Returning to the virtual race track

2023 marks the third year I have been using the virtual Rouvy platform for online riding and racing.

In 2022 I rode their multi stage spring classics and Vuelta events. These were both individual time trials that you had a certain amount of days to complete the rides and their system would take your stage time and add it into an overall general classification.

Placings equalled prizes with kit and nutrition being given out or discounted for successful riders.

Both were brilliant and I am keeping my fingers crossed that there will be a 2023 classics event with Flanders, Wevelgem, Liege and the Amstel covered.

(hint, hint)

Saturday after what is becoming an annual festive bout of coronavirus, I peeked out of the curtains before declaring that I would be on the turbo and not out on the road.

As I powered up the laptop and started spinning my legs I saw a 9 minute countdown to a race up Alp D’Huez and immediately signed up. I was going all in…

The route downloaded quickly and for those of you who have been in Bourg D’Oisans for real starts just outside Seb Pizza!

The mix of real world video and CGI avatars makes Rouvy different from the likes of Zwift and RGT and the peloton was soon off and making its way out of town towards the Casino supermarket.

We hopped over the roundabout and past the camp site to the left turn that signals the start of the climb and the intense and steep drag to the first switchback.

I went way too hard here to try and keep up with the leaders and see some clear air off the front. My logic being that if I could lead for a few metres that would be success!

I didn’t make it and when the 8 and 9% gradients bit I found myself slipping back from the front as I tried to get into my groove.

Both times in real life I had ground up the climb in my smallest gear. For this I wanted to try and save that for later on if needed and ride a lower cadence and standing out of the saddle a bit more.

This was working well for about three turns and I was solid in the top 10 until a poorly timed gear shift saw my chain come off and a kink wrap itself into the rear mech.

I jumped off and watched in horror as some avatars zoomed past.

The chain went on before skipping off a second time and needed a bit of work to get it back on and running smoothly (I have now taken the bike off the turbo and given it a proper bit of TLC). It didn’t take the 20+ minutes of time I shipped to the race winner though, however much I might want to claim that.

Once I was back going and the adrenalin had died down I found a rhythm where I was about 70-80% of FTP but always felt I had a little something if needed.

A couple of riders zoomed past me and I passed a couple but I was always in my zone and in control of my ride.

Again with parallels to my real life ride I was able to pace myself into the final 4kms (from the dual carriageway and bus stop) into town and take a couple of places back.

My final position was 15th place which I would have, of course, taken at the start line.

You can see from my notes that I was a bit gutted about the chain but it was a brilliant start to the build up to on the road racing and I hope to report on some more events soon.

Thanks Rouvy for hosting.

RGT now part of my arsenal

My clubs Facebook page is not normally buzzing in November, but the announcement this week that the RGT app was changing got lots of traction.

I have been a regular user of Rouvy now for over a year having found the issues of power drop out on the Tacx app too annoying to overcome.

A quick look of the reviews of that product show its still an issue despite Garmin taking over Tacx. Very sad as it is a great looking tool.

Rouvy has been great for me and the fitness I have gained from going up through the skill levels and the competitive racing didn’t leave me in the market for another product.

Fenland Clarion CC have used RGT (short for Road Grand Tours) for their local online winter racing, but I didn’t have the two sources of input to run the software.

Until now.

RGT have revamped their app so its a single product now and I am going to be testing it later on.

Will it be a replacement for Rouvy? and alternative or just used to race my club mates and friends?

I will post again to let you know.

Rouvy Update

Its been a while since my last update on how using the Rouvy app is going, so I thought I would pen a few brief thoughts.

Across the summer I have used it a lot less due to the hot weather. Yes, even here in the UK!

But there has been a number of updates for stability and the launch of the new group ride feature which is out to rival Zwift on that score.

I have yet to join one, so I won’t pass comment until I do, but the feedback in the Rouvy Facebook group has been broadly supportive.

