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Ride Type: Structured training workouts and planning
Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Mac
Required Equipment: A smart trainer/power meter or speed sensor
Integrations: Strava, Garmin, TrainingPeaks, Final Surge, Wahoo, Today’s Plan
Cost: $14.99/month or $10.75/month with an annual membership
The Sufferfest is for those of us who take training seriously (albeit with a sense of humour) and have an affinity for watching the pros mix it up in old cycling footage. With videos coordinated to structured workouts, it’s easy to imagine yourself jockeying for position in the pro-peloton, or trying to hang on in a team trial. But to think of The Sufferfest as a video entertainment cycling app is to undersell the science that underpins the interval-based sessions. The company’s history of selling DVDs is increasingly behind it, and it is now offering other types of workouts, too, such as weight training and yoga.
Gearing up to ride is relatively simple from a technology perspective – download the app, create an account, pair your smart trainer (or power meter/speed sensor), and ride. The app even offers an introduction video that takes users through how to navigate the menu options while on the bike, which is recommended watching even if it is pretty self-explanatory. The ride screen features the video along the top three-quarters of the screen while the bottom of the screen captures the rider's metrics and a power profile of the pain to come. When paired with a smart trainer, users simply need to pedal given the ERG mode does all of the thinking.
The Sufferfest is unique in how it determines workout intervals based on points along the rider's unique power profile rather than Functional Threshold Power (FTP) alone. The Sufferfest calls its methodology '4DP' and it leverages FTP (based on power the rider could hold for 20 minutes), Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP – 5 minutes), Anaerobic Power (AP – 1 minute), and Neuromuscular (NM – 5 seconds). Basically, whereas other apps assume that everyone with a given FTP level will have an identical power curve (which we can all agree is highly improbable), The Sufferfest claims that workouts based on FTP alone fit only 6% of the population. The impact this level of precision could have in turning riders into faster cyclists probably depends on their goals and the nature of their riding, but it makes intuitive sense to us that appropriately training one's strengths and weaknesses could improve the quality of their workouts and recovery. Don't know the shape of your power curve? Don't panic. The Sufferfest has designed an hour-long 4DP test to measure, and then track, a rider's performance over time. We have yet to attempt the session, but we have braved our share of power tests over the years to know that it won't be pleasant. Until you have completed the test, the app uses estimates of your MAP, AP, and NM based on the FTP that you input into your profile.
Once you are ready to get down to business, simply pick from one of approximately 160 different workout/video combinations, load the workout, and start pedalling. Alternatively, you could set up a long-term training plan on the app or website by selecting the type of event for which you want to train and selecting your ability level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced). Unfortunately, the app lacks the option to upload your own workouts – so if you have a coach or are following a plan of your own, you will need to select a flat power workout and manually adjust your 4DP settings in order to hit your target wattage, which is cumbersome in practice. Alternatively, you could turn the trainer off ERG mode and simply follow the video, but it does require more concentration.
The verdict of this cycling app review is obvious: The Sufferfest videos are of fine quality and entertaining plus they effectively pair music and injections of humour to keep riders sufficiently motivated. Moreover, The Sufferfest offers reasonable variety, but if you have a favourite workout, the video could become a bit dull after a while. That said, we found the app to be (somewhat surprisingly) entertaining, particularly for intense sessions that require more concentration. If you buy into The Sufferfest's 4DP methodology and crave access to more hardcore workouts, this could be the option for you – just remember to mix in proper recovery into your routine (The Sufferfest yoga and mental strength videos could serve this purpose).
Full Disclosure: We’re cyclists – not marketers – and we are not affiliated with The Sufferfest. This cycling app review is an independent review based on our own experience with the app – to help you decide if it’s right for you. For more, check out our other reviews of cycling apps.