Actual VeloReality ride footage – Passo dello Stelvio
The landscape of cycling products and technology are ever evolving. Today there’s a plethora of cycling computers, wireless sensors, power meters, electronic shifting, training apps and software. However, many of the same issues with training and motivation remain. For those who live in cold climates and are forced to ride indoors, the biggest issue with indoor training remains: Boredom.
With a wide array of ANT+ sensors and devices available, our team has been trying various tools that have been cropping-up. Our riders are looking for valuable training capabilities without being boring, limited, unnatural or difficult to use. Until recently there was a serious a need for a high-quality, reliable, realistic simulation of outdoor riding while remaining flexible and cost-effective.
2013 brought a new player to the table: VeloReality, with their Virtual RIde software and LYNX trainer/simulator.
Here’s what VeloReality offers:
- Training software, ANT+ compatible (Free).
- Over 30 HD quality ride videos, of routes from across the globe for purchase from their online store.
- The LYNX trainer offers a true-to-life riding simulation.
- V-Ride software offers resistance profiles for most existing trainers, rollers.
- Software can also control Wahoo KICKR and Computrainer trainers.
- On-screen ride simulation and performance metrics (with or without a Power Meter) with video playback synced based on your current power output (real or calculated), weight, incline.
- Software is Windows based but can be run with ‘Boot Camp’ on Mac.
- Application can be run directly off an external drive, allowing you to use the product on any computer, without needing to re-install or transfer the videos, configuration.
The company was good enough to provide us with a LYNX trainer and an external hard drive loaded with the software and all of their current videos so that we could try it out. This would be the same set-up one would receive if buying their LYNX trainer system.
VeloReality on-Screen footage before the start of the l’Alpe d’Huez climb.
Setting Up the Software
Before we received the LYNX unit, we wanted to try out the software and the sample videos that they had available. It was simply a matter of visiting their website (www.veloreality.com) to create a user account, pick up the free software package and download the two free sample videos.
Before we begin, let’s list the basic software requirements:
- Windows 7, 8 (or 8.1), 64-bit Operating system required.
- For Mac users, they have told us it will run using Boot Camp (not tested here).
- Suitable video capabilities (recommended discrete graphics card).
- ANT+ USB receiver.
- ANT+ on-bike sensors: Speed and Cadence, e.g.: Garmin GSC-10.
- Resistance trainer: LYNX, or conventional trainers (Cyclops, Kurt Kinetic, Minoura, Tacx, 1-Up, others).
- ANT+ HR strap (recommended)
- ANT+ Power Meter (optional)
- Best to use an external USB drive – 500GB or larger. USB 3.0 or eSATA recommended.
- Discrete graphics card recommended. For Windows 8/8.1 users – make sure you configure your machine to use the discrete card with the application and maximum performance settings.
The software is very straight forward – it has no install package at all. Simply extract the file (v-ride_x64.exe) from the ZIP package and put it into a location you’d like it to reside. We highly recommend putting it on a removable drive, with at least 500GB free space if you’re planning to use the videos.
Once you’ve placed the software in a folder where you want it to live, say: [drive]:\VeloReality\ then simply launch the application and start by setting up your user.
“We highly recommend putting it on a removable drive, with at least 500GB free space, if you’re planning to use the videos.”
You’ll need to configure some personal details like: Date of Birth, weight, height, wheel size, bike weight, estimated FTP, etc. Of course, if you’re reading this article we’ll assume you have great taste, you’re naturally young, lean, tall, with a light bike and massive FTP wattage. Enter those exact details into your user profile (certainly you have this precisely recorded in your daily training log). Save your profile and you’re ready to get started.
Configure your VeloReality user profile
The software allows for multiple users, so you can configure your entire team if you’d like.
Configure your ANT+ sensors
With the software running, if you haven’t already, plug-in your ANT+ USB receiver into a USB port on your computer. Spin-up the trainer to wake your on-bike sensors (Speed/Cadence, Power). Click the “Learn” button on the User Settings screen in the application and it should detect the USB device and the ANT+ sensors.
ANT+ USB-M Receiver
For users of some of the earlier USB2 ANT+ receivers, it may require being within ~3 meters of your sensors. Later versions and newer USB-M versions seem to have a much greater range (~10 meters). If this is a problem, it is possible to buy a USB extension cable from many computer stores or even some dollar-stores. This would let you place the ANT+ USB device closer to your bike without needing to move your computer.
If you find that the software is not detecting your USB stick – make sure you don’t have an older ‘USB1′ version as they are simply not capable of receiving data for live use.
