Indoor cycling apps are changing the way many riders view training indoors.
Instead of having to head out for a cycle in the pouring rain, cycling apps allow riders to challenge themselves and interact with others from the comfort of their own homes.
While the apps keep riders inside, a supposed attack on the nature of cycling, they're becoming increasingly more sophisticated and enjoyable to use. Riders can become immersed in their ride, exploring terrains they would never usually have the opportunity to do so.
Now, indoor cycling apps are a far call away from the monotonous feeling of pedalling on one single spot, staring at the wall. They provide adventure, challenges, and are much easier than heading out on a bitterly cold winter's day.
If you're new to riding at home, our beginner's guide to indoor cycling: all you need to know page will help provide you with lots of hits and tip for where to start and what kit you'll need.
If you are just setting out with your indoor riding journey, then be sure to head over to our best January bike sales page where there are lost of offers and discounts on everything you need to get started.
If you're already a seasoned indoor rider looking for an upgrade on the current equipment you have, then our guide on the best turbo trainers will help you work out what the right set is for you.
What is the best indoor cycling app?
The perfect indoor training app will ultimately come down to personal preference, but in order to get the most of your rides over the long-term, then finding an app that keeps you motivated is imperative.
Indoor cycling is a brilliant way to perform your rides. Not only does it keep you warm and dry, but it's much easier to control to suit what you're looking to get out of a session.
Completing intervals or tracking progress is much more accurate, plus there's the added bonus of not having to worry about traffic or other elements that might get in the way.
Zwift indoor cycling app
Read more: Zwift training app in detail
Best indoor training app for: Riding and racing with or against others
The key feature of Zwift is that it allows indoor cyclists to join group rides where they can measure themselves against others around the world.
The more power you put through the pedals will see you pull away from others in the group ride, but if you fail to maintain the watts then you could drop to the back of the group. Messaging others is also another feature of Zwift that can improve interaction, though this is most recommended during warm-ups or cool downs.
The Zwift companion app that allows this interaction is really effective, enabling communities to form with people you wouldn't have otherwise met.
Riders can cycle in a number of different places, including London, Richmond, New York and Watopia, Zwift's virtual 'world' that incorporates the challenging Mayan Jungle.
There is also cheap Zwift setup available, which helps riders get connected to the virtual world for a fraction of the expected price - the same applies to any of the best indoor training apps.
Racing and community
While there are various different organisers and groups, the largest of all is 'KISS', which launched in 2015. 'KISS' initiated the 'Zwift road racing series', and promote the 'Zwift World Championships' and 'Tour de Zwift', with the results published on zwiftpower.com - from all races held on the platform.
Chris Snook, PR man at Zwift told us: "Zwift has two major USPs; our virtual cycling environment and our community.
"The virtual world of Watopia allows riders to tackle all kinds of terrain and surfaces from flat circuits to epic mountain climbs and from smooth tarmac through to gravel roads and cobbles. You can even defy reality and ride through volcanoes.
"The community however, is really what makes Zwift unique. We are lucky to have a highly engaged community on Zwift and it's this community that brings the virtual environment to life.
"Our community runs the majority of events on Zwift including social rides, training rides, races and even fondo events.
"Indeed it's largely thanks to our community informally organising these events in game during the early stages of our development that we now have official events pages.”
Structured training still available
For riders looking to train with others without directly competing, there are 'group workouts'. Riders complete intervals at the same percentage of their FTP, meaning a variety of standards are applicable because no one gets dropped from the session.
While group riding is a main component of Zwift, there are still solo workouts available for cyclists looking to ride without others. They can choose from the already set workouts included on the app, or devise their own workouts to their liking.
"Zwift undoubtedly makes indoor training more fun. Fun however, doesn't necessarily mean less structured," Snook told us.
"Structured workouts form a big part of Zwift - whether performing one of our many pre-designed workouts, importing workouts from a coaching program, designing custom workouts or taking part in our unique group workouts. This is a big part of Zwift's appeal for serious riders from club level to WorldTour Pro.
