Riding an Outdoor Route Inside

Riding an Outdoor Route Inside

The truth is that it’s difficult to choose my favorite cycling computer. I’ve reviewed both Stages and Wahoo units and they are both fantastic. I recommend the Wahoo Bolt for road cyclists who like to pre plan their rides then follow the route. The Wahoo Roam has some additional features but not many. At $230, $150 less than the Roam, The Wahoo Bolt is a great option.

Wahoo has updated the Bolt with a new color. It’s a good reminder. One of the best cycling computers on the market has features I still haven’t fully explored.

I reviewed the Wahoo Bolt back in 2017 but Wahoo has an updated color and I’m highlighting it again. It’s a small change and not something I’d cover but it coincided with a few other events. I’m still riding indoors and sheltering in place because of COVID. At the same time a discussion took place on a popular local adventure cycling email list. The discussion covered a recent ride of a long and challenging route. It left me wondering about using a Wahoo head unit to simulate riding an outdoor route inside.

If not for the global pandemic I might not have had a reason to try riding an outdoor route inside.

Using the Wahoo Bolt to simulate riding an outdoor route inside is a feature I knew existed but I never tried. I ride indoors a lot but I generally spend my time free riding or racing in Zwift. This year as the winter turned into spring I completed every badge in Zwift. I was looking for a new challenge.

The route I chose is a celebration of the cutty, unknown, off the beaten path trails that exist in the Portland Metro area. It’s 126 miles, 10,441ft of elevation, and it took me seven and a half hours to complete.

Using the Wahoo Bolt to simulate an outdoor ride will require a Kickr Smart Trainer.

The first challenge I encountered was getting the Wahoo head unit to control a Saris H3 smart trainer. Full stop, it will not work in simulation mode. If you own a smart trainer other than the Kickr you will need to explore how it interacts with a Wahoo computer. In the case of Saris H3 it’s possible to pair the unit and the other indoor modes that Wahoo offers do work. The virtual speed sensor seems to be the issue. Only the “relive routes mode” works by simulating speed.

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Stealth Edition and original next to each other
The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Stealth Edition is on the left. The changes are subtle but it does update the look.

If you have a Kickr then use the mode to select simulation mode. Once there choose your desired route. The Wahoo Bolt will now more or less act the same as it does outside except it will also control the Kickr. Gradients will feel like real life and your speed will correspond to a calculation of your power and gradient. At this point the only thing left to do is choose what to stare at.

Other options for riding an outdoor route inside include a Zwift workout and Rouvy.

If you do not own a Wahoo Bolt, and a Wahoo Kickr, but still want to try riding an outdoor route inside there are a couple of other options. Take your route file and convert it to a Zwift Workout File using the “What’s On Zwift” website. This option won’t allow you to freeride the route and it requires an idea of your typical intensity factors for long rides. Wahoo head units show the intensity factor in the post ride summary. Having seen it enough I have a rough idea that .76 might be reasonable for a long endurance ride.

rouvy start screen with an outdoor ride selected
Rouvy is surprisingly engaging even though you are just staring at an icon slowly moving across a map.

Another option is using Rouvy. The Rouvy option requires a windows computer and the Rouvy Route Editor. Upload a route through the editor to convert it into a Rouvy Route. My experience of using Rouvy this way was akin to watching a Relive video in real time. A small icon following a line on a satellite image represents your progress. It’s better than it sounds and I actually think Zwift could learn a little about designing a more useful UI.

Staring at a small icon following a route on a satellite map sounds worse than it is.

Speaking of Zwift, whatever you decide to use it’s possible to rack up Zwift miles at the same time. Pair your trainer to Zwift in the Power Source section but not the Controllable section. Zwift can run in the background and your Zwift avatar will cover miles.

Hopefully this is a unique moment in history. We won’t be riding inside for the sake of a global pandemic forever. If you ever want to make sure you know a race course really well, or just do something different next winter, these are some of the tools you can use. Wahoo head units, including the recently updated Wahoo Bolt, will allow you to simulate riding an outdoor route inside and it’s an easy way to handle it. If that doesn’t work for any reason then Rouvy is another excellent option.

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Cycling Computer
Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer
Wahoo Kickr Core Smart Trainer
Wahoo Kickr Snap Smart Trainer
People all over the world are experiencing unprecedented hardships. The only thing I can do right now is keep on keeping on. May we all be safe and get back to life as usual soon.

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