The Bkool Turbo Trainer gives a whole new meaning to being connected online, especially within the context of turbo trainers. Your performance and power on the roads is shared with your trainer indoors, making sure that you are always performing at the top of your game. But it doesn’t stop there, you can download video sessions, race against other riders in real time, test your fitness or create your own routes through www.bkool.com.
The Bkool Turbo Trainer is very feature-rich which shows that this Spanish-owned company have put quite a bit of thought into the user experience. For starters, the frame itself is u-shaped and has a quick release system meaning that fixing your bike to the frame only takes a few brief movements. It also comes with a riser block and a USB ANT+ dongle which connects the trainer to your PC (no wires – yippee!). It is worth mentioning that the Bkool Turbo Trainer does have a cadence and power output display however it does not come with a heart rate monitor. You will have to buy this separately and the trainer is compatible with all ANT+ monitors.
The Bkool website, www.bkool.com, is the central platform for you to manage all of your training sessions, whether it be outdoors on the road, or inside on the trainer. You will need to create your online profile to get going. There is a bit of a catch when it comes to taking advantage of the many online features as you will need to pay for a monthly subscription of up to EUR10/month. There are three levels of subscriptions: bronze, silver and gold. The bronze subscription is free but it only includes access to the online sessions, user groups and forums. The silver package has a bit more but for EUR3 extra, you can get the gold package which has everything. By everything I mean access to multiplayer sessions, real video sessions, online clubs and leagues, fitness tests and more. I found the social networking part of this package the best as I could create clubs, join clubs and leagues and I could challenge other riders in real time. I cannot emphasise enough how much fun this is and how time flies when you are racing against other people online. The gold package is by far the best value for money and Bkool add further value by uploading new real videos, challenges and tests on a monthly basis.
Another really nice feature is the Bkool app which is available free for Apple and Android phones. This app is pretty nifty as it measures your ride data including speed, distance, altitude, route, power and calories. At the end of your ride, this data is then sent to your Bkool profile online so that you can use it to track your performance over time. You can then use the data to create personalised sessions on your trainer so you will always get the most out of your sessions. Nice one!
What I like about this trainer is that it automatically adjusts the resistance according to the gradient. It will go as far as a 20% incline which is not a huge amount, but is enough to push you. Additionally, you can even create wind vectors to simulate different parts of the ride which adds that touch of realism to the overall experience.
On screen, you are given a 2D profile with an overhead map of your course. The quality of the graphics is not amazing but you are always shown where you are on the map in relation to the other riders which is the main thing. One thing I did notice is that to date, there are no English online clubs or leagues. There are quite a few Spanish and French users online but it would be nice to find something in English. This is still a relatively new trainer however so I expect that the situation will improve over time as more English people start buying it.
Reaching a power output of 1200 watts, I found that there was enough resistance for me to keep pushing and to further my goals and fitness levels. The ride experience is smooth enough and the noise levels are not overly offensive in any way.
The trainer itself weighs a hefty 14kgs and folds down to a reasonable size so storage shouldn’t be a problem.
The Verdict on the Bkool Trainer?
This is a well-priced and well-thought out trainer. It offers a host of functions and possibilities, the best of which include the Bkool app and the gold package online functionality. Being able to record your outdoor rides for later usage indoors is a nice to have as is being able to share every element of your training with other online users. If you are looking for a trainer with multiplayer functionality, the Bkool Turbo Trainer is a strong contender at a nice price.