So I decided to lead my first virtual ride this past week.  In my true style, I didn”™t just try it in one of my classes but at all 5 clubs.  I like to just throw myself into things so I can learn and experience while the iron is hot.  For those not familiar with a “virtual ride”, this is when the class rides to a video.  In most cases the video is designed to simulate the road the riders are on to provide a more realistic “visualization” and experience. I”™ve seen this attempted in the past but never with much success.  I contributed the lack of success to a number of things:

(1) The screen or TV was too small to allow riders to feel like they were “there”.  Even large screen LCD TVs will not cut it.
(2) The video was not stimulating enough and/or the camera angles were not realistic.
(3) The instructor either said nothing and just let the riders roll along to the music OR gave not-so-exciting (and obvious) dialog to accompany the video like “OK, now we are climbing so let”™s add some we are going downhill so let”™s take some of the resistance off".

The Equipment

I decided that if I was going to do a virtually ride, I wanted to give it a fair shake. Besides the video or DVD, I needed to have good equipment.  But it needed to meet a couple of criteria if I was going to start incorporating these rides on a regular basis.  First, everything needed to by uber-portable.  I don”™t want to be lugging in a mini production crew to pull this off. Second, I need to be able to setup in less than 30 minutes with minimal disruption to the room and finally, the picture quality needs to be captivating.  Here is what I put together:

  • HD Projector with Tripod mount
  • Tripod
  • 25”™ Electrical Extension Cable
  • 25”™ iPod Audio Extension Cable
  • HDMI Cable/Adapter from Laptop to Projector
  • Laptop (with DVD Player)
  • White Queen-size Cotton Bed Sheet
  • 2” wide Black Duct/Gaffers Tape

I was able to successfully setup everything 20 minutes.  This included having to shift a few bikes to make room for the projector and tripod and in 2 cases, move the bike and rolling stereo cabinet off the instructor platform.  The cycling studios I teach at all have mirrors so I was not able to project on the wall. This is where the white sheet and tape came in.  I simply taped the sheet to the mirror and it worked great.  By my fifth class on Friday, I clocked the setup at 14 minutes. Taking everything down only took 10 minutes.

Hey Mikey, I Think They Liked it!

It was an absolute hit across all clubs (each with a very different demographic) and at different timeslots from morning to evening.  With no big surprise, I performed my virgin virtual ride experience with one of Global Ride Productions”™ France DVDs which included the ascent up the Col de la Columbiere.  There was some added excitement with this particular choice since we had just come off the heels of 3 weeks of indoor Tour de France rides with riders left in a post-TDF depression.

Before I led the ride, I watched the DVD and wrote a script of how I was going to approach the class.  I incorporated early warm-up drills, climbing intervals and some attacks with grueling muscular strength efforts.  In addition to great (multiple) camera angles, the video included riders on the road which we (the class) intermingled with along the way.  I led the same class all week.  Yes, the researcher in me wanted to compare apples to apples with each class.

The virtual ride received rave reviews.  Riders felt it was the best experience they had ever had and one of the hardest workouts. As an instructor, I found it very easy to lead.  The Global Ride DVDs are divided into consecutive sections that make sense as a single ride and there is a timer at the bottom right of the screen so it is hard to get lost.  I decided to use the music provided (Whoa....I know) just to see how it would fly right out of the package per se.  Needless to say I had a ton of fun last week and got some great “energizing” feedback.

ZONE 5 ALERT: As many of you know, I tend to fake it through many of these classes.  Basically, I don”™t work as hard as my riders in order to coach them on and off the bike.  I found these virtual rides hard to fake.  My heart rate ran into zone 5 (capacity) with my riders as we hit the summit of the Col de la Columbiere.

If you”™ve done virtual rides in your classes, add some comments below and share your experiences and what you”™ve learned.  I spoke to ICI/Pro member/instructor Shirin Beckett (CA) last week who has a lot of experience with virtual rides.  I”™m hoping she will add some gems to this topic as well.  I”™m also including a link to the cue sheet I created for DVD 3 “TDF Climbing in FRANCE” so you can how I organized and approached the ride - Download Cue Sheet

Give it a try! But be careful, you may just get addicted to indoor cycling all over again!


Originally posted 2011-08-23 05:00:26.

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