Within the trainer app realm, much is made of the giants – Zwift and TrainerRoad. And rightfully so, they’ve grown their respective customer bases over years with boatloads of happy customers. At the other end of the spectrum is a flotilla of smaller apps, akin to local bike shops, that do well in their own right. They aren’t the same as Zwift or TrainerRoad, and each has their own interesting niche. I’ve talked about many of these in my occasional round-up posts.
But what about some of the apps trying to be Zwift competitors? Three come to mind: RoadGrandTours, VirtuGO, and OneLap. Each is at varying degrees of launching, all with active real-world users on them. And all of them are within the realm of ‘virtual worlds’ whereby users can race or ride with other realm people, which is the rough bucket I’m putting them and Zwift in.
Over the coming weeks I’ll outline each of these three and my thoughts on them and where they stand. Keep in mind that all of these will continue to evolve rapidly, and as such, taking a look at these apps now will likely (hopefully) be quite different than next fall.
With that, let’s dive into things on the first contender – VirtuGO. While I’m covering much of the detail in this, I do a complete walk-through of the menu systems in my video below. Plus, you get to see me try and ride in 100°F/41°C heat outside with fans that are basically just hot blowtorches. It’s fun! Kinda.
But, in the same way there’s a bunch of detail in the video not in this post, I’ll talk more deeply on my thoughts on the platform in this post. In any case, let’s go. Oh, wait, because I almost forgot – the app is currently free during beta.
VirtuGO Basics & Options:
I got a chance to jump on VirtuGO last week at the Tour Down Under. The company was a major TDU sponsor, and thus had a huge booth in the TDU village. On one of the hottest days of the week I headed down to the village prior to it opening, and got about an hour by myself messing with VirtuGO. This included some time as the VirtuGO engineers walked me through features, then letting me ride solo for a bit, and then after that I filmed what you see above with more riding. All in, I’ve got a reasonably good feel for things and where they stand.
The first thing to know is that at the moment VirtuGO has three virtual worlds: Pulseville, Coll de Sóller, and Willunga Hill. Pulseville is an imaginary world in the same way Zwift Island is. Whereas the Coll de Sóller is a real-life locale in Mallorca, and Willunga Hill is a real-life locale near Adelaide, Australia (and is on the Tour Down Under course). Unlike Zwift, you can choose any of these worlds at any time without any hacks.
However, there’s a bit of a catch there. In the case of both Willunga Hill and Coll de Sóller, there isn’t a way to turn-around and ride back down again. So given both are climbs, once you’ve climbed to the top you’ve gotta manually restart things again. And that means your ride is only about 20-30 minutes. Still, the company says they’re working through the details there on that and there’s, of course, plenty of options for how to address it.
Next, while you can free-ride like in Zwift (and see other real-world people and bots), the company puts a bit more of an emphasis on the training plans portion of their app. This is where you can load up plans that align to specific categories, which in turn have a boatload of individual workouts in them. The goal is for these workouts to be adaptive based on your training, and it sounds like the company is talking with Xert on ways to really kick that up a notch.
VirtuGO noted that their goal from a structured training realm is to sit roughly in between Zwift and TrainerRoad. They see TrainerRoad as fairly advanced there (cause it is), and they see Zwift as fairly basic there (cause it is). If they can finalize a path forward with Xert and leveraging their real-time adaptive workout tech (that can adapt mid-workout to how the workout is going), that could be a very significant game changer here – potentially threatening TrainerRoad probably more so than Zwift.
Next, you’ve got events, but at present there aren’t any events scheduled. Like Zwift when it first started out, it took some time for that to show up. I expect it won’t be long (weeks or months) before we see it in VirtuGO though.
After that, there’s a profile tab, where you can see your past rides directly from the app itself. Same goes for achievements and personal info. However, most interesting is the upcoming ability to import history from outdoor rides. The company noted that they don’t expect people to ride 100% indoors. And in order for their planned adaptive training engines to be able to account for your efforts outside of the app, they want to be able to pull in ride data automatically. So they’re working on getting in place automatic sync to Garmin Connect (and likely other platforms), as well as manual sync if you just plug in your bike computer. This will pull in your outdoor ride history and allow the app to account for it indoors. Again, this is a pretty big shift that none of the other major trainer apps do (despite everyone talking about the importance of this for years). Of course, since VirtuGO hasn’t fully implemented it yet, I can’t give them full credit. But at least they’ve got a disabled placeholder button for it.
Following that, there’s customization of your rider. In the most basic of ways this mirrors Zwift, but in a number of ways it exceeds it. For example, you can even change the group sets your using, as well as things like saddles, handlebar tape color, and pedals. Yes, pedals. Like Zwift, they’ll be looking to get partnerships in place to ‘feature’ some of these bike tech novelties. For example, you see a Scott Foil back in there, based on their partnership there with Scott. And one could just as easily see a PowerTap P1 or Garmin Vector 3 pedal in there, should those companies decide to collaborate a bit.
There’s a few interesting details there like you can’t change to disc brakes with certain frames if they aren’t actually compatible in real life. Logical, ehh?
