SufferFest – a different take on virtual training

As you may already know, armed with me shiny new SMART turbo I attempted to join the virtual cycling world of Zwift. A rather disappointing experience to say the least. However after some badgering from my ‘friends’ I have decided to try out some of the virtual cycling / training apps. Today I tried out the weather crassly named ‘SufferFest’… As I consume my protein recovery drink here are my thoughts… SufferFest differs from Zwift considerably. The latter relies heavily on modern app design principles of gamification and a socialised experience. SufferFest is much more focused on providing a ‘training’ experience, although somewhat tainted (and cheapened?) by overtly crass innuendo and reference to BDSM. There really is no need…

What worked well?

It was very easy and intuitive to install the app and create an account. You are offered a free 30 day trial and they immediately scored brownie points by not forcing me to lodge a credit card with them. The app installed on my very old iPad (Zwift would not do so) and from the get-go I was led through the experience. They present a series of emails and videos to help you get acquainted and explain what you should do. I’m loving it already and haven’t even gone to The Bike Room yet!!

Apparently I need to do a Full Frontal test (you see what I mean… They just can’t leave it alone), which is essentially an FTP test plus a bit. They have coined the notion of a 4D power rating which does seem to make some sense and is probably supported by some science. Having done the test (which took and hour and was bloody hard!! Much sweat was shed I can tell you…) you are emailed a rider profile (bit like a personality profile) and some recommended training sessions that will improve your weaknesses. Liking it even more at that point and they have definitely given thought to the user journey

What didn’t go so well?

To be honest very little to criticise about it! The only problem I hit was that using an old iPad meant that I couldn’t actually connect to my turbo. Whilst the iPad has bluetooth it is first generation (not second). So whilst the app will run (big tick), it would need second gen Bluetooth support, basically a newer iPad. Alternatively I suspect that adding an ANT+ dongle to the iPad would also fix the problem.

As a work around, and because I was actually quite liking it and keen to do the FTP test, I used the app on my iPhone. It worked fine, but let’s be honest at 50 years old with dodgy eyesight you don’t want to be trying to use a screen that small!

The FTP test.

Quick note about this. The format is 60 minutes and has three different tests in it. Have to say that I quite liked the user interface and they found the right balance of information, prompts and watchable video. It certainly didn’t have a video game feel to it like Zwift. The result indicated an FTP of about 176w which was a tad on the low side (I am currently about 205w using a standard 20min test). But I’m happy it reflected what I actually did this evening.

Now the smart part to this is that the subsequent training plans are all based upon the personalised assessment from today. In practice this is a massive so what as any power based plan will be based on zones and they are effectively personalised based on your FTP. However despite knowing this, SufferFest still managed to ‘persuade’ me that they are doing something special for me… Qudos to them I say

In Conclusion

My impression is that if you love data and are keen to follow a structured training plan, don’t get bored on a turbo then you are going to prefer SufferFest. Not to say that Zwift would not give you training plans, I’m sure it would (if I had found them!), but Sufferfest is all about the plan. Zwift feels like you get fitter as a by product of playing and you will be great for the kind of athlete that gets bored on a turbo and would watch a film. Subtle difference but suspect that these two Apps appeal to very different audiences.

If you use TrainingPeaks then you will love the tight integration with SufferFest. I chose to not connect it to anything other than TrainingPeaks, preferring instead to record the session on my Garmin and let that update Strava and everything else. If you are not keen to promote your use of a particular training App then you might want to think about recording the workout as normal using your bike computer as normal.

I liked SufferFest a lot! Not a full convert and certainly would need to do something better than using an iPhone, but overall I could see myself using it… Liked that they are more than just bike workouts and include yoga videos. Like that they don’t deliver a gasified experience. Didn’t like the crass innuendo and the constant reference to how they will make you suffer… I am really am a little beyond that 😉

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