For starters, what is CycleOps Virtual Training? From what I've seen or read so far, for a small monthly fee it provides me the opportunity to download or stream videos or Google maps/Streetview of bike routes via the Internet to my laptop computer and attached television, or other device, from a catalog of over 1000 member submitted bike courses. Along with the video and maps, I also see displayed dynamic ride data from my bike speed/cadence sensors and heart-rate monitor. Rides are categorized as either training rides or races. The difference seems to be that races can't be paused and race results may be included in the course statistics for best time. There are probably other differences as well.
My gear is not new except for one item. I purchased a CycleOps JetFluid Pro bike trainer in late 2012 though I've rarely used it. Bike #1 is a 2011 Trek Madone 5.2 road bike that has a Bontrager DuoTrap ANT+ speed and cadence sensor. Bike #2 is a 2010 Quintana Roo CD0.1 tri-bike with a Garmin GSC-10 speed and cadence sensor which is also ANT+ compatible. I had a Garmin 910XT watch that came with a soft ANT+ heart-rate monitor which I recently replaced with a new Garmin 920XT watch and Run ANT+ heart-rate monitor. The watches aren't needed for virtual training however, I still like to use it to capture my workouts for Garmin Connect. CVT doesn't automatically send data to Garmin Connect. I have two laptop computers. My newer computer is a Toshiba Satellite S55t laptop running Windows 8.1 with an HDMI output to which I'll connect to the HDMI input on my Sharp 52" television. However, after some thought, I decided to start out using an old but still still functional Toshiba P775-S7165 laptop running Windows 7. It's a PC that I can dedicate completely to virtual training. Everything is several years old. I guess that means it's tried and true. The only piece of hardware that is new is a CycleOps ANT+ USB Mini stick I just purchased. The dongle provided with the Garmin 910XT works fine just so long as the Garmin Express application has been shutdown while riding.
|Mic/ear plugs cable, Wireless Mouse dongle, ANT+ stick, and HDMI cable (l-r)|
|Laptop and TV setup|
|Bike Garmin 920xt on a Garmin Out-front mount|
The compatibility check process is separated into two categories, Smart Trainer and Classic Trainer. The Smart Trainer version is for all those higher end trainers and stationary bikes. These typically provide some sort of electronic and/or program controlled resistance which changes as a rider navigates the route. The Classic Trainer version that I will use with my CycleOps JetFluid Pro has a "progressive" resistance - the harder I pedal the harder it gets.
CycleOps JetFluid ProFor the Classic version, riders will note that additional effort is required to maintain speed during a climb up a simulated hill due to some algorithm within the Virtual Training application. At least, that's my understanding. I've indicated in bold my selection options.
- Encased fluid resistance unit provides a quiet and more consistent ride.
- Progressive resistance offers the widest resistance range and road-like feel.
- Preassembled on a fold-flat frame.
Smart Trainer or Classic Trainer:
- A smart trainer is a trainer that transmits a power signal. Most, but not all, smart trainers will also automatically control the resistance for the rider.
- A classic trainer is a trainer that does not transmit a power signal. The use of a speed sensor or power meter with a classic trainer is necessary to use CVT.
|Classic Trainer List|
Power Meter or Speed Sensor:When I selected "Other" and clicked "Next" the application indicated that my sensor was "Not Currently Compatible". I proceeded with the setup process anyway.
- The use of a power meter will basically turn your classic trainer into a smart trainer and provide CVT with the most accurate power data possible for a realistic experience.
- CVT knows the power curve for each classic trainer listed. The simplest way to ride is by using a speed sensor and letting us determine your Virtual Power based on the classic trainer you are riding.
|Power Meter or Speed Sensor|
ANT+ or Smart Bluetooth:
- ANT+ has been used with trainers for quite some time and there are many options on the market that use ANT+. In most cases the use of an ANT+ device will require an additional ANT+ antenna for your PC, tablet, or mobile device.
- Bluetooth Smart is becoming a popular method of communication with trainers. Typically no additional adapters or antennas are required to connect them to your device. Bluetooth Smart is also known as BLE, Bluetooth LE or Bluetooth 4.0
|ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart|
The setup and user interface for the Virtual Training App are not intuitive and the Trial version seems to have a few bugs where one might edit one's profile. The Premium account appears to be better. I continued to setup my bikes and found that the virtual bike gear setup was very tedious and unneeded after contacting CycleOps Support.
My first successful virtual training ride was somewhat thwarted. I wanted all my sensors to work properly before I rode my first real virtual training ride. However, I found I had a dead battery in my heart-rate monitor and a cadence sensor that wasn't positioned correctly. Once I replaced the HRM battery and adjusted the magnet for the cadence sensor I would have been in business but for a nasty septic tank problem and an overzealous plumber with a backhoe who took out my Internet for several days and my irrigation system. Bad luck comes in 3s so I should be okay be a while. So it was almost 2 weeks into my Premium CVT subscription until I spent more that a few seconds training virtually. Sometimes technology is more a hindrance than a benefit.
|Measuring the septic tank access hole location for future reference - 113" to the fence|
|My artful irrigation system pipe repair - no leaks|
|The Pain Cave|
|CycleOps Virtual Training - My Favourites|
|Chattanooga 70.3 Bike route|
|Data from my 3rd attempt at the course|
As I noted previously, the Garmin 910XT watch comes with an ANT+ stick that will work with the CVT application without the need to purchase the CycleOps ANT+ stick, just so long as, the Garmin Express application has been stopped.
|Quitting the Garmin Express application|
Also, after registering for CVT I realized that there are other options out there for virtual bike training. Zwift is a similar application that I have yet to try. It seems interesting though. Zwift has video game style graphics where the course is computer generated and other riders are represented as avatars.
One thing is sure, online bike training is going through a revolution. It's also going through some growing pains but when it's all said and done virtual training seems to provide a safe and efficient means to get a great workout.
Thanks for reading.