"Who is Zwift for? It's for anyone with a goal - whether that's to loose weight, maintain fitness over winter, train for a sportive or, if you're Mat Hayman; win Paris-Roubaix."
What do you need to run Zwift?
Zwift is available on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, Windows and Android. It's also compatible with ANT+ and Bluetooth.
There are pros and cons when it comes to setting the app up, but these are some of the best screen setups for Zwift, depending on the device that you're using.
To get the full experience of Zwift, a smart turbo trainer will help to replicate climbs, descents and the effects of drafting, with the trainer cleverly identifying the world in which you are riding. However, a standard set up with a power meter will still provide accurate results, or failing that, a speed/cadence sensor will help to calculate your virtual power.
The best heart rate monitors will also help to provide even more accurate data, squeezing every ounce of data possible that you might deem necessary out of your sessions.
Zwift costs £12.99 or $14.99 a month, after an initial free seven day trial.
Alternatively, buy a smart turbo trainer direct with a 30-day home trial and 30 days of free Zwift.
Trainer Road indoor cycling app
Available for: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Best indoor training app for: focused training and progression
Trainer Road's Head Coach, Chad Timmerman, has over 25 years coaching experience, and offers a wealth of specific training plans on Trainer Road. These plans are built around a rider's specific goals, optimised for what they're looking to get out of each session, depending on their frequency of training.
With over a 100 different plans specific to each aspect of cycling, such as: hill climbing road racers, time trialists, XC Olympic, criterium riders, rolling road racers, triathletes, XC marathon, short track XC, cyclocross, gravity and general fitness riders.
Additionally, the platform has over 1000 workouts available for its users, while a workout creator means riders can customise their sessions with the inspiration already available to them.
You can log your sessions, select training plans, and track your data from sessions all inside the app.
Very specific training plans
CEO and co-founder Nate Pearson told us: “TrainerRoad focuses on just one thing; making cyclists faster. The core of the product takes cyclists through structured, power based workouts and training plans.
“TrainerRoad's advantage comes from the fact that they get very specific in your training depending on what your cycling goals are and where you are in your season.
“To get faster, riders need to work through progressions of different energy systems depending on the time of year.
"Short-term and long-term training stress needs to be taken into account, and a proper taper needs to be involved if the rider is targeting an A-race.”
An initial assessment on the app will measure your FTP, with all sessions and plans thereafter based on this result. Plans are then tailored around your FTP, and are all created in the same format to concentrate on specific areas of fitness.
Each plan is designed to focus on three specific phases - a Base, Build and Speciality. Base builds initial endurance and skill, Build focuses on improving FTP, then the Speciality phase is a fine tuning process focused on specific goals.
There are low, medium and high volume options available with each plan depending on a rider's training frequency, but each plan will total 28 weeks regardless of the volume. However, riders can modify them according to their needs, whether their targets require a shorter amount of time or there is room to taper the programme.
“There's a lot of science behind cycling training, and it can get very confusing very quickly. The beauty behind TrainerRoad is that they make this whole process simple,” Pearson explains.
Trainer Road is training specific
The platform isn't the best option for riders looking for entertainment over specificity. Focused riders will enjoy the ability to fully concentrate on their sessions, but for riders looking to blast some music from the app while they ride, this isn't a feature in Trainer Road.
Pearson adds: “TrainerRoad spends 100 per cent of their time trying to make cyclists faster. We are unique in the fact that they ask riders to bring their own entertainment with them while they use the app.
"Rider's tastes vary, and we feel that products like Netflix, Spotify, Youtube, and HBO GO do a fantastic job of entertaining people. We just focus on making cyclists faster.”
What do you need to run Trainer Road?
Trainer Road runs on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.