Finally, you can tweak various display settings. The rendering engine is Unity, which is well used within the gaming industry today. And as you’ll see, things look pretty solid. For my test, I was using a Windows PC version on a pretty beefy machine they had in the booth, so I’m looking forward to trying it on a lesser machine of my choosing in the near future. Not really any different though than Zwift demoing all their stuff on beefy hardware either to make it really shine.
Oh – and at present they support PC or Mac, and then in the next month or two they’ll be rolling out iOS. Following that they’ll be looking at Android support. With that, let’s start riding.
For my first ride of the day I did the Willunga Hill course, which was nice and all, but honestly not super exciting. Since the lead-up to the course is basically just a road through farmland with sporadic trees alongside, it wasn’t really something that made you go wow. Still, I’m sure over time that specific course will be great for racing, given the excitement it brought at the Tour Down Under (you can see what it looked like in real life, since that’s the day I rode in a team car).
So after my first ride, I jumped on the bike again to try out their imaginary world, Pulseville. The scenery here is definitely a million times cooler, as it appears to be mostly based in a high alpine region. The route is a shorter looped course.
As I got into it I saw a few bots along the way. It actually shows the watts/kg over the bot itself, so you can know roughly what you’re racing up against. Unfortunately, during this ride I didn’t see any other real people, but that was because I was in a development environment. At present, the company has opened the doors to 500 people in beta, with a few times that waiting in the queue.
(Note: The above photo was actually taken while looking at the workout mode, so you can also see the structured workout screen at the top. The bot is in the distance a bit.)
On the top of the screen you’ll see all your main metrics. Though VirtuGO folks say that they’re looking to re-design that a bit to make it a bit more clear and less cluttered looking.
The app is paired via ANT+ sensors to the Elite Direto trainer in the booth (through a partnership there), but it supports any ANT+ FE-C trainer on the market (which is every one of them except the Kinetic ones), and it supports ANT+ HR, Speed, Cadence, and Power Meters. Bluetooth Smart sensor support is on the way soon too. In my case, I paired it to a Wahoo TICKR X HR strap I had on.
Overall, things felt good, and the graphics looked good. A few random bulleted thoughts, all of which roughly relate to what you see in the video:
A) Graphics were awesome, especially the look of the water in the mountains – really cool.
B) The lack of real people in the dev environment was a bummer, because it’s really people that have made Zwift successful. There’s been plenty of virtual worlds in the past, but volume is key here. If you join beta, you’ll see real people since that’s the production environment.
C) While they allow switching between the three worlds, I’d strongly encourage them to split the difference compared to what Zwift does. Meaning, allow the Pulseville imaginary world to be ridden any day. But then alternate the two climbs as the secondary course every other day. Else, it’ll become too scattered initially.
D) I really like the sprint markers and overlays counting down to the start and end of the sprints. Seriously Zwift, people have been asking for this for years. Such a simple thing makes a world of difference.
E) There’s definitely still some refinement work to be done on timing and controlling the trainers. A few times the grade just didn’t match up properly, or quick enough. The company says they’re working on that though.
F) The training pieces have potential to be their secret weapon, especially if they can leverage Xert and include outdoor trainer efforts. This shouldn’t be understated.
G) The bots didn’t respond in the sprint, which is kinda disappointing. Hopefully they’ll do so down the road.
H) Unrelated to their app, but riding a trainer in a tent outdoors when it’s 100°F is less than ideal.
Ok, that summarizes my main thoughts in terms of riding with it. Again, you can see that riding in real-time a bit more in the video. With that, let’s talk about the future a bit.
In certain ways, VirtuGO is about where Zwift was about 2-2.5 years ago. But in others, they’re further along. It depends on exactly what feature you’re looking at. For example, Zwift didn’t have structured workouts when it launched, nor quite the level of customization that VirtuGO does. And like Zwift back in the day, things were a bit sparse when it comes to people in those first few months.
Yet in other ways, Zwift is far ahead. Aspects like racing, the community around it, and simply the sheer volume of people that use it at any one point in time are all leagues ahead of where VirtuGO is. Which isn’t to say VirtuGO can’t catch-up. Remember, Zwift has had a three-year head start on them, that’s a boatload of time. Not to mention a boatload of financial backing.
At present VirtuGO has allowed 500 people into the beta program, with well over a thousand more waiting in the wings (plus whatever happens after y’all ask to sign-up). The company wants to start opening those gates again in the next few weeks, but is concerned about being unable to properly support folks if they allow too many in before their support org can handle it. They don’t want to turn-off people to the app too early if it’s not ready. Which is a fair sentiment. At the same time, as a startup they should be trying to get as many people engaged and talking about it as possible. Strike while the iron is hot and all that.
Ultimately, it’s not likely that folks as of today will cancel their Zwift memberships to ride VirtuGO exclusively. But instead, it’s more likely folks will flirt with VirtuGO (‘swipe right’ if you will), and then see what it has to offer. Given it’s free in beta, there’s nothing to lose. But in some ways, I think the shorter term threat here may actually be more to TrainerRoad. If VirtuGO can make its training aspect competitive to what TrainerRoad has, then those that were on the fence of going with ERG style workouts versus virtual world style ones can effectively have their cake and eat it too. And everyone likes cake.
