Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a big buzzword at the moment in cycling training circles and beyond. The idea behind using AI in sports training software is not to entirely replace the role of the coach, but to offer a different and potentially more tailored approach to your training in the form of an online cycling coach.
By using an algorithm (set and determined by qualified coaches and sports scientists), the software can then adapt and use data as a means to set training schedules. Naturally, some people prefer the more personal touch of a coach, but for those who want efficient results or perhaps live very busy lives and often have to adapt their training, it could be a great alternative to coaching.
Spoked is one such piece of software that uses AI to help determine the best training schedules depending on your goals and events. But where there is something as exciting as AI and cycle training, there will always be other competitors.
In this piece, we’ll examine how Spoked stacks up against some of the other big players in and out of the AI training universe. Essentially, what does Spoked offer compared to things like Zwift or Trainerroad. We'll uncover the best cycling training apps for you to use in your training.
We’ll outline how each platform compares against five variables: personalisation, flexibility, price, plans, and external app connectivity .The purpose of this article isn’t to try and necessarily sell Spoked to you, but to provide you with impartial buying advice and more information on what the cycling training market has to offer compared to a traditional coach.
"Curious about training with Spoked? Spoked is free to download and use, and comes with a free 30-day trial of our Pro plan. Download the iPhone or Android app and create a plan today.”
Trainerroad is a primarily indoor training app based system that offers personalised training calendars and plans and millions of workouts for you to ride. Firstly, if you want to begin training with Trainerroad, you need to create your plan. You do this by choosing a discipline, for example, road cycling, and tell the site how many hours a week you currently train or want to train, and what (if any) events you’re training towards and the dates.
The system then creates a recommended plan for you, and provides a calendar so you can see in advance what workouts you’ll be doing. Interestingly, to measure your functional threshold power (FTP), it asks you to complete the ramp test provided in Trainerroad rather than conducting a traditional 20 minute test or similar.
So what does Trainerroad offer in terms of personalisation? It’s one of the closest mimics to Spoked in its personalisation, as it offers something called Adaptive Training. In their words, it, “Uses the power of machine learning to continually adjust around your performance, goals, and needs.”
In practical terms, this means that your plan adjusts to your fitness. So if your functional threshold power begins to improve, it’ll detect this and ask you if you would like to adjust your plan to keep you on track.
Adaptive training uses both science and machine learning in order to determine your next workout and how you’re doing in your plan. It should be noted that there is some but limited information on the Trainerroad website detailing what exactly this is or how it works.
After every workout, you answer a short survey detailing how the effort you completed felt. If there are any adaptations to be made to your plan, a notification will pop up to tell you and you can choose to accept or ignore these suggestions.
Furthermore, you can edit your calendar any time you like using a simple drag and drop feature, allowing you to move workouts to new days. Trainerroad does, however, recommend adding in ‘time off’ if you’re ill or need a break rather than manually moving weeks of training around.
The personalisation continues with something called TrainNow. This gives you the best options for workouts to complete whether you’re on a training plan or not. You can add a workout into your calendar, and it will suggest which workout will benefit you the most.
There are 100 individual training plans to choose from, which means there are 100 different goals but there are millions of workouts within each one so it isn’t like following a static programme.
Completing the workouts can be done through the app on your indoor trainer (but check that your equipment is compatible before downloading - a smart trainer is recommended for more accuracy), or outside. If you want to export a workout to complete it outside, you can do so for Garmin and Wahoo head units, although there is an API available for more units if they choose to get involved. You can also download your ride files if you need to view them in other software such as TrainingPeaks.
Upon downloading the app, new users get a one month free trial, and then it costs either $18.99 a month or $189 annually depending on how you want to pay. In the UK there may also be taxes and you should pay attention to the exchange rate as it’ll fluctuate and change the price of the software.
Even from the moment you download the app and create your plan, Spoked’s USP is personalisation and flexibility. We’re not pretending to be better than an experienced cycling coach or exercise physiologist, but we are trying to make smart training more accessible. Offering an online cycling coach alternative means it can be more affordable and in our case, more flexible than that of a traditional cycling coach.
Your plans are set by using data you input such as your FTP through the use of a power meter or smart trainer, your threshold HR, or if you have none of those available, you can use a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to determine how your training plan is laid out to you.
Furthermore, Spoked is one of the only training apps to give you what we call a Readiness Score. This personalised score identifies just how ready you are to train today on a scale of 1-5 (5 being excellent, 1 being very low). We’ve written a blog on the Spoked readiness score and how it works if you want to learn more.
Furthermore, every day you’re asked to input health stat metrics which will also help determine your week’s workout and training plan. Enter how long you slept, how long it took you to fall asleep and whether you woke up a lot, your physical feeling and mental feeling. The latter is put on a sliding scale.
