The Tacx Experience by Scott Sherman
When I opened the blinds I knew today's club ride would be canceled. The roads were covered in snow and the temperature would not make it above freezing. Rather than settling for a day on the couch watching football, I decided to climb Alpe d'Huez instead!
Crazy!, you say. Not at all. Donning my Grace kit, I grab a couple of water bottles, jump on the saddle, turn on the computer, and off I go.
How can this be?, you ask. France is six thousand miles away. Not a problem when you have the Tacx Fortius Virtual Reality Trainer. The Fortius is like no other trainer I've ever ridden. With its different modules, I have access to several of the famous European race courses, familiar routes in my town, pre-loaded training routines, and a few training sessions with the pros.
With your own bike mounted on the Tacx trainer and the trainer connected to your PC, your riding options are almost limitless. Let's take a look at some of the different ways to train and have fun.
With the Catalyst module, you can coach yourself and work through step-by-step charts with pre-set training programs. Change the pre-set training programs to suit your personal routine. Create your own workouts from scratch or download them from the Tacx website. All programs allow you to monitor metrics such as speed, cadence, heart rate, power output, and distance to track your progress.
Catalyst screenshot showing an intervals workout
Real Life Videos
Choose from many of the most famous race routes in Europe. Ride all or part of the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold, Mt. Ventoux, Paris-Roubaix, and of course, Alp d'Huez. As you pedal along the Fortius automatically adjusts tension as the road changes grade, forcing you to shift gears or stand. You can really feel the slopes of the Bosberg and the Kwaremont. The Fortius even propels you on the downhills allowing you to coast. All the while you see the road from multiple perspectives while the adoring crowd cheers you on.
Real Life Video screenshot of the Tour of Flanders about to climb the Kwaremont. Note current slope of 8%
Downhill at the Tour of Lombardy
With the Ergo Video workouts, just like the Real Life Videos, you will be riding along a pre-determined route filmed by Tacx. This time, however, you must match the effort generated by professional riders in the video. Don't worry, you can scale back the effort if you need to! Choose to ride with Cadel Evans, Frank and Andy Schleck, or the Rabobank team.
Ergo Video screenshot training with the Rabobank team
In the Virtual Reality module, Tacx works like a video game. Ride the trails, hit the road, or race in the Velodrome. Ride alone or with other simulated riders, all in 3D. Choose different race kits, bikes, and even weather conditions. View your experience from multiple perspectives with the touch of the handlebar mounted button. Receive continuous feedback on speed, distance, time, power, and cadence. With the optional steering attachment, you can add to the fun by choosing how to take a corner; be careful because if you turn on "Collisions", you will crash, albeit virtually.
Screenshot of a Virtual Reality race
Real Life Training
Real Life Training uses Google Earth to allow you to ride your favorite routes or even create new ones. Furthermore, by using GPS data from your Garmin or several bike ride web sites, you can upload your favorite routes, including elevation, right into the Fortius. Ride them any time you want, no matter the weather or the time of day. Keep track of your performance to monitor your progress. Want to ride the Pacific Coast Highway? Load Google Earth from with the Fortius software and map out the route. Then jump on your bike and ride it! Got a big event coming up but can't pre-ride the course? Map it out and start training. You'll be way ahead of your friends without having to leave the house. Doing the Mount Washington Hillclimb? There's only one opportunity to train on Mt. Washington prior to the actual climb. With the Fortius you can train on the route as often as you like...assuming you want to!
Screenshot of Real Life Training creating a ride with Google Earth, much like MapMyRide
Once your ride is created, you can ride your course. Note the 6.4% slope getting out of the GraceBicycles parking lot!
Multiplayer & Web Racing
Make arrangements with your buddies to meet up for a "virtual" ride, any time and in any weather, over the internet. With everyone on their own Fortius, nothing can stand in the way of a group ride. Theoretically, the Grace Bicycles Sunday ride would never be canceled again! You are also free to search for and meet up with other riders from all over the world to ride or race on a myriad of courses. Tacx even arranges regular competitions and posts the results and rankings.
Don't let New England's nasty winter erode your hard-earned fitness. Grace Bicycles is an official Tacx Demo Site. Make an appointment to come in and try the best, most lifelike, and most versatile indoor training experience available. In the meantime, check out the Tacx Virtual Reality web site to learn about the Fortius.