With that – thanks for reading!
Did they give you any idea of likely membership costs?
Thanks Ray, just tried to join their Beta, it is already waiting list time. good for them ! I like the looks of their products and the idea to finally be able to integrate outdoor rides into my home trainer based training plans.
Can the .fit files be exported to Strava to contribute to your rides profile a la Zwift? And do they appear with maps as if they were in the real world?
I agree with the potential impact on TrainerRoad. I have seen a some people say they dropped their TrainerRoad account just for Zwift.
That’s as of now, despite the fact that Zwift is very lacking in depth of workouts and plans when compared to TrainerRoad.
Nate Pearson has mentioned in several of their recent podcast that importing outside rides and deeper training analytics are coming to TrainerRoad soon.
For their sake, and because I really like their app and service, I sure hope it is very soon and very good. This market is about to get more competitive than we have seen.
They’ve been saying the outdoor ride import function has been coming soon for a good 2 years now (or at least 2 NA outdoor seasons anyway). I’ve been a user since almost the beginning and have really liked the app and service as well, but outside of the training plans (which are a good value on their own) there seems to be little for new features–mainly just making the mobile apps slowly reflect the functionality of the PC (and I assume Mac) software. The outdoor ride (or any other non-TR ride) import feature would be a nice one as would a Xert style FTP calculation that can estimate FTP based on your workouts rather than always needing to do a full-on FTP test. Zwift and my Garmin 935 also do this…
They have a slow development cycle for sure. But they also have one of the most bug-free experiences of any software I have ever used.
I know they mentioned the outside ride import many years ago, but based on several posts, I think the ride function is finally close and coming for the pending outdoor season (Northern Hemi).
I am hoping for a quicker development from them on new features. They added new employees, which is a sign of expansion and hopefully faster releases.
I really like the guys and their service, so it would be great if they can really jump forward and increase the value of the package.
Totally agree with Chader, C’mon TrainerRoad guys and girls, there is much more you could do, you could start by reinstating the “feature request” board they had on uservoice.com
You could help win over the opposition by being agile and responsive to user requests
Then you are a perfect candidate for TrainerRoad. It is all about the training and has a minimized mode for use with videos.
If, as Ray said, they integrate with Xert (which is a great training/automated coaching system but has no virtual environment), this would be the best of both worlds (i.e., Zwift with the best of the best training and workout systems).
Thanks Ray…..would you know if they have any plans for a Studio version?
Does VirtuGO handle drafting yet, like in Zwift? Or are they planning to?
Thanks – I’ve signed up to the Beta queue and cancelled trainerroad.
So now all the FB arguments of “Neo vs Kickr?” Will become Zwift vs VirtuGO? Thanks, I think.
There’s also still my Road Grand Tours and Onelap posts to come!
And there’s another Zwift competitor that adds a hot air balloon to their virtual environment. Never seen so many in real life. Anyways, Zwift faces three core complaints from users, if I think about what I read in the Zwift community. (1) Racing, and in particular weight-doping in categories. (2) Not enough road. (3) Workouts are not as good as Trainerroad.
re (1) If Virtugo were to implement an automatic assignment rather than a self-selected assignment to race categories, and fix some of the other racing issues, they’d be onto something. And ideally they take more control of things that Zwift left entirely to the community, e.g. reporting of race results.
re (2) With a short 8km loop, Virtugo has far from enough road to launch. Yes, Zwift had shorter loops when they launched, but now they are the benchmark, and in the mean-time there’s quite some road to cover. People also lament about Zwift’s slow expansion process. So, frequent updates to all worlds really is a must if you want to lure people away from Zwift permanently.
re (4) And the workouts… I honestly like the simplicity of Zwift. There is still a good number of workouts now. If I wanted to, I could easily run my Trainerroad training plan on Zwift as well by just creating these workouts myself. Once I have the plan, I run through my workouts by hitting certain wattage goals – and I don’t understand how Zwift is any inferior in this compared to Trainerroad. What I miss in Zwift is the opportunity to embed a video or a playlist (let it be Spotify, YouTube, Sufferfest or just anything from the web) with picture-in-picture.
Your third point is fair, and I’m sure resonates with some people. I find the lack of workouts limiting, and I’ll be shifting from Zwift back to TR pretty soon in order to get the more comprehensive workout package. This is definitely something Zwift should work on.
Along with adding more roads like you said.
>And there’s another Zwift competitor that adds a hot air balloon to their virtual environment. Never seen so many in real life.
Move to Vegas. When I lived there I saw 4-6 every week.
@Tom: But why don’t you just transfer the workouts that you’re interested in using the Zwift workout creator? There can’t be a copyright on them, no?
One would hope there is some form of IP protection on them. It’s a pretty dick move to copy them as you suggest.
TrainerRoad has protections on their IP. Using their workouts and plans outside of their app is prohibited.
Well, to be honest, I think it’s debatable. I get that a coach wants to claim that his method is the best, but I think we all agree that it’s more than likely that two coaches at different poles of the planet independently will come up with very similar and identical training sessions.
