For many of us winter means one thing; turbo training. For some a mindless hour in hell, for others a chance to work those numbers. Love it or hate it, there’s no doubting that a little visual stimulation can make the whole process more bearable. Various options are available to alleviate the boredom, anything from watching old races, listening to thumping music, or immersion in virtual 3d worlds with adjustable resistance; the choice is mind boggling. We take a brief look at one of original players, the Sufferfest. What started as simple clips of racing with some stirring music, has now become a fully featured app that can control your smart trainer.
Last year, I talked about the Kinetic Road Machine Smart Trainer, and one of the great things about that trainer was the free app that Kurt Kinetic makes available. If I were to follow up on that article, I would still have good things to say. If you find yourself considering more than what the free level offers, though, you will find a somewhat dizzying array of options available to you. One of the names that should rise to the top – they are one of the older and more well known companies in the space – is Sufferfest.
Sufferfest has built a brand all about suffering today, so that you can make others suffer tomorrow, and that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the way in which they serve up their videos. In the past, you purchased a video and owned a license to play it. Recently, they’ve introduced new apps that allow a richer experience as well as streaming. It’s designed not only to reduce the flow of “shared” videos but also introduce additional flexibility for consumers. In practical terms, it means you pay a monthly fee, $10/month, to get access to all the videos.
If you’ve never experienced Sufferfest videos, they very much remind me of what I imagine a typical spin class involves. There is driving electronic music, some great cycling video, a bit of humour mixed in from time to time, and above all, intensity. It’s unclear to me how pervasive the brand really is, but they certainly work hard to give the perception that there is a dedicated following of “Sufferlandrians”, and you’ll find this thread flows through all of the videos. When things gets hard, you will be reminded that you are a “Sufferlandrian” not a “Couchlandrian” and phrases like “I Will Beat My Ass Today to Kick Yours Tomorrow” are pervasive. How much this appeals to you is going to be subjective, but there is one thing you can be sure of, if you do the workouts regularly, you will get stronger.
What I think is important as a takeaway is that Sufferfest is very much about the traditional model of training. The videos are structured around intervals, and the experience is an individual one. You will not be racing anyone, and there is no gamification. What you will be doing is working really hard by yourself and training for your goals. If the traditional model of individual hard work with an eye on later glory appeals to you, then Sufferfest is an excellent option.
In the modern world we live in, the technology of delivering an experience such as this is at least as important as the actual content. It’s a lot for these small companies to juggle, and they have all taken slightly different paths. Some companies have gone app only and some have gone computer program only. Sufferfest appears to be attempting to cover all the bases, but they have left Android off the table, at least at this point. I have Android and OSX available to me for testing and while Android seems to have been available at some point, the app in Google Play store says it’s no longer being supported; it’s dead at this point. The OSX app is, thankfully alive and well and I was very happy with the performance of the app. My late 2011 Macbook Pro doesn’t have a modern enough Bluetooth implementation to connect to Bluetooth Sensors, but an ANT+ USB adapter worked well. I did find myself struggling a bit initially to figure out where the sensor connection takes place. It happens once you select a video, and it’s also worth noting that if you are riding with a power meter, and no additional cadence sensor, don’t let it connect a cadence sensor; the cadence will show when the power meter is connected.
Reviewing a training app is a little bit subjective. There is no way around the fact that what I like might not be what you like. What I can tell you is that the Sufferfest videos are all about individual hard work in pursuit of your goals. If intense training with driving music is something that sounds appealing to you, then you will enjoy Sufferfest, and if you do them consistently you will make change. The app doesn’t exist on Android, so if that’s your need you are out of luck, but the OSX app works well.
If I was in charge, I’d make a few small changes. I’d love to see the metrics, speed/cadence/power, moved from the top of the screen to the bottom, so they were easier to see. When riding with power, I find the emphasis on perceived effort somewhat annoying, and I’d prefer if there was always a countdown to the next effort change showing on screen. These are small details, though. The bottom line is that Sufferfest works as a training program, and the app is very close to perfect. If you haven’t ever tried a Sufferfest video, or you have been holding off for some reason, now is an excellent time to take advantage of their 7 day free trial.
The Sufferfest are running a Tour of Sufferlandria from the 4th to the 12th of February; worth a look if you need something to cure your cabin fever! One of our reviewers will be riding it and we’ll post his review once he’s recovered.
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