Welcome to our ultimate guide of the world’s leading indoor cycling apps. Find out what indoor cycling app is right for you, and check out our other reviews of cycling apps.
Ride Type: Real life videos of popular cycling routes across the globe
Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows, Mac
Required Equipment: A smart trainer/power meter or speed sensor
Integrations: Strava, TrainingPeaks
Cost: $15/month or $12/month with an annual membership (includes two additional family members for free)
Cyclists (or runners) seeking to experience real rides in far flung corners of the planet (and even escape COVID-19 travel withdrawal). New augmented reality capabilities and the sizable offering of structured workouts makes Rouvy a solid all-rounder.
The first thing you will notice on the Rouvy cycling app is that it’s actually apps (plural). The original platform is called Rouvy Workouts and a new app, called Rouvy AR (Augmented Reality), was launched in April 2020. So, which one is right for you? Probably both depending on what you’re after. But, don’t worry. Users have access to both of these cycling apps with their membership.
The new Rouvy AR platform makes the real-life routes for unstructured riding (or running) more engaging by enabling overlays of other riders or virtual partners on top of the real routes, and provides the ability to draft behind other riders. Rouvy Workouts features an extensive library of structured workouts and, while you can still use the app to simply ride the various real routes, it’s strongly suggested that users use the Rouvy AR version for that.
Once users have one or both of the apps installed on their platform of choice, it is as intuitive as one would expect it to be to pair a smart trainer and start riding. Users will require a membership (or opt for a 14-day free trial) to get started. The most value is derived from committing to a 12-month term at $12/month, which includes a family pass for users to share it with other riders in their household. Beware that you should make your purchase directly via the Rouvy website if you intend on committing to the 12-month term (making your purchase through iTunes will only give you access to the monthly rate).
Rouvy has built an extensive library of over 4,000 real-world routes on which users can go for a spin, which makes it a fun way to experience famous cycling routes from the privacy of your own basement. Plus, as global travel remains on 'stand by' while the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, Rouvy offers us all somewhat of a reprieve from our basement pain caves. Getting going on this indoor cycling app is as easy as choosing a location video via one of the various categories (or by choosing from a world map), pairing a trainer, and pressing start. With so many videos to choose from, don’t expect to catch too many people on a course at any given time unless you plan to meet up with friends at a predetermined time. The app isn't exactly intended to support group rides, but if you search for someone, you can join them on course in the new Rouvy AR platform (be on the lookout for the AR logo on the video), which isn’t too dissimilar from real life when you think about it.
If you are so inclined, you could even upload your own courses with a .GPX file of your outdoor rides, or by selecting points from a map. This does, however, require yet another app called Rouvy Route Editor, which is only available for Windows (sorry Mac users). Full disclosure: We did not try to create our own route so we cannot attest to how well (or not) it works, but there are instructions on the Rouvy website for how to create a video for the platform.
Seeking structured workouts? Jump on over to the Rouvy Workouts app to choose from over 7,000 stock options. Once you have selected a workout and paired your trainer to start, the ERG mode fires up and keeps you honest for the duration of the ride. A few of the workouts (labeled 'Rouvy Guides') sync up the video and even add music to inject extra motivation into the experience. Users have the option of viewing their data or the road ahead, which is a personal preference for how to get through the pain. For non-Rouvy Guide workouts, users have to manually upload their own video, or just stare at the metrics and intervals on the screen. For users struggling to find an appropriate workout, or for those who have a coach that provides tailored workouts, there is an option to upload workouts to the platform or use a simple drag and drop tool on the Rouvy website to make it your own.
We have to start with a slight irritation: When using this indoor cycling app on an iPad, the screen will not rotate when the device is turned, which means that, not only must users view it in landscape mode, but they cannot flip it over and view it in landscape the other way around. Most of you are probably thinking 'who cares', right? Well, our set up uses magnets to hang the iPad in front of us and only works one way – the wrong way – so we had to change our usual set up. We suspect most of our readers won't be as concerned about this hiccup, and you have likely concluded by now that we're high maintenance, so let’s move on.
Not all videos are created equally, but generally are as advertised, providing clear and stable views through video of the actual roads that users could ride if they ventured off into various locations around the world. On top of the course video, there are various graphics across the screen providing all of the statistical data and course undulations that may be appealing to users. Moreover, users can zoom out to a 3D map for a bird’s-eye view of where they are headed and the locations of other riders. Augmented reality additions of start and finish banners don’t deliver too much value other than to improve the overall aesthetic; however, being able to see other riders is more important and, in our experience, it works well (although we did long rides of 2-3 hours where we only stumbled upon 1-2 other people – but users won't have that problem if they are riding together with friends).
Where real-life videos – Rouvy and other – tend to break down is when the recording captures other moving objects. We're no experts, but most of the videos are filmed in a car or from a motorcycle and the speed of the film is then accelerated or decelerated based on the avatar's speed relative to the speed at which the video was shot. For example, if filmed at 30 kph and the rider is traveling at 15 kph in-game, such as during a climb, the video is slowed by 50%. While this isn't an issue for scenery, it is odd when cars pass riders because they roll by in slow motion, which we found to be a bit distracting and even somewhat de-motivating (it is as if you're working hard, but moving through quicksand). You could engage in mental gymnastics to convince yourself you are moving with the flow of traffic, but that isn’t the way it felt to us. Fortunately, most videos managed to keep those pesky distractions at bay.
Beyond the videos, we were fans of the structured workout screens on which users could follow the peaks and valleys of intervals. We were somewhat surprised there are merely six workouts synchronized to videos or that will even play a video while the ERG is working its magic. It is possible for users to upload videos they have created or have otherwise purchased and downloaded from other providers, but given it won’t be synchronized, it seems to be more trouble than the expected return. Nevertheless, structured workouts of any difficulty require a degree of focus, which means keeping intervals on your primary screen while enhancing your set up with a Spotify playlist or Netflix drama on a separate device renders Rouvy a relatively equivalent option to other workout-based apps, which is commendable considering Rouvy's focus is on its real-world routes.
Rouvy has numerous quality features and is a cost effective option compared to other indoor cycling apps, particularly if you have more than one rider in the household. We are fans of the real-world routes for scoping out global destinations for our next cycling adventure or upcoming race. Moreover, the structured workout library is impressive. That said, we wanted to love this indoor cycling app more than we did. Regrettably, no video can do justice to the incredible cycling routes out there, and – beyond experiencing a route for the first time – the dearth of other riders and lack of gamification means it could become dull after a while.
On the flip side, if you're seeking variety in scenic backgrounds or rigorous details on a structured workout (perhaps while streaming music or video on a separate device, which is how we survive most of our rides on any platform), then Rouvy might be the right indoor cycling app for you – and we have no qualms about recommending it.
Full Disclosure: We’re cyclists – not marketers – and we are not affiliated with Rouvy. This 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.