Furthermore, these training plans effectively communicate knowledge. They are not a consumption product like a song or a movie. They are more similar to a physiological textbook. If I were to buy a book with training plans, I’d find it strange if the book said that I’m not allowed to use these training plans with any app other than the companion app that comes with the book. If I were to subscribe to Trainerroad, I’d find it strange if the training plans I could not use for myself wherever I want to.
Hence, I get that it’s fishy if Zwift just blatantly copies those training plans and makes them available for free. But I don’t get why I should not be allowed for myself to make a personal copy.
Copyright laws and related items cover all this, so “what we think it should be” is irrelevant and NOT debatable unless you have a degree in law.
TR has a very specific list that you should read and learn what is and is not allowed.
link to trainerroad.com
You might have to explain how following prescribed workout is any different than listening to protected music or a movie. Each can contain knowledge and be used based on that.
You could make the same (incorrect) claim that since 2 people can make a song that sounds almost the same, that it’s not protectable… and you’d be VERY wrong.
Buying a book and agreeing to pay for an use a digital service are also very different. You are drawing parallels that do not work the same. The implicit and written contracts associated with each are very different.
Does it support dumb trainers and Ant+ Speed/Candace with “v”Power? Or only Smart trainers and power meters?
No, and they have no plans to support this setup. Can’t even use it without a smart trainer now. I have two power meters (4iii and favero) and can’t use it, even though I’ve been accepted as a beta tester already. Disappointed.
I find it frustrating that the advancement of features in Zwift is so slow. I am a paying member since day one and rally enjoyed it at the beginning.
But now I am disappointed:
– Poor graphical quality (wondering no one complaints)
– No mini games within the world: Why don’t they introduce a kind of treasure hunt mini game with several opposing fractions? Why they have not got side-quests as “reach a pedal cadence of 130 for four minutes to unlock a new virtual radio station? It could be picked up on the sideway with a nice background story.
– No voice chat.
I think the challenge is figuring out features that have wide appeal. Most don’t really have an issue with graphics quality, just based on what I hear.
Additionally, they do add quite a bit, it’s just that it gets glossed over by most. For example, the Apple TV one is huge when put in the right context (it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a PC of equivalent specs). And the course expansions are big. Not to mention trying to keep up with compatibility.
And those are all challenges VirtuGO will have too, there’s so many tiny little features one doesn’t even think about them, until they’re lacking. It’s effectively the same challenge companies have trying to compete with Garmin on high end watches or bike computers. Death by a thousand cuts. One person’s ‘most important item ever’, is the next person’s “don’t care one bit”.
Didn’t they just introduce a Zwift quest event?
Zwift quest is an independent activity hosted by people outside of Zwift.
Much like the racing, many of the best parts of Zwift are community driven from the start and only adopted directly by Zwift after they see that there is something worthwhile.
Ray’s final point highlights the problem every successful MMO game faces. How many different priorities do we see in the comments on this post?
As a software and systems architect-type, I’m glad they’re choosing to evaluate how best to approach certain features. Nothing is ever as easy as the users expect (even when I’m building software for myself). For example, in a recent Zwiftcast episode, one of the Zwift guys started listing aspects of how to implement clubs that they were trying to ensure they considered, even if they didn’t release everything on day one. It was eye-opening to see how complex that “simple” feature is. I’m glad they’re trying to avoid throwing something out there that they have to throw away soon after to add the next piece of functionality the club club wants.
Zwift is an MMO. Consider the major MMOer focus areas and how they align to Zwift.
* Endgame content and gameplay expertise [Zwift: racing]
* Social aspects like role playing, chatting on game chat (ranging from banal to interesting), trolling on game chat (may be a form of role play for som), and guilds with various focuses [Zwift: social riders and the club crowd, followers, ride-ons]
* Questing and story lines [Zwift: ZwiftQuest is an early attempt to add this; workouts/training plans also fit the basic concept of progressing through a series of steps to achieve a goal; achievements to a limited extent]
* Exploring different character classes and builds [Zwift: what’s the fastest bike, wheels, haircut, socks]
* Lore (example, link to elderscrolls.wikia.com) [Zwift: nothing yet unless you want to hypothesize about the balloons in Watopia]
The one problem I haven’t found (yet) in Zwift is the dreaded forums, far more soul-destroying than any glitched, unwinnable endgame content, with their hordes of trolls, clueless newbs who can’t follow the in-game tutorial, pay-to-play vs. free-to-play vs. pay-to-win holy wars, “[player name] is a scammer” shaming, people who left the game a year ago but still come back to the forums weekly (if not more often) to rail against the game they (say they) haven’t played in a year (though they have incredibly detailed knowledge of content that came out a month ago for someone who hasn’t played it), “when will the maintenance be done and why did it have to be on my only day off this week,” and all the other darkness (and stupidity) that lurks there.
“The one problem I haven’t found (yet) in Zwift is the dreaded forums, far more soul-destroying than any glitched, unwinnable endgame content, with their hordes of trolls, clueless newbs who can’t follow the in-game tutorial, […]”
Reminds me of all these w/kg, weight doping and zPower discussion in the Zwift Riders and Zwift Racers Facebook groups.
One more reason I don’t have a Facebook account. (LOL)
>Lore (example, link to elderscrolls.wikia.com) [Zwift: nothing yet unless you want to hypothesize about the balloons in Watopia]
Eric Min keeps his bags of money in them.
