Chris Thornham—A new revolution in cycling has transformed the way people engage with the sport. And unsurprisingly, it’s driven by technological innovation.
New products from Widerun and Zwift are bringing cycling home by allowing users to connect their bicycles to virtual reality systems that track workout effectiveness and progress, provide multiplayer competition and immerse them in a wide variety of environments—from the streets of the busiest cities in the world to peaceful mountain paths.
While some traditionalists might scoff at virtual cycling, I’m a strong supporter of anything that promotes physical fitness. And virtual cycling will only create a larger opportunity for people to participate in the sport, especially those who have grown up playing video games or been restricted by location or other factors.
Merging the physical benefits of cycling with the virtual landscape will help bridge these realities and encourage physical activity.
Experience the Benefits of Cycling Indoors
With virtual cycling, anyone can reap the physical and mental benefits of cycling from the comfort of his or her own home.
In fact, just two to four hours of cycling a week provides a full-body workout and leads to an all-around improved sense of health by enhancing cardiovascular fitness, reducing fat, strengthening bones and increasing muscle flexibility. And while the majority of the activity works the lower body, the upper body and core are also engaged from steering and maintaining balance.
Because physical activity causes the body to produce endorphins and other chemicals, cycling can also help reduce and regulate stress, anxiety and depression. And as a non-weight-bearing sport, it eliminates the joint impact and stress inflicted by activities like running.
Taking cycling indoors also provides some distinct advantages to the traditional outdoor approach:
- It’s safer. Outdoor cycling can be dangerous; moving it indoors eliminates the risk of being struck by a car or crashing.
- It takes location out of the equation. Depending on where you live, it can be impossible to get a good cycling workout. From coping with traffic or inclement weather, stopping at lights or dealing with a lack of pavement altogether, virtual cycling frees you from the restraints of location.
- It heightens competition. Nothing spurs results like competition, and virtual cycling allows users to train in a social environment where they can compete on virtual courses, race other users online and complete monitored workout routines.
- It boosts self-confidence. Starting a new workout program can feel intimidating and unnerving; it’s common to feel self-conscious about your appearance or fitness level. But with virtual cycling, you can build up some confidence at home, which will make it easier to eventually join a group and continue participating in the sport.
- It’s more convenient. Riding on the road can take up a lot of time, from preparing for the elements, driving to and from a cycling location and putting on cycling equipment. Having a virtual bike setup at home eliminates all of that, making it easier to squeeze it into a busy schedule.
So what does this all add up to? A more accessible approach to health and fitness.
Virtual cycling will create new opportunities for people who had never considered biking or were restricted by issues such as location.
Not everyone will be sold on the idea, but when you think about it, anything that gets people engaged and excited about exercise deserves some praise. And who knows? Maybe those who learn to love cycling in the virtual world will venture out into the real world and realize how exhilarating outdoor cycling can be.
Chris Thornham is a co-founder of FLO Cycling, which engineers aerodynamic cycling wheels. The company uses computational fluid dynamics software to develop its wheels and verifies its results in a wind tunnel. Less than three years after launching, the company has sold 10,000 wheels to customers in 51 countries. Chris enjoys learning, triathlon training, skiing, hiking with his dog, and spending time with family.