Why are realistic indoor rides important?
Since day one we have constantly been improving the techniques, we used to make digital twins of the most stunning real-world rides. Our goal is to bring you as close to the real cycling experience as possible. Why? In short, the more realistic the ride, the more immersive the cycling experience. The more immersive the cycling experience the more motivating the ride.
Cycling is unique in the sense that it combines a physical and visual experience in a way that few other sports do. There are very few sports where the top races (such as the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and Vuelta a España) require such a high fitness level, combined with moving through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.
That is why we have put the utmost care into giving you the best visual experience possible. Also, getting the correct data about the road’s characteristics (slope, location, altitude, etc.) is essential for replicating the real-world ride indoors. The more precise the data, the more will the physical effort indoors resembles the effort you would put into the same ride outdoors. Part of getting the physical cycling experience right is making sure the effort put into the pedals and the speed experienced aligns will an outdoor experience. If you do not feel the same acceleration as on a real bike or the bike does not roll on a negative gradient, then you will not have the same experience indoors as outdoors.
To us, the essence of cycling is the combination of the physical and visual experience.
Getting the physical cycling experience right #
When you put effort into the pedals various forces come into play. These forces decide the speed of your bike. One of these forces is gravity. Gravity is a force that works against us (on the uphills) or with us (on the downhills). In order to get the correct gravity we need to replicate the same slope as in real life. If the slope is not accurate, then the ride will either will be too easy or too difficult.
Here at Bike the World we are constantly improving the techniques we use to collect data about the road’s characteristics (slope, altitude, position, etc.). In 2021, we started working with leading experts on precision measuring instruments and road surveying. The fruit of this cooperation is a breakthrough technology that we call ‘Ultra-Real’. It is a technology that combines professional-grade GPS/GNSS and advanced sensors with very complex software. The precision of the GPS/GNSS in our system is extreme. It uses several satellite systems and combines their data to get accurate results. This is necessary as we often film in mountainous areas where the GPS/GNSS reception is terrible.
Ultra-Real is an innovative technology that was not possible just a few years ago. The technology maps every little change in slope, altitude, and location making it possible for us to produce a level of realism that is second to none.
In 2022 we had another innovative breakthrough with our Ultra-Real technology. We succeeded in using it with a real bike. Collecting ultra-real data about the road’s characteristics from a real bike had not been possible before. This innovative breakthrough enables us to create what we think is the world’s most realistic indoor cycling experience. With Ultra-Real the data is so precise, that the line between virtual and real has been made extremely thin.
How precise is Ultra-Real? #
Before going live in 2021 with our Ultra-Real Technology we tested it extensively on several scenarios. First, we continuously tested it on a hill climb. In this hill climb test, Ultra-Real would repeatedly find the steepest place to be at the exact same location with only a minor difference in the gradient of 0.1 degrees. Likewise, when finding the highest place on the hill, we would repeatedly find the highest place at the exact same location. The difference in altitude would be around 0.3 meters, which is impressive considering GPS-enabled smartphones are typically accurate to within a 4.9 m (16 ft.) radius. On visual inspection, we could verify that our Ultra-Real Technology worked flawlessly. This is impressive considering that the measurements were done at high speed.
When we tested our Ultra-Real technology on rolling hills, we would repeatedly find the highest and lowest point with no issues. The highest and lowest point would always be flat (0 percent slope). Visual inspection verified all the results. It would even replicate speed bumps.
After the initial tests, we took Ultra-Real to the mountains. Here it performed equally perfectly. We filmed the famous Italian Passo di Giau (known from the Giro d’Italia) from both sides. Again, it measured the altitude from both sides of the mountain with the same high precision as in our hill climb test. That is impressive considering that we descend over 1000 meters and then we ascend to the same location only to find the highest place in the same location, with only a variance of 0.35 meters in altitude.
Based on our tests and real-life experiences over the last few years, our experience is that Ultra-Real is extremely precise in finding the correct slope, position, and altitude. Even from a bicycle, it delivers highly reliable data.
