The best indoor cycling apps compared: which training app should you use?

Which apps we use and why, plus the gear you need to plug in

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The best indoor cycling apps compared: which training app should you use?

Yes, we would all rather ride outside. But when weather, work and the rest of your life rules that out, riding inside can leave you fitter and faster.

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What’s more, smart trainers and training apps have made indoor cycling more realistic and effective than ever.

Here are three of our favourite indoor cycling apps, plus the best of the rest that are worth checking out. We’ve also included a round-up of the kit you’ll need to get started.

Racing, training or touring?

While most indoor cycling apps serve a similar purpose – to make indoor training more enjoyable and effective – they can broadly be split into a few categories depending on what you want from the experience, including intervals, racing and interactive tourism.

Some apps, such as TrainerRoad, are straight-up training tools – think personalised workout classes based on power output with a specific training goal in mind.

Zwift workouts, SST (Long)
If you want to do interval training, apps such as Zwift make it simple.
Zwift

Others use on-bike video from around the world, with your pedal power driving the scenic view – and, if you have a smart trainer, the route driving the resistance.

And then there is Zwift, where you can do interactive rides and races on gamified virtual courses, with your experience based on power-to-weight output in real time.

Which is best depends on what you want to do. After logging thousands of miles and trying as many as we could, we have found Zwift and TrainerRoad to be the clear leaders, with The Sufferfest offering a nice mix of solid training and humour.

The best indoor cycling apps

Zwift and TrainerRoad are the apps we have gravitated towards when using the turbo trainer. The Sufferfest, meanwhile, is continuing to add new features beyond just workouts, as well as the advanced metrics that many performance-minded riders like.

Zwift

Zwift Yorkshire
Zwift has arguably done more than any other app to popularise virtual riding and racing.
Zwift

Founded by gamers with a love of cycling (and clearly some good investment backing), Zwift has undoubtedly transformed the indoor riding experience.

No, Zwift didn’t invent virtual riding – Bkool and Tour de Giro were among those offering online competition driven by rider output and physics-based algorithms on weight, speed and aero drag. And Computrainer had the smart trainer experience years ago – but within a closed system and you had to buy a Computrainer.

Nor did Zwift invent power-based interval training. TrainerRoad had the early lead there.

But what Zwift has done is absolutely crush it on the social interaction and graphic elements of the game.

Zwift custom workouts
Zwift has a library of custom workouts and training plans, but you can also create your own.
Zwift

With group rides and races going on almost constantly, it’s easy to jump in with a group for an easy spin or an all-out slugfest. You can also ride on your own, of course, or tackle one of Zwift’s many structured training plans and workouts.

The racing aspect of Zwift has also taken off, with categorised races to join based on your power-to-weight ratio if you want to stoke that competitive fire.

Besides working together with (or attacking) your fellow Zwifters from around the globe, you can also chat with them as you ride through the app’s virtual worlds, which include the fictional Watopia and routes inspired by real-world courses like Prudential RideLondon, the 2015 UCI World Championships in Virginia and the 2018 UCI Road World Championships course in Innsbruck-Tirol,

Zwift also has an Apple TV app, and you can connect your smart trainer or power meter via Bluetooth. This setup offers one of the most cost-friendly ways to get into indoor training apps.

Visit zwift.com to sign-up for a free 7-day trial.

  • Platform: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Apple TV
  • Cost: £12.99 / $14.99 per month
  • Free trial period: 7 days
  • Device compatibility: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Primary features: Solo and social riding, virtual racing, training and structured workouts
  • Website: zwift.com

TrainerRoad

TrainerRoad iPhone
TrainerRoad is completely focused on training.
TrainerRoad

Riding a trainer aimlessly, staring at the wall is about as fun as a waiting room at dentist’s office with no WiFi. On top of that, riding aimlessly isn’t really doing anything for your fitness if you really want to make the most of your time on the turbo.

Conversely, doing short, measured intervals – and then resting – will make you fitter and faster.

While some folks may have the discipline to guide themselves through workouts in their basements, most people (including the majority of the BikeRadar staff) aren’t that mentally tough. But if a coach or an app is there walking you through the specifics, and all you have to do is pedal? That, we can do.

TrainerRoad is streamlined fitness on your mobile phone, tablet or computer. You can drop in and do workouts a la carte, subscribe to a training plan tailored to your target event, or, if you’re already plugged into a plan on TrainingPeaks or Today’s Plan, it will import those workouts and keep you right on track.

The interface is clean and simple: just follow the targets for power (and sometimes cadence) for the prescribed duration. The bar graphs show what is coming up, and the text explains the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.

No fluff, just fitness.

  • Platform: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS
  • Cost: $19.95 per month or $189 per year
  • Free trial period: 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Device compatibility: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Primary features: Laser-focus on interval training and training plans
  • Website: trainerroad.com

The Sufferfest

The Sufferfest macOS Workout Player
The Sufferfest combines structured interval training with racing videos.
The Sufferfest

Somewhere in between TrainerRoad’s straight-faced workouts and Zwift’s virtual-reality interactivity lies The Sufferfest.

The brand started with pro-race videos, back before apps were a thing.

While the basic science is the same – intervals make you faster; do them – the execution is more playful.

Video mix-ups splice in attacks from races with leisurely scenic footage, and revving engines and gunshots alert you to changes in pace.