Again, any kind of virtual power works perfectly fine with Trainer Road, but a smart turbo trainer will give riders the optimum from the app. You can use Virtual Power, riding with a speed/cadence sensor on a standard turbo trainer, a bike with a power meter, or a smart turbo for auto adjusted resistance.
It costs $19.95 (£15.30) a month or $189(£144.95) a year. There's no free trial, but if you don't like it after 30 days you can get your money back.
Wahoo Systm (née, The Sufferfest)
Available for: iOS, Windows, MacOS, Android
Read more: Wahoo Systm Training App
Best indoor training app for: entertaining sessions and very well tailored training zones, complete training plan with strength and yoga
Wahoo Systm is a progression of The Sufferfest. The Sufferfest was founded in 2008, it was always associated with fun but very hard training sessions, with a tongue in cheek narrative.
Under the guidence of new owners Wahoo, The Sufferfest developed its content to also include training sessions suited to recovery sessions, coached and guided sessions with specific goals, 'on location' sessions where you'll explore the culture and heritage surrounding famed climbs whilst also following a stuctured workout, base building sweetspot and tempo rides and more. There's also yoga and strength training.
The app includes training plans, and the chance to sign up to 'a week with' series', where you'll train with a cycling celebrity or pro daily. The training plans can be tailored to you, and can integrate with Training Peaks.
Effort levels can be based on perceived effort, virtual power (using a speed/cadence sensor) or if you're using a power meter the app will tell you what how many watts you should be producing during intervals and recoveries.
Base power numbers on 4DP - because 'FTP is dead'?
Power numbers can be based on a percentage of your FTP, or you can use Sufferfest's own '4 Dimensional Power' (4DP) test. With the new app, you can adjust the 'levels' for each of the 4DP elements to suit your goal.
The 4DP test and algorithm was designed by Henderson - coach to riders such as Evelyn Stevens, Taylor Phinney and Rohan Dennis.
The test itself, called 'Full Frontal', assesses your Neuromuscular Power, Anaerobic Capacity, Maximal Aerobic Power and Functional Threshold Power performance over five second, five minute and 20 minute efforts as well and your ability to recover after them, tested via a one minute interval after fatigue.
Dylan Robbins, who works within Wahoo's sports science devision told us: "4DP is something Henderson has refined after ten years of testing and training athletes - not just elite athletes but amateurs too.
"He would see two athletes with the exact same FTP - based on a fitness test in the lab during a controlled situation - then get them out somewhere else and find their abilities above threshold were vastly different. So the types of training that you would assign to them would be vastly different in order to develop them as athletes.
"The feedback that we've had from our test group and Facebook communities has been huge - especially people who are more anaerobically inclined, who have a peak 5 second power much higher than their FTP - they're seeing that the sprint workouts [like Violator] are much more effective and tailored for them which means better training adaptation. Even the endurance athletes are able to use maximal efforts more, so it's effective for them too.
"It's like bringing power to the people. The principles behind 4DP aren't new, or revolutionary - but we've made it accessible to a broader group of people who can't or don't want to delve into the sports science of it themselves.”
Own brand of humour
The Sufferfest now lives within a video series, inside the Wahoo Systm app - it's one of a vast selection of series', but it's still our favourite.
The Sufferfest has its own brand of humour - sessions are set in 'Sufferlandria', and there's often a story line in which you're representing the Sufferlandrian team. You're probably going to lose the whole race and be flogged if you don't smash the last interval - of course you will win at which point everyone will do a chamois dance. You have to try it to get it.
"David McQuillen the founder has been really successful in creating an intensely loyal but inclusively tribal community. I think that sets it apart - there are lots of tight knit communities that don't let people in - but we are inclusively tribal. You go on the Sufferfest Facebook page and there are riders of all different types, and everyone is helpful and supportive. We've built the science on top of it, but it was really the community that made The Sufferfest what it is today," says Robbins.
What do you need to run Wahoo Systm?
