Winter is coming, which means many of us will spend hours mindlessly spinning away on a trainer. Today's fancy computer-controlled trainers increase the entertainment factor but their associated wires can be a hassle, especially for those who don't have the room to leave the trainer in place all season.
Tacx's stout-looking Bushido trainer, however, uses no wires whatsoever – all communication is wireless via the ubiquitous ANT+ protocol and not even the resistance unit has to be plugged into the wall so setup is quick and clean.
According to Tacx, the resistance unit draws its braking energy directly from the rider's pedalling power, which subsequently spins an on-board dynamo. Apparently up to a 15 percent grade can be faithfully reproduced.
Built-in feedback sensors not only measure speed and wattage but also cadence (that is, unless you have an absolutely perfect pedal stroke – which no one does) and left/right power balance.
The handlebar-mounted control unit is battery-powered and displays the usual array of information: current, maximum and average speed, cadence, power, and heart rate, plus ride distances, position relative to an optional phantom competitor, and energy consumption. Buttons are claimed to be fully waterproof, to stop corrosion from perspiration.
The display unit controls all of the basic settings and has waterproof buttons
The real fun begins when you use the optional PC interface, though – which, again, uses a wireless ANT+ dongle for communication – and the more advanced software package.
As is typical for the genre, the Bushido training software can be used in several modes: full manual, a video-game-like virtual reality environment or a real-life video mode to be used in conjunction with a well-stocked library of DVDs.
Use of the optional PC upgrade enables a far greater collection of features
Riders can opt to view themselves in a video-game-like environment...
… or in a more life-like scenario
The system can also interface directly with Google Earth online. Simply pull up the area in question, establish your start, finish and intermediate points on the screen and the system does the rest.
Once the information is loaded and you start the routine, you can follow your icon directly on the Google Earth map or simulate the point-of-view environment in cartoon form.
A trick interface with Google Earth allows users to create whatever course they wish
Naturally, Bushido isn't cheap: suggested retail price is €825 (approx £760/US$1,240 at current exchange rate) and the additional PC hardware and software adds another €75 (£70/$113) but well-heeled cyclists might still find it worth the cost.
Also available for this winter are other electronically controlled and standard trainers and rollers, and the company's comprehensive array of bottles and cages, but Tacx's lesser-known tool collection is worth a look as well.
Also new from Tacx is this clever chain tool with a flip-top lid that stores spare links
New for 2010 is a slick chain tool with a unique flip-top box-type layout that both stores spare links and holds the loose ends of a chain together for easier operation.
On the road, the Tool Tube Plus mimics the homemade setups many pros use: the screw-top canister fits in a bottle cage and includes a multi-tool, tyre levers and CO2 inflator with room to spare for a tube and a rag.