With your ANT+ USB stick picking up your ANT+ sensor’s signals, you should be ready to roll.
VeloReality – User Settings and ANT devices
Virtual Ride software and Videos
The thing that really stands out with the VeloReality platform are the videos. These aren’t your average “helmet cam” ride videos. The latest videos from VeloReality are very high quality 1080p footage that they’ve captured, from a slow moving vehicle with a camera mounted on the curb-side at eye-level. The result? It really does make for some stunning footage. So realistic that, with a good video card and in-front of a large, well placed monitor, you’ll find yourself grabbing for the brakes in fast corners and intersections.
VeloReality ride footage (Ventoux pt.1) – How about climbing Mt. Ventoux today?
There are options to start and stop the routes from various points. The software provides that ability to select the beginning and ending points, down to 1 meter accuracy. Pick your start and end points and you can ride any section of the video that you prefer.
The product also provides multi-ride video capabilities. This allows you to combine multiple videos or sub-sections of videos into a combined ride that can be saved used again at a later date. Slice and dice the rides to create your own custom routes.
This multi-ride functionality is a great feature as several of the major routes are broken into several parts, such as the 4 part “Marmotte” route.
If you create a multi-ride using these Marmotte videos, you could create an epic loop that covers the Col du Glandon (Part 1), Col du Telegraphe (Part 2), Col du Galibier (Part 3) and finally l’Alpe d’Huez (Part 4). This would be a huge effort (174km) and over 5000m of vertical. Easily 6+ hours of unbroken effort for even the strongest riders..
While the famous mountain passes might be a challenge, the more moderate courses are a blast. We found that our personal favourites are the Flanders and Corsica rides. They are all very scenic and make for perfect training routes that can also be added together to create fun, multi-part rides through these incredible locations.
With all of these famous rides to choose from, everyone has been asking: “What’s the hardest one?”. If you’re talking about a long effort, then definitely Ventoux Route – Part 1. This takes a 40km ride from Malaucene, up the fabled Bedoin side of the Giant of Provence. Ventoux gets harder as it goes and this ride will take you well over 2 hours to complete.
If you’re riding Ventoux, be prepared! Turn on that fan, set up your playlist, grab 4 water bottles and two energy bars – you’ll need it. Breaking clear of the tree-line with all of the names chalked on the roadway, cresting the top of Ventoux is amazing. You’ll be raising your arms to recognize a personal victory.
If you’re shorter on time and looking for a real knee breaker, look no further than the Passo del Mortirolo. It’s merely 14km for the route (12.4 km for the official “Pantani” climb), but at over a 10.5% average gradient with several sections pushing over 20%. This is considered one of the steepest and most difficult climbs in the world. On a variable resistance trainer like the LYNX, you really need a compact crankset and at least an 11-27T cassette. A cyclocross bike might also fit the bill, since this is a truly ‘granny-gear’ effort.
Using a Standard Trainer
The VeloReality software is a very “open” platform when it comes to supporting the many existing resistance trainers on the market. There are many pre-defined profiles for standard trainers and some rollers, as well as the ability to design your own custom power profile curve.
To try this out, we used an older-model Kurt Kinetic (Road Machine) fluid trainer with a Stages power meter, to transmit actual wattage. We found that the VeloReality software did an excellent job of simulating real world riding. The on-screen speed varies, based on power output. Shift gears and change cadence to allow yourself to increase your wattage and affect the resulting on-screen performance.
Using the simulation without the power meter we found that the Kurt Kinetic’s published power curve allowed for a close simulation of your ‘average’ power output. Of course, this doesn’t work quite as well at the extremes, such as accelerating quickly out of the saddle or doing strange things like pedalling at a very low cadence. That’s because the power curve is based on ‘typical’ values and the power output is implied based on the measured wheel speed and the Kurt Kinetic’s published power curve, assuming ideal tire pressure and minimal wheel slip. This is simply a matter of physics when working with a fixed resistance unit.
With a standard trainer set-up, it’s also no problem to run your normal gearing, like a typical road bike with 53-39 / 11-25T. In order to go faster in the videos, you simply need to increase your wattage. Simply: higher power output, yields higher speed, no matter what the incline.
It may be counter-intuitive to be climbing a mountain pass in your big ring, but when it comes down to it, it doesn’t make much of a difference when you’re on a fixed stationary trainer. By the end of a couple of rides, you become accustomed to simply riding in different ratios than you might in the real world. It’s a bit like flat-land training that people do to prepare for climbs when they don’t have any in their area.
For the budget minded consumer who wants to continue using their current trainer, adding the VeloReality software and videos is a cost-effective and valuable set-up. The videos make it exciting to get on the bike and keep you motivated to ride when you can’t get outdoors.