Depending on how you answer, Spoked may adjust your training to make sure you’re not burning out and are ready for the training that’s been planned. It does this from a weekly perspective, using adaptive mode which adjusts the daily workout based on how closely you followed the workload.
The beauty of Spoked is that you can change your plan, your structure and the hours and days you want to train at any given time. Has something come up and you can no longer ride 3 hours? You can easily move it to another day or adjust the time you can ride - Spoked will automatically update either the week’s or day’s (depending on what you choose) workouts to reflect the new amount of time you have to spend on the bike.
The AI algorithm takes into account the work you’ve done or what you can do and balances reaching your goals without pushing you to burnout. It’s easy to try and accommodate for skipped sessions by ramping things up, but Spoked is clever enough to know when to push and when to back off with your training so you get the most out of yourself without going overboard.
You can also choose whether or not to ride your sessions as indoor training sessions on a smart trainer, for example, or outside. You can even include group rides as an option (we call them free rides, so you don't have to stick to a strict structure).
Spoked offers a tiered pricing structure, with Starter (free), Base (£3.99 per month) and Pro (£9.99 per month). When you download and use Spoked for the first time, you'll automatically be enrolled onto the Starter plan, which is free for life but you're restricted to three activity uploads per week as well as a reduction in other functionalities. All new users are offered a free 30-day trial of our Pro plan, which includes all Spoked's functionalities.
When you start your plan with Spoked you can choose to either make a ‘Get started now’ which is a general plan to help you start training straight away, or to build your own. When you build your own this is where you really get into the goals and target events you have so you can train specifically towards them.
There are some suggested goals like ‘getting back into it’ which is great for when you’ve perhaps taken a break off the bike and need some help getting back into structured training. Then there’s things like rolling road race plans where your training is specifically tailored to the type of event you’re doing.
It’s easy to export workouts from Spoked so you can complete them indoor and out. You can download them as a .zwo file (easy to upload and ride in Zwift, Trainerroad etc.), or export the session to Garmin Connect or TrainingPeaks. If you have a Wahoo head unit, you can download the workout via your synced TrainingPeaks account. You can also connect your Strava account.
Want to find out more about Spoked, check out this detailed demo highlighting everything you need to know.
Zwift is highly regarded as one of the best indoor cycling training apps and positions itself as something of a game, with cartoon graphics and levels etc. It is, of course, much more than that and is a platform that allows you to perform a workout, ride virtually with others through group rides, and compete in virtual racing from the comfort of your own home. What makes it one of the best indoor training apps is that it uses virtual worlds to immerse you in while you complete your training rides.
Using a smart trainer will give you the most out of the experience, and as you can dial in your training zones and visualise your exact power output through your smart trainer power meter rather than using ZwiftPower (aka virtual power) which is an assumed power level. This also means you can take part in races and be included in leaderboards. The original virtual world, Watopia, has now seen a few more expansions and includes places like London and France.
There are lots of indoor training plans available but they’re static, not adaptive. If you find yourself skipping a load or struggling or even finding them too easy the only way you can adjust them is by adjusting the intensity % which is set at 100% as normal.
A smart turbo trainer is also needed to really get the most out of this app, although you can use a 'dumb' trainer (which is a turbo trainer that doesn't have a power meter built in) but the results may not be quite as accurate.
The indoor training structured workouts aren’t on set days per say, but there are suggested amounts and workouts for each week. You can do them on any day of that particular week.
There is no free version. There is a 7 day trial period, then you pay £12.99 a month.
There are lots of training plans in the app, from mountain bike training to time trialling, but they are for indoor training use only.
You can import workouts to be performed on your smart trainer via the app (like from Spoked), and once you’ve completed a workout they can be exported to multiple apps like Garmin Connect, TrainingPeaks, Strava etc.
"Want to ride your personalised Spoked workouts in Zwift? Simply connect Spoked to TrainingPeaks. Spoked is free for the first 14 days so you can download the iPhone or Android app and create a plan today.”
Formerly known as the Sufferfest, Wahoo SYSTM is a multi-sport training app that bases your ideal workouts around something called a four dimensional power profile, aka 4DP. This moves away from traditional FTP only based programmes, and instead identifies your strengths and weaknesses as a rider. However, riding the 4DP isn't for the faint hearted. It tests your neuromuscular power and every other energy system.
Alongside cycling training, Wahoo SYSTM also gives you access to a whole host of structured workouts in disciplines like yoga, strength, running, swimming and mental training. Plus Wahoo acquired RGT, which gives you the benefit of magic roads which turns your favourite real world routes in virtual routes.
There isn't any. Like other apps, if your 4DP or FTP is updated then your Wahoo SYSTM training sessions adjust accordingly. This is a standard feature, but lacks any true personalisation where if you complete a workout too hard, the following workouts don't update.
Your Wahoo SYSTM training plan is available to view in a calendar format, within which you can reschedule or remove training sessions.
