Sufferfest results

I have had a love:hate relationship with indoor trainers since I bought my first one at age 14. Turbo trainers made my knees hurt with their high resistance and poor momentum. Wind trainers made too much noise to watch anything or listen to music without going deaf in the process. When I found a trainer “frame” that a guy in Geelong was producing, I found a solution that lasted me many years. That frame was built into a working stationary bike by adding on a bunch of leftover components from my bike bin. Having a full, heavy rear wheel driving a big flywheel Tacx-brand resistance unit (magnetic – quieter than wind) meant I didn’t get sore knees unless I spent too much time on it. I used it to warm up for races, to test myself, and for the odd training session. But it was big and unattractive and hard to move and covered in sweat-induced rust. When I moved house last year that went in the metal recycling pick-up along with a bunch of 26” MTB wheels and other metal waste.
Enter the smart trainer. About 18 months ago I did a buyer’s guide on smart trainers and got to test ride (in the heat of summer no less) most major brands. If you don’t know, they are smart because they can talk to your Garmin (or similar device) or your computer and take instructions about how many Watts resistance they are meant to be providing at any moment. Within the limitations of the mechanism, no matter which gear you choose and how fast you pedal, you will produce exactly the prescribed power.
It revolutionises interval training.
It makes interfaces like Zwift possible. Zwift is a virtual reality cycling world where you and 500 of your friends (from around the globe) can all ride together on the same course. There are no cars, no actual rain storms and no one ever falls off or gets a flat tyre. When you hit a hill in the Zwift world, the resistance goes up the correct amount. It is amazing.
Zwift is like a video game. Like a good one it is a bit addictive. Also like a good one, it is a bit satisfying. For me, however, it didn’t get to the core of the reason I want to ride indoors. Which isn’t a social ride with a friend from Geneva or Toronto. My desire to ride inside is to get fitter.
After my article came out, I got an email from the head of The Sufferfest inviting me to try his product. They use licenced race footage as an inspirational backdrop for really gruelling workouts. Almost all their workouts are short and sharp – 30 to 90 minutes duration and hellishly difficult. I tried the Sufferfest and liked it. I came away impressed with their new fitness test – the 4DP (Four Dimensional Power).
When it came time to commit to one platform for this winter, I chose Sufferlandria – the mythical nation of Suffer-loving hardmen who walk on lava and eat gravel for breakfast. Last summer I didn’t get in as much riding as I would have liked. I was pretty unfit at the end of the season. I did a 4DP test and it didn’t go so well. But after only 2 months of Suffering I got my FTP (the power you can hold for 60 minutes) up by 7%. This training works.
I’m not without some criticisms – there aren’t sufficient easy day rides. It isn’t actually all about the suffering all the time. Their newest exercise is like one I like to prescribe except it is too hard and too short. I think mine’s better (and it isn’t mine anyway – I got it from the AIS cycling program when I took my Level 2 coaching course). It does the trick for sure.
Now if I can only figure out why the sound has gone out on the TV when I’m using it?
(Note: since writing this the sound has returned… where did you go sound?)