I think graphics might become a problem for people if there was competition.
I enjoy Zwift, but it looks a bit directx8 or 9 from the early 2000s.
Maybe that’s OK on an Ipad, but on a PC with 4k screen it looks just a wee bit quaint.
One of these Zwift competitors ought to figure out proper club support (at least until Zwift itself can figure it out). My tri club is spread out all over the country. We enjoy riding with each other (and chatting virtually) on Zwift, but it’s not so easy without support for private group rides. Club support would include private group rides, team kits, team structured workout libraries (like TrainerRoad has), maybe even team discounts if you have a certain number of members.
I believe the guys on Zwiftcast Episode 41 discussed that Zwift engineers are working on developing this 🙂
A recent Zwiftcast interview with a Zwift person–guy in charge of events, I think it was–touched on the complexities of the club issue, some of which you’ve listed. The gist was, they want to add clubs, but they want to be sure they don’t build something they have to scrap six months down the road because it’s too broken or jeopardizes the platform. I started my own list of club-related issues that Zwift must resolve and was surprised how large it became.
Copyright/trademark/offensive content on club kit, club-imposed membership rules or restrictions (more legal/community relations implications), inactive members or clubs, club leadership and officer requirements, permissions, limits, and succession, club member minimums and maximums, membership management (joining, approving, promoting, moving), and club advertisement spam, just to name a few items.
Even private rides are complex. Are they fully instanced, only nearby riders list instanced, something else? Are club rides restricted events (create with the existing events module) or something else? What are the community/world appearance implications if many riders disappear into club ride instances? Etc., etc.
England and six US states (and probably other places in the world) have a city named Bristol, so how does Zwift deal with name clashes if you have two real-world Bristol Cycling Clubs that want to be on Zwift?
Some of the MMO answers to some of the issues for guilds and parties should transfer well to Zwift clubs, but not all, and most MMOs punt certain issues Zwift faces with clubs. For example, I have yet to play an MMO that allows guild kit uploads. Kit uploads create a copyright/trademark/offensive content minefield. The issue is worse for Zwift because most MMOs use region-specific servers, but Zwift is global, and global copyright/trademark/offensive content is a far bigger container ship load of worms than regional. In most MMOs guilds are completely virtual and disposable. Zwift clubs that are avatars of real-world clubs are not.
So, yeah, clubs seem to be on the radar, but they’re complex and Zwift is trying to plan them right and avoid legal/financial/community fallout.
That’s really very interesting. Dimensions of this that I would not have thought of. Thanks.
I’m still not onboard with the “follow-your-digital-@$$” trainer games. They’re better than nothing, but really only make the trainer 5% better. I mean – who uses these when they are on a gym treadmill?
Look… add some game to these! They make ANT+ and Bluetooth remotes link to trekbikes.com Make the rider fall when they hit something, mario kart shells, put more ‘paths’ on the map to drive down, and give me something to do.
That sounds awesome…Could even add more simple/realistic challenges like cyclocross mode. They could have steps and obstacles that you need to bunny hop and “time” correctly. They can add steering ability; take a turn too aggressively and you can slide off. Hitting other riders should cause a crash, or at least some kind of tangle. Take a look at Madden NFL for examples of various hitting impacts depending on angle, force, etc. You should need to steer away from other riders.
Instead of shells, you could throw water bottles. Don’t even need a BTLE or ANT+ remote, can simply use the companion app that already exists.
Surprised you didn’t mention anything about Mick Rodgers involvement (especially when discussing the racing aspect)
In general, I rarely give much weight to professional athletes as part of sports tech products. Mostly because historically speaking I’ve almost never seen that to be a driver of success (in fact, in most cases, the opposite – it’s assumed that having a pro career means anything of note in tech, when in reality, I’ve seen more cases of pro athletes driving tech projects that fail because they put too much weight on being a pro athlete).
I prefer to focus on the tech. If the tech can stand up by itself (which it does here), then there’s little reason to footnote it by saying it’s more special because a pro athlete is behind it.
(Note: Nothing at all against Mick Rodgers, he’s obviously doing a good job here, but just pointing out in general what I see and why I very rarely mention pro athletes in pieces).
If it was Adam Hansen involved, that might be be more interesting.
If nothing else a little competition should keep the new features rolling out and the price down for all involved.
The online trainer that is able to simulate best an actual race, that is with drafting and giving the real feel that you are in a pack, will be the winner.
They are trying, but for the most part, group rides and group races, feel more like a group ITT. I understand the major issue here is probably the trainers and the time it takes them to update themselves.. The math and physics needs to be dramatically improved.
Whoever figures this out, will end up the winner.
The feeling of the pack you won’t get in your pain cave. What Zwift did at TdU (the Zwift racing) might approximate that. But in Zwift and any other virtual environment, it will always be an algorithm that decides about your exact position in the field – unless someone invents a smart handlebar that allows you to steer with precision. However, that world would need everyone to have such a handlebar. The other issue is a response lag when we change power output. Then there is too much information, since to some extent we can look behind us much easier and much more permanently. And, finally, there are no brakes on the bikes. What I mean to say is: in addition to math and physics, we also need more hardware.