Where are we going to ride today?
Beware: Alpen Cow crossing.
For the full effect of the videos, ride profiles and dynamic resistance the VeloReality LYNX trainer is designed to provide a complete ride simulation.
VeloReality LYNX trainer features a 2HP variable resistance unit, solid frame, a large roller and industrial-grade components with USB connectivity. (Courtesy: VeloReality)
When you first see the LYNX trainer, it has an certain simplicity to its design. The VeloReality team tells us that it’s constructed with industrial grade components, including a 2 HP electric motor and a large heavy 6″ roller. The company described that they used a combination of software sensors and control circuitry to provide for instant and realistic reaction to one’s pedalling efforts. They claim it has the best ability to provide powerful, yet precise resistance with the added bonus of being able to “power” your descents.
Rear wheel on the LYNX trainer (Courtesy: VeloReality)
The unit’s construction makes it solid, but heavy. This is not a unit designed for taking to races – this is an at-home unit. The large 6″ roller and motor really pay off when demonstrating the almost infinite resistance and practically non-slip performance at the rear wheel.
LYNX showing its massive 6″ roller and highly machined finish
The front of the unit can be adjusted fore/aft, to adjust for different wheelbases. Mounting and dismounting bikes is a simple affair – remove the front wheel, attach the bike at the front fork QR mount and adjust the length of the wheelbase so that the rear wheel is centred over the roller.
Like most trainers, tire pressure is an important factor. Pump the tires up to an ideal pressure (~110psi for a typical 23C tire) and rides should be consistent from day to day. The software allows for a calibration routine that ensures that the unit is within the appropriate range, but is only really necessary if you’re changing bikes, wheels or anything that you think might affect its accuracy.
When an external ANT+ power meter is present the software will also continuously self-calibrate in real time for increased precision.
Realism and Road Feel
This unit is probably the smoothest trainer you’ve ever ridden. It has a ride quality much like high-end rollers, but with the ability to provide a dynamic resistance component. The ability to control the current resistance in 0.1% increments of grade, multiple times per second, makes it perform with incredible precision.
Having ridden on other electronic resistance units before, they don’t come anywhere close to this. No “step” resistance, magnetic units, friction brakes, belts, fluid or gears used here. This unit is a direct-drive coupling, from the roller to the resistance unit; very smooth and incredibly quiet.
“This unit is probably the smoothest trainer you’ve ever ridden.”
The rear wheel roller is where the LYNX’s design sets it apart. Much like riding on the road, the rear wheel contact is made by the gravity – the rider sitting on the bike. The LYNX uses a very large 6″ diameter roller that’s directly coupled with the 2 HP resistance unit. The resistance unit runs on bearings and the motor is housed inside of a ventilated metal casing.
The bike is mounted with a front fork mount and the rear wheel sits directly on top of the rear roller. The advantage of this set-up is similar to that of a good set of rollers: smooth pedalling.
Without an artificially tensioned resistance unit or fixed rear-wheel mount, the rear wheel can track freely from side-to-side. The rear wheel’s ability to track freely is a significant bonus. This is where the natural feeling is really emphasised. With each pedal stroke, there is an “S” pattern traced by the movement of the wheel on the roller. If you’ve ever watched overhead footage of cyclists, especially under hard effort, you’ll notice how they track slightly side to side. When clamped into a typical resistance trainer, there’s simply no ability for the rear wheel to track. Often, cyclists complain about knee and hip pain after a few hard workouts on typical trainers. This is noticeably different on the LYNX. Your body has the ability to move naturally and it has a more fluid and ‘circular’ pedalling dynamic, much closer to riding outdoors and akin to riding on rollers. It feels as though you can ride longer and more smoothly, without any added tension in the hips, knees and hamstrings.
When hammering, the unit remains almost silent. It’s almost eerie how quiet the unit is, given how hard it can push you. Without additional tension at the tire or clamps on the rear drop-outs, you can run your best race day wheels with any type of smooth road tire. Your carbon bike shouldn’t have issues with rear triangle frame-clamping forces as there are none.
The limits of this unit are impressive. VeloReality claims that it can simulate grades up to 20% for all possible gear ranges. Rated at a nominal 2 HP, the unit doesn’t have any problem pushing back. It would take a monumental effort to overcome the maximal resistance of this trainer. We expect you would probably loose grip at the wheel or snap your chain before it could stop providing more resistance. If you did find it needs greater resistance, contact your national sporting organization and register with the UCI to start your track career.
