Review of TrainerRoad
It may just be because I’m a cycling fan and listen/read a lot about the sport, but TrainerRoad appears to be everywhere right now! The indoor cycling software is an increasingly popular option for cyclists wanting to get stronger or faster, but don’t have the time to spend out on the road (or the climate!). We gave a couple of its over 80 training plans a go and how we got on…
At its core, TrainerRoad is a subscription service that offers you programmes and a way to connect your bike to your phone to train indoors. It offers riders structured workouts to establish, build and specialise their bike-related (or triathlon) fitness to be ready for their next event. The over 800 workouts are (mostly) guided with instructional, motivational and sometimes amusing text to coach you through, as well as being able to see key metrics live on-screen (cadence, heart-rate and power, for example).
These workouts are all based on power measurements (in Watts) that you can measure as your ride your bike or trainer. The service is available on iOS, Mac and PC, with 3 options to connect this screen and software to your bike to measure your power output through an ANT+ connection:
- Virtual Power: Using your existing speed sensor and turbo trainer to create an estimate of your power-based workout performance as you go
- Power Meter: Get a bit more accurate with a dedicated power reading from a dedicated device, allowing you to connect direct to the power your legs are putting out
- Smart Trainer: You can also get dedicated indoor trainer that has all the connectivity you need and can also control the resistance you’re going up against as you go
I tested TrainerRoad using exclusively the mobile app for iOS (on both my iPhone 6 Plus and an iPad), which worked really rather well. With 800+ workouts and 80+ different structured plans over multiple weeks, it can be a little hard to navigate at the beginning, but I quickly got used to it and found it simply enough to click through to the right workout in a few seconds and jump on the bike to get going.
The one issue I did come up against a few times was the ANT+ connector, which has to go through an adaptor to fit in my new lighting bolt using iPhone. I had a few occasions where the connector would not work or dropped out during rides on my mobile, but never had these issues using the iPad and so have to think this is a hardware issue rather than a software one (so come on Wahoo or whoever, can we make a new ANT+ adaptor for iPhone please!).
In terms of the actual training, the site and podcast the team at TrainerRoad provide offers a wealth of advice on how to build your training programme. For example, I’m training for a 100-mile race this summer (more on that to come soon) and so I started with a base phase, then a bit more ‘sweet spot’ base to get my legs in good condition and I’ll be moving onto what the team call ‘build’ and ‘speciality’ phases over the coming months to build up the fitness I’ll need to drag myself around the route successfully (and hopefully fast enough).
Any multi-week programme starts off with a test to find or update your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and from this the workouts are tailoured to your personal fitness at that point (with the hope that this improves over time too, depending on how fit you started at least!).
Being an american company, TrainerRoad is currently priced only in US$ at $99/year or $12/month, with no long-term contracts so users can cancel whenever they want too (if you get injured for example). It’s always challenging to say whether these types of training services are worth the money. I find it hard to say whether personal trainers are always worth the money! But for the price of a couple of coffees a month, TrainerRoad certainly isn’t going to break the bank.
For the types of cyclists and triathletes this is targeted at too, the benefit they’re likely to see from the service if they stick to it over time is going to seem cheap compared to the amount they’ve already likely spent on their gear too!
All in all, I found the TrainerRoad to be a really fantastic service that allowed me to train harder and more effectively during the week, ultimately allowing me to get faster on my weekend rides too. It did take a little bit of investment to get the necessary connectors to fully utilise the service, but all in all it pails in comparison to the hundreds if not thousands you could spend on a good indoor trainer or personal trainer over time.
The question is would I recommend this service? To which the answer is yes and I actually have to a couple of people already. And will I keep using it? Most definitely, I’m pinning my hopes of making my goal time for the 100 mile ride on my dedication to the TrainerRoad programmes I have set out ahead of me. It may not be for everyone, but if you’re a keen cyclist or triathlete looking to get fitter and more organised about your training, then this is the service for you!