For someone who has to spend an inordinate amount of time having to use indoor cycling stands, you may want to look at getting a virtual reality bike trainer. These stands are used to provide highly sophisticated cycling simulations in order to make your training as realistic as possible. They can be a bit difficult from time to time but the benefits are many.
What a Virtual Reality Bike Trainer Does
This stand works like most other indoor bike stands in that it attaches your bike to a stand. After that it’s completely different. The rear wheel of your bike is placed onto a motorized roller which provides resistance. This resistance is computer operated and is controlled by the virtual reality program which means that it adjusts as your virtual landscape changes.
The front wheel of the bike is attached to the stand. Both the frame and stand have multiple sensors in order to provide feedback to the program and allow for adjustments. A computer reads what happens with your bike and makes the corresponding adjustments in the virtual landscape. For example, the harder you pedal the more power output the machine will pick up and you will move faster through the landscape.
Different models offer a variety of sensors and pressure pads to read such factors as pedaling power, RPMs, the resistance the pressure pads put on the tires, and more. You use your own bike and once set into the stand, both of them connect to your computer. Nearly all the stands come with a computer program that offers basic trails but there are several add ons including multiplayer and GPS features.
Virtual reality stands do not require any specialized gear such as glasses, helmets, or sensors on your body. However, these programs are extensive with a ton of graphics and usually require a good gaming computer to be run effectively.
The Pros of a Virtual Reality Bike Trainer
While not always easy to set up because of all the sensors, wires, and calibrations the virtual reality indoor bike stand is well loved because it mimics both a video game and real life cycling. Basically, it’s perfect for people who love to cycle but have obligations or weather that prevents them from being away from home for long hours. It keeps indoor cycling interesting and more importantly, fun!
Furthermore, the virtual reality program is built to mimic biking conditions and the bikes as closely as possible in order to keep training challenging and consistent. The motorized roller will automatically adjust the resistance level in order to mimic real life biking conditions. If the trail looks like it’s about to get harder then it probably is about to get harder.
Also, virtual stands can accommodate most road and mountain bikes with trials in urban, off-road, and mountain conditions. This means you can bike your favorite paths from around the world all in your own living room. Some models have a racing mode where you can race the computer or another cyclist, which provides great race training.
Lastly, the virtual reality stand tracks your training to last the detail. Your mileage, heart rate, endurance, pedaling stroke, pedaling power output, and other parameters are all recorded to help build the program around you and your personal training needs. Many of the programs give you training feedback in real time so that you can make adjustments as needed. You can store these parameters to ride against them later. You’ll know more about how you cycle in a session than you ever did from being outside.
The single biggest benefit of a virtual reality indoor cycling stand is that it will teach you how to pedal efficiently! If you are willing to pay for a coach, or already have one, then purchasing one of these stands is a no brainer. I bought a computrainer several years ago and it was the single best investment I made in cycling equipment. It taught me how to pedal as it will give you instantaneous feedback on your pedaling efficiency. It was invaluable, and brought my cycling to the next level.
The Cons of a Virtual Reality Bike Trainer
The primary drawback to a virtual stand is that they are expensive. Virtual stands can run up to a couple thousand dollars or more and that’s before you factor in the computer, monitor, and bike you need to run it all. This is by no means a budget stand. In fact, it may be the most expensive thing you buy for your cycling training.
A minor con to this system is that it can be noisy depending on what kind of tire you have. Some tires make more noise than others when they run across the motorized roller. Luckily, this is where a great music playlist comes in handy.
The initial setup can be tedious, but after a couple set ups it can take 5 minutes or less.
Models of Virtual Reality Bike Trainer
Here’s a quick list of popular virtual reality bike trainers:
- Tacx I Genius Visual Trainer
- Tacx I Vortex Virtual Reality Trainer
- Tacx Multiplayer
Are we missing any virtual reality bike trainers here?
Tacx also offers basic and advanced training software. The basic does not come with pre-designed routes and workouts unlike the advanced version. To access the multiplayer feature you have to buy the base program and a special license that has to be renewed every year. Both versions offer what’s called Tacx films where you can ride routes as they appear in real life, that is not computer generated or animated but real life scenery. Such routes include Tour of Flanders and Tour de France. However, to run races against virtual competitors you have to upgrade to the advanced software.
A virtual reality bike trainer is a great way to keep up on your training indoors. Highly realistic paths, races, and conditions can keep you from getting bored and improve your endurance and fitness levels. However, be aware that no matter how realistic the virtual reality is, the best way to shore up your cycling skills will be outside on an actual trail. But the virtual reality stand does make a great second.