Road Grand Tours could be your perfect prep for summer climbs - and it's free with the current Beta version

With the ever growing popularity of Zwift, the indoor cycling software market looked pretty sewn up over winter – but Road Grand Tours (RGT) believes it has something new to offer. And it’s currently free.

The indoor training platform is the brainchild of Alex Serban – a software programmer who used cycling to regain fitness after a family illness shocked him into action.

First utilising The Sufferfest, then Zwift when it arrived, Serban had a training zone set up in the office at the software company he owned – then he decided he to create his own version, a pursuit that soon became his full time job.

“I wanted to focus on good graphics and realistic physics – giving people the opportunity to really put themselves in the situation,” he told Cycling Weekly.

There’s no make-believe worlds here, every landscape is based on reality.

“We’re not trying to replicate the outdoors”, he says “we want this to be a supplement to outdoor riding, but we do want to create a virtual riding experience that is as immersive as possible.”

Whilst May might not seem like the ideal time to be signing up to indoor training, the platform offers you the chance to test your legs on climbs you might find on upcoming cycling holidays. And of course the time poor will always need an effective way to get their pedal fix.

The platform launched with a virtual climb of the Stelvio – followed by the iconic ride to Cap Formentor in Mallorca, Mont Ventoux, the white roads of Pienza in Tuscany and two race circuits, one in London (Canary Wharf) and another in Berlin (the 8Bar crit circuit).

To create the 3D graphics, researchers used photos and Google Earth, ensuring every detail down to the the trees growing by the roadside in the virtual reality were true to life.

The roads were planned out using VeloViewer to provide accurate GPS data for climbs and the gradient should be accurately represented on your turbo trainer.

Strava segments will be recorded, too – and you can organise to ride with friends – Romania based Serban regularly teaming up with his brother in Canada for a spin.

It’s possible to switch your view – from overhead to first person perspective and more.

Whilst you’ll keep pedalling in real life on the corners, your avatar stops pedalling on the bends (your little on-screen human even reaches for the brake levers!).

When asked Serban confirmed it would be possible to adjust the speed at which the avatar corners and descends depending upon real world expertise – or the situation (racing vs training) – were that to be something the community wanted.

The platform is still in its Beta testing phase – though it’s at a pretty advanced point with 10,000 users on the database. The Beta nature means suggestions from the community are very welcome, and it’s possible to send snapshots of any errors or glitches to the company during a ride so they can fix it.

Racing is something Serban is keen to encourage – and he’s put a strong focus on the physics of drafting and peloton dynamics to ensure that “racing feels like racing”.

Events, he says, will be organised by the community of users – and there’s already an active Facebook group.

There’s already a selection of bike models you can choose to ride and kit choices to dress your Avatar with – and in future Serban will investigate the idea of providing higher end models as ‘rewards’ and having their weight and aerodynamics affect performance – as well as rider weight in the typical fashion.

With a focus on realism, the platform does not allow for the use of speed/cadence sensors to provide the pedalling force – riders will need to use an ANT+ smart trainer, or classic trainer with ANT+ power meter, alongside and ANT+ USB dongle. Bluetooth connection is promised in the near future and you’ll need WINDOWS 7 SP1+, 8, 10 (64 BIT ONLY) or MAC OS X 10.12+

Find out more: roadgrandtours.com.