2016 Training App Review: TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, and Zwift

Hello everyone,

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Winter is coming!  With winter, comes the indoor training season for me.  As a person who is limited on time, training indoors is a great time savings solution.  I have nothing against riding outside in poor conditions and the cold.  However, finding the time to dress appropriately, ride to the place where I want to train, and then clean my bike up afterwards; it is time I don’t have.  We have great options today to train indoors.  Options that not only entertain, but provide us efficiency with the time we have.  This blog will focus on the three primary training Apps that I use, or have used in the past.  We will look at what they offer, and who might be best suited for each one.  I cover all of this in my video blog posted at the bottom.  I will not be criticizing any of these training apps, only providing suggestions.  With that said, let’s look at my personal bias and then talk about the training Apps.  You can click on my Video Blog to hear my full review instead of reading everything below.  

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I Will Beat My Ass Today To Kick Yours Tomorrow

The first thing I want to talk about is my bias.  I have a HUGE bias towards The Sufferfest.  I have been a Sufferlandrian for 4 years, and David McQuillen’s videos have transformed indoor training for me.  I was with the Sufferfest before I was with any other training platform.   The Sufferfest led to my subscription to TrainerRoad; TrainerRoad led to my purchase of the Wahoo KICKR; all of this led to me beta testing Zwift last year.  When choosing an indoor training App, I will always choose the Sufferfest first, because it works for me and motivates me the most.

 

TrainerRoad

screenshot-2016-10-16-14-38-21Trainer Road offers a monthly and annual subscription model.  They charge $12 a month and $99 annually.  I thought I heard a rumor that they were offering a 30 day free trail, but I could not find any evidence on their webpage.  I do not see any option for a free trail to try it out, which seems unusual.

History

TrainerRoad has been around for a while.  I think it was around 2012 that they first started to create their App.  Their creation helped transform the way people train indoors with cycling metrics.  They recently registered the word VirtualPower®.  (I think I did that right).  So, they have been the ground breakers for the indoor training market which is starting to diversify and explode today.  This is great for the consumer, because it produces a bit of competition which is all around good for us.

The Good

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I’ve been with TrainerRoad since May 9th, 2013.

What I like about TrainerRoad is there extensive workout library and training plans.  Coach Chad and his work within TrainerRoad is what keeps them competitive.  Coach Chad’s plans are very extensive and detailed.  If you compare the price of training plans on a site like TrainingPeaks, you will see what a bargain you are getting with TrainerRoad.  I would estimate Coach Chad has spent at least a thousand hours or more building these training plans.  The plans take you from base training, all the way to the peak of your racing event.

 

The other thing I like about TrainerRoad is the Companion Capability and the Trainer Relay capability.  The Companion option allows two riders to ride the same workout profile but with different settings.  This seems to be very popular with couples who ride together.  The Trainer Relay function is also pretty neat.  Trainer Relay allows the App to re-broadcast an ANT+ signal from your devices.  This is helpful if you are using virtual power.  You can rebroadcast the virtual power data as real power data to your Garmin computer or another training App like Zwift.  However, I did not find these options available in their  Beta App.

The Suggestions

My one suggestion for TrainerRoad is to go all in for training.  I think some people default over to TrainingPeaks for coaching services.  This leads me to wonder why Coach Chad hasn’t built up his own coaching pool with TrainerRoad.  Why not offer things that people are already using at TrainingPeaks?  Also, it would be great to see some sort of Performance Management Chart tied in with the App.  People love that stuff and they love accessing it on their mobile devices also.  That is my only suggestion at the moment.  Be more aggressive when it comes to training and coaching.

The Sufferfest Training Centre

By far, my favorite for everything (yes I am biased).  David McQuillen founded the Sufferfest almost 10 years ago just messing around with workout videos.  He understood that we were all getting bored to death riding our Turbos inside while watching old Tour de France footage.  So, he created The Sufferfest which has transformed indoor cycling for the  better.  I found The Sufferfest back in 2012.  I loved it from my first watching of Revolver.  So brutal, yet so effective.  The videos have a way of capturing you with the use of story line, music, and workouts built by World Class cCoaches.  The Sufferfest offers a 7 day free trial and then charges 10 dollars a month for a subscription.  They should have an annual subscription coming in the future.

