For the last few years, BKool has been making incremental improvements to their virtual reality based training programs. First they offered video simulations, then went 3-D, and then BKool started adding in real-world conditions like wind resistance. Their latest software extension adds a whole new level of realism to indoor training, and it’s based on what’s really happening outdoors.

The company’s newest innovation is called BKool 3D RealWeather technology, which recreates the current weather conditions on any route in the world. If you’d like to see what a rainy ride around London or a sunny cruise of coastal California would be like, check some actual weather reports and virtually warp to your ideal conditions and location, all from the comfort of your indoor training area…

BKool 3D real weather, daytime shot

Last August BKool’s 3D simulator brought full global coverage to the table. Their simulator ‘knows’ every place on earth well enough to represent natural features like trees, rocks and rivers, but also human made structures like roads and buildings with detailed graphics. Similarly, the 3D Real Weather function works for any route in any part of the world.

Riders who use BKool’s computer-controlled mag trainer (or a short list of other compatible models) get the benefit of the tactile feedback function, where basic trainers cannot host this feature. If it’s windy, riders with smart trainers will feel physical resistance to simulate a pushing or pulling feeling. Inclines and declines are also represented in a similar fashion.

BKool 3D real weather, snow shot

BKool 3D real weather, fog shot

Not everything can be simulated with tactile feedback, but what you don’t feel you will definitely see. When riding in rain drops appear on the virtual pavement, and snow blankets the scene during wintery rides. Fog will appear to limit your virtual visibility, and users will even catch lightning strikes in stormy conditions.

BKool 3D real weather, night shot

3D RealWeather also tracks the sun and moon’s locations, and reproduces the correct light conditions for the current weather and time of day. If it’s sunny, your landscape will be bright and if it’s cloudy it will be darker. Feel like going for a night ride? Just virtually travel away from the sun and don’t worry about charging your lights- your avatar never forgets.

With BKool’s virtual training system users build avatars of themselves and with the premium subscription enabled can ride or compete virtually against other people from anywhere on earth, in real time. You can speak to each other as you ride, and can even leave messages written on the road to cheer on or taunt your friends or foes. Users can create and upload their own routes that others can then ride with you, and you can check out other people’s loops.

BKool 3D real weather, stats screen

Users can compete by stage, ranking or team within one of hundreds of existing leagues, or create and invite people to join a league of your own. You can also compare your performance with other riders in various categories from different countries to see how you stack up. Furthermore, you can choose computerized opponents with varying profiles to compete against, or chase a ghost of yourself from a previous session.

BKool sells their own Classic and Pro model trainers which both include a one-year premium membership. However, the 3D RealWeather simulator can be used with any trainer or stationary bicycle meeting the ANT+ standard.

A free, downloadable version of BKool is available which provides full training capabilities but its features are limited. In order to enjoy the 3D graphics and unlimited routes, riders must purchase a monthly subscription. For $6 a month riders with basic trainers can subscribe and get all the features except tactile feedback. Those who have BKool or other smart trainers pay $12 per month for the full service which also controls the trainer’s resistance. The 3D RealWeather software is available for PC, Mac or Android/iOS tablets.

Check out our review of BKool’s trainers here.

bkool.com

14 COMMENTS

  1. I like the Zwift hyper day…. sun rises and sets, moon rises and sets multiple times in a given ride. pretty cool to watch while stuck on a trainer.

  2. This is Craig from Bkool USA. William, I understand that you like Zwift’s “hyper day,” but Bkool is not just a game run on a fictitious course, unlike Zwift — Bkool is designed to mimic as closely as possible the experience of riding (and training and racing) anywhere in the world — real courses and routes, using actual weather and wind conditions, with resistance (on the Bkool trainer, at least) controlled using inertia simulation and advanced algorithms to make it feel as much like riding the actual course as you can get. That makes it a great preparation tool for anyone keying on a particular event. The ultimate course reconnoissance tool, if you will. If you want the sun to rise and set multiple times during a ride? I guess Zwift is your game. Want to see what it’s like to ride down the Col du Tourmalet at 3AM without endangering your life? You can only do that on Bkool.

  3. Hey Craig, Any chance or news on maybe making your app work with Cycleops smart trainer? Bummed it doesn’t work with it atm.

  4. Hey Craig, i have a bkool and it’s fine for “simulation”, it’s likeable to use videos or simulator to go to new places by bike. However the first purpose of a trainer is to train, and for that purpose some bloody fast paced intervals wuth electro music or heavy metal are the best. In that respect my most used tools are sufferfest videos. It’s too bad bkool offers no option to train properly. It should either try to secure a training partnership with sufferfest (which are the funniest hence the best training vids) or develop a similar offering for serious training.

  5. Antoine — not sure what you mean by “train properly.” You can create your own sessions on any course (or no course at all) and add intervals, and target zones for power and heart rate, etc., see it all in real time as well as graphed afterward — and drill down to any of the minutiae you want (you can even create custom training plans automatically). Bkool calculates power, and records that as well as heart rate (if you have an ANT+ heart strap), cadence, climb/descent, calories, etc. You can also add your intervals into an existing video or 3D route to make your training session more realistic (I like to pick a route with a consistent grade like Alpe d’Huez then do my intervals in the middle of the climb). Bkool integrates with your Spotify account if you want music, or just run iTunes or whatever in the background. If you want fast paced intervals, you just need to set your targets accordingly and ride faster — like in real life. For extra motivation, I load in ghosts and bots and create my own virtual pack — or join a live session to ride with others (or try to chase them down). I do that a lot, so I can be riding in France one day, Australia the next, California or Hawaii the day after that.

