For the last few years, BKool has been making incremental improvements to their virtual reality based training programs. First they offered video simulations, then went 3-D, and then BKool started adding in real-world conditions like wind resistance. Their latest software extension adds a whole new level of realism to indoor training, and it’s based on what’s really happening outdoors.
The company’s newest innovation is called BKool 3D RealWeather technology, which recreates the current weather conditions on any route in the world. If you’d like to see what a rainy ride around London or a sunny cruise of coastal California would be like, check some actual weather reports and virtually warp to your ideal conditions and location, all from the comfort of your indoor training area…
Last August BKool’s 3D simulator brought full global coverage to the table. Their simulator ‘knows’ every place on earth well enough to represent natural features like trees, rocks and rivers, but also human made structures like roads and buildings with detailed graphics. Similarly, the 3D Real Weather function works for any route in any part of the world.
Riders who use BKool’s computer-controlled mag trainer (or a short list of other compatible models) get the benefit of the tactile feedback function, where basic trainers cannot host this feature. If it’s windy, riders with smart trainers will feel physical resistance to simulate a pushing or pulling feeling. Inclines and declines are also represented in a similar fashion.
Not everything can be simulated with tactile feedback, but what you don’t feel you will definitely see. When riding in rain drops appear on the virtual pavement, and snow blankets the scene during wintery rides. Fog will appear to limit your virtual visibility, and users will even catch lightning strikes in stormy conditions.
3D RealWeather also tracks the sun and moon’s locations, and reproduces the correct light conditions for the current weather and time of day. If it’s sunny, your landscape will be bright and if it’s cloudy it will be darker. Feel like going for a night ride? Just virtually travel away from the sun and don’t worry about charging your lights- your avatar never forgets.
With BKool’s virtual training system users build avatars of themselves and with the premium subscription enabled can ride or compete virtually against other people from anywhere on earth, in real time. You can speak to each other as you ride, and can even leave messages written on the road to cheer on or taunt your friends or foes. Users can create and upload their own routes that others can then ride with you, and you can check out other people’s loops.
Users can compete by stage, ranking or team within one of hundreds of existing leagues, or create and invite people to join a league of your own. You can also compare your performance with other riders in various categories from different countries to see how you stack up. Furthermore, you can choose computerized opponents with varying profiles to compete against, or chase a ghost of yourself from a previous session.
BKool sells their own Classic and Pro model trainers which both include a one-year premium membership. However, the 3D RealWeather simulator can be used with any trainer or stationary bicycle meeting the ANT+ standard.
A free, downloadable version of BKool is available which provides full training capabilities but its features are limited. In order to enjoy the 3D graphics and unlimited routes, riders must purchase a monthly subscription. For $6 a month riders with basic trainers can subscribe and get all the features except tactile feedback. Those who have BKool or other smart trainers pay $12 per month for the full service which also controls the trainer’s resistance. The 3D RealWeather software is available for PC, Mac or Android/iOS tablets.
Check out our review of BKool’s trainers here.