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For many, cycling the entire length of the UK from Lands’ End to John o’ Groats, is a challenge that is already quite achievable. But with the new technology now available, cyclists can even do it without leaving the comfort of their own home.
Aaron Puzey took 85 hours of cycling time, spread over eight months and relied on the combination of Google Maps, his Galaxy Gear smart watch as well as sheer pedal power to follow the road from Cornwall to the north-easternmost point of Scotland on an exercise bike in his front room.
Puzey’s feat, achieved in 2016, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovations in virtual reality and its relationship with sport. The development of technology-driven cycling products has taken off of late, with plenty of major players offering up their products.
First there’s the introduction of a new cinematic experience in gyms and fitness studios. Pushing your body to the limit whilst staring at the back of the head of the person in front of you, or putting yourself through the latest version of Loose Women on the gym’s television may not provide the optimum level of motivation. Compare that with the latest edition to Les Mills studios across Britain and there’s a colossal difference.
‘The Trip’ takes spinning classes to a new level; providing gym goers with a front row seat on a roller coaster ride through a city of the future.
And it certainly provides fitness fanatics with something a bit different, with Les Mills suggesting that an immersive experience can enhance enjoyment while diminishing the rate of perceived exertion. The group reported that they have seen a 17% increase in studio usage since launching the initiative and are “seeing a marked increase in millennial members who are looking for an exciting and on-trend alternative to traditional fitness.”
Those seeking a (slightly) more authentic simulation experience are advised to take a look at the multitude of VR products regularly hitting the market.
Companies like Velo Reality and Zwift deliver new ways to go on a bike ride without having to brave outside influences like weather, traffic and time constraints. While a mainstream, fully-immersive VR product that doesn’t break the bank may not be available just yet, the advances in programming suggest it’s only a matter of time. Both of the named products deliver a video-driven service for cyclists to use at home but each one boasts quite different USPs.
Velo Reality produce clips taking in famous rides such as the climbs up Mont Ventoux , the popular loop of the island of Mallorca and the awe-inspiring views from the Stelvio Pass in Italy. Linking a user’s exercise bike up with an iPad, computer or television with their dedicated software installed, the speed of the video is controlled by the velocity of the user’s peddling; so if you want to conquer Ventoux, a high level of determination is needed!
Zwift works on a similar basis in that it requires users to install their software onto a computer, tablet or anything else capable of projection for that matter, and takes the rider away from their front room with real-time software tracking every revolution of their wheels.
What Zwift does differently is rather than focusing on transporting users to a well-known destination, it takes inspiration from the social aspect of cycling that many enjoy most about getting out on their bike. Where Strava allows cyclists to track, record and compare times and routes with others, Zwift goes a step further.
After creating their own character or avatar, users can sign up to pre-arranged rides and take to the streets with others in a virtual group ride, delivering the very social, yet still competitive edge to your home ride. The sense of community is pushed hard with Zwift’s communications and with so many options to join others, be it for a gentle ride around a digital lake setting or in an organised time trial competition, it appears to deliver the sense of inclusion its website promises.
Zwift and Velo Reality aren’t the only options out there for those looking to add a bit of immersive technology to their next ride. The race is on to deliver a product that is not only immersive, but affordable to the masses. Convince cyclists that it is a better alternative to tackling the potential hazards of the road, or fighting the time constraints many find themselves under and developers could be on to something huge. What is fairly certain though, is that as capabilities increase, the choice the consumer has when it comes to VR cycling is only going to get larger.
If VR and new technology isn’t your thing, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the more traditional form of cycling. Before you head out on the road though, make sure you’re covered. Our Sports Accident Insurance policy will cover you should you suffer certain serious injuries whilst cycling. Get an instant quote today by clicking here.