With virtual reality indoor cycling becoming increasingly popular these days, Spanish company BKOOL are offering a relatively low cost entry to this digitally enhanced world.
The slight catch is that to take advantage of features such as multiplayer racing (with potentially up to 100 riders), challenges, videos and training plans, you will pay a subscription of up to €10 a month on top of the upfront cost of £400 for the turbo and other hardware.
The turbo talks to your computer via the supplied ANT+ wireless dongle and software. There’s no heart rate monitor included; but if you do already have an ANT+ compatible one, the dongle will pair with it. The turbo itself doesn’t look particularly fancy but we had no problems with it during testing.
You then need to choose or create a session to ride to, using www.bkool.com. You can do this manually or by using a ride created via an iPhone app or a GPS device. Coming soon is an option to create a video using a Contour GPS camera, which is available separately. We found this took a few too many steps and we’d like to see the process simplified.
The trainer will adjust resistance according to the gradient and you can even add in wind vectors to simulate different segments of a ride. On screen, you’ll see a 2D profile or an overhead map of your course, and we’re told a 3D Google Earth version is coming soon too.
We found the on-the-fly resistance adjustment good: the lead into the climbs wasn’t too sudden and descending took little effort, which is the way it should be.
What are cool about the BKOOL system are its social networking elements. You can challenge other riders anywhere via the internet to ride the same course as you using the multiplayer option. Simply set a date, a time and the course to ride and try to batter your opposition as best you can.
Your sessions are saved for later analysis on BKOOL’s website. The functionality here is decent. You get summary data in the form of time, distance, power, metres climbed, time in zones, cadence and calories burned, and you can easily zoom in on sections of the ride if you want to check your interval splits.
It’s a novel approach to indoor training – we’ll just have to wait and see how well it takes off.