitness training without the boredom and with the weather here in the UK at the moment it seems the right choice at the right price. Not too hung up on accuracy as it's all relative so an improvement is just that.
    Bit late for guy with issues in Congo but you can get round this problem of ip address not recognised by using software like SecurityKiss Tunnel.
    Essentially this routes your internet connection via another country which will likely be recognised. There is a free version which limits the data amount transferred or you can pay. It's not expensive and it will bypass firewall blocks. The paid version offers various servers through which you can route your connection so for example BSIM would see France or whatever you pick. It's simple to set up and use (I managed it and I'm a silver surfer, well greying anyway)
    I've used this successfully on downtime within a public service network that had a paranoid setting on its firewall and it worked a treat.
    Keep up the good work. Great apartment by the way. I'm a little envious!!!!!

    Reply
  51. JOHN DEVEREUX

    Update on the Bkool trainer. Mine has just arrived. On registering the free 2 month subscription there is currently an offer to get 12 months at half price. Bargain.
    Impressed so far though I was shocked at how poor my bike fitness currently is.
    Still with another 3 weeks of rain forecast plenty of indoor sessions look likely to remedy this. :):):):)

    Reply
  52. John Devereux

    BTW the best price I've found is £329 at http://www.thetriathlonshop.co.uk. A bargain at that price. :):)

    Reply
  53. David Burns

    Having used my BKOOL trainer 5 times a week since November last year i'm very impressed. However during a session a few days ago the resistance suddenly became constant and far too hard for the terrain, i re booted the the laptop, tried another route, re installed Bsim but non of these cured the problem. Even the warm up 10 minutes is far too difficult to be of any use. I have e mailed the help line but i think i have got them stumped as they are going to ring me next Wednesday, hopefully!
    Does any body have any idea what is wrong and how to rectify the problem please?

    Reply
    • David Burns replied

      The help desk logged in to my computer and tested the equipment and concluded the magnets had failed and I'm now in the process of getting a replacement trainer..............

      Reply
  54. David

    Hi:

    Sorry if this is a clueless question but new to this subject: could I use 3rd-party videos (Sufferfest is the one I was interested in) with this system? Or would I just watch the Sufferfest on another screen and monitor how the workout was going on my PC?

    Also, based on the comments I'm reading, it seems like maybe really serious users have some concerns about the BKool but more casual users (ie, me) will probably be happy with the unit. Does that seem right? Just ordered one today, but now getting a little nervous as I scroll through some of the grouchy posts above.

    Thanks,
    David

    Reply
  55. Don

    Hi, great reviews. I'm considering buying a Bkool Trainer and would like to use it to re-ride MTB trails which I have recorded on Garmin (data) and Gopro (video). I.e. on rides where there are no Google street view images available.

    Do you know if the Bkool supports this?

    Cheers

    Reply
  56. Sue R

    My BKOOL trainer has just developed the same problem as David Burns describes above. I will get in touch with them too and see what they say. I reinstalled BSim but not tested it yet. Hope it's not a fault, just gone over the one year warranty and it's a large item to put on the post for repair!!

    I see no fix for the inaccurate wattage when compared with my powertap meter when climbing medium gradients. I will inquire direct with them about that too while I'm at it. See my earlier posts for details.

    Reply
  57. Dave Mckay

    Anyone tried using a tiedown or similar on the trainer to keep a constant pressure on the roller when you stand to pedal?

    Reply
  58. Thang

    Hi Ray,

    Any updates on what the status is for the Bkool implementation of the ANT+ Bicycle Trainer profile?

    It's been ~5months since your CES Roundup update. Would be awesome if this could integrate with 3rd party apps such as trainerroad and kinomap.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I asked them last week and they said they were still working on it and didn't have anything to announce yet.

      Reply
  59. brent

    Although it was asked earlier i don't think anybody has been able to answer yet.

    What sort of internet connection do you need. Can you cache the video's and rides offline. I have only a mobile internet system no fixed wire or cable broadband and at various peak times (school kids out) it can be slow. I could not garrantee to stream a video of even low quality at such times.

    Reply

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