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How we create ultra realistic indoor rides

Why are realistic indoor rides important? #

Since we created Open Road, we have constantly been improving the techniques we use 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 dItalia, 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 from day one have put our 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. To us, the essence of cycling is the combination of the physical and visual experience. 

Ultra-Real – Getting the physical cycling experience right #

We are constantly improving the techniques we use to get the physical cycling experience right. In 2021 we wanted to take realism in indoor cycling to the next level. So, we started working with leading experts on precision measuring instruments and road surveying. The fruit of this cooperation is a 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 a cutting-edge 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. 

We have succeeded in using the Ultra-Real technology when we film from a real bike. To our knowledge, no one has mounted such advanced technology on a bike before. This advanced breakthrough enables us to film from a real bike and collect ultra-real data about the road’s characteristics (slope, altitude, position, etc.) creating what we think is the world’s most realistic indoor cycling experience. With Ultra-Real the data is so precise, that only your indoor trainer limits how realistic your indoor training experience will be. 

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. All this is very impressive considering that the measurements were done at high speed. 

When we tested Ultra-Real on rolling hills our Ultra-Real technology would repeatly find the highest and lowest point with no issues. The highest and lowest point would always be flat (0 percent slope). All the results were verified by visual inspection and were in accordance with how it would be experienced in real life. Even speed bumps would be replicated.

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 ascend more than 1000 meters and then we descend to the same location only to find the highest place in the exact same place, 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 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 as one would do with any other bike. And you can film roads that are only allowed for bikes. With this setup, we use a special camera technique, so you always get a correct visual experience of the steepness of the road in front of you. 

Open Road and other Apps #

We love the visual experience of outdoor cycling. But 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 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, they lack the precision that is necessary to remove the line between virtual and real. 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 very bad 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:


Comparing our Ultra-Real technology to a top-of-the-line bike computer is like comparing night and day. 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 created by our Ultra-Real technology.


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