Riding a turbo trainer can be notoriously tedious. Staring a a blank wall while pedaling away for hours didn’t really appeal to me, so I decided to stick with my classes at Cycle Rhythm as indoor training. That was until I started using a BKOOL at a local bike shop and it completely changed my opinion on turbo trainers.
A turbo trainer is a device for allowing you to ride your bike indoors, particularly useful during the winter months. The rear wheel of the bike is clamped into a unit which provides resistance, usually magnetic, fluid or air.
The BKOOL is a high-end magnetic smart trainer which connects to a software platform via ANT+ wireless technology. The software provides an interactive virtual cycling experience which simulates an outdoor ride on a road environment. The resistance on the wheel is controlled by the software and matches the course of the profile you are following. With over 500,000 different routes available, there is plenty of choice and inspiration to keep indoor training interesting.
The hardware includes the smart trainer, power adapter, USB ANT+, quick release skewer, and front wheel support. Even as quite a technophone, I found the trainer and simulator quick and simple to set-up. The unit itself is robust, compact and secure- the legs extend out to give more stability, so it doesn’t feel as though you will topple over when riding.
One of the concerns I had about the BKOOL was the level of noise. The trainer itself doesn’t create a great deal of noise, but it does vibrate similar to a washing machine on spin cycle. I’ve laid down some rubber matting to reduce this and hopefully not upset our neighbours!
The routes are graded according to difficulty and distance. You are able to race against virtual opponents and even draft off of other riders, as you would on the open roads. The software has an element of social media whereby you can add friends, comment on their workouts and even challenge them to a ride. You can also talk to other riders via the computers microphone. BKOOL also syncs with Strava, so you can earn those QOMS/KOMS on foreign roads!
During the workout, the screen displays cadence, power, speed, calories, slope gradient and heart rate (if wearing a heart rate strap). The elapsed and remaining time is also shown throughout the session. After the workout is saved, you are able to analyse the data in quite some detail- it’s perfect for stats geeks!
There are all the epic climbs and iconic routes available to ride in the comfort of your own home. It’s pretty amazing to be cycling along a Spanish road, without ever leaving home!
One of the most useful features of the BKOOL, is the ability to upload a GPX file and ride the route. I’ve been able to upload the file for the Cotswold 113 middle-distance triathlon and ‘pre-ride’ the course I’ll be taking in June. I’ve found this a really useful way to prepare for the race as I’ll be familiar with the terrain ahead of the day, which is pleasingly very flat.
The system will also create visuals, even simulating the weather on the route! However this takes some time, as users uploads routes every day, so as yet my Cotswolds course hasn’t been converted into 3D.
It is also possible to manually create personalised workouts based on time, distance and gradient. When my coach sends across my weekly schedule, I’m able to set-up the bike workout in the BKOOL then simply start the ride and feedback my results to him. I can then check my progress by competing against my last effort.
The software is also compatible with our Keiser M3i bikes at Cycle Rhythm using an iPad or Android tablet, so I’ve also been able to record my output during our classes. I simply log in to my account, create a flat 45 minute course, select the bike I’m riding and start the session. It does rely on a wifi connection, so unfortunately the app cut out during my most recent class.
I’ve found the BKOOL sessions a great motivational tool as they keep me engaged for the entire ride. There are so many features and capabilities, I’m still getting to grips with the possibilities of the software, but it has definitely helped me to have a focused workout, rather than just aimless pedaling.
The BKOOL retails at £488 including one year of simulator premium. You can get a free training mat included via this link.
The BKOOL trainer and simulator were provided for review, but all opinions are my own.
Do you use a turbo trainer? Have you ever tried the BKOOL?