The Chainlink

Product Review Follow-up: The Sufferfest

By Brett Ratner

A couple of winters ago, we reviewed a series of bicycle training videos called The Sufferfest (read the review here).

Combined with one of Sufferfest's training plans (we tried the "Intermediate Road" plan), we thought it was an effective, well-executed, and dare I say "fun" way to stay in shape and improve your strength and endurance on a bike.

And considering all you need is a bike with gears plus a decent stationary trainer, it was a bargain too. I mean, where else can you flog yourself silly for $10 per month plus $24.99 for a training plan?

On top of that, the company is run by a really great group of people who do lots of nice things, such as raise money for the Davis Phinney Foundation.

If there was one area where The Sufferfest was lacking at the time, however, it was that the videos were passive. Meaning, you'd watch the video on your phone or a TV and gauge your speed/distance/power/heart rate using a third party device like a Garmin cycling computer.

Well, that it no longer the case.

Since we last wrote about The Sufferfest, they have made some dramatic improvements to their app to make it more interactive.

Specifically, the app can run on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Windows PC (PC version currently in beta) and receive/display data from a variety of Bluetooth devices, including speed and cadence sensors, heart rate monitors, and of course power meters.

However, if you have a smart trainer, like the Wahoo Fitness Kickr, the Sufferfest app can wirelessly control the resistance the trainer is subjecting you to.

Or, if you have the Kinetic inRide and like using it, you can sync your Sufferfest account through that system.

In practice, this means you can watch the video in the main part of the screen, while working to match training targets, both represented numerically, as well as a graph that resembles an elevation profile.

Workouts are clearly displayed and easy to scroll through, which you can match to a Sufferfest training plan, or a custom plan devised by a coach.

Finally, when you're done, you can see your results on screen, and even upload your ride to apps like Strava.

We tried the new version using an iPad, Wahoo Bluetooth heart rate monitor, a Stages power meter/cadence sensor, and also a Kinetic inRide sensor, which is specifically-designed to estimate your speed and power when using a Kinetic fluid trainer.

Everything synced up and worked flawlessly, the app was easy to navigate, and intuitive to use. It was totally fine to use on a phone or tablet, but if I wanted a big screen experience, wirelessly streaming it to a device like an Apple TV was easy.

Once I had my "functional threshold power" (FTP) dialed in (a power test is necessary to get the best out of this product), it was easy to push myself nice and hard without biting off more than I could chew and completely blowing up. More importantly, the wide range of videos do a great job of helping you improve in a variety of areas, from endurance, to cadence, to top-end speed. The race simulations incorporated into some of the workouts, I feel, would be especially helpful to anyone thinking of toeing the line in their local series.

In conclusion, if you're starting to make plans to train and stay in shape over the winter, the newly-revised Sufferfest app makes a great product even more inviting.

Brett Ratner (brett@thechainlink.org) has been a professional journalist for more than 25 years. He has contributed to dozens of publications, including The Chicago Tribune, The Nashville Tennessean, The Nashville Scene, Guitar Player and Musician. Brett began commuting by bike in 2005. Shortly thereafter, his interest in cycling expanded to century rides, bike camping, and trail riding. The competition bug bit in 2012 and nowadays he also occasionally races cyclocross, track, mountain bikes, criteriums and gravel for The Bonebell.

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