Riding a stationary bicycle trainer can be boring, which is why Zwift and ebove were created. Both systems feature first-person videos of computer-animated cycling routes, that the user interacts with as they're cycling on the accompanying trainer. Now, Spain's Bkool has entered the picture. It's much like the other systems, although along with offering thousands of pre-made videos of real-world roads, it's also able to render them from scratch as the cyclist is riding.
Users initially have to either supply a GPS file of a route, or create one by tracing a map using a service such as GPS Visualizer. They can choose any route they want, anywhere in the world. From there, the system's software takes over.
"We use datamaps from varying sources that all get input in real time. We know the terrain, vegetation type and density, building density, etc.," Bkool's Craig Harrison explained to us. "It is all used to render the environment in a similar fashion to something like Grand Theft Auto – but on the fly, as the simulator is running. So the entire environment is being rendered while you ride it, just ahead of you."
While that functionality has already been available to Bkool users for several months, the company has recently introduced an added feature: real-time weather. Now, if it's currently raining, snowing, sunny, night or day in the part of the world where the user is virtually riding, those conditions will be replicated in the animated video.
As with the other systems, Bkool allows the user's trainer (the company also offers its own model) to communicate with the video running on the user's computer. This means that when there's a climb or descent in the video, the trainer will respond by increasing or decreasing the amount of resistance. Additionally, the scenery in the video will move past at a rate dictated by the user's real-world cycling speed.
Also like its competitors, Bkool lets users ride with and talk to other users who happen to be on the same route at the same time, who will appear as avatars. This means that users in different parts of the world could agree to "meet" at a certain route on a certain day and time, for a group ride or a race.
The Bkool simulator software is compatible with Windows, Apple and Android computers/tablets, and is available as a free download. A limited-function subscription can also be had for free, while the more enriched premium subscription goes for US$15 a month (or $12 a month if you register for a whole year).
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