In the world of interactive indoor training you’ll find a number of different entries to choose from but today we are going to focus on one called Bkool. So, what is Bkool? If you haven’t heard of it, Bkool is a cycling app with realism and socializing in mind. So, how does that play out and what exactly can it do for your training?
Let’s explore it a bit and see what it offers.
Who Is Bkool For?
Bkool is a program for anyone who loves indoor fitness. These days, especially, getting your workout done indoors is a good idea and of course, being able to stop whenever you like and not having to worry about 3rd parties who aren’t being respectful of paying attention to bikers is an added bonus. It gives you a way to do your cycling indoors but it adds realistic elements to keep you interested.
Quite a lot of them, as it turns out.
The Indoor Cycling Experience
With more than 500,000 routes around the world, Bkool takes virtual-reality cycling to quite an interesting level.
Feel like riding around in Copenhagen, Denmark? You can do that. How about a little cycling in New York? Not a problem.
You’ve got a number of environments where you can ride preset routes and you can even define your own routes.
New ones are even being uploaded all the time and you don’t have to ride during the day, as there is a ‘night mode’ setting that lets you enjoy your favorite scenery in an evening setting.
Aside from different scenery, you also get different weather conditions. While the weather doesn’t affect your workout beyond aesthetics, it’s a fun feature and helps to spice up your workouts a little bit to help keep you interested. Terrain does come into play so with the app working with your trainer you can go ride flat routes, hills, and more.
Setting Up For Your First Cycle
When you first start Bkool, you get an option to run a 4 kilometer ‘demo route’ and this gives you a chance to experience the software without having to make a lot of decisions. The ones that the program does need you to make are easy to do, facilitated by cue cards which help you along so that you can get prepared and start cycling.
You’ll get to pick out an avatar during the setup, which is kind of fun and lets you personalize things a bit. For a little spice, there are also unlockable outfits. This is fun in general but it also sets you up for the social aspects of Bkool, since you can interact through your avatar with other Bkool users and earning those different uniforms gets you a little ‘street cred’. We’ll talk more on the social aspects shortly.
The ride view once you’re in the demo is 3d by default, but there is also a 2d view and optional ‘video view’ for select locations. In the 3d view, you’ll be in the center, with a number of statistics at the bottom such at heart rate, kcals, and more. There is also a slope indicator for when the route is angling, say if you are going up or downhill, and a mini-view of the road itself.
We like the interface, as the statistics are presented in such a way that they don’t threaten the aesthetics of your virtual cycling trip and yet they are also easy to read at a glance. That said, while the graphics are good the people definitely have that ‘VR’ look to them and we would have liked a little more work in that area.
Programs & Training
Once you are done with the demo, aside from the live races you have structured training options as you would in other cycling apps. These allow you to select different workouts based on your time and requirements and make it easy to set some quick fitness goals on the fly.
Now, let’s explore some of the social aspects that really add a lot of fun to Bkool. From the Bkool homepage, you can access live sessions which include regular competitions like a ‘6 days and 6 laps challenge’ and other competitions which you can schedule to participate in. The competition is fun, we have to admit, and it helps to keep things interesting.
If you are using a microphone, you can communicate with other Bkool users that happen to be in your vicinity but it’s a feature that will have to activate if you want to use it. By default, your microphone is going to be turned off. It’s a fun little feature and if your friends have Bkool then you can organize workouts to share while all of you are actually indoors at home.
You can create leagues and when you get tired, there is a spectator mode if you want to stick around and continue watching the ‘race’. You aren’t forced to play with others if you simply want to compete, of course. If you don’t want other players participating, you can create your own custom routes and add in some ‘bots’, which are simply virtual cyclists out there for you to compete with to keep you on your toes.
There is even a fun indoor competition ‘location’ called the ‘Velodrome’ which is unique to Bkool and a lot of fun for competitions. We won’t spoil it for you but it is a great change of pace when you get tired of being ‘outdoors’.
Connecting Other Fitness Apps
For Strava fans out there we should note that Bkool integrates in fun ways with Strava. It can upload your routes to Strava but it can also take a look at your Strava activity in order to create personal routes that you can experience again in the future.
All in all, we have to say that Bkool brings some excellent game to the table and goes a long way towards keeping your workout fresh and fun.
How To Get Setup With Bkool
Getting started on Bkool is easy and it supports the following operating systems:
- Windows 7 64 bit and higher
You are going to need internet connectivity to use Bkool. With the large number of routes and options available, it would take up an enormous amount of space to run it locally. This means that you can’t use Bkool offline. While that is a bit of a bummer, it is still an amazing app and well worth the download.
Once you’ve got the program installed on the OS of your choice, you’ll also need to register an account and then enter all of your personal information.
After this you can choose how to connect your devices up to Bkool so that your performance can be measured.
And as you can see – all connected!
Found them straight away and instant connection!
Bkool does require a membership so let’s take a look at the costs.
What Does a Bkool Account Cost?
First off, we should note that Bkool has a 1-month free trial so that you can give the program a try and see if it is something that is going to keep your attention. If you decide that you want to keep it, it’s actually quite reasonably priced at €9.99 per month so you are only looking at a little under €120 per year.
Compared to programs like Zwift, this is about $5 cheaper per month and you get more routes in the bargain. It works with just about any trainer, so you won’t need to buy any special trainer (Bkool does offer one of their own but that is up to you), so changing from a competitor’s software to Bkool won’t have any surprise hidden costs.
From a financial perspective, Bkool scores again.
Quick Summary – How Did Bkool Rate?
Now that we’ve given you the in-depth tour of many of the features that Bkool offers, let’s give a final ‘quick analysis’ as to what we liked and where we felt that it could use improvement.
What we liked:
- Bkool has an amazing number of routes to keep things interesting (and the Velodrome, of course)
- Priced less than other programs that boast less features
- Compatible with Windows, iOS. Android, and Mac
- Works with all of the trainers that we tested
- Very customizable or you can skip that and use structured training presets
- Making your own league is fun and helps to keep you focused on your fitness goals
Where we felt it could use improvement:
- The graphics aren’t perfect but they are good
- We would have liked an offline mode
As far as an ‘unofficial pro’, the microphone option really adds a little flavor, giving you a chance to encourage or even taunt your friends into a more brisk workout. We recommend that you give it a try sometime, it’s a good way to stay motivated.
In conclusion: Bkool Is Worth a Closer Look
With the customizability, socialization, and all of the great features we highly recommend that you give Bkool a closer look. The 1 month trial is free and gives you a chance to ‘try before you buy’ so that you can make absolutely sure that Bkool is going to work with your current gear and goals. It has a lot to offer for indoor cyclists and does its job of keeping your workout interesting.
So, give Bkool a try and see it for yourself. We are confident that you’ll want to keep it!