But things change, and as new generation bikes give us the ability to accurately measure actual work/energy output, so the indoor cycle training model has moved towards a new ‘power’ standard, with customised programmes based on individual objectives and capability. New era indoor bikes like the CycleOps Phantom series come with hosts of features that not only allow accurate measurement of all training parameters, but also with additional powerful training management capability.
To take the boredom out of indoor rides the system offers impressive ‘virtual reality’ capability. The CycleOps people talk about ‘get out there in here’ and it’s true, since they are among the first in the world to have developed studio-based Virtual Reality software.
The first concept studio in Rivonia has already attracted its own brand of dedicated and loyal VIPER’s, as they call themselves, each of whom has an individual programme based on his/her own goals and aspirations, whether that is to improve race performance or simply to have some fun while losing some weight. The beauty of the concept is that because each programme is customised, there’s room for all. To this we have added 15 plus studio’s either privately owned or under licence agreement.
There’s fun and challenge too – for example, next month, to coincide with the Tour de France, VIP will run its own King of the Mountains indoor challenge over a three week period, with many different ‘virtual’ routes available, plus other attractions. The more enthusiastic VIPER’s also have the opportunity to influence the (totally unbiased, of course) judges by dressing appropriately for the occasion, or simply bribing them with goodies like cupcakes, French baguettes and champagne!!!
The scientific basis of the VIP concept is quite simple. You may have a desire to go faster or longer, or both, or you may simply want to use exercise to help with a weight-loss programme. But until recently you didn’t really know how to match your exercise programme to the objective. For example, going faster requires the ability to deliver energy quicker i.e. kilojoules in a given time – or more watts, since a watt is a Joule per second. Going longer requires an ability to sustain an energy delivery rate, which is a bit different. People wanting to lose weight need to operate within fairly narrow (low, in fact) energy delivery rate zones in order to harness the body’s fat-burning capabilities. Very much a ‘horses-for-courses’ approach and one size certainly doesn’t fit all.
Top professional cyclists can deliver nearly 1 600 kJ/hr (equivalent to over 450 W) of output (Fabian Cancellara, at this year’s Olympic Time Trial), whereas the average (male) VIPER can probably only manage about 500-600kJ/hour. The beauty of CycleOps VIP technology is that your performance is totally measurable and you can easily track your progress with many software tools, from simple Smartphone free apps such as Strava, to highly sophisticated tools as found in TrainingPeaks.com. Each workout is uploaded within seconds of finishing, for review with the VIP guys over a cappuccino straight afterwards if you like.
Despite all the hype about ‘new’ watt-measuring bikes, the technology is not new. As early as 2005 CycleOps had launched its Pro 300 indoor bikes, forerunner of the Phantom, incorporating independently verified accuracy of PowerTap technology. Of course, there are other indoor bikes out there with similar claims, but CycleOps was among the first to come up with a system that was accurate and consistent enough to measure and manage the wide range of data that modern indoor workouts generate, often within very narrow target power bands that simply cannot be managed by traditional heart rate or other monitoring methods.
The CycleOps Phantom bikes are works of art. Top-of-the range Phantom 5 offers full resistance automation and Virtual reality options, with technology that is surprisingly easy to access. It is simply a question of logging into your profile and selecting the workout for the day. If you aren’t on a specific programme then you simply choose a workout or route that appeals, and off you go. The bike automatically sets the resistance according to the measured outputs you are generating for your weight and level of capability. For more specific programmes there are other training modes that allow you, for example, to ride specific slopes or gears, or target the ideal energy burn rate for optimal fat loss. Similarly, you can simply train at a target power that will allow you to reach a goal time!
The VIP Hub offers both ‘classes’ and ‘free-ride’ options. ‘Class’ slots are grouped into 1 hour blocks in the early mornings opening at 05:00am and evenings closing at 19:00pm - but each participant can still ride a different workout, with different parameters and different video content, since each Phantom has its own tablet display. During off-peak hours, it’s simply a question of booking a bike online for the hour (or more!) before you have to fetch the kids from school - or while you wait for the traffic to calm down.
The studio also has TV’s tuned to topical general interest events and a great sound system, so that there is still a happy ‘vibe’ and opportunity for social interaction for those so inclined. The instructor is no longer a ‘drill sergeant’ but more of a roving ‘advisor’ who manages by walkabout, offering guidance and tips.
Programmes are customised through a simple evaluation procedure that every new recruit goes through on becoming a VIPER. This involves an indoor bike set-up to ensure that the position on the bike is optimised to ensure minimum risk of injury or discomfort, plus a short ‘live’ session during which the member’s ‘Functional Threshold Power’ (FTP) is measured. The term sounds complicated, but this is simply a way of measuring each person’s maximum rate of energy delivery. FTP is a key measurement that allows the VIP team to design the ‘right’ programme for each individual and to regularly measure and adapt the programmes. For the serious athlete, short term targets can be incorporated into longer term training programmes or training strategies for specific events.
CycleOps VIP membership options range from Corporate or ‘group’ deals, and are structured on an unlimited monthly basis or 10-pack ride basis– which many prefer – for a given programme or block of workouts. The beauty of the software is that booking and payment is all online, while the cappuccino afterwards is held by many to be some of Jozi’s finest !!
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