But I don’t think we’ll need to see one winner. If I were a Zwift contender, I would offer day-passes on top of regular subscriptions. When Zwifters get tired of yet another London day (love it, but I permanently miss the Watopia days this winter, they can take a day off and ride on Mallorca with Road Grandtours. Or if there’s a special race format on Virtugo, they can go there. The best situation for us and them is if they co-exist in a way that is affordable for us.
“Do you have an Android App?”
“Is in the plans with no specific timeframe”
Every single virtual world application for sports.
This is infuriating.
The reasoning is super simple: The number of people that have *capable* tablet based Android hardware is very slim in this specific market.
What’s a market you ask? The target market of people actually using Zwift/etc… – not the total number of people on this earth.
In other front of the news: Do they have plans for runners on treadmills?
I’ve used both TrainerRoad (some time ago) and Zwift and really don’t understand why Zwift don’t quickly add a load more structured ERG workouts and kill TrainerRoad in its tracks. What am I missing?
Right now it seems they are focusing on group workouts….but yeah, I agree with you. I moved over from Trainerroad a while back, and it’s really just a matter of sitting down and creating a bunch of workouts. It’s a sample formula, come up with something that works for an hour, cut it in half (that’s one extra workout), and double it (that’s another workout). And that’s without having to come up with anything truly new.
I really do like being able to see what the workouts are without being on the program when looking at whatsonzwift.com.
All that being said, I’m on the waitlist for VirtuGo.
Better yet and my preference, join up with TrainerRoad and figure out a JV where they could offer TR integrated into Zwift.
Right now I window Zwift for the eye candy piece while using TR down below. Works great (especially if your machine is up to it), but if it was more integrated obviously would love that more. That noted, keeping them apart means I can also decide if I want to swap from Zwift to something else like watching a movie or using another program.
I also blend TR and Z. Great plans mixed with great distraction.
If VirtuGo nails what They are planning, it is a worthwhile alternative and will pull users from TR and Z.
I would also do the double, but I don’t want to pay for both.
I can’t help but feel like Zwift is simply dropping the ball on the workouts front. With the enormous multisport market, they have one tri-specific plan (to my knowledge). This plan 1) is only for Olympic distance, 2) is only 6 weeks, 3) doesn’t include running and swimming workouts.
re 1) What about cyclist who want to do their first Sprint? What about those working toward half Iron and Ironman distance? Zwift is lacking plans for nearly all multisport athletes.
re 2) 6 weeks? Really? TrainerRoad’s Half Ironman plan is 24 weeks. Their normal cycling plans are multi-phased (base/build/specialty), span 28 weeks, and take you through the entire training cycle. 6 weeks is not a realistic training timeline.
re 3) Zwift is the only app (again to my knowledge) that has a running platform. They have what they need to create running plans for marathons and triathlons, but they’re are blowing it. Again, even their measly 6 week tri plan doesn’t even give advice on swimming and running workouts, let alone allow a user to perform run workouts in a structured format within the app.
As you might be able to deduce from my post, I am a TR user, but I have flirted with Zwift. I don’t have a problem with how Zwift implements their training, it is just baffling that (with all their venture backing) they haven’t hired their own Chad Timmerman (TR head coach) to create full featured, multiphase training plans. It seems like a no-brainer that would attract a larger group of semi-serious riders, who want real training, but don’t want to pay an individual coach, and would like to participate in virtual group rides and races.
My final Zwift complaint is the lack of the ability to minimize the virtual world. Sure, its fun to ride in wattopia, and sometimes its great to have a “free” ride, but, to me, the fake world loses its fun after a few rides. I typically enjoy watching tv/movies while I ride indoors. It would be great if you could watch your Avatar if you choose (especially for races and group rides), or just minimize to a numbers/graphs mode (especially for workouts) that would allow netflix on my screen. This is something that seems simple, and would possibly attract more users, if folks without the tech requirements of Zwift’s virtual world could still sign on to a Zwift numbers/graphs mode.
>> lack of the ability to minimize the virtual world
Windowed mode. Resize window. Position as needed. Done.
That method doesn’t allow you to see only workout info and stats, and it cannot be overlaid on top of Netflix/prime, like you can with TR. Give me an Android version and it wouldn’t be an issue (Netflix on PC, zwift on phone).
IDK, maybe zwift just isn’t for me. Maybe I’m not the market they want. Zwift most interests me for virtual races. I wonder if they’ve thought of doing 1 day passes? Like $2-3 to hop on and race, ride, do a group ride, whatever, then do my structured training on something that works for me.
just import the workouts that you want. its super easy.
Extremely super easy with Zwift Workout Factory (link to zwofactory.com).
I agree with OP that current Zwift workout and training plan options are so-so at best compared to other platforms (cyclist only here). I also see several solutions that would let me and OP ride Zwift, a third-party workout platform and watch streaming video while listening to streaming audio. (FWIW, I can’t much attention to Zwift if I’m quality-riding a TR workout, so I doubt I could watch Netflix and make sense of it while riding a TR workout.)
