I've been a user of Perf Pro Studio for some time now. This is software I run on a Windows computer that I use to run interval sessions for indoor training. I like it for training because I can put videos behind my interval sets. I change up the video depending on the type of interval. For sprint intervals, I'm racing against the pros during the final sprint to the line using bike cam fortage from the Tour de France and other races. For time trail intervals, I use footage from pro TT races. It works for me.
However, I've always done the intervals on a regular trainer. Perf Pro is useful because it will simulate power based on the "normal trainer" power curve if a power meter is not being used by the rider. So while friends may not have a power meter, they can train with power using the software and an ANT+ cadence/speed sensor. It works. It works well when using Perf Pro in FTP mode where workouts. FTP mode sets up a workout based on the percent FTP you should be riding. So, for a 20/40 set, the sprint interval is 200% FTP. For a short TT interval, it's 100%.
Tonight, I experimented with both a Wahoo Fitness kickr and a RaceMate Computrainer and setup Pref Pro with a workout running 20/40 intervals. I used the Wahoo and I set my training buddy, Chantal, up on the computrainer with her Powertap wheel. I also had a coworker with me as well on a Kirt Kinetic Road Machine without any power device. For me, the wahoo was used to generate a power reading because I had to remove my powertap wheel. Now, I've used a computrainer to run intervals before, and found it didn't work well running Pref Pro in FTP mode. I've done some testing with the Wahoo at my Sunday workout studio, and found it had the same issues. In FTP mode, the software wants to hold the cadence of the rider constant to whatever the cadence was when the interval started. From this experience, I've come to think that for most interval workouts, the computrainer/wahoo setup doesn't really offer any benefits and that a normal trainer with a power meter is a better option.
This time, however, I gave it a go using a Grade workout. Why? In the past, as I've said, I've used FTP mode on the computrainer and found that Pref Pro wants you to hold the cadence constant throughout the interval. This is great, but unless you sprin up into the interval, you can easily get bogged down. Pref Pro Studio has a special setting for the Wahoo Kirkr to help with this issues. It allows for a X amount of time to allow you to build up speed, in my case, I set it to 4 secs. The problem is, for some intervals, the rider want to vary the candence during the interval or wants to recover a bit, and can't in this mode. So, for this workout, used % Grade mode. So, basically, the computrainer and Wahoo were set to do little more than set a easy grade (zero percent) during recover and a light grade (0.5%) during a sprint interval. This seemed to work, but we lost Perf Pro's ability to display %FTP during the interval set. Now, for the sprint interval, it actually worked well. We had to push hard during the interval to mash up against the 0.5% grade, and the 0% grade during recovery meant we had little resistane during recovery. All good. That seemed to work.
Not satisfied with my so called findings, I emailed the Perf Pro Studio author and got a quick response. Apparently, most trainer makers think that the way to run a workout is to hold the load constant thereby having the user stay in the same gear riding the same cadence. I guess this could work for TT efforts where generally this setup is a good idea, but, IMO, riders get tired and want to vary cadence and gears. Perf Pro Studio does handle this situation. In the settings (Workout Settings), one enables "Course mode during FTP/ERG Workouts". Checking this box gives the coach the option to click the Course Mode box on the timing during the workout to set the grade (or tention) on the computrainer to a fixed value, thereby, letting the rider pick the gear and cadence they want to use. I will be using this mode from now on and forget about making special interval workouts for compugadgets.
As for my impression of the Wahoo Kickr? It has the same issues reading power as Pref Pro does on a normal trainer: lack of reaction to instanteous power. What this means is during a sprint interval, the rider might hit 1000W for the first few seconds when using a power meter, but on a nornal trainer and Wahoo, the power number increases relative to the speed of the wheel. So, that leads me to believe the power data generated by the wahoo is no better than the power data generated by Pref Pro on a normal trainer; that is, it is calculated, and not measured power. I guess Wahoo just assume everyone has a power meter. This means to do effective training a power meter build into the pedals or crank set is required. In my case, I own a power tap wheel so I could not use it for this session. Having said that, the spin up during a sprint effort is far more lifelike on the wahoo. You really need to stand on the pedals to get it going which is the same on the road. Further, because there is no wheel, there is no wheel slip. I think the best training setup is the Wahoo with a crank based power meter.
What about the RaceMate computrainer? Honest, these have been around forever....and they are really dead technology. Too many cables to connect 1970's style hardware. They use RS232 communications and require USB to serial adapters to connect to modern computers because no current computer has a RS232 port (anymore). The only redeaming qualities of this device is it is build like a tank (useful for a studio environment) and the remote control for the trainer allows riders to control their workouts individual in PerfPro Studio. There is software in the box, but I think the last time that was updated was back in 2005 and from experience, it's just plain garbage. There are so many other options on the market these days, I really don't know why anyone would buy of these devices anymore. The power data from them is also calculated power meaning a power meter still is required. I happen to have access to one, which is the reason I ran it during the test.
In my opinion, most interval workouts can be done effectively without a compugadget trainer and use a normal trainer with a power meter. The Ultimate Setup, I think, for home training is the Wahoo Kickr and a pedal or crank based power meter. The compugadget offers an advantage is during hill repeat intervals, and during race simulations which really can't be done effectly on a normal trainer. For a studio environment, I'm not sure if the Wahoo Kickr is a great idea. With 10spd and 11spd (and not 12spd) cassette variations, it would be a pain to deal with. If the gear setup isn't perfect, then more fun. Perhaps the Wahoo Snap would be a better idea. We shall see. I'd love to hear from studio operators using Wahoo Kirkr's. I know studio's using the Computrainer hate them.
Next time, I'm going to try out course mode and maybe find the local Time Trial course, and run a group through that.