One of the least affected sporting disciplines during the lockdown restrictions was cycling. The development and proliferation of online training applications allowed cyclists to log great training hours in a virtual world. Zwift is the most popular of these apps with thousands of kilometres of virtual roads on which to train and race. The developers at Zwift have also added the ability for runners to use their system. Either through a Bluetooth enable treadmill or by means of a footpod, which calculates speed and effort, and which controls your avatar.
While training on a Concept 2 Rower or Ski Erg is an effective and efficient way to train indoors using a structured session, wouldn’t it be great if we had a virtual lake or snowy, mountain terrain to immerse ourselves in? It would certainly help to make the hours pass.
As for cycling and running before the advent of online, virtual training platforms, indoor training was normally reserved for high intensity, short duration efforts. It was hard to stay engaged and motivated for the necessary endurance efforts at lower intensities. It is this aspect of Zwift and other platforms, that has enabled cyclists and runners to log training hours that would be impressive outdoors, whilst in the comfort (or should that be discomfort?) of their training rooms.
As it turns out, it is possible to connect your PM5 head unit on your Concept 2 Rower or Ski Erg to Zwift. Obviously your avatar is still a little guy or girl on a bicycle but the power that you are generating will send it hurtling through Watopia like any of its pedal-powered peers.
There are a number of apps that enable this both on IOS and Android devices but our quick online research seems to indicate that the most popular and easiest to use is ‘RowedBiker’. The app emulates Bluetooth cycle trainers and converts ‘rowing wattage’ into ‘cycling wattage’ and that powers your on-screen avatar. There are additional functions that cater to the specific needs of rowers or skiers, like the ability to take a drink or message in-game. This is obviously easy to do for someone generating their effort from their legs but ‘RowedBiker’ has what they call a ‘Cruze’ function that works similarly to the cruise-control in your car and maintains your power so that you don’t lose the group you are with if you pause to grab a bottle. There is also the option to ‘bank power’ before you need it using the ‘Cruze Reserve’ to maintain workout integrity.
Concep2 Model D RowErg
The dependable performance of the Concept2 Model D Indoor Rower has made it the best-selling indoor rower in the world. The Model D is efficiently engineered and will last a lifetime. This spec is black and features the new PM5 monitor
I suppose many would ask why would you want to row a cycling avatar in a virtual world?
You can train with friends – If you and your training partners have Rowers or Ski-Ergs at home, you could create ‘meet-ups’ in Zwift and train as a group. There is also the possibility of joining events although these are obviously still cycling events as far as Zwift is concerned and it may be difficult to pull the kind of power required to win a bunch sprint in the virtual world. Racing amongst other Erg users though, could be a whole lot more fun than looking at yourself in the mirror or staring at a blank wall. Using other apps like ‘Discord’ you can also chat, banter and motivate each other through the workout or private race, without the need for disrupting your stroke rate.
Follow workouts – There are a plethora of pre-designed workouts in Zwift, which could provide fantastic structure to your sessions or just help to take the thinking out of creating your own. That said, there is also the ability to create and design your own workouts or, write in the sessions your coach sends you. The app then guides you through this as you train, without any further need for adjustment, and actually very little concentration other than to hit the required numbers.
Cycling was the focus of Zwift in the beginning before running was added. I am sure that it is only a matter of time before we see little rower and skier avatars introduced with the ability to row over the undersea tunnels in Watopia, or cross-country ski their way up Alpe du Zwift.