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The Sufferfest has been rapidly moving into the indoor training market.  They have been moving at a pace that is faster than the the other two training apps.  The Sufferfest released their first App to stream/download videos for iOS devices in January.  This October, they now support three platforms; iOS, OS X, and Windows.  That is the fastest any company has ever broke into the indoor training market.  They have no signs of slowing down either.  The Sufferfest is moving quickly with capabilities to showcase during ToS 2017 (Feb 4th to 12th).

The Good

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This is a man Sufferlandrians love to hate.  He also coaches Olympic Athletes.

You will not find another workout video program that comes even close to what The Sufferfest does.  It will transform the way you ride.  You get pulled into the storyline and the soundtracks are on point every time.  You have the guarantee that the workout was created by world class coaches like Neil Henderson from Apex Coaching.

 

The ability to download videos within the App are extremely important.  Many people are concerned about video and streaming stability when using Apps.  We’ve all experienced it.  So, it was very smart to add an “Offline” option for the App user.  It guarantees video stability when you are working out. This capability is highlighted in my video review.

Lastly, the App is a “REALLY” good price for the new Sufferlandrian.  All of us who have been with the Sufferfest were paying $9.99 to $12.99 per video.  Now, you can access all 37 videos for only $10 dollars a month.  You can do the math and see what a great deal that is.

 

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The Suggestions

 

All of my suggestions to improve the App, are things David McQuillen is bringing to the App.  The customer needs access to the Sufferlandrian training plans with the subscription to stay competitive.  That will happen sometime in November.  The App also needs some sort of statistics page where you can view progress.  That will also happen in the next 3 to 4 months.  So, everything I would like to see added to the App will be added over the next few months.  Furthermore, there is “Secret” new content coming to The Sufferfest Training Centre to round out the training plans.  The content will transform Sufferlandrian training plans in ways never seen before.  Rumor has it, Apex Coaching is working directly with Grunter Von Agony (Sufferlandrian’s call him GvA) to build new training plans and training content.  It is a very exciting time right now for all Sufferlandrians around the world.

Zwift

Zwift is a different experience than the other two apps.  It is the equivalent of a Video game for indoor cycling with a huge social aspect.  You can chat while riding, form group rides, join group rides, and possibly make new cycling friends from around the world.  Zwift sticks to that gamer feel for the entire experience and by doing so, it has created a really good app.  Out of the three apps here, Zwift has the largest following.  I don’t know their exact subscription numbers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had 100k subscribers.  Even though Zwift is last in my blog, Zwift is the most popular among indoor riders.  They offer a 14 day free trail with a 10 dollar a month subscription model.  No annual membership.

 

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The Good

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See that mountain to the left?  You can climb that in Zwift.

They stick to who they are; a game for indoor cyclists.  They are not trying to be something they are not.  Zwift understands this is a Video game for cyclists and creates a consistent gamer environment from setup to ride.  I love that about them.  They offer training plans and pretty much all of the other basic things that the other Apps have.  The social experience is real and it can get quite chatty while you are riding.  They have a wide variety of courses you can ride and do a good job simulating the environment with virtual trainers.  The TACX Neo even vibrates differently if you are on the Cobbles, Bridges, or Dirt sections.  The experience is probably unmatched by any other virtual training App out there like the CompuTrainer RacerMate.  I say probably, because I haven’t had the opportunity to try anything else similar to Zwift.    I imagine they will stay top dog for a while, unless we can convince Sufferfest to Make a Virtual Sufferlandria.

 

The Suggestions

I really don’t have any great suggestions for Zwift.  They are doing everything I that needs to be done for success.  The only thing I mention in my Video Blog is changing up the way a rider executes a training workout.  I think it would be much better if you had a matched rider in front of you.  This rider is your body double for the workout, and all you have to do is follow your training partner to hit your workout targets.  For me, it is sometimes easier chasing a rider than it is looking at power numbers on the screen.

Summary 

So, which one do you choose?  Here is where my bias comes in.  I’m a Sufferlandrian to the core.  I always choose the Sufferfest, but here are my recommendations.

TrainerRoad:  You are a rider who doesn’t have time to research and plan your workouts.  You are okay watching movies while you get your training in.  You want a plan that takes you all the way from your base to your peak event.  This App is for you.