Assumption: You have at least one ANT dongle for your computer or an ANT-capable phone because, my experience is, Bluetooth fitness equipment doesn’t support multiple receivers for a single transmitter.
* Buy an ANT dongle (<20 USD) for computer and ride Zwift on computer ANT, TR Bluetooth on phone (get a cheap bike mount so you can read the prompts) or tablet (stand in front of TV)
* Buy a second ANT dongle (another <20 USD) for the computer so both TR and Zwift have ANT sources on the computer.
* Use the Zwift phone Bluetooth to PC network relay to run Zwift from your phone's Bluetooth and TR from an ANT dongle on the computer.
* Buy the TR-approved (that chafed me) Bluetooth dongle (<15 USD) and run TR with Bluetooth, Zwift on ANT, both on computer.
* Get Training Peaks or Today's Plan, both of which sync workouts to Zwift. (Less effective for people who want to watch Netflix.)
* Use Xert (plan to investigate soon) as an alternative to TR/TP/TP. (Still need at least one ANT-capable receiver to get around the Bluetooth single-receiver limitation.)
* Ride TR for workouts only. Ride Zwift for racing only.
* Haven't tried, but I wonder if multiple apps on a single device can use the same Bluetooth signal. If so, Bluetooth relay to Zwift on computer, Bluetooth TR/Xert on phone/tablet. (With Xert, data relay to PC and overlay their UI on preferred video source, so no need to mount phone on bike.)
I don't expect Zwift to solve the integration issue–too many options, too easy to for a user to do if they really want it, and I suspect the group ride/club people that make up a large minority of the Zwift community don't really want it.
I don't expect TrainerRoad to build a Zwift workout sync option before they have ride import running–if ever.
It’s an interesting topic to talk about, with respect to Zwift vs. TrainerRoad and the amount of workout plans available. Everyone is very opinionated about it and the reality is that Zwift is likely focusing more on the social aspect than full blown variety of training plans, because it’s going to appeal more to the average user.
TrainerRoad has some interesting workout plans, and for $12/mo. or so, it’s a VERY good deal versus the cost of a personal coach. TrainerRoad will appeal to the same user in the past that didn’t mind slaving away on the trainer and enjoys being able to combine the UI with Netflix — nothing has really changed in that aspect. Zwift appeals more to the person that couldn’t stand being on the trainer in the past — because of the social aspect. I usually run Zwift on an iPad now and watch Netflix on a TV or my computer if I want a distraction.
I personally don’t need the full blown library of workout plans because I pay a coach to develop them for me. It’s easy to build a workout in Zwift just like it is in TrainerRoad. Zwift also has a few big workout plans like building your FTP or the Zwift academy, but I’d be willing to bet that the majority of people that use them don’t finish them or stick to the entire plan – which is probably one of the differences between the users of Zwift and TrainerRoad. Zwift seems to be focusing more on the group workouts – and it makes sense, because the average Zwift user probably doesn’t have a coach and joining a group workout once or twice a week will likely give them gains they notice. It’s not as monotonous or requires as much discipline that the average user on TR has. Zwift is likely more appealing to those recreational/group riders that already have a bike, kit, etc. and just need a trainer and appeal to bring it indoors – and ultimately cheaper than a Peloton – but has a similar appeal. It won’t necessarily be as appealing to those that want structure and have a focus solely on gains from spending time indoors and want a plethora of workouts – TrainerRoad fills this desire. The only thing Zwift might offer that particular user is the racing.
is there an app in which I can go for a group workout (like Zwift) but that will keep riders close together based on their FTP%, not power/speed?
Scenario: I have a FTP of 250 and my friend has FTP 200, we both want to do 7x10min@92%FTP, but in Zwift I will drop him quickly. Or is there some secret mode on Zwift that I’m not aware of?
In Zwift, it’s called ‘workout mode’ and there are many group rides that use it where you all stay in the bunch regardless of FTP. There’s one today at 12:45 PST (search “Tri-focused”).
I know there are workouts in Zwift, but what if I want to go with my friend only?
I’ve used veloreality and the quality of the real world videos is fantastic. Are there any other apps that take a similar approach ?
FulGaz is similar, focusing more on high quality recordings. They aren’t using the same level of equipment in the field, but are doing a fair bit of processing afterwards to output high quality videos.
Take a look at BigRingVR, mostly for climbing a lot of famous cols, but flats are also coming (the classics, for example)
I tried Veloreality and Fulgaz, also Rouvy, Kinomap, BigringVR and have to say that quality of videos from Veloreality leaves the rest in a dust whatever post processing they do/do not. Actually no post processing can compensate for inferior equipment and general filming skills. Tacx makes good videos but their software is too buggy. Besides Tacx does not offer 4K content and that is just absolutely brilliant on big screen 4K TV.
Looks interesting. At this point, not real interested in trying it until it is iOS compatible. I don’t have a PC set up in the old pain cave. I didn’t really adopt Zwift until it made that jump either. Have the ability to use the program with out a lot of overhead will make or break it. Once it gets its app done, it will be easy to jump between this program and Zwift. I agree, if the workout aspect of the program matures in the way it looks like it might, it will be a serious contender. Thanks for the first look.
