The Wahoo SYSTM turbo training app: everything you need to know
Looking to break up the boredom? Here's everything you need to know about training with The Wahoo SYSTM app
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What is the Wahoo SYSTM app?
Before the Wahoo SYSTM app there was Sufferfest. This indoor cycling app became a household name amongst the cycling community - revered by many and feared by a few who have ridden deep into the darkest depths of 'Sufferlandria'.
Initially, The Sufferfest produced training videos consisting of race footage, over-layed with directions for structured interval sessions. Efforts were ridden on perceived exertion, with cadence directions.
In 2016, the company modernised. It ceased selling individual videos, and instead switched to a membership structure where users signed up and downloaded an app. In 2019 it was bought by Wahoo.
In September 2021 it was time for yet more change. The Sufferfest App has now been rebranded and absorbed into the new Wahoo SYSTM.
However, despite the concerns of many die-hard users The Sufferfest hasn’t, well, suffered in the process. In fact, the Wahoo SYSTM makes it a more sustainable product, creating a training app that can be used on a daily basis. Something the stand alone Sufferfest app couldn’t necessarily be said to do.
Interview: Sufferfest idea man David McQuillen
The new Systm app is smarter, training zones can now be tuned to a rider's power profile, and the app includes training plans and additional features such as yoga, power testing and sessions focused on form and pedalling style. Much of this newer content, founder Dave McQuillen notes, "didn't really fit within an app called The Sufferfest."
There’s also an argument that SYSTM will make the cycle science that was integral to the success of The Sufferfest more accessible, as well as allowing users to get a complete training experience with easier sessions, too.
Is The Wahoo SYSTM app free?
No. The Wahoo SYSTM app costs $14.99 a month/£11.00, or $129 a year/£94. There is also a free 14-day trial available. However, existing Sufferfest users will be automatically enrolled into SYSTM.
What do I need to use The Wahoo SYSTM app?
The Wahoo SYSTM app runs on MacOS, iPhone, and Windows - so you need a Mac, Windows computer, Android phone or iPhone.
You can download the app, fire up and pedal along to the videos using a standard turbo trainer, riding the efforts on perceived exertion. Hell, you can sit on your sofa and watch the videos without pedalling at all if you really like.
The next step up is to use a power meter to complete an FTP test. Enter your magic number, and all intervals will be set based on this - with a number in the top right hand corner telling you what to work towards.
One better is completing the '4 Dimensional Power' test - this consists of a five second, one minute, five minute and 20 minute effort - and determines Neuromuscular Power, Anaerobic Capacity, Maximal Aerobic Power and Functional Threshold Power.
This means your training zones will be set more accurately - since a rider might have a very good FTP but an appalling sprint, and vice versa. FTP only tells a small segment of the story.
‘4DP’ is exclusive to The Sufferfest and now to Wahoo SYSTM, and was a year in the making. The training company worked with Apex Cycling coach Neal Henderson to develop the protocol based on his work with pro athletes and the values taken will be applied to intervals so that each effort can be correctly tailored.
Both FTP or the 4DP numbers can be set manually using a power meter and standard turbo. However, the app also uses Bluetooth and ANT+. If you have a smart turbo trainer, the two can be set up to communicate.
If you do this, the number at the top right hand corner will show both current output and the goal. The red line at the bottom, which shows what's to come, is accompanied by a green line which shows what you've actually done - and you can see clearly if the two don't match.
In ERG mode, a smart trainer used with the app will automatically increase the resistance when required too.
What added extras are there on The Wahoo SYSTM app?
Importantly the new SYSTM app includes all The Sufferfest videos (and its unique humor!) and there will continue to be new Sufferfest content on the Wahoo app. Currently there are 43 bike training videos, 30 yoga videos targeting specific areas for cyclists, 21 mental training tutorials and four run sessions.
The traditional bike training sessions - 'Hell Hath No Fury', 'Angels' (3 x 8min climbing/strength) and 'A Very Dark Place' (5 x 4min V02 efforts) - are joined by less physically demanding sets such as 'Elements of Style' which is focused on form and pedal stroke.
On completion of a session, this is logged in the rider's profile, and an email is sent with a downloadable file which can in turn be uploaded to systems like Training Peaks.
Additionally there are on-location workouts as well as strength and mental training and more.
Those familiar with The Sufferfest will recognise the on-location workouts; similar in style to ‘To Get To The Other Side’, just a little less brutal. These workouts are still designed by Mike Cotty of the Col Collective; think videos of stunning European cols combined with ‘sweetspot’ training and you get the picture. It’s worth noting that these sessions are music-free, with Wahoo opting instead for the sound of Cotty clicking through the gears as the road points up.
Another new feature on the SYSTM app is ‘A Week With…’. Here you follow a professional cyclist (such as ex-Sky pro Ian Boswell) and their routine. This could include yoga sessions, structured workouts and recovery efforts as well as 'behind the scenes' videos that let you know a little more about the rider and their daily life.
The professional rider theme is continued in the ProRides segments. For existing Sufferfest users, these videos are pretty similar to ‘Norway’. ProRides uses on-board camera footage from the professional peloton, taking the chosen rider's powerfile for the last 60-120 minutes of a race and then converting it into a workout. Cleverly scaled to your 4DP profile, you’ll get to experience the race as the pro did just, importantly, scaled to your ability. Which means you don’t have to be able to crank out Mathieu van der Poel-like power numbers to still compete.
Elsewhere’s there's the 'Rider Passport' that's created based on the results of the 4DP figures and there's a host of free to download PDF training plans developed by Neal Henderson (coach to rides such as Evelyn Stevens, Taylor Phinney and Rohan Dennis) and elite rider and masters coach Mac Cassin.
Structured recovery sessions can be enjoyed while watching some of your favourite inspirational films . So you can spin the legs while watching Jorgen Leth’s seminal Paris-Roubaix documentary ‘A Sunday In Hell’ for example. Just don’t try to follow Merckx when he hits the Trouée d’Arenberg!
Perhaps the most notable difference between The Sufferfest and the new Wahoo SYSTM is the addition of a calendar. As you select your chosen training plans your calendar will be updated accordingly with sessions to complete. This allows you to tick them off as your schedule allows, making for a system that allows you to track and reach your goals efficiently.
As with The Sufferfest, Wahoo SYSTM does ties users into a regular payment. Which isn't always popular, and there's no doubt it's more expensive than downloading a video and using it continually.
Using The Wahoo SYSTM app
I’ve long been a Sufferfest user and the Wahoo SYSTM app is just as straightforward to use. It’s designed to work with a wide range of connected fitness devices so you can train using your preferred equipment, including your favourite smart trainer, power metre, heart rate monitor and cadence sensor.
Since it’s launch I’ve spent some time using the SYSTM app, and while it’s still early days, my initial feelings are largely positive. You can read about tech editor Michelle's experience training with the Wahoo SYSTM app here.
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Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for over twenty years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He fell in love with cycling at an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a passionate follower of bike racing to this day as well an avid road and gravel rider.
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