The Sufferfest Training Centre: You are limited on time because you have a busy life.  You can not tolerate watching TV shows while on the turbo.  Those three to five hours of time you have to execute training need to be extremely productive.  You want something that motivates you through a multi-sensory experience.  You my friend, are a Sufferlandrian.

Zwift: You like to socialize and miss those summer group rides.  You are not afraid of video games and may have played them when you were a kid.  You are all about chasing carrots and achievements.  You have lot’s of base miles to do in the winter and nothing seems more dreaded now than watching all the seasons of Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad again.

If I had to chose two apps, I would chose The Sufferfest and Zwift.  That is because I don’t have much time on my hands and Zwift helps mix things up.  That is it folks.  Things have gotten much better this last year for those of us who do the majority of our riding inside over the winter.  I am hoping that I’ve helped you make a decision when choosing your one or two training Apps.  That’s it for now, and feel free to leave a comment or check on my review below in the youtube video I put together.  Happy Suffering!

 

Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

Aaron served in the military for 20 years. Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the military after 20 years of service to take care of our three small children in 2013 as a Stay At Home Dad.

athletictechreview has 60 posts and counting.See all posts by athletictechreview

11 thoughts on “2016 Training App Review: TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, and Zwift

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  • January 27, 2017 at 7:30 pm
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    Hi. Very nice and thorough review. I’m searching for an app like Zwift or SufferFest which you reviewed, but without the emphasis on power. I would like to train using heart rate zones. Do you know of anything available which is online or available for download? I’ve seen this done in a cycling studio, and I was quite impressed.

    Reply
    • January 29, 2017 at 7:02 am
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      Hello Mike,

      You can train using Heart Rate Zones only with The Sufferfest. Each one of the Relative Perceived Exertion (RPE) numbers of 1 through 10 are on the video and have a corresponding Heart Rate training value.

      Reply
  • February 24, 2017 at 5:58 pm
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    Great review of the three – agree with you, Zwift for Base/fun/groups and Sufferfest for intervals/time crunched/FTP workouts.

    Reply
  • November 7, 2017 at 11:19 am
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    Any chance you could update this vlog? I’d love to know what you think after the different updates I know Zwift and Sufferfest have developed. Thanks

    Reply
    • November 7, 2017 at 12:30 pm
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      I would love to Tyler, but I got a new job that makes me a bit impartial. I was hired on to run Operations and Manage Customer Service for The Sufferfest. So, my answer would always be the Sufferfest especially since we have Four Dimensional Power profiling now. All workouts are tailored exactly to your capabilities after you do the Full Frontal Fitness test. No more training by % of FTP anymore.

      Reply
      • November 7, 2017 at 1:31 pm
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        Thanks, Aaron for the response. I’m, like you, a dad of three and need to do most of my training in the am before work (and before they all wake up). I just started racing this past year and categorized up. I want to continue to get better but under the realization family and work come first, sufferfest seems best suited for my needs. I’m very interested in sufferfest b/c, as your video points out, zwift is a great recovery and ride and base training (especially climbing for those who don’t have any hills around). Thanks for your feedback.

        Reply
        • November 7, 2017 at 1:45 pm
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          Aaron, since you work at sufferfest. What I like about zwift right now is that they have a “winter workout” tailored to an offseason fitness upkeep. Does sufferfest offer something like this? I don’t necessarily want high-intensity intervals in the offseason but want to begin ramp up in Jan-Feb. Also, is there a way to get a glimpse at a structured workout regime? Just to see what a typical week/month might look like? I haven’t found one yet.Thanks for any help!

          Reply
          • November 7, 2017 at 2:24 pm
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            We don’t have anything labeled Winter Upkeep, but you can easily do the Novice or Intermediate Road training plan over the Winter to keep your fitness up. It really depends on where you are starting, and how many hours a week you have to train. I like our plans because you can do the 10 week Mental Training Program (I’m leading that and it just started on Monday https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheSufferfestMentalTraining ) with one of our regular training plans. We also have Yoga videos that integrate with your training plans and really help to keep you loosened up. The one gap we have is bluetooth trainer control not being in the App yet, but we will have that out by January with some other things that will be ground breaking coming in the future.

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