The Wahoo Systm App works on Windows computers, iPhone, iPad or Mac. It's compatible with ANT+ and Bluetooth devices.
Sessions can be ridden on a standard turbo trainer with no power, in which case you simply ramp it up when the instructions tell you to - based on perceived exertion or heart rate.
You can add a speed/cadence sensor, and the app can work out 'virtual power' based on your turbo trainer type and wheel size. Or, for greater accuracy, you can invest in a power meter or smart turbo trainer. The latter options means that resistance can be increased for you by the app.
The Sufferfest app costs $10 a month/£7.48, or $99 a year/£74 - and there's a 14 day free trial.
Road Grand Tours (RGT)
Available for: iOS, Mac, Windows, Android, Apple TV
Read more: Road Grand Tours, all you need to know
Best indoor training app for: Realistic virtual world riding
Road Grand Tours is the ideal app for riders looking for somewhere realistic to ride, without having to leave their own homes. Clearly developed by experienced gamers, RGT allows riders to choose iconic routes from anywhere in the world.
The app offers selection from ultra-realistic roads, where rides can take you though the Cap de Formentor climb, while travelling along authentic Italian white road is also possible - name somewhere, and the route will be there.
RGT also offers users the chance to use the app for free, with limited features compared to the £6.99 a month premium option. However, riding real roads is still possible on the free version, and you can still join a public ride or a private ride organised by a friend.
Magic roads and structured workouts are also reserved for premium subscribers looking to get the most out of their workouts from home, and also offers cyclists the chance to create their own rides through anywhere they want.
The real feel deal
Road Grand Tours is an excellent alternative to Strava, offering what they believe is a greater attention to detail in regards to ride experience realism. They claim that rider movement, drafting, braking and resistance is more realistically replicated on the smart trainer/ indoor bike.
The graphics are also of gaming quality, making the experience totally immersive.
Uploading you own GPX file automatically gets converted to a virtual route, with the climbs, descents and corners all in the right places and instant feedback to your smart trainer.
The Real Roads - only available for premium subscribers to the app - currently features two crits, Canary Wharf London and 8Bar Berlin, both with corners aplenty, a classic lap race course of 7.7km loops located in Borrego Springs, San Diego California, Cap De Formentor Majorca, Mont Ventoux France, Paterberg Flanders, Pienza Italy and the Stelvio Italy.
For those wanting more specific data, RGT links directly with Training Peaks. Free membership does limit this to uploads only, whereas premium enables full integration, with your Workout of the Day library automatically synced or the ability to take advantage of access to either stock workouts or training plans, created by a fully accredited coaching team.
What do you need to run RGT?
Due to the significant amount of functionality and graphics development, there is a requirement to run the up-to-date processing systems.
While all BLE and ANT+ compatible trainers, cadence, heart rate and generic power meters are supported, speed sensors aren’t, and older turbo trainers only work with a power meter.
Road Grand Tours also offers a free 14 day trial for their premium service too, for users looking to upgrade on the already free package.
Available for: iOS, Mac, Windows, Android, Apple TV
Read more: Rouvy app in detail
Best indoor training app for: Simulating outdoor riding indoors
Rouvy's Augmented Routes software provides the app with high quality GPS based road videos, with animated 3D riders on the road to create a completely realistic outdoor experience, and is a standout feature.
The platform includes over 3000 geolocated routes with synchronized videos, workouts, multi-rider mode for group rides and online races.
One click to ride
Setting up Rouvy is extremely straight forward, with the app providing a one click to ride feature. Other features include unlimited virtual bots or real ride partners, 4k ready video quality for big screens, custom fit look avatars and new Augmented Routes.
UK specific riding
Riders on Rouvy can cycle around multiple UK routes, such as the UK hosted stages 1 and 2 of the Tour de France 2014 around Yorkshire, classic sportives such as the Fred Witton Challenge, and some of the hill climbs from Simon Warren’s 100 Climbs series.
