I live in North Texas, but on any given day I can ride in London, Belgium, France, Italy, Richmond, Virgina or anywhere else in the world without leaving the comfort of my home gym. Companies like Zwift, CycleOps, Strava and others have made it so that I can literally immerse myself in the experience of riding my bike anywhere, at any time of the day or night. By logging in, I can experience what it feels like to climb (and descend) mountain passes and bounce across cobblesl, while viewing virtual images on my phone, laptop and HDTV. How’s this possible?
By combining smart trainer technology with the power of GPS, Google Earth, gamification and computer science programming, it’s all possible and totally accessible. To top this off, the tech integrates social media elements, allowing me to ride virtually with people from every country on the face of the earth, communicating with them socially and making new friends.
Zwift and CycleOps have created online programs for cyclists to ride the same routes together and experience what it’s like to ride famous routes, like Alpe D’ Huez’s 13.2 kilometers (with its average grade of 8.1%) and 23 legendary switchbacks. I place my bike into my smart trainer, sync it up with my laptop, smartphone, or HDTV with ANT+ or Bluetooth, select the route I want to ride and go. Other times, if I want to stay closer to home, I can upload one of my favorite routes from here in Texas, via GPS and the Garmin Connect app, and, viola, it’s right in front of me on the screen, as if I was outside.
My avatar and the speed of what I see on the screen is dictated by a combination of how quickly I pedal and resistance from my trainer. For example, as the gradient on the virtual route changes, such as when I ascend or descend hills, I feel the resistance change, forcing me to work harder if, say, I’m climbing up the side of a mountain. I get to experience all of this alone or with others, with the ability to communicate with them, via text, just as I would if we were riding together on the road. The technology that allows us to do this is a combination of computer programming, IoT communication between devices, GPS and social media networking. This has been a game changer for those of us who live in climates not conducive to putting in miles outdoors during the winter or can’t spare the time because of school, jobs and family obligations that would normally interfere with cycling outside. All of this is great, but the best part of virtual reality cycling is that the technology and software makes the experience fun, since it definitely beats staring at a wall while on the trainer, riding in a cold, damp basement for hours at a time… You can check out my blog if you’re interested in reading more about how Zwift, Strava, CycleOps, social media, Big Data, GPS, ANT+, smartphones and wearable technology is changing the way cyclists, both amateur and professional, are training and racing.