We recently discovered the Trainer Road software. It allows you to use all your Ant+ devices to convert your turbotrainer into Computrainer. We recently talked to Nathan, one of the developers of our new favourite torture device.
How did you come up with this idea?
It was a combination of a few things. I was doing a Computrainer class that I really enjoyed but was $20 every time I wanted to workout. I also liked the Sufferfest videos but they didn’t give me a target power output. I also had a baby on the way and there were some recent cycling accidents in my area that scared me. I wanted a cheap way to workout indoors that would save me time, give me a structured workout, keep me safe and motivate me. From there I started to build TrainerRoad. I brought in my friend Reid Weber early on who is another developer. After that we got Chad Timmerman who is a cycling coach. He’s the guy that owned that Computrainer studio that I liked so much; all the workouts and plans on TrainerRoad are made by him. Two developers and a coach seems to work really nicely and has brought us to what we have today.
How long have you been developing it? How easy it to work with ant+?
Oh man, more than I’d like to admit! I started doing this last August, so over a year in development. Reid and I have full time jobs and we’ve both had kids in the last year. We work 9 hours days then come home and try to code. Luckily we have wonderful wives who’ve been really supportive.
ANT+ hasn’t been too hard. They’ve given us great support and really want to help new ANT+ companies.
Some companies such as Tacx or Suunto are using an encrypted version of ANT+. Do you think they should open their ANT+ to you? If we take the Tacx Virtual Trainer with variable resistance. Is it possible that you could command the resistance in the future?
Tacx, Elite and Cycleops trainers all have their own private implementation of ANT+. We talked to these companies at Interbike about controlling their trainers. Cycleops gave us a « Sure thing! ». We are just waiting for the documentation from them. Tacx was less open. They’ve told us that they are busy this time of year and aren’t sure if they will have the time to give us any documentation. We’ve contacted Elite but are still waiting for a response.
We’d LOVE to control these trainers. We are trying to get a standardized ANT+ format to control trainers so everyone doesn’t have to do custom implementations. If any of your users want Taxc or Elite support, let those companies know :). We might be too little right now for them to invest too much time in us.
Can you tell us how accurate is the virtualpower? Do you need a special calibration protocol and a specific tire to stay accurate?
We’ve had a lot of interest in VirtualPower. It converts the speed on the trainer to watts based on a trainer’s power curve.
As for accuracy, well that depends. Our goal is to make it « relatively » accurate for each user. So if your FTP goes from 200-210 you know you’ve improved. Repeat-ability and consistency is what’s important. We’ve had the best luck with Kurt Kinetic fluid trainers like the Rock and Roll. Their resistance doesn’t change due to heat. We’ve seen the average power for intervals be within 3 watts of our Powertaps.
For units that are affected by heat we see a drift of power output as the ride goes on. So much so that it becomes unusable. We are trying some things out to improve this. One idea is to give the trainer a good warm-up before you start trusting the power numbers.
The last thing that affects the numbers is the tension on the rear tire. We tell users to have the tire pressure the same and to tighten it down the same every time. We might have some roll down tests for calibration in the future, but for right now this is the best we can do.
If you follow the above protocol you can get a workout that’s just like having a power meter instead of relying on heart rate or speed to train. We are also going to blog our test results plotting VirtualPower against power meters so people can get a good idea if it’s right for them.
One of your killer features is to automatically calculate the FTP. Can you explain the protocol used for that? If I go for a two hour easy ride, is it going to affect my value?
This one is pretty simple. We have two tests. The 20 minute Hunter Allen protocol and the 8 Minute CTS protocol. If you do those tests and go all out when we tell you to we will take the average power for those intervals and apply a ratio to it. That then pops up a window suggesting your new FTP.
Although only our two test workouts support it, we’ve built this into all of our workouts. So in the future when you do 2×20 and hit 115% of your FTP for both intervals we will be able to suggest a new FTP to you.
We don’t suggest a lower FTP unless you are doing a test. So if you have an off day or do a recovery ride we won’t tell you to lower your FTP.
Unfortunately, you are not offering a MacOs version of your software. Is it something you are considering?
We’ve built TrainerRoad with Mac support in mind. Our player software actually runs on OSX right now. We still need to port our ANT+ integration over to the Mac. We will start working on Mac support after we leave the beta.
A lot of athletes are coached online. Could it be possible that my coach have access to my account to plan and create workouts with TrainerRoad?
The coach idea is interesting to us and we have a lot of unique ideas about it. The great thing about trainer road is that all rides are published to our ride feed at http://www.trainerroad.com/cycling/rides and anyone can comment on them. So if you are working with a coach at the moment, they can easily see your workout and comment on it.
We know there’s interest in having private conversations with your coach and have them write some training plans for you, but it’s too early for us to speculate on when that would be done.
Are you going to offer integration to TrainingPeaks or others online coaching platforms?
Yes, we plan on integrating with any systems that will let us. We’ve already talked to TrainingPeaks and they have a simple API for us to publish too. It’s just a matter of prioritizing features and having the time to implement them (work, babies and wives).
It might surprise you, but I would love to have a Road Trainer for treadmill. Can you?
Yes! We’ve thought about this too. For now, we just want to get the core of TrainerRoad really really good. Just nail it down so that you actually look forward to getting on the trainer. We still have a lot of ideas about making indoor cycling more fun, motivational and competitive before we move on to anything else.
For sure. We’ve talked to the WahooFitness guys and think we can have ANT+ integration with TrainerRoad for iOS and Android devices. Again, work, wives and babies :).
Right now, your product is still in Beta. Do you have an idea of the cost of TrainerRoad? Monthly cost?
It seems like everything in cycling is expensive. The reason I started TrainerRoad is that $20 per workout was too much for me. Other sites have 3 month training plans for $100-$350 and then charge you on top of that for other stuff. Want a single indoor training video? That will be $30 please.
We think $10 a month for TrainerRoad is a fair price. This includes over 120 workouts, our training plans and storage of your workouts online to share with your friends. It’s an all inclusive membership. We’ll also be adding new workouts/plans and different workout types (courses anyone?) as we go along.
We are also going to offer a 30 day no questions asked money back period. If you sign up and don’t like TrainerRoad, get sick/injured or just get too busy to workout you will be able to get a refund with one click on your profile page. No need to e-mail/contact us.
We would love to go free, but I don’t think we would make enough money in ad revenue to be able to do TrainerRoad full time. More importantly, I don’t think our wives would let us stay glued to our computer every night and weekend working on this indefinitely :).
Right now anyone can sign up and use TrainerRoad for free while we’re in the Beta. We just ask that you let us know if you find any problems or have any ideas.
Great talking with you Alexandre :).