Riding on flats doesn’t have the same “drag” affect that you feel on typical resistance trainers. The software and LYNX do a good job compensating with an element of inertia which means you don’t need to be hammering to relentlessly accelerate to maintain a nice steady pace, much like real riding. However, if you try to stop and start on a steep mountain pass, make sure you’re in an easy gear – gravity and inertia can work against you!
LYNX trainer set-up in the “Pain Cave” with a TV, laptop, fan.
For those who find themselves limited in their power output or don’t have the appropriate gearing, but still want to complete the rides on the LYNX, the software allows for adjusting the “Grade Reduction”. This means that you can control the minimum and maximum grades that can be experienced from the resistance unit. During the testing, we used the software and LYNX trainer without any grade reduction in order to experience the full range from 0% to 20% grade. Downhill speed limits can also be adjusted from 0% to -3% simulated grade.
In terms of tire choice, VeloReality declares that any smooth tire can be used. In testing, we tried various road tires, as well as a trainer tire. In the end, it was felt that a trainer tire still holds an advantage of being the quietest ride, but there was no issue with using a standard (slick) road tire on the LYNX. It didn’t appear to wear the tire any faster than typical road riding. This is a big benefit for those who would rather use their current tires, perhaps left-over from the previous season and not need a dedicated ‘trainer wheel’. Like all trainers, to have a consistent calibration and ‘feel’ between rides, make sure to use a consistent tire pressure, around 110-115psi (for a 23C road tire), this seems to perform best.
Silence is a virtue
When first seeing the unit, we thought: this thing must be loud. However, the silent performance is somewhat unexpected. This is something to truly appreciate, especially compared to even the quietest of indoor trainers. You can ride this unit indoors and not even begin to bother your family / neighbours / roommates. No squeaking, no tensioned friction, no magnetic or resistance fan noise. It’s as if the machine is yawning, saying “is that all you got?”.
After long rides at higher resistance (such as a 1+ hour mountain pass) an internal fan does kick-in to help cool the resistance unit. This is about as loud than the fan on a desktop computer. If you ride indoors or early in the morning and need to keep sound to a minimum – this trainer blows all other trainers out of the water; tire friction, chain noise and your huffing and puffing be the only thing making any significant noise. Of course, to conquer the Mortirolo, you’ll probably want your stereo at “11″. We apologize to your neighbours for your choice in music.
Descending, on a trainer?
Naturally, what goes up, must come down and descending on the unit is excellent. It does have a descent limit (for addition of simulated power) of -3% grade. VeloReality informed us that this was done for safety reasons. We found that this limit was still more than enough power to make descending a real blast. You can supplement your own additional power (at the pedals) if you want to really hammer. The unit won’t stop you from doing so, but it just won’t provide any additional power to help you along.
Descending is a welcome addition to indoor training and the LYNX feels remarkably realistic. It’s a real credit to the design and software how it performs smoothly for everything from flats to climbs and descents.
It’s a lot of fun to push the descents and hit 60+ km/h in the big ring. Cornering on the mountain descents is a bit strange though, as the ride videos are recorded at approximately 30 km/h with a constant frame rate and a fixed-mount camera. If you’re riding a descent hard, you’ll find yourself “whipping” around those turns so fast that in real life you’d probably fly right off the mountain. You can finally enjoy that long descent which you’ve earned from climbing a mountain pass.
“You can finally enjoy that long descent which you’ve earned from climbing a mountain pass.”
The only complaint in terms of realism might be that, unlike riding in the real world, your bike is always in a level and upright position. The front of the bike doesn’t raise up or down for the grade that you’re riding and there’s no ability to ‘steer’ the bike or rock the bike beneath you.
However, complaining about this seems a bit ludicrous. The unit performs very well, it’s actually been a reach to find things to complain about. The current version of software seems stable, consistent and easy to use with excellent realism when communicating with the LYNX.
It was also noticed that when using a Stages power meter, at this time the software doesn’t detect the cadence from the Stages crank. Make sure to use the magnet for your speed/cadence sensor and you should be fine.
All about the numbers
For the hardcore data lovers and Golden Cheetah / Strava users out there, have no fear. The software records a TCX file of your rides, including GPS data, and saves this to your user profile ‘data’ folder on the drive where the software is set up. You can then trick your friends when you post your data to Facebook and make them think you’ve been riding all over Europe.
With data capture coming straight from the ANT+ sensors on your bike including Power that is calculated, regardless if you’re using a power meter, you will have all the data to analyze.