Getting the speed right #
Part of getting the physical cycling experience right is making sure the effort put into the pedals and the speed experienced aligns will an outdoor cycling experience. Even though smart trainers do output speed, the speed is not always realistic. And often it is only realistic within the range of gradients that it supports. This is why we are doing our own speed calculations which are based on your weight, your watt output, and the laws of physics.
To make sure we calculate the speed correctly we have allied ourselves with an expert in the laws of physics, a physicist. When calculating the speed, gravity, rolling resistance, aerodynamic drag, and propulsion of the rider are all forces that come into play and need to be taken into consideration when calculating the speed uphill, downhill, and on the flats.
Riding uphill #
When you ride uphill your weight and gravity will work against each other and slow you down.
Riding downhill #
Some smart trainers cannot simulate the downhill. That is why our speed calculations also take negative gradients into consideration. Here your weight and the gravitational forces speed up the bike, even though you are not pedaling. The aerodynamic drags will eventually stop the downhill acceleration and put a limit on the downhill speed.
Riding on the flat #
When you ride on the flat, rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag will slow you down. Weight is a factor, but not as big as big a factor as when you ride uphill. The experience of inertia will be pronounced on the flat. The force of inertia is the reason your bike continues when you stop pedaling. What makes the bike eventually come to a halt are forces such as rolling resistance, drag, and gravity.
When you start putting force into the pedals, you will not experience the top speed immediately. Instead, the bike accelerates according to the watt you put into the pedals. The acceleration will stop when other forces such as gravity, rolling resistance, and aerodynamics are greater than the force put into the pedals.
Getting the visual experience right #
Since day one we have been focusing on creating the best visual indoor cycling experience possible. All our rides are filmed from the rider’s point of view. That means you always see and experience the scenery from the cyclist’s perspective. We combine this perspective with the use of an ultra-wide-angle lens, which makes you feel immersed right in the middle of the scenery. We always use a professional cinematographer to make sure we film in the best possible way. Depending on the location and the road we either film the ride from our special ‘Hollywood’ rig or from a road or gravel bike.
Our Hollywood rig #
To capture the scenery in the best possible way we have designed a special ‘Hollywood’ rig. It is a rig equipped with professional video equipment and lots of electronics. It is designed to work on even the most rugged roads and to absorb the vibrations from the road. The professional equipment used makes it possible to film cycling videos as they were filmed for the cinema. The picture quality from this setup is second to none.
Our bike set-up #
Our bike setup creates an ultra-realistic indoor cycling experience. While we cannot mount heavy professional camera equipment on a bike, a bike has other advantages. With a bike, you can navigate busy and narrow streets. And you can film roads that are only allowed for bikes. With this setup, we use a special camera technique, that keeps the camera level so you can get a correct visual experience of the steepness of the road in front of you.
Open Road and other Apps #
We love bringing the visual experience of outdoor cycling indoors. Unfortunately, most apps on the market do not put enough emphasis on this aspect of cycling. Instead, they either use 3D graphics or handlebar videos made by amateurs. Unlike other apps, we do not film from the handlebar. This point of view is unrealistic low and does not create an immersive cycling experience. Instead, we always film from the cyclist’s point of view. And unlike other apps, we are using always use professionals and professional equipment to film our content.
Many apps have not moved to our level of realism. They are still basing their routes on inaccurate data from consumer electronics such as bike computers. These technologies are great for cycling outdoors and uploading results to Strava. But as a tool to collect data about the road’s characteristics (slope, altitude, position, etc.), they lack the precision necessary to create ultra-realistic indoor rides. No road surveyors or other professionals that are engaged in mapping out the road would use these kinds of consumer electronics for professional use. For such a task much more advanced technologies are required.
To illustrate the importance of getting precise data when filming a route, we have compared one of the best bike computers on the market (in 2021) with our Ultra-Real technology. We took both to a site in the mountains where the GPS conditions are terrible and recorded data with both technologies simultaneously. This is how the bike computer performed:
And this is how our Ultra-Real technology performed at the exact same time and location:
The difference is obvious. Our Ultra-Real technology takes accuracy and precision to another level. A level where no consumer electronics can follow. So even though one is basing one’s data on a top-of-the-line bike computer when filming a route, the results in realism do not come close to the results and realism created by our Ultra-Real technology.