Many of us will have seen spinning classes at gyms where cyclists pedal imaginary routes up and down mountain trails and along city paths while looking at a screen. Dutch company Praxtour believes its virtual biking experience for professional is a cut above, offering ergonomically-correct training bikes that traverse real time simulated routes that test even the fittest athlete. An onboard computer logs all the relevant training data, and resistance and natural scenery are adapted to how much effort cyclists are putting in. It's probably the closest thing most riders will get to competing in the Tour de France without being part of the peleton.
Praxtour was designed to follow as closely as possible the principles of a real racing bike: same size, same riding position. Even bike parts of renowned brands reinforce the idea of pedaling on a real racing bike, say its designers.
The PowerConsole is equipped with specially-developed software and a 22” wide touch screen that projects the rider’s route from a first-person perspective, as if you were actually riding the route (minus the bugs, dangerous motorists, and debilitating temperatures).
The “journey” is real time – the faster you pedal the more distance you cover on-screen. If the road is ascending, the resistance immediately increases and riders will shift gears to keep going. Stop, and the film stops with you. Stop for 10 minutes and training session ends.
Praxtour is constantly expanding its library to contain classics and a number of routes on alpine giants in France and Italy, including the formidable the Alpe d'Huez. But don’t despair if you’re a sprinter not a climber - shorter and flatter routes are being added to the program. Your initial bike comes with six routes.
Serious riders will recognize some of the routes already available: Alpe d’Huez, Mont Ventoux, Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Télégraphe, Gorges de l’Ardeche, Col du Glandon, Col du Galibier, Gorges de la Nesque, Complete Marmotte cycloclassic (French Alpes), Moselweinstraße (Germany), Holterberg (NL), Posbank (NL) and Windmillroute Kinderdijk (NL). The route DVDs are offered for sale separately or in a box of six. Each route costs €30 (US$40) and a box of six is €150 (US$200 approx).
Of course, not everyone interested in riding a Praxtour is a professional cyclist so the bike comes with four settings: light, medium, sport and real, so that everyone can attempt difficult stages and also build their level of fitness.
A “'Time Riding” option lets riders race the clock or a previous time trial. And “MultiRiding” pits up to four riders together (providing they all have Praxtour kits).
Praxtour kits comprise the special bike, computer and routes and are not interchangeable with other software or training bikes. The software is Windows XP or Vista compatible. The system only works when connected to a computer.
Praxtour aims to offer its users an extensive library of route films with an additional six routes hopefully added each year.
The Praxtour is not designed as a standard stationary bike - hence the pricetag. The pro version will set you back €4,500 (US$6,000+) while the standard version - without computer and monitor - is €3,300 (US$4,500 approx). Prices for accessories or on the website.
Praxtour was one of a number of finalists in this year's ISPO BrandNew Award 2010.