A note for Strava users: At present, there are open requests for Strava to implement some type of “Virtual” ride flag, to prevent indoor simulators from being included in the segment leaderboards. However, Strava has not shown much interest in these requests. It would be recommended that if you’re using Strava and posting your TCX files, be sure to mark the ride as ‘Private’ to make sure you’re not going to get your rides flagged by other people. This prevents your rides from being visible to your friends, but until Strava can address this issue, it’s the only way this can be done. Other sites like Training Peaks, Garmin Connect, et al, should have no problem using the standard TCX file produced by the software.
Made in Canada
One interesting thing about the VeloReality product is that it’s made in North America. The hardware and software is all designed and built in Ontario, Canada.
While this might make it tricky to compete with the mass-production of many of their off-shore competitors, the quality and support provided by VeloReality really shows.
It’s constructed to be noticeably solid and it appears that no corners were cut in producing this unit. When someone first saw the trainer unit they said “wow, looks like you could jump on that thing”. Not that we’ve tried, but it seems built to last.
With manufacturing and development often moved outside of North America, It’s a good story to see a local company create an innovative, high-quality product and bring it to the global marketplace.
The software is free and the rides cost (individually) $14.95 CDN but can be bought in ‘combos’ that can bring the video cost down to nearly $7 CDN each.
The LYNX trainer, at $2,995 CDN as of January 2014. While pricey, it’s also not completely unreasonable given the industrial level construction of the unit and its performance. A single return flight to France would probably set you back just as much money before you even set foot on a mountain pass.
The LYNX trainer also includes an external USB 3.0 drive loaded with all the Videos (31 videos at present). The video and hard drive component alone is worth $300 and comes with all of the cabling necessary to connect the trainer to your PC.
In a world where people routinely spend $10k on getting the latest and greatest bike, plus more investment for an external power meter, this unit is a relative bargain. Considering the improved training you’ll gain would probably surpass any positive gains you might get by buying that fancy new bike.
Like Eddy Merckx said: “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades”. This unit allows you to ride the greatest routes (and grades) in the world, from the comfort of your own home.
For those who live in flat territory, the LYNX makes an excellent tool for preparing for climbs that are simply not possible when training in your geographic area.
The VeloReality products are a great way to enjoy classic routes in your own home, and simulate riding the best rides from around the globe.
With the LYNX trainer, it’s possible to ride with real resistance and have a true virtual riding simulation. The trainer doesn’t require an external power meter and also comes packaged with an external hard drive with all of the current HD-quality videos and software from the company.
For those wishing to use an indoor trainer, the software package is free to download and has resistance profiles pre-configured for a long list of trainers, past and present.
The highly realistic videos can be purchased in “Combos” or individually and downloaded from the company’s website. To avoid downloading, a fully-loaded hard drive option is also available. This is an option we would suggest – some videos are over 10GB in size and there are 31 videos and growing. By ordering the hard drive, you get everything you need in a portable drive and without having to worry about your download limits (a big factor for those with NetFlix in their house).
If you’re looking for an accurate ride simulator, with incredibly high-quality videos and software for training, look no further than VeloReality.
Costs (CDN $ – Feb. 2014):
- VeloReality “V-Ride” software: (Free)
- VeloReality ride videos: $7-$10 (in some combos), $14.95 (individually)
- VeloReality “2013″ video library on a 500GB drive: $299
- LYNX trainer (includes hard drive with video library): $2,995
- LYNX trainer offers excellent riding simulation and road feel with a free tracking rear-wheel.
- LYNX trainer is extremely quiet, well built.
- Free software package is lightweight and can be run from a portable drive.
- High quality HD ride videos and a growing library of famous rides.
- Ability to create “Multi-Ride” videos with multiple rides / segments combined into a single ride which can be saved for later use.
- Software has resistance profiles for a majority of trainers past & present.
- Works with or without a power meter.
- Can control the Wahoo KICKR and Computrainer.
- Workout mode for traditional resistance training, and custom workout design.
- You’ll actually look forward to riding on the trainer and exploring new routes.
- LYNX trainer is a bit pricey for the average rider.
- Videos are large, long download times if you don’t buy them on the hard drive.
- Requires a decent laptop/desktop, ideally with a “discrete” graphics card.
- Doesn’t pick up the cadence from a Stages power meter. Keep your cadence magnet.
- You’ll spend more time on the trainer and want a new laptop, TV, stereo, fan and support staff.
- Friends will drop-by in their cycling gear in January.
This review was provided independently and without remuneration from VeloReality. The team was provided with software, sample videos and a LYNX trainer to borrow, temporarily, for evaluation purposes.
Since the initial review, the team has partnered with VeloReality in the 2014 season to help with the assessment of software and videos as part of the team's individual training programs.