As with TrainerRoad and Zwift, and many others, it’s all about measuring and improving power output over various durations.

While the first two are rooted firmly in FTP (Functional Threshold Power), The Sufferfest is charting a slightly different course with what it calls 4DP training.

In addition to the videos, The Sufferfest also offers downloadable training plans, mental training and even some guided yoga and strength training sessions too.

  • Platform: iOS, Windows, macOS
  • Cost: $14.99 per month or $129 annually
  • Free trial period: 14 days
  • Device compatibility: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Primary features: Workouts and training plans, humour
  • Website: thesufferfest.com

More indoor cycling training apps

There are scores of indoor training apps out there, including quite few produced by brands to accompany smart trainers.

For the most part, we have found the branded apps to be less polished and user friendly, however, there are a couple of exceptions which have made the list below.

RGT Cycling

RGT Cycling Passo dello Stelvio
RGT Cycling offers virtual recreations of iconic real life roads like the Passo dello Stelvio.
RGT Cycling

RGT Cycling (which stands for Road Grand Tours Cycling) is a competitor to Zwift, except it offers virtual riding on real roads.

You can do rides, structured training, group rides and races on virtual reconstructions of iconic roads like Mont Ventoux, the Paterberg in Flanders and the Passo dello Stelvio.

Premium users can also upload their own GPX files and the app will create a virtual course for you to ride in-game.

RGT Cycling also recently announced that its premium features are free to all during the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.

  • Platform: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Apple TV
  • Cost: Free / $14.99 per month
  • Free trial period: 14 days
  • Device compatibility: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Primary features: Virtual reconstructions of real roads, training and racing
  • Website: rgtcycling.com

Rouvy

Rouvy indoor cycling app
Rouvy offers augmented reality virtual riding, where your avatar rides on videos on real life routes.
Rouvy

Rouvy offers a mix of virtual riding and interval training.

The company has recently added augmented reality riding that allows you to race your friends, similar to Zwift, but instead of a fully animated world, the app generates avatars, road signs and finish banners onto real footage.

  • Platform: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Apple TV
  • Cost: $10/€10 per month
  • Free trial period: 14 days
  • Device compatibility: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Primary features: Video routes, augmented reality routes, training
  • Website: rouvy.com

Bkool

The Spanish trainer brand’s virtual world comprises thousands of courses and offers similar social and racing features to Zwift.

There are also outdoor courses with real-world footage, as well as the option for targeted interval training.

  • Platform: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS
  • Cost: €9.99 per month
  • Free trial period: 30 days
  • Device compatibility: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Primary features: Virtual racing, virtual routes and video routes, training
  • Website: bkool.com

Kinomap

With a claimed 206,006km of video courses from around the world, Kinomap has added new functionality that changes the resistance on your smart trainer based on the terrain in the video.

Kinomap also offers interval training, with two modes either based around power targets or fixed resistance.

  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Cost: Free / €9.99 per month / €79.99 annually / €229 lifetime access
  • Free trial period: 14 days
  • Device compatibility: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Primary Features: Video routes, training, multisport functionality
  • Website: kinomap.com

FulGaz

FulGaz uses POV video of iconic rides around the world
FulGaz uses POV video of iconic rides around the world
Courtesy

FulGaz offers high-definition POV videos from around the world, with everything from famous climbs like the Tourmalet to popular group ride routes such as Akuna Bay in Sydney, Australia.

The app uses your weight and power output to adjust the speed of the video and the resistance on your smart trainer.

  • Platform: iOS, Android, Windows, Apple TV
  • Cost: £9.99 per month / £85.99 annually
  • Free trial period: 14 days
  • Device compatibility: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Primary features: Video routes, training
  • Website: fulgaz.com

Kinetic Fit

A mix of quite a few of the apps above, Kinetic Fit combines interval training (using bright and blocky bar graphs) with video integration.

That allows you to watch preselected YouTube playlists as you ride or even movies downloaded to your device without the need for a second screen or to navigate away from the workout.

With two membership tiers, the free core membership allows access to 65 guided power-based workouts.

  • Platform: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS
  • Cost: Free / $10 per month / $60 annually
  • Free trial period: N/A
  • Device compatibility: ANT+, Bluetooth
  • Primary features: Training
  • Website: kinetic.fit

Indoor training: what you need to get started

Best mid-range Zwift setup
You can get started with a few basic pieces of equipment, but there are other things that will greatly improve your indoor cycling experience if your budget will stretch enough to include them.
Immediate Media

We’ve covered the best Zwift setups for every budget separately and most of it applies to other apps too, but the basic kit required to use indoor cycling apps is…

One of these three devices:

  • Smartphone
  • Tablet
  • Computer

One of these three tools:

  • Smart trainer (best for a realistic ride quality and automatic resistance control for intervals and road gradient, but pricey)
  • Power meter (great for accurate data that transfers to outside workouts, no automatic resistance control unless paired with a smart trainer)
  • Classic trainer with speed/cadence sensor (affordable but virtual power is calculated so not as realistic, and no automatic resistance control)

One of these two wireless connections:

  • ANT+
  • Bluetooth

And both of these:

For most of these apps, you’re going to want to know your FTP (or Functional Threshold Power) to get the most from the workouts.

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Don’t worry if you don’t know it because the apps will all be able to help you determine what your FTP is. Just be warned that finding out generally involves a 20 minute all-out effort or a ramp test, so it’s no walk in the park.