A defining feature of outdoor cycling is the uncertainty of the open road. On a new route, we never know exactly what will happen. The road makes each ride unique, especially since we move so fast and so far.
That visual excitement has been missing from indoor cycling — until now.
The video/indoor cycling combination is currently being explored by a dozen or more businesses in an effort to enhance indoor-cycling workouts. Some videos show an instructor sitting on an indoor cycle, leading a class. Some present a continuous “flow” of road that simulates the view from a bike. This simulated view, called forward-motion video, is presently used by some instructors to punch-up their classes. It can also be accompanied by a voiceover to provide a workout with no instructor, much like the instructor-on-a-bike videos.
Consumer demand for this has been growing for several years and impacts all of us who teach indoor cycling.
Use of video by a well-trained instructor is likely to improve the virtual-cycling experience the most. In considering the addition of video to our classes, let’s remember that Virtual Reality, or virtuality, is not new to indoor cycling. Even without the visuals, we’ve taken our students on simulated rides “outside” the studio since 1995. Creating a ride through guided imagery, words, voice tone, lighting and world music (rather than “workout music”) is the instructor’s job – it’s what makes indoor cycling different from other fitness classes.
Still, adding video sparks worry. Some instructors call it over-stimulation. Some say it’s unnecessary, costly, hard to run. Some are afraid they’ll lose their jobs to it. Still others react to poor video quality, not enough new video being produced, DVDs with the same ride every time, or too much equipment to operate.
I like to return to what we always intended to do in our classes: engage our students in an indoor version of what it’s like to ride a bike. Video can help us do that. Imagine the thrill of powering your bike at 30 mph on a desert road in Arizona, not just in your mind, but big-as-life on a screen. How about dancing on the pedals as the bike floats up the Alpe d’Huez?
Concerns about quality are valid. Most cycling videos on the market are made either by cycling professionals with amateur media skills, or by low-budget producers with semi-professional tools, none of whom have resources for creating the massive library necessary to sustain entertainment over hundreds of sessions. But professionalism and genius can create exciting virtual-cycling adventures.
2012 will introduce technological leaps in production and delivery that will propel virtuality to new levels. We’ll see:
- Specialized filming that simulates the way a rider's eyes see the road, e.g., leading into a turn prior to the actual turn of the bike.
- Post-production tools to eliminate vibrations and shakiness in the image.
- High-def displays, using big-screen projection.
- Increased production budgets for greater depth and variety.
- Media consoles to make use and non-use of video a flexible and easy instructor choice.
- Compelling virtual rides that combine high-quality video and audio with voiceovers by top master instructors.
For decades, Hollywood has created magic though expert filming and post-production. Virtual-cycling can create equally powerful and moving experiences, especially when directed by a trained professional. Rather than being a threat to our jobs, it’s an exciting step forward that will make us better at what we do. I’m eager to pass along what I’m learning about it.
I’m proud to be associated with the industry leaders in this area — Indoorcycling Group and Virtual Active – See a Sample Here.
Next week’s post will cover how we can use cycling video and coach with it effectively.