When the snow struck in 2009 and we were all stuck in our houses getting cabin fever our only option was to get on the turbo trainer. I think for 99% of cyclists it is a piece of torture equipment and I just cant even look at one with out being filled with dread. So I decided to invest in a virtual reality turbo trainer to try and take away the boredom and try to make my turbo sessions interesting if that was possible.
There are quite a few VR trainers on the market now but when I was looking the Tacx ones were the standout product. As I did a bit of digging around I saw that the Tacx I magic was about £600 which I thought was not too bad but after doing some more research I found that it cant recreate the steeper gradients.
If I was going to get a VR trainer and Ride Alpe D Huez then I wanted to finish and know that I rode it not rode it and never went past a 7% grade.
This meant I was going to have to go for the then top of the range the Tacx Fortius at £900 at the time which can recreate every gradient and more crucially has a power back system which means when you go downhill it free wheels your back wheel thus totally recreating a ride..PERFECT !!
They have now brought out a newer version which I believe is even better with more reliable software but I will focus on the one I have used.
With the software which is not easy to set up by the way you can race in any number of virtual worlds from the velodrome to mountains to cobbles. You can even race against a friend online as long as you have the same software and worlds to race in..all very cool.
The VR Velodrome
For me though it was all about the RLV videos which stands for Real Life Videos. I bought Mallorca,The Alps and the 2010 etape in the Pyrenees.
There are loads to choose from with all the classic climbs and classic races to choose from..
So you select your ride,load up the disc and the road in HD comes on. As you ride you move along the road,pedal faster and you go faster obviously, as the road goes uphill the computer applies the right amount of resistance to the back wheel for the gradient and when the road goes downhill the power back system free wheels your back wheel.
When you set up your user profile it asks for a number of things including your weight which is all in the equation for the resistance.
Tacx says it recreates a ride on a still day to within +/- 5% of the real thing.
If you find riding the Tourmalet is too hard at first then you can reduce the resistance to as low as 50% and then start building it up as you get fitter.
Alps Classic RLV I have
The best compliment I can give this piece of equipment is that I actually feel like I am in these places riding those roads and not in my garage. I find myself looking at the scenery,you see people at the side of the road,pass other cyclists,see the writing on the road and whizz down descents.. Its fantastic !! and when things are getting hard your eyes are pieced on the road focusing on getting to the next switchback like you do when you actually ride the climbs for real. On a normal turbo trainer minutes were like hours whereas on my Tacx VR a session of 2hrs can pass pretty quickly once you get engrossed in the ride.
The 2010 Etape RLV in the Pyrenees
It has lots of other cool stuff like riding against your PB so you can see if your up or down. If you have a garmin you can download your ride and then reride it on the Tacx watching your progress on google earth.
From a stat point of view it records your rides and you have your average speeds,cadence,watts and heart rate if you buy the extra belt.
In closing there not cheap, occasionally it crashes while your 2km from the top of a big climb you have been grinding up for 2 hours which is drives me mad but mainly it is the coolest best bit of cycling kit I have ever bought and it was worth every penny.. and lets not forget that by being able to train on some of the hardest roads in europe it is an outstanding training tool too..
Go & Get One.... You wont regret it !!!