Back in May we reported on Road Grand Tours, a cycling simulator that promised to take on market leader Zwift with realistic graphics and an immersive training and racing experience. RGT has now officially launched and despite previous hints of a subscription model, it remains completely free to users for now.
The platform features “six of cycling’s most iconic roads along with realistic graphics, customisable avatars and accurate drafting dynamics”. It’s even compatible with the Oculus Rift VR headset.
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Zwift completely changed the face of indoor training and until recently, it hasn’t had much in the way of serious competition.Road Grand Tours operates along much the same lines as the big Z, letting you train or race as you please. It also has similar requirements: you’ll need either a smart trainer (or a standard one plus a power meter), along with an ANT+ USB dongle.
Heart-rate monitors and cadence sensors are optional and if you have the latter, your avatar’s pedalling will synchronise with your meatspace legs.
Although it’s still in beta, Road Grand Tours already offers a number of different courses
The key selling point, according to the people behind RGT, is its focus on realism. Courses are modelled on real places including iconic climbs like the Stelvio and Cap Formentor, as well as circuit races in London and Berlin.
The Stelvio is one of the iconic climbs featured on the platformRoad Grand Tours
The physics aim to be as realistic as possible too, with simulated drafting and the ability to take account of rider and equipment weights.
RGT’s people also hinted at the possibility of full-fledged CFD-based aerodynamic modelling, although that’s yet to come.
Canary Wharf provides the setting for an urban crit courseRoad Grand Tours
Although realism is key, RGT’s designers were keen to stress that creating an immersive experience for users is what matters the most on grounds that “no one loves being indoors”.
RGT is keen to get feedback from users during the beta and the software includes a feature that lets you message the developers directly to report bugs. So far there have been around 10,000 sign-ups to the platform, and riders have been comparing notes on an informal Facebook group.
If you’d like to give it a go, head over to the Road Grand Tours website. We’re assuming it won’t be free forever, but RGT has yet to settle on a membership model so pricing remains to be seen.
Matthew Loveridge (formerly Allen) is an experienced mechanic and an expert on bike tech who appreciates practical, beautifully-engineered things. Originally a roadie, he likes bikes and kit of every stripe, and he's tested a huge variety of both over the years for BikeRadar, Cycling Plus and others. For a long time Matthew's heart belonged to the Scott Addict, but he's currently enjoying Specialized's sublime Roubaix Expert and having a torrid affair with a Giant Trance e-MTB. At 174cm tall and 53kg, he looks like he should be better at cycling than he actually is, and he's ok with that.