2018 TrainerRoad training software review

2018 TrainerRoad training software review

TrainerRoad training software review - a very impactful and user-friendly power-based training program.

"Maybe the best $12.00 per month you can spend on getting quicker!"

Positives: Greatest trainer-workout program available; compatible with most operating systems and devices (Bluetooth, Ant+, iOS, Android, PC); comes with training plans.

Negatives: Training plans are trainer-centric. There is no simple export feature to conduct workouts on another head unit or Garmin.

Purchase if: You desire a customized plan or a whole training plan full of indoor workouts on an impactful, contemporary medium.

Riding a trainer without direction can be somewhat tiresome. Precise, focused workouts provide more impactful training than most outside rides. For a monthly fee of $12.00, TrainerRoad provides an abundance of power-based engaging workouts that can be done on all types of trainers, power-meter optional!

I started experimenting with TrainerRoad in late 2017 and got addicted, so much so that I decided to purchase it and use it at my discretion, which included in the summertime, much to my surprise.

TrainerRoad provides over a thousand workouts. You can browse by time length, intensity, or area of focus (sweet spot, aerobic, etc.). You can buy a customized package, or you can follow one of the plans that come with a trainer, which gives you specific workouts every day.

TrainerRoad works on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android. When using it, you’ll require a tablet, smartphone, or computer, along with your bike, an ANT+ or Bluetooth device, and a trainer. For a wireless link, you can use something basic like a Bluetooth speed/cadence sensor. You can also use a smart electronic trainer which accommodates resistance to TrainerRoad's instructed target power automatically as you go from one workout to another.

Most riders will use a power meter as their main software link. If you lack a power meter, don’t fret; TrainerRoad will do a great job of calculating your Virtual Power as per your live speed data and trainer model. 

Most workouts can be used alongside videos. Many have worded cues displayed on the screen. Several of them are drills, for instance, a cue that tells you to stand up for X amount of seconds. Sometimes you’ll be cued to maintain loose shoulders and keep them down. You’ll be amazed at how frequently you’ll be told to correct yourself.

Each workout revolves around your level of fitness because they are based on your functional threshold power (FTP) percentage. You can enter this number into the program from the beginning, and you’ll be off and running. You can also go through the FTP assessment to determine what your number is. Once you do, the workouts will be customized for you automatically.

It comes with an intuitive interface. A cursor goes from left to right across blue shapes, which signify target power as your workout advances. Larger blue blocks represent greater power. Your Virtual Power shows up visually in yellow numerically across the blue shape, along with heart rate and cadence.

On your PC, you can position the TrainerRoad window to be horizontal or vertical. The latter lets you watch videos or use the screen for something else entirely, while the former takes up most of the screen. I generally use the horizontal setting while watching a video on my laptop or listening to a few songs.

One basic function that gets the most use from me is the percentage control. For instance, let’s say halfway through a hardcore anaerobic interval session you start having difficulty completing the instructed numbers. With a few clicks, you can minimize the intensity right away. This is especially convenient if you have a Wahoo Kickr, which - when in ERG mode - takes away acceleration from the power algorithm. This smoothens your power lines and makes fast accelerations troublesome. You can liken this feature to shifting a gear while driving.  

TrainerRoad keeps track of your workouts and monitors achievements in power for numerous timeframes. If your subscription expires, the data gets saved on your account in case you renew in the future.

For Strava, TrainingPeaks, and similar software types, you will be happy to learn that TrainerRoad now syncs in a couple of directions. Once you finish a workout, TrainerRoad will auto-populate independent programs. This is an aspect most of us have come to anticipate with Garmins. A fairly new syncing feature is the import/export of workouts from Today’s Plan and TrainingPeaks. For example, if you’ve subscribed to a training plan on one of these sites, a workout can be exported from there and finished on TrainerRoad.

Training Plans 

Cycling training software is a very competitive field, with brands coming in all directions. The GPS company called Garmin has Garmin Connect software that it originally intended to go up against Strava with. CycleOps and other trainer brands have programs they intend to go up against TrainerRoad with. TrainerRoad, intends to get a piece of the training plan pie that is usually held by personal coaching programs like TrainingPeaks. 

The training plan interface of TrainerRoad is uncluttered and simple to use. To establish which is suitable for you, you are provided with choices for categories (triathlete, road racer, off-road, enthusiast), training phases (build, base, specialty), and available training durations.

After you’ve chosen a plan, TrainerRoad will align the workouts, allowing you to use them upon logging in. If you enjoy staying dedicated to a plan, this can be ideal, since you don’t have to think twice about your actions. Simply get on the trainer, chose the workout, and go.

The negatives of TrainerRoad is that, as suggested by the name of the company, it’s centered around trainers. If you’re training inside, this is fine, but if you like to ride outside, or if you use the trainer as a backup plan if the weather isn’t cooperative, then you feel restricted. While you can mimic your outdoor workout on the trainer, it isn’t as easy of a transition as provided by Today’s Plan and TrainingPeaks, where you can just pick the intended workout right onto your Garmin.

The positive to a TrainerRoad plan is that they come with what you’re already paying for. And as most coaches will attest to, training with a plan is more impactful than doing workouts on the fly. If you’re not already a subscriber to Today’s Plan or TrainingPeaks, or are using a training plan of another kind, it’s worthwhile to look at what TrainerRoad offers. It is quite an economical solution.

Controlled power vs. virtual power

I assessed TrainerRoad using a number of methods. The speed sensor and regular trainer works quite well. It won’t pick up quick adjustments as fast as a power meter, but for the most basic things, it is sufficient. You’ll require a Bluetooth or an ANT+ speed sensor, and you’ll need to choose your model and make from the program’s menu. Afterward, TrainerRoad displays a Virtual Power wattage figure that manages the workouts. Similar to other settings, this is something you’ll only need to set once.

TrainerRoad was also tested with various trainers and power meters (Quarq, Stages, SRM, PowerTap, etc.). This experience is far superior, with live details that let you monitor the intended power for every interval.

You have the option to use TrainerRoad with a Wahoo Kickr or similar smart trainer. With this setup, TrainerRoad regulates the resistance on the electronic trainer while you go through a workout. This creates lab-quality training. Further, it simplifies the mental aspect of workout; you can grind and shift as necessary without concerning yourself with lowering or raising your effort.

Linking up your power meter, trainer, speed sensor, heart rate monitor, or other device is easy. Simply click “search” in your settings section and go through the tool categories. You’ll require a USB stick to connect to an ANT+ device if you’re using a computer. Bluetooth devices don’t generally have extra hardware since most modern devices have Bluetooth already installed. The most recent version of the Android Galaxy 7 phone has both ANT+ and Bluetooth. Regardless of the wireless protocol you choose, TrainerRoad locates and remembers your devices so you won’t have to do this process a second time.

While merging the videos (which you must separately purchase from coaching companies like Sufferfest if desired) is an option, the basic programs will do just fine. If you are seeking an entertainment interface, TrainerRoad won’t be for you, but Zwift might be up your alley.

If you desire an abundance of quality, time-conscious, and greatly focused workouts that accommodate your real-time and FTP output, you can’t do much better than TrainerRoad.