Additionally, there's a ride in almost every continent available, meaning riders can take on legendary cols and famous race stages as many times to their liking.
Ride the Tour de Suisse
A collaboration with TorTour has provided Rouvy with all of the Tour de Suisse routes in a virtual 1:1 stage simulation, making the app appealing to both amateur and professional riders - who might be looking to practise ahead of the real event.
Rouvy allows you to add both virtual bots and and real riders, allowing for group training rides from the comfort of your own home. Depending on your subscription, this could even be up to two of your own family members who can also benefit from the Premium membership for free.
You can also track you virtual power and make your riding realistic by tracking either watts per kilogram or FTP percentage data – which allows for direct rider comparisons as well as helping you track performance improvements.
Finally, Rouvy has set up 'Challenges' and a point gathering 'Career' with winnings of up to a nominal value of $10k for each, and prizes include high end smart trainers and PowerTap Wheelsets. This is to increase engagement within the app, and boost riders' motivation during their routes.
What do you need to run Rouvy?
There are four basic components to get riding with Rouvy: a bike; a smart trainer or turbo trainer with an ANT+ or BLE power meter/ speed and cadence sensor; a device, such as an iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, Windows and Android; and a bridge receiver for the ANT+/ BLE signal. Obviously some Smart trainers/ indoor bikes will have the required features built in, in which case it’s simply log on and start riding.
Rouvy costs $10.99 a month, which includes two free family/ household members- and there is a free 14 day trial.
Available for: iOS, Mac, Windows, Android
Best indoor training app for: Challenges and setting personal goals
BKool is now solely a cycling simulator software developer, after stepping away from manufacturing smart trainers. The brand chose to focus on providing the best indoor training app experience regardless of the trainer someone owned, after having 100,000 active users at the beginning of 2020.
BKool lets you select one of four sessions; ‘Route’, which are road rides such as grand tour stages, ‘ Workouts’ by a personally set power zone, ‘Velodrome’, including events such as the Keirin, elimination and pursuit races, and the all important FTP test, with both five and twenty minute options.
There are several different perspectives you can choose to ride from in the app, depending on the session that you choose to ride in. There is also the option to ride third-person, first-person or automatic - which changes between birds-eye and spectator views.
With all of the views, you can personalise your on screen data with 10 options to select from, which include all the usual figures such as time elapsed and distance, route profile, current gradient and the all important rider stats.
As well as a plethora of ride and rider view options, there are also various motivational events, competitive leagues, challenges and group rides (some led by professional riders) to jump on too. You can even upload your own route for the Bkool community to enjoy by recording the GPX data and video.
What do you need to run Bkool?
The basics are a bike/ indoor trainer, a smart trainer, a device and a ANT+/ BLE bridge receiver. A Bkool specific trainer will obviously have an element of advantage in terms of technical support, but the app will still support other smart trainers.
There are two types of subscription, Free and Premium. Free is great to get you going, but is pretty limited in terms of features with only 12 live routes to choose from, and only the last eight sessions saved on it’s platform.
Premium costs €9.99 a month – with a months' free trial.
Alternatives to using indoor cycling apps at home
Cycling indoors might not be the most enjoyable for some people, but during the winter it can be the most optimal way to complete rides without needing all of the gear, as well as a winter bike to match.
Using a turbo at home is obviously another option that you can use, though they might not be the most interesting without an app.
Spin classes are another option - either at home with the likes of the Peloton indoor exercise bike or a more social gyms class.
Starting off riding mountain bikes on the South Downs way, he soon made the switch the road cycling. Now, he’s come full circle and is back out on the trails, although the flat bars have been swapped for the curly ones of a gravel bike.
Always looking for the next challenge, he’s Everested in under 12 hours and ridden the South Downs Double in sub 20. Although dabbling in racing off-road, on-road and virtually, to date his only significant achievement has been winning the National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Bike Championships in 2019.
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