As I am not riding regularly indoors I have stepped away from the levelling up process. Last winter I was keen to get a couple of grades up and really enjoyed the racing needed to get there.

The rides needed to be completed in TT mode though are quite long and the thought of 2-3 hours indoors on a trainer whilst the sun beats down isn’t one I wanted to contemplate.

But you can still rack up points (based on your suffer score on a ride) without needing to complete mandatory routes. So the fun remains.

I have also been riding some routes regularly enough to be able to insert the virtual me’s to try and beat, something that helps me find more pace.

I don’t want to lose to the early season less well trained version of me!

I think the app will continue to come into its own over the winter months. I am planning to race again this winter and use Rouvy to keep me out of the rain and cold.

There are of course plenty of alternatives to do that, but I like riding the augmented reality riders on a real world video. It works for me.

A mix of realy world video and computer game style animated riders works for Rouvy

One negative has been the ongoing issues getting it to work with a tablet. You do need to check the high specs needed to run the app by clicking here. Fortunately the family laptop and my mobile phone rescued me when the Samsung tablet wasn’t able to run the software.

Midweek Fenland 10 hosted by Fendrien

I have busy creating routes and adding to the online virtual presence of Fenland Clarion (my club) events.

This is on Rouvy as that is my platform of choice and I am hosting my first race in the traditional Wednesday evening slot.

It is at 6pm (1800hrs) Uk time and I would like you to ride.

Here is the link to register.

My Rouvy experience – update

Regular readers of the blog will remember that back at the end of 2020 I lost patience with the Tacx app and moved over to Rouvy for my winter training. You can read about my break up with them here.

Despite the influence of a major company like Garmin at the helm their app felt empty of riders and lacked a racing and community feel.

I didn’t have the correct hardware to run Zwift or RGT so its android app (powered by Bluetooth) left Rouvy the sole option.

Having said that my first impressions were good, it didn’t feel like the best of a bad lot and after getting up a level in the career structure by mid December I was ready for my first race.

That was a really good experience, and you can find out how I got on by clicking here.

And so my life and lockdown rolled on with me hauling myself up the Stelvio and taking part in the GCN Cheddar Gorge challenge.

It’s not all been perfect though and my advice to Rouvy is that there are still some fundamentals to work on and make better to improve the experience.

I entered a race last Wednesday evening but the app was so slow opening and then loading me into the event the other riders were gone.

It was only by 30 seconds so I hit the pedals to try and catch up. The app crashed. I reloaded (taking three minutes to get me back to the start line) and then 3 minutes into the ride and a way off the back of the peloton it crashed again.

Game over.

I did check the Facebook page for Rouvy members and it appeared I wasn’t the only one to have issues with that race but I found that in the days after that I couldn’t get back online.

I get that there are snags with software but Rouvy isn’t free so I do expect good service as much as possible.

It’s important to note that since last week an update has been put in the Google Play store and I have found the stability a lot better since then.

I have been using top down map view as opposed to AR in the main though.

But hey, I am nitpicking over some issues that were frustrating for a few days but in the context of being able to ride and race whilst in lockdown I am not going to complain.

Give it a try!

My first race on Rouvy

As you know I have been trialling Rouvy as an alternative to Tacx after some software issues.

It’s ok, Garmin karma got its own back on me when I whalloped my Forerunner on the kitchen door and the screen exploded. Sucks to be me.

How Rouvy looks in AR

We might come back and do a review on Amazons repair service at some point but that would need them to send the watch back… anyway consumer issues aside, I have been having some fun on Rouvy. The riding is fast and despite one or two people putting out over 10 watts per kilo and zooming past from 3km behind, it seems a decent community. So I am happy.

So much so that mid-week last week I entered a race on the Caves route course.

I downloaded the footage and despite only being on a mobile phone joined the race in augmented reality (AR).

I’d done some reading and knew that the racing on here was intense. I still wasn’t prepared for just how much despite a nice 10 minute warm up with a couple of hard sprints.

