Virtual Rides in Vermont and Maine
As the temperature drops and the days go markedly shorter, I can feel my fitness and motivation levels begin to drop. At this time of the year, it is hard to battle the inevitable and switch from the pleasure of outdoor training to the grind of indoor training. