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How to Choose the Best Indoor Cycling App: 10 Virtual Options for Riding Inside

November 12, 2019

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How to Choose the Best Indoor Cycling App: 10 Virtual Options for Riding Inside

Whether you call it an indoor cycling app, a spin class app, or a smart bike trainer app, we’ll outline the top 10 options—and how you can choose the best.

What is an Indoor Cycling App?

Perched high above France’s Vaucluse region, your heart pumps, skin sweats, and endorphins flow. You’ve climbed for what seems like hours, inching toward Mont Ventoux’s peak.

Your phone rings. You pause the action, take a breath, and answer. “Hello?”

Welcome one version of indoor cycling—a vast marketplace that can whisk you off to far-flung locations, or help you maximize training, without leaving the house. Which one’s right for you, though?

To help save you time, we’ll combine Google Play and iTunes downloads with criteria like Android and iOS reviews, equipment compatibility, rider popularity, and overall cost.

1. Peloton

Credit: Peloton Interactive, Inc.

Website: OnePeloton.com

Pricing: Access is free for Bike and Tread owners. Otherwise, start w/2-week free trial. Afterward, Full membership: $39/mo, Digital-Only Membership: $19.49/mo

Compatibility: Web, Android, iOS, Chromecast, AirPlay

Details: Whether indoor cycling, running, meditating, strengthening, toning, stretching, or walking, the Peloton app allows you to stream as many as 30 live classes—taught by world-class instructors—daily from their NYC and London studios. Or, select from thousands more in their on-demand catalog.

What Riders Say: Most compliments relate to high-quality classes, stellar production value, and motivating workouts that can help you achieve your goals. Some don’t appreciate its user interface, though, in addition to frequent buffering on otherwise fast connections.

Best For: Peloton’s popularity means that it could make it a solid starting point when discerning which indoor cycling apps work best for you. At a minimum of $20 per month (unless you spend thousands on Peloton’s proprietary equipment), though, their app is targeted at those who are ready to invest a substantial chunk of change into their fitness.

2. SoulCycle

Credit: SoulCycle

Website: Soul-Cycle.com

Pricing: Free app, class passes $20–$3,500

Compatibility: iOS only

Details: Each 45-minute indoor SoulCycle class combines cycling with high-intensity cardio, movements that engage your core, and hand weights to help you tone your lower and upper body. Using their app, you can book in-studio classes and learn more about instructors.

What Riders Say: Most cyclists appreciate SoulCycle’s unique approach to cycling fitness, their one-of-a-kind bikes, and widespread availability across metro regions. Some report functionality problems with their app, although the majority report it’s convenient and easy to use.

Best For: SoulCycle nearly doubled its US presence between 2015 and 2018, so a broad fitness-focused demographic finds their studios appealing. They don’t offer streaming classes, though, which means you’ll have to leave your home and attend in-studio sweat sessions.

3. Flywheel Sports

Credit: Flywheel Sports, Inc.

Website: FlywheelSports.com

Pricing: Free app, Class Credits $22–$28, Monthly Memberships $80–$180

Compatibility: Android, iOS

Details: The Flywheel Sports app allows you to track your metrics and reserve indoor cycling and FlyBarre body sculpting classes at their studios across the US. If you own a FLY Anywhere bike ($1,999 with a built-in 15.6” screen), the app also allows you to stream unlimited live and on-demand classes to your iOS devices or Apple TV via AirPlay.

What Riders Say: Some riders report that the Flywheel Sports app is intuitive and easy to use, while a significant portion complains about functionality issues, poor data formatting, and a confusing user interface.

Best For: A lender took over Flywheel Sports earlier this year, who more recently announced they’re closing 11 of 42 locations, so their future currently remains uncertain. And if you want to enjoy their classes at home, you’ll have to fork over nearly $2,000 for their proprietary bike, which might depreciate rapidly if the company goes under.

4. Tacx

Credit: Tacx B.V.

Website: Tacx.com

Pricing: Free app and Basic features, Membership $9.99–$13.99/mo or $99.99–$139.99/yr

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Mac, Windows 10, Browser

Main Features: The Tacx app works with Bluetooth 4.0-compatible smart trainers and allows you to choose from one of their structured workouts, or create your own based on factors like slope, power, heart rate, or FTP. Upgrading provides access to 3D GPS map workouts, custom training plans, live opponents, and real-life videos.

What Riders Say: Tacx app and website users often appreciate its attractive, functional user interface, along with its simple trainer connectivity. Many Android users report decreased functionality with the most recent update (no heart rate or FTP support, specifically), though, along with unreliable connections.

Best For: Combining its $100+ annual membership fee with $400–$1,500+ trainers, Tacx’s ultra-high-quality online content doesn’t come cheap. If you have the cash to spare and an itch for robust, in-depth indoor cycling data analysis, though, it could be precisely what you need.

5. Zwift

Credit: Zwift, Inc.

Website: Zwift.com

Pricing: First 25 miles free, $14.99 per month after that

Compatibility: Android, iOS

Details: The Zwift app pairs via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and ANT+ to your smart indoor trainer, and allows you to enjoy their database of virtual rides, training plans, and workouts. You can also create your own, or join more than 200 daily group rides, runs, workouts, and races.

What Riders Say: Most Zwift users report positive experiences, including ease of use, motivating rides, and solid graphics. The biggest complaints are that the Zwift app doesn’t support ANT+, occasionally glitchiness, and expensive required equipment.

Best For: The larger your screen, the more immersive your Zwift experience, so it might not be ideal when viewed in app-friendly formats. Still, it can work as a reliable option when you have no other.

6. Bkool Simulator

Credit: BKOOL

Website: Bkool.com

Pricing: Free–$9.99/mo or $96/yr

Compatibility: Android, iOS

Details: The Bkool app is a cycling simulator that allows you to view your riding environment as a map, live video, or 3D rendering.

The app connects to your smart trainer and increases and decreases resistance based on conditions like slope, wind, and rain, as you ride along with millions of user-uploaded routes, or compete against global users across live leagues and multi-player challenges.

What Riders Say: Despite its high download numbers, especially among Android users, the Bkool app currently holds very low average Google Play and iTunes reviews.

In fact, they’re the lowest in this list. Most complained about the app’s user-unfriendliness, poor video performance, and frequent crashing, especially after its October 2019 update.

Best For: Taking online rider feedback into consideration, the Bkool app might work best as an alternative for experienced indoor cyclists, instead of those starting out.

7. Rouvy

Credit: VirtualTraining s.r.o.

Website: CycleOps.com

Pricing: Free 14-day trial, as low as $10/mo afterward

Compatibility: Android, iOS

Details: The Rouvy app utilizes augmented reality—laying 3D computer graphics atop real-world 2D video footage—to help you enjoy the most beautiful cycling locales without leaving your smart trainer. Once finished, your training data syncs with Strava, TrainingPeaks, or other training apps.

Related: The Top 11 Tracking & Training Apps For Cycling

What Riders Say: Most Rouvy iOS compliments relate to its unique augmented reality, the app’s ease of use, and its helpfulness reaching fitness goals. Complaints—most related to the Android version—often reference functionality problems, difficulty setting up trainers/sensors, and frequent disconnections.

Best For: Rouvy is currently the most popular augmented reality indoor cycling app available for iOS, which also allows you to take a deep dive into your performance data. Just make sure that you have a great Wi-Fi connection.

8. CycleCast

Credit: CycleCast, LLC

Website: CycleCast.com

Pricing: Free 7-day trial–$9.99/mo or $89.99/yr

Compatibility: Android, iOS

Details: CycleCast’s app offers 900+ on-demand and audio-guided indoor cycling workouts taught by professional instructors, mixed with great music from top artists. Combined, CycleCast advertises, they can deliver the same fitness benefits as brands like SoulCycle and FlyWheel Sports, but without “breaking the bank.”

What Riders Say: Frequent compliments relate to CycleCast’s motivating music and instructors, convenient classes that you can enjoy on your time, and that you get a lot of overall value for the money. The relatively few complaints cite streaming issues and high membership costs.

