I got an email a few weeks ago from Gene Nacey – founder of Global Rides, a company specializing in “first person” riding experiences for indoor training – wondering if I’d be interested in giving one of his DVDs a test-run. Not being the biggest fan of training indoors, I agreed enthusiastically… I’m eager to try anything that helps alleviate the potential boredom of training inside on your own.
Global Rides has managed to pack a lot of nice (and thoughtful) touches into this DVD, and it’s apparent right from the menu. Right off the start you’re able to make the choice as to whether or not you’d like music, and if you’d like a coach guiding your ride. I’ve only used the DVD a handful of times, but I can already see that it will be nice to have the flexibility and variety of spinning to your choice of tunes, and/or to ride a slightly different program than the one that’s offered on the DVD.
In addition to being able to turn the music/coaching audio off, you can select from 3 different coaches or a live session. After trying them all, I can say that this is a really great feature (and for me, almost a necessity). Sure it’s nice to be able to mix it up sometimes, but I also found some of the ways the different coaches handled the ride and the motivated you to grind through the gears better suited to my mental riding style. I actually really liked the live session as well, though I found (perhaps not surprisingly) that the voice-over coaching for this section not of the same quality as the others.
After using the DVD a few times, there were a number of things that stood out to me as being particularly helpful – many of which a direct by-product of the “first-person” riding experience:
- Mini checkpoints
Just as if we were on a ‘real’ ride, the coaches did a good job at using mini-mental checkpoints. Rather than simply pushing out a hard set for a final “x” seconds, they would highlight landmarks in the environment… “Let’s push real hard until this corner…” or “keep those legs spinning until we crest this hill.” I found this really helpful since many times this is the way I push myself when I ride – I’ll look at a rock halfway up a gnarly climb and tell myself that I have to make it to the rock, then when I hit the rock I set another goal, until I either blow up, or get to the top.
- Using the on-screen riders
Another thing I found unique and really helpful was some of the coaches use of the on-screen riders. Sometimes it was simply mirroring their actions (ie. if they’re standing on a long incline, you’d better get out of your saddle) which was fun, but what I really liked was how the coaches used them as ‘race-dummies’. If you (ie. the camera) is behind the riders, the coaches will egg you on, getting you to chase them until you pass them, or on the other end of things pushing you to stay ahead if they’re behind you. “Ok, let’s catch these guys…” or “Looks like we’re makin’ these guys hurt, keep it up”… A simple technique, but I found it helped.
- Posture checks
I find that many times when I’m doing intervals or spinning, the goal simply becomes finishing the set and I forget all about good riding form… It was nice to have the coaches chiming in little reminders… “Keep your elbow bent” or “Remember to flatten that back”. Practice like you play… Ensuring you have proper form during these sessions will go a long way to ensure you’re not a wet noodle out there next season.
- Use of heart rate / perceived exertion
Depending on how you train the coaches used both perceived exertion and heart rate, so even if you don’t have a heart rate monitor you’ll be able to get a sincere workout in – Tough I will say that having an understanding of how to train using your heart rate will definitely let you get the most out of the sessions. Sally Edwards also does some cadence work which she’ll help you count out if you don’t have a computer with a cadence setting. That said, the work-outs will be much more enjoyable if you let gadgets do the math so you can focus on your riding ;-)
- Cinematography & aerial course topography
Though the cinematography wasn’t quite BBC or National Geographic HD quality, it was still really well done, and did a good job of recreating that “rider” feel. I also thought the shots were quite well balanced, with a good mix of being behind or in front of the other riders, looking ahead at the open road, or glancing over your shoulder to the scenery as you pass… It actually kinda feels like you’re out on a ride (which is the point, I believe). Prior to each section of the ride there’s also an aerial topographic fly through of the upcoming course – very Tour de France-esque… If only my performance was dramatically narrated by Phil Liggett ;-)
The last feature I really like was the inclusion of a yoga/stretching session. I find yoga to be a little bit of personal thing (ie. whether or not you like it or not), but I found the sesssions at the end of the DVD to be helpful (and hard ;-) Flexibility is key in staying healthy and the exercises did a good job of working the areas specific to cyclists. Although the instructor did a pretty good job of describing the positions (ie. downward dog, cow, cat, etc.) I found that if you’ve gone to yoga sessions before, it will really help get the most out of the poses (then you can focus on moving through the poses, not on how to actually position your body through the poses – especially since some of the positions are moved through quite quickly). Another thing I found helpful was how the instructor often explained how the different stretches synced up with various biking positions. From my understanding this is mixed up on the different DVDs, being one of yoga, pilates, or strength training.
Really after a few sessions with the DVD there was only one thing that bothered me… The audio mixing. The quality itself was fine, but for some reason the coaching was mixed into the left channel and the audio into the right. Because I generally use headphones (yes, even when it’s on the TV) I really noticed this. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but it did bug me.
Overall the DVD was great and it did a good job of getting me to turn the legs over and kick some ass, and production-wise they’re well put together, though there was one little hiccup that I found particularly humorous and I just have to share… As we were grinding up a climb Sally Edwards (the coach) was reminding us to “Take a second to enjoy the scenery, *really* look at it and soak it in”… While on screen Gene Nacey and his riding partner are in front of you out of the saddle… So really you’re soaking in Genes sculpted glutes… But then again, maybe that’s the way Gene wanted it… After all, he’s been working hard on those glutes all season ;-)
- Nice coaching cues – Mini checkpoints, use of on-screen riders, and notes on posture
- Cinematography give you a ‘riders’ feel
- Ability to change coaches (or turn them off)
- Ability to turn music off
- Aerial topography was fun (and previewed your workout to an extent)
- Though the audio quality was good, it would have been nice to have it mixed in stereo rather than music in one channel and voice-over coaching in another
Bottom line, would I recommend the DVD? If you’re looking for something to mix up your indoor training, then definitely. The flexibility of coaching and music options, combined with the ‘real ride’ feel are enough to make the DVD great in my mind – the extra features like yoga/pilates/strength and aerial course views are just icing on the cake!