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TrainerRoad: your ultimate guide

TrainerRoad
(Image credit: TrainerRoad)

TrainerRoad is an app and online training tool focussed on workouts, results and performance. It differs from the likes of Zwift in that it's purely focussed on those fitness gains rather than having a big social or racing component. 

TrainerRoad as a brand provides an ecosystem of training tools focussed on the idea that training without structure isn't training at all, and that indoor training helps provide that structure without distraction - although, with its Outside Workouts feature, workouts can also be pushed to your cycling computer. 

There is an app for smartphones, tablets and desktops, as well as a website based account which provides the planning and analysis features. 

On the free side of the paywall, there is a highly active forum and a weekly podcast in which the TrainerRoad coaches take a deep dive into the science to answer the cycling community's training questions. 

But behind the paywall, there's a library of thousands of workouts, in-depth analysis features, year-over-year comparison of your performance, and currently being rolled out is the addition of machine learning algorithms that analyse your performances in order to help you progress towards your goals as quickly, but optimally as possible.

Adaptive Training

This machine-learning algorithm is known as Adaptive Training, and it takes advantage of the millions of workouts in its library in order to first learn, and then analyse whether or not a workout has been completed. Taking this analysis and coupling it with a post-ride survey, it is then able to assess how tough you found a workout, and potentially alter subsequent workouts in order to help you progress at an optimal rate. 

Engineers have then categorised workouts based on the training zone targeted, and given each a progression score to quantify its difficulty. This score ranges from 0 to 10, and theoretically, if you can do an aerobic workout with progression level 5, an aerobic workout with progression level 3 should be easy.

Plan Builder

On the TrainerRoad website, there's an array of additional features that should make TrainerRoad a one-stop-shop for athletes chasing performance. 

A custom Plan Builder allows you to plan your season as a whole, taking into account the time you have until your 'A' event, and the type of event you're training for. It can incorporate pre-planned time off the bike such as work trips or holidays and is adaptive to interruptions such as illnesses. The aforementioned machine learning algorithm is built into the training plan that Plan Builder will supply, and should you have any time off the bike (planned or otherwise), when you eventually return to the bike, you will begin at a lower progression level that should remain achievable. 

Analysis

The workout analysis features offer a compare tool, to see how your latest workout's numbers stack up against your personal records (from a chosen season or all-time), and there's also an interval search function, which allows you to easily analyse your ride even if you forgot to lap your intervals correctly (or for fun, see how many times you hit 700 watts in your latest criterium). 

A neat feature when comparing your personal records against previous seasons is the 'Season Match' function, which enables you to compare progress versus a previous season to date. For example, if your seasons usually run from October to September, and you want to compare your progress in January. 

Group Workouts

Aside from this, TrainerRoad also features a Group Workout feature, which allows groups of riders to take on the same workout concurrently (relative to their own fitness), with a group video chat added to the mix. The feature was initially launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, helping people retain the motivation of riding in a group without leaving their homes. 

How much is TrainerRoad?

TrainerRoad is currently $189 (£153.70) for a 12-month subscription, or $19.95 (£16.22) if you want to go month-by-month.

If you want to try before you buy, there is an active thread on the TrainerRoad forum which enables users to refer others, providing a month-long free trial. 

There is a certain amount you can do before you hit the paywall - such as create your training plan - and a 100 per cent satisfaction guarantee means that you can claim your money back in the first 30 days if the app isn't for you.

How to get started

TrainerRoad probably isn't the indoor cycling app for you if you want to quickly plug and play on intermittent occasions, as it has a strong focus on planning and building for the long term with consistency being the key. The TrainerRoad desktop app is easy to get to grips with, though.

After linking up with your turbo trainer or power meter, you'll undergo a ramp test, and after that, you can get stuck into intervals, which will be tailored to your level of fitness. 

There are pre-set workouts that can help you get up and running in no time, or you can spend plenty of time tinkering with plans and workouts in order to find - or create - the perfect plan for you. 

What equipment do I need?

As with most other indoor cycling apps, you'll need a Mac, Windows, iOS, Android or Apple TV device for use as a screen.

You can use TrainerRoad with any of the best turbo trainers, best power meters or even just a simple trainer with any of the best heart rate monitors. With the first two, you'll obviously be able to use the integrated power meters, but with a non-smart trainer, you'll be using estimations instead. You can even follow a session based on RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion), which allows you the structure of a specified training plan without the expense of the hardware. 

TrainerRoad uses Bluetooth and ANT+ to connect everything together. The app supports more than 200 devices, so there's certain to be something for you. You can also link TrainerRoad with your Strava, Garmin Connect or TrainingPeaks accounts, so you can pool all of your rides and workouts in one place, keeping track of all your sessions and data.

All the courses and rides

This is where TrainerRoad differs from various other training apps, such as Rouvy or Zwift. There's no virtual worlds or videos of real-life courses and mountains to work your way through.

Instead, the app is more analytical and goal-based. When you factor in the possibility to customise your own training plans, then there's pretty much an unlimited range of kilometres to put in.

That's not to say that you're just stuck looking at graphs and numbers though – you can minimise all the data to the periphery while you watch your own movie or switch on Netflix instead. Whereas many competitors cease to operate once the app is minimised, TrainerRoad will continue to control your trainer (when in erg mode) while you lose yourself in your favourite TV show. 

And finally, there's also the option to convert your TrainerRoad session to an outside workout and sync it with your head unit when you get out in the great outdoors. If you have a Garmin or Wahoo cycling computer then you can follow your pre-planned workout as you ride.

Something to look forward to for the end of lockdown, then.