Sunday, 4 March 2012

Testing the TACX TTS4

TACX TTS 4 It was chucking it down with rain this morning which was something of a deterrent to bicycling.

I know, I should go out whatever the weather, but it seemed very cold as well and a day at complete odds with the sunshine of yesterday.

It gave me an excuse to try a ride using the bicycle turbo unit, which is my alternative to hitting the streets. I'd also recently ordered an updated training package to go with the TACX Booster unit.

The software is called TACX TTS 4 (no idea what it stands for) and it provide a way to get the readouts from the bike displayed directly onto the computer using the ANT+ protocol.

My bike already has a magnet on one of the rear spokes and another magnet on one of the pedals and a little radio sensor picks up the pedalling rate (cadence) and speed. Add a heart rate monitor and the main telemetry is all provided. The Garmin Edge 800 unit I have reads all of these signals and tracks my course using GPS when I'm out on the roads. It gives me speed, heart-rate, calories, cadence, amount climbed and a few other statistics.

The Tacx unit does a similar thing although it is designed to be stationary. The extra facility is that it will simulate terrain to make the ride easier or more difficult by applying an electronically controlled magnetic brake, either from the small control unit on the handlebars or via the PC.

Anyway, I loaded the new version of the software into the PC and restarted everything. Hooray - it worked immediately. The PC software found all of the various ANT+ readouts (I had to re-introduce it to the heart rate monitor) and then I was in business.

I tried a couple of the pre-programmed rides - firstly a simple 0.7% downhill slope for 6 miles to get used to the software. It worked fine. Then a small section of a French mountain pass - which had a decent video playback including oncoming cars and people standing looking over the edge of the river valley admiring the view. This was just a demo of less than a mile but ran quite smoothly.

There's also a facility to program in one's own circuits using google maps. Literally draw the circuit and then feed it into the TACX and Google earth will render a real-time playback. I've done this before on a previous version of the software but haven't yet figured out how to copy them across to this new release. I've previously recreated local courses that I've actually cycled (which works quite well - either uploading the exact co-ordinates collected from the Garmin or drawing them using Google) but it would be fun to do some other more exotic locations.

Next was a small circuit of an Italian virtual reality village. There were three scenarios to choose; a rugged downhill mountain bike area through woodland, a series of steep mountain rides and the one I chose (chicken!) which was called valleys. There were about half a dozen different valley rides pre-programmed and I looked for the one with the least steep profile - it was about 6 miles.

So I set off through the rolling countryside, with tractors mowing fields, birds tweeting and a flock of crows occasionaly swirling overhead. The ride became steep for a few minutes but was mainly flat as it meandered around a village, along a waterside front and then up a short hill before a few more loops to the finish.

Six miles in idyllic sunny Italian countryside.

I decided to look outside before maybe doing a further 15 or so miles.

The earlier rain had turned to snow.

I knew that the turbo made sense in certain conditions.


Pat said...

Super photo!

rashbre said...

Pat Actually, it not a photo, it's part of the virtual reality graphics from the trainer software.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I'm jealous. I'm too wimpy to ride in the rain, myself -- not to mention too intimidated by that software to buy it so I can ride the way you are. Instead, I truck off to the gym and climb on a spin bike... I have to admit, it's losing its charm. Thankfully, I've found a local crew to ride with, so maybe I'll get some experience and confidence that way.

rashbre said...

Susan Helen Gottfried I know, it can be less fun in the rain, although the right clothes can help. Here in GB its pretty essential to have some waterproofing, whatever the season.