I took the plunge and shelled out for some Ergvideos to go with my computrainer. They duly arrived about a week later, which is pretty good given they came all the way from Canada. I didn't even have to pay import duty ... which makes a change cause every other frickin cup or t-shirt I've ever ordered from overseas has usually cost me. I guess the fact that its a slim letter sized package helped to sneak it past the beady eyes of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise leeches.
Anyhoo, since you licence them to a specific computer I chose to get the whole shebang setup on the media center PC we have in the main room. That way I get the oomph of the multi-core CPU and the wow factor of the surround sound and big TV. But I can't take it on the road, I can only ergvideo at home ... I concluded that was fair enough, www.cyclefilm.com DVDs and www.thesufferfest.com video podcasts are fine for sessions run from the laptop.
Since the HTPC is running Vista and I had bever used it with the CT I needed to get that setup first. It was relatively quirky, as all racermate software feels like it was written circa 1980. I had to install to the C:\CompCS folder as folders with spaces in them are a no-no and the perfs directory would not be writable as the program files folder is protected from update by Vista. I got it working and set myself up as a user etc. As it happens the PC has a serial port so I could dispense with the USB/Serial adapter which saved me a load of hassle - the driver software is 'tricky' and the USB implementation on my motherboard is weird (ASUS M2Ne-sli), due to a crappy USB audio implementation ... but thats another story. Got it partly working, had some display issues which meant the telemetry labels didn't display so I could see my load, watts, hr, but had to guess which was which cause the labels were missing [Update 2nd Feb: this is because CompCS doesn't like Vista Aero and wants a 256 color mode, once I used the Vista Basic theme labels appeared].
I then installed ergvideo which comprises of installing a videoplayer then copying the video files to the hard disk. For some odd reason the file copy failed so I did it by hand. Each ergvideo comprised of an AVI file which you can play like any other movie in VLC or WMP etc and an ERV file which I assume contains the power profile and is used to generate an ERG file for the computrainer CompCS software (it also supports Velotron and Multirider software). Once copied I licenced all the vids by getting unlock codes from the ergvideo website.
Setting up a ride
You chose a ride and then customise it. I thought this was a fancy feature I wouldn't use, but actually it is exactly how this should work. In a nutshell, you choose how much of the ride you want to do, can choose to repeat it if you're doing intervals and then you set your FTP so it can build an ERG file in the right zones. I chose to ride the last 2 hours of a base ride, and after a couple of aborted tryouts set my FTP to 320 (my FTP is actually 260). I set my FTP higher to turn the ride from base into a tempo ride.
You can choose music to play along with the video (there is no sound) but I chose to just run mediamonkey in the background playing the Kraftwerk Tour de France album (a big favourite of mine on the turbo). [Update 2nd Feb: Actually I now use the Ergvideo music player since it can read my WMP playlists and avoids having to alt-tab to sort out sound whilst you're riding a course]
One of the annoying quirks is the inability to go full screen, you re-size the player, which sits in front of the compcs chart screen. That way I s'pose you can see your numbers as well as the video. During the ride I wasn't that interested in the numbers as the display shows you the load scrolling by and the video is the main attraction. [Update 2nd Feb: I needed to install the right codec (ffdshow) to sort maximised video and then it all worked flawlessly]
Now, I have to confess that even though I spent over a grand on a turbo last year when I bought the computrainer I actually hate turbos. They're dull. You always ache. Its hot. It feels nothing like the road. You can never get the power down like outside. I could go on ... I think you get the message.
BUT WOW! Riding these ergvideos made a massive difference to the turbo experience. The two hours went by really easy. I didn't get the usual RSI achy pains from sitting on a number for an hour and I got a real buzz from it.
I think this really comes down to a number of things; variability of power load - the power load is always changing, just like on the road, and because it is synchronised with the video you can SEE the brow of the hill or the turning ahead and so can lay the power down as you progress to a point, just like on the road. Maybe I'm easily fooled but it felt like riding rather than training.
The video is a welcome distraction - I even found myself looking down at the sprockets of the bike in front like I would on a group ride. At first you want there to be more action, just mind-numbingly following another rider seems dull. But as you get into it you realise, hey its a two hour ride, do I get non-stop action when I'm on the road? No.
Lastly, the mix of intensity means you freewheel (shock horror) and gun for it within a single workout. This is a revelation on a turbo and I think is one of the major reasons I didn't suffer my usual aches and groans, you get breaks and changes that don't mean your legs get worn out turning the same load.
OK, so its early days and I've only ridden one course but I'm definitely going to use this for all my indoor rides from now on. I'm glad I spent the cash on these things. To put it into perspective, I often ride 2 hours on the turbo at tempo. The ride I did with the ergvideo gave me 148 TSS and I got off feeling good abut the workout. The week before I did a steady paced tempo session at a 190w load because it felt too hard for 2 hours to sit at 220w and scored 100TSS and got off wishing I'd never ride the turbo again.
I'm hoping (!!) for bad weather this weekend so I can try out the tempo intervals and spirited club ride videos ... now that is an endorsement!
Update 2nd Feb: I've ordered some more and now use ergvideos for all my indoor sessions. The variability is the key element and the video is a welcome distraction. I'm planning on using the Team Time Trial and Criterium race videos when I do more focused L4 and L5 workouts - will let you know how these go during February.