  6. I was told that if CycleOps used the ANT+ standard FE-C profile for resistance control, you’d be able to pair Bkool to it, but so far it doesn’t. At the moment, the Wahoo KickR, some models from Elite, and the Inside Ride rollers are the only ones I know of that comply with the FE-C standard. A list is on the Bkool website. On the other hand, the Bkool Pro trainer retails for under $700 in the US, so it’s not like it’s a huge investment. It folds up small and is easy to transport, too.

  7. I just got corrected by HQ: only the Inside Ride rollers use FE-C so far. We have agreements with Wahoo and Elite that allow their compatibility with Bkool. I don’t know of any agreements in the works with anyone else, but we’ll post it on our website, send out a press release and all that jazz if/when it ever happens.

  8. Hey Craig, great to see you here answering Qs.

    Will Elite compatibility extend to Real E-motions Rollers?

    Please say “yes” 🙂

  9. Bkool is already compatible with the Elite E-Motion. The following Elite models can be controlled by the Bkool Indoor simulator: Real Axiom, Real Tour, Real Power, Real Turbo Muin, Real E-Motion. I have also just seen that TACX compatibility is planned soon. An interesting thing: if you ride the velodrome in 3D on Bkool, you could probably use any trainer (even “dumb” ones) and just pair to your 3rd party ANT+ power meter or speed sensor to be able to (reasonably) adjust your speed in the simulation. Obviously, you’d need to figure out what resistance to set on your trainer to make it the most accurate to riding on the track — and you wouldn’t get any effect from drafting — but it could still be fun. There’s a new premium subscription level just for riders not using a smart trainer, so you could get that and only pay $6/month on a yearly plan ($7.50 month-to-month) instead of $12.

  10. Hi Craig,

    It’s Marco from Italy.
    Last year i’ve bought bkool pro and I’ve an active premium account, I agree with all of your considerations about a game and a real simulator like bkool.
    In fact the purpose is to use it for trainings ,tests and so on during winter months so please extend the flex option for more than 3 months cause spring+summer seems to be longer than 3 months.
    Finally I really don’t understand why don’t you permit to the bkoolers to use Zwift?
    Zwift team is very interested to integrate your trainer so why don’t give a chance to use it also in a “playful” mode with friends, relatives and so on?

    Thanks in Advance

  11. Hi Marco–
    Thanks for your input. I’ll make sure the folks back at HQ in Madrid see it.
    Re: extending the flex option — if you’re really not using it that much, you might consider just buying your premium subscription one month at a time. Though it costs a little more per month, you only pay for what you use. When your premium months expire, you just go back to the free account — you can still ride all of the routes, do the training and record/analyze your data. Everything is still stored for you on the Bkool server as well. You just will have to ride in solo mode, without video or 3d, etc. (you’ll get map view or 2D view). I know athletes who use Bkool solely for training and are fine with the free account since it gives them the basic functionality they need while recording and graphing all of their data. They find the multiplayer stuff and video/3D distracting.
    Re: Zwift — I will relay your thoughts on that as well. But there’s nothing stopping you from riding Bkool in a “playful” mode with friends since you can use it without being paired to a trainer or just being paired to a power meter or heart strap. In terms of compatibility, Bkool is actually compatible with roughly as many smart trainer models as Zwift at the moment. You can use Bkool paired with Wahoo, Elite and Tacx, as well as Inside Ride rollers. Zwift is currently only compatible with Wahoo, Computrainer, Tacx and the CycleOps PowerBeam, according to their website. This may change in the future as the industry matures, but right now that’s where we are. Check back at bkool.com or our Facebook feeds to see what develops.
    Thanks again.

  12. Hi Craig,
    I am a happyish Bkool user most of the time. I love the option to go on rides practically anywhere in the world and to take part in competitive leagues for, well fun and competition.
    But, and it is a big BUT, the majority of Bkool users that I know and I really want to see integration with say Trainer road and Sufferfest. Many of us are in our 40s & 50s with full time jobs and families etc and don’t have time to set up training regimes. What we want, and what these companies offer are quick access to the training regimes you are able to set up. All I want to do is load up a TR training plan or an integrated sufferfest video , and use it with the Bkool resistance trainer. I don’t want to buy another turbo, nor do others I know, but the likelihood is we will and that other potential users, especially now with the fec development, will look elsewhere. You know, Bkool demonstrated compatibility 18 months ago. It seems shortsighted to remain closed in an increasingly open virtual training world. And history is littered with the debris of closed system in software and computing. I hope that is not a place Bkool ends up in especially given it offers so much. I think the danger will be in the company thinking that what it offers will come to be enough.
    Cheers
    Bob

  13. I have a Kickr and paid for a subscription on Bkool a couple of days ago. I have to say the VR is very disappointing and doesn’t resemble the real route at all. In fact, after about a mile I am riding a road which is seemingly suspended by the sky along with the odd car (also suspended). None of the road junctions are there and what you actually do is ride along a continuous black strip with the same inanimate people in various poses placed every few yards. So I feel that my money has been taken with a false promise of what I should be getting. I was at least expecting a reasonable visual simulation of the real ride.

    Video works ok but when you come to export it, the only possibility is FIT which actually won’t import into Garmin and HRM files. It provides 2 tick boxes for TCX and GPX but you can’t select them. Pretty poor really. Looking at various forums, this has been raised as an issue since January but it’s still not fixed. So unless I see some improvements, I will not be renewing by subscription.

What do you think?