There is a no free version.Wahoo SYSTM offers a 14 day free trial period then it’s $14.99 a month or $129 a year.
First, the SYSTM recommends you complete a 4DP test to accurately gauge your current fitness. Then you can select a plan. First, select a discipline (cycling, multi-sport or cross-training). From there choose several options which will tailor your plan to your goals and current fitness - here you can also choose to add strength, yoga and mental strength workouts to your plan.
Most of the training sessions have an outdoor equivalent so you can export them to your Wahoo device. If you don’t have a Wahoo head unit, then you need to manually create the session if you wish to complete it outdoors. You can, however, share your ride data to external apps like Strava and Garmin Connect once you’ve completed the session.
Rouvy is another indoor training app, with its USP being the ability to ride real-life outdoor routes from the comfort of your own home. Pre-recorded videos mean you can ride up Mont Ventoux, for example, with the speed of the video adjusting based on your power. It also allows you to follow the terrain of the route, so if you are riding up a big col in the Alps, it will feel like you are as well.
You can take part in something called a ‘career’, which has 80 levels and you move through the levels by earning coins when you ride. Outdoor training rides also count towards this, so you don’t feel like you have to be indoors all year round.
Rouvy doesn’t offer many plans, it’s more of a library of workouts combined with hundreds of real-life routes to make the indoor training experience that little bit less of a chore. So from a personalisation and flexibility point, you can choose whatever training session you like on any given day.
There is a 14 day free trial period. Afterwards it costs 15€ per month, 84€ for six months, or 144€ for 12 months.
There is an extensive workout library, and over 700 routes to choose from to ride as you workout. From a plan perspective, there are only a few short-term ones to pick from, including the ‘get back into shape’ plan.
There is TrainingPeaks integration so you can import planned workouts and complete them in the app. You can also connect apps like Garmin Connect and Strava to share your rides. If you want to import a workout, it must be one of the following file formats: .ERG or .MRC.
"Curious about Spoked? Spoked is free for the first 14 days so you can download the iPhone or Android app and create a plan today.”
Similar to Rouvy, FulGaz is an indoor cycling platform that promotes realism through real-life routes and high-quality videos which you can ride from your home. FulGaz boasts over 1,500 routes from over 40 countries.
The plans available from FulGaz are static. The sessions might be tailored to your FTP within the app, but the actual type of sessions prescribed are the same for everyone that downloads the plan.
FulGaz suggests you complete the workouts prescribed on the days that they are set, but you can move them around as you see fit. There are also suggestions for days when you’re not set a specific FulGaz workout.
There is a no free version. FulGaz offer a A 14 day free trial period, then it costs £9.99 per month, or £85.99 annually.
There are a few plan options in FulGaz, including a 4-week climbing booster plan, 12-week climbing booster plans, and 12-week FTP plans.
You can import training sessions from external sources by uploading a .zwo file to the system. Alternatively, you can sync TrainingPeaks with FulGaz and import workouts that way.
MyWhoosh are the new kids on the block and perhaps one of the indoor cycling apps you haven't heard of. It's a free app that allows you to ride in the virtual worlds that cover courses in Australia, Columbia, Alula and Arabia. Like all these other indoor cycling apps, using smart trainers is the best way to maximise your experience of the product. If you do use non smart trainers, having access to power meters will bridge that gap.
They have a bunch of workouts that can challenge your maximal aerobic power, anaerobic capacity, threshold and endurance. Plus you can build your own custom workouts. You can also join group rides through out the week to get that social buzz indoors.
MyWhoosh do offer iOS and android solutions, which makes it easy to get started.
MyWhoosh offers limited personalisation like other training apps, where individual sessions don't adapt to your training data, health data and outdoor riding. This is what makes Spoked different to the virtual riding platforms and what you pay for Spoked.
Your MyWhoosh training plan is available to view in a calendar format, within which you can reschedule or remove training sessions.
MyWhoosh don't offer a premium membership. The platform is free to use. Maybe in the future they may charge, but we'll see.
One of the huge benefits of MyWhoosh is their training plans are based by sports science. Kevin Poulton the director a super experience coach for many pros and team has led this department. They have a great selection of static plans and workouts that align to your training time, target event and cycling goals.
You can import training sessions from external sources by syncing with TrainingPeaks or Today's Plan.
There’s no denying there’s plenty out there to tempt you - although the majority of apps are tailored towards the indoor cycling market and barely any use the full functionality that AI or machine learning training can offer you. It's hard to conclude what is the best indoor cycling app.
At Spoked, we believe that our way of providing training plans is a cheap alternative to a coach for those who want to get fit but might need a more flexible approach than pestering a coach over WhatsApp every night to adjust their session.
If you want to give Spoked a try, it’s free to download and free to try for 14 days with no credit card required. Download it from the App Store or from Google Play.