Best For: CycleCast’s audio-guided indoor rides don’t feature video, which means you don’t need to rely on a large screen or a stable Wi-Fi connection. This also means CycleCast’s rides might not be as immersive, depending on your needs and preferences.

9. FulGaz

Credit: Bizar Mobile Pty Ltd

Website: FulGaz.com

Pricing: Free 14-day trial–$12.99/mo or $108.99/yr

Compatibility: iOS, Apple TV, Browser, Android/Windows (beta)

Details: Each FulGaz route starts with real-world video footage recorded in resolution up to 4K. Then, its GPS data is processed using precision mapping and filtering technology, combined with advanced physics modeling, and delivers access to more than 540 worldwide routes.

What Riders Say: Most riders seem pleased with their FulGaz experiences, with exceptional video quality, extensive ride database, and ease of use (stream or download) as frequent compliments. Some note that FulGaz isn’t quite as interactive as some other indoor cycling apps, though.

Best For: FulGaz could work best for riders interested in combining high-quality virtual rides with video and close competition. You can also add a second family member to your annual subscription at no additional charge. Still, you’ll need a superb Wi-Fi connection—especially if you plan to take advantage of the 4K aspect.

10. Xert Mobile

Credit: Baron Biosystems

Website: XertOnline.com

Pricing: Free–$9.99/mo or $99.95/yr

Compatibility: Android, iOS

Details: The Xert Mobile app plays your Xert workouts, records workouts from ANT+ and Bluetooth-connected smart trainers, processes the data using proprietary algorithms, and then displays real-time fatigue and recovery information.

What Riders Say: Users frequently compliment Xert Mobile’s unique approach to fitness, its ability to help you reach your fitness goals, and ease of use. Complaints typically reference frequent ANT+ dropping, app crashing, and inaccurate data readings.

Best For: The Xert Mobile app offers a unique way to track data not captured by competitors. Similar to other data-focused apps listed here, though, it will cost you.

Your Best Indoor Cycling App: It’s All About Experiences

Each of us seeks different experiences when riding in the real world, so we’d expect the same when our cycling moves inside. As a few examples:

1. Keepin’ it Real, Competitive

If you want to immerse yourself in an indoor cycling experience that’s as close as possible as the real thing, an augmented reality app like Rouvy, Tacx, or FulGaz might work best.

Comparatively, virtual reality (3D generated) options like Zwift and Bkool might not display a similar level of real-worldness, although their popularity and intense competition could make them just as immersive, if these aspects are essential to you.

2. Budget Restrictions

Price-wise, though, these are also some of the costliest options here. After all, ultra-premium indoor cycling experiences frequently come with ultra-premium prices.

Furthermore, some apps, like Flywheel and Peloton, work best when utilizing each company’s high-dollar indoor training bikes. To maximize your experience, you might need to maximize your budget.

3. Data Analysis

If robust data analysis is a must-have, you’ll probably want to start with Xert Mobile, Rouvy, and Tacx’s apps.

4. Spin You Right Round, Baby

On the other hand, if you’re going to take spin classes, take a look at the CycleCast, Flywheel Sports, and Peloton apps.

Remember, the SoulCycle app doesn’t stream content; it only schedules classes.

5. Operating System

Lastly, which operating system do you utilize most often? The SoulCycle app is only available on iOS, while FulGaz’s Android and Windows apps are in beta testing as of this writing.

Furthermore, indoor cycling apps like Tacx and Rouvy come with meaningfully lower reviews among Android users, compared to those on iOS. And Bkool comes with mostly negative online feedback among both Android and iOS users.

Did we miss any essential apps on this list? What’s your experience? Tell your story by leaving a comment below!

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Derek has more than two decades of experience as a cyclist, and is the founder of TreadBikely. He currently travels full-time with his family via RV, enjoying the country's best biking destinations. A secular Buddhist, Derek frequently explores the intersection of cycling, mindfulness, and compassion in his writing. #rolloutblissout
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