The timer on screen counted down and the 220 of us intrepid racers flew out of the car park at the start and on to the route. For the first 5 minutes or so I was totally unaware of what was happening as riders flew forward and back past me with the drafting indicator firing on and off repeatedly.

There were some graphical issues but these were soo resolved as the race settled down.

I say settled down but these guys start fast and then don’t let up.

It was super hard and I was drifting outside of the top 100 riders despite putting down nearly 3 watts per kilo and over 200 watts total on the big climb of the race.

At the first split I was already over 5 minutes down on the leader but I was more focused on how the graphics neatly let you know where you were and did the time checks. I could see a group wasn’t too far ahead and set about staying close on the downhill before pulling as hard as I could in the valley road to get back on.

I did and it was nice to do some turns and have a little rest as well in the wheels.

By split 2 the leaders had increased their lead to 8 minute and it was clear that the climbs were proving too much for me to hang on.

My group was still working well together and we set about the flat roads and little lumps on the run in as hard as we could.

Every up hill metre was earned and hurt. This was despite my standard turbo and sensor set up as opposed to direct drive. I was tweaking the resistance up hill to make it more authentic even though it was costing me.

The flat was where I could really make a difference.

The last 2km were downhill having turned off a main road. I was sprinting as hard as I could but I was cooked. In the end I was 86th place at 11 minutes.

I was happy with the place and my ride, but gutted with the time gaps.

But the bug has bitten. When my Fenland Clarion CC racing season ended I never imagined I’d get my shorts and jersey on the race for my team again in 2020… I might squeeze one more in… any flat routes out there? ! 🙂

Tacx-ing issues on the virtual road

Note before the main article – I don’t have a standard laptop so for me the likes of Zwift and RGT are non starters when it comes to virtual cycling.

When the virtual cycling craze started to take off a couple of winters ago I managed to get my regular, non-direct drive trainer to work with the Tacx training app and enjoyed using it.

My rides were top down view on Google maps showing me chugging up the roads (mostly alone) and it certainly helped pass the time in the garage.

Last winter one of their Android updates meant that mobile users had the added bonus of first person perspective videos and the experience became even more immersive. I even spent my hard earned cash on a Premium account which meant I had access to more videos and that I was able to sync my own riding routes from Strava to the app. You will have seen numerous screen prints of this in action in previous posts on here.

I was a happy man.

Then Garmin happened.

Their take over of Tacx left the app alone for a while but between the UK lockdowns there were a number of updates which left users with a basic set up like me feeling a bit let down.

One of the latter updates caused you to have to re-attach and configure all sensors. Suddenly from an FTP in the 260’s the app cut out at 236 watts. Who knew what my performance was or my limits were?

After fiddling with the set up numerous times I came to the conclusion that it was my speed and cadence sensor trainer set up that was the issue. Makes sense I suppose. Garmin will want everyone to trade up to direct drive, for sure.

This was backed up when I started the process back from scratch and followed the set up instructions for my model of turbo. “Inflate the tyre to X psi”, “have the wheel just touch the roller”, “turn the dial 5 times”…

I was putting the same amount of heart rate numbers out but the app was pausing as I had come to a standstill! I changed all the batteries and tried again. It was better but the app was still dropping out over Bluetooth quite regularly.

Reading about all of my friends with different and better hardware and computers racing each other on Zwift annoyed me.

There is little or no racing or interaction on Tacx and it was making me feel lonely having no-one to chase or hunt me down.

To be fair there were a number of occasions where there were other riders on the same course at the same time, but when Bluetooth dropped they vanished.

So I was coming into this winter feeling less than enthused about spending hours on the trainer.

Fortunately Rouvy captured my attention with a free 14 day trial. Fingers crossed this is the future for me as the roads seem a lot busier and the interaction between avatars is there in a way Tacx hadn’t achieved.

Maybe Garmin have big plans to relaunch the app and its going to be marvellous and interactive, but they wont be getting my money until that’s proven.

I will let you know how Rouvy goes…