I will go for the Wahoo climb
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Already looks better than Zwift, but that’s because I couldn’t care less about “racing” online. I just want to get my workouts/rides in and have a cool environment in which to do it.If they can deliver at $10/month I will undoubtedly be dropping Zwift.
applied for beta as soon as video was on you tube and on a waiting list,didnt get the pre youtube memo!
Nice article, I’ve seen many points in common with Road Grand Tours.
I am currently a TrainerRoad user, and like a lot of the functionality they have recently added – importing rides, ability to create seasons and compare performance, nice metrics. That said, I still jumped on to the beta list for VirtuGo the day after Ray posted this article and received my link to join on Monday (2/26). While the whole download/install thing took forever, I got in finished Wednesday night. Haven’t ridden it yet, but looks interesting so far. I’m hoping the Xert linkage to let the training adapt to me will be in place shortly.
For me, this is a deal breaker: “E) There’s definitely still some refinement work to be done on timing and controlling the trainers. A few times the grade just didn’t match up properly, or quick enough. The company says they’re working on that though.” I rode the three routes yesterday and I must say that I am less than impressed. I am used to the smooth transitions and realistic “road feel” with gradient changes in Zwift. With VirtuGO, there are inconsistencies that makes you wonder what is controlling the resistance of the trainer. After a while, it got me frustrated to the point that I stopped in the middle of the third route and called it a day. I was a Zwift beta user and I don’t remember experiencing this type of issues with the platform. Another annoying aspect is the upload to Strava or other training platform. Time stamps seem to be the ones from the location where the course is (i.e. Spain, Australia, etc.). Zwift had the same issue early on and this indicates that the VirtuGO team may not have used lessons learned from Zwift. I’ll wait until a more mature version of the VirtuGO platform is available before trying again.
sounds awesome.. gutted i’m late to the party.. probably about 10,000 down the stand-by list now.
Zwift’s price structure and lack of proper training focus deters me.. so hoping this will be free for a while at least, and also that they get into gear with the raining
link to dcrainmaker.com
I know you’ve done a Rouvy review already. While Rouvy uses real video like many other apps, it also adds a social component and augmented reality which puts it in a similar category as all these Zwift competitors. Just sayin’ I think Rouvy should be included in this group of apps. Thanks for listening and your awesome website!
Almost a year and not much have changed
Be good to get an update on VirtuGo from you now that they have been in the market a little longer.
I signed up yesterday and I am using computrainer with the perfpro bridge and an ANT+dongle. Works great on RGT and Rouvy. My computrainer did not work with virtugo even though I was able to select a trainer. My option for the controllable trainer was called “dynastream fitness equipment”. Anyone get this to work with similar set up?
I have been using VirtuGo for about 3 weeks now with my BKool trainer, and it is not bad in performance, It takes forever to download but seems as if lots of the bugs from the development stage have been ironed out now. I mainly use the Pulseville and Willunga Hill rides and have just started using the tempo trainer options which is set up to improve your fitness over 4 weeks.
Still learning as I go, but I would say the limitations are the rides they have provided need to be expanded, there are only 3 programmed rides. Pulseville (good graphics) is a mixture of sprints and climbing and just over 7km long, you can keep going though as it repeats and continues once you cross the finish line. Willunga Hill (bland graphics) has a mixture of sprints also with the tough Willunga Hill Climb to finish, about 20km long. The other ride I am yet to do but it is all about climbing from start to finish over 7 or 8km. Worth a try I think and it is quite cheap to subscribe after your first week free trial.
Just had an email saying VirtuGo is closing shame really but when i tried it there were very few people on it. Considering where Zwift is I am not surprised they haven’t had the take up as Zwift when i have used it is mega popular.
Bets on who dies next? CVRCade (my personal one based on their rocky offering), VirtuPro (not even out of beta yet), Road Grand Tours, others?
I don’t envy anyone going against Zwift with a “similar” multiplayer offering. It seems like a tough sell to get people to jump ship now that they own a large portion of the indoor cycling & training market.
I think you have to have something really “different” like TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, FulGaz, Rouvy all have major aspects that make them unique in comparison to Z.
I look forward to the FIT File podcast discussion on this and the broader picture.
Yeah, I’ve got a chat with Mick (CEO/Founder) set for the morning, his/our time. Most of my post is written for backstory and stuff, but I’m keen on his take.
I’m bummed – I think they had a chance. Money is the real issue here. Zwift has a lot of it, others don’t. I knew of some buy-out interest in the industry, but it doesn’t sound like that materialized.
As for CVRCade, my guess is that’ll live for years. It’s effectively a pet project funded by someone who is independently wealthy.
They gave it a good shot but unfortunately, I just got an email today (29 Oct 2019) that they are closing their online platform as of end of November 2019…too few users subscribed I guess. It was a great experiment and a great program. Clearly not as robust as some of the other large online cycling platforms, but their subscription fee was reasonable and they were constantly adding new features (e.g. ghost riders, training programs, etc.). I’ll miss them!
..and just like that its shutting down.
‘Not enough traction’- they say…
Just got an email telling VirtuGO is shutting down at the end of November.
Judt outdated software development model. CEO and Founder Michael Rogers, please publish it on Gitlab with free license and it will grow exponently.