12 May 2015
I've had a Kickr for about a month now, and still, it feels like magic. even more so because I upgraded from an old Minoura Mag 850. I started using Trainer Road over the winter, and their virtual power output. It got even more frustrating when using a video like "Half is Easy" from The Sufferfest, where the intervals are maddeningly short. In comes the Kickr. And combined with Trainer Road and Sufferfest, it's beyond compare for training videos. The best way I can describe the combination of the Kickr, Trainer Road, and Sufferfest, is magic. You just pedal, and the Kickr's ERG mode keeps you at a constant power level. No fiddling around with gearing to get the right cadence for a certain power level. It just adjusts to you. Now, this does have one down (possibly up?) side. ERG mode keeps you honest. Especially at higher power levels. Because, you see, if you slow down, or perish the thought, stop, the Kickr ramps up the resistance to try and keep the power level even. Which means it eventually gets to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to pedal again. But let me tell you, it's sublime to just pop on a Sufferfest video, put your head down, and enjoy the pain. It takes a second or two for the Kickr to adjust to the new power level as you go through the intervals, but even with "Half is Easy"'s ugly 15s, it's not too bad. And it's totally worth the trade off to get those nice, consistant power levels for your workouts. Now, that right there is worth the price of the Kickr. At least to a gear head like me. But there's this wonderful piece of software, currently in beta, called Zwift. It's an online, multiplayer game that lets you use your bike (on a trainer of course) to control a virtual rider. And what they've done is setup this virtual world for you to ride in with other players. And while it'll work with just a power meter (or even without if you have the right trainer, they call it zpower, kind of like TR's virtual power), Zwift really shines with a smart trainer like the Kickr. Because with something like the Kickr, Zwift can put it into simulation mode. Which means you give them your weight, and they combine that with their elevation profile for their virtual courses to adjust the resistance of the Kickr to simulate the hills. And while I've never been able to tolerate much more than two hours on the trainer before, I've done hour and a half rides with Zwift without blinking an eye. And I'm pretty confident that I could do a longer ride. Their simulation isn't perfect (it is still in beta), but it's pretty damn good. And that, combined with the social and competition aspects of Zwift (did I mention they have on island sprint/KOM/overal jerey competititions?) have kept me coming back. Even with the weather getting nicer. Bottom line? The Kickr has changed how I view indoor training. And Zwift has made it even more tolerable. For now, I've even paused my Trainer Road subscription. With the weather getting nicer, I'm only riding inside when the weather is bad, or I'm crunched for time. So only having one option is fine. Plus, because Zwift maps their virutal rides onto real life islands, they count as real rides in Strava, unlike Trainer Road. I have no doubt that once colder weather returns, I'll be back to Trainer Road as well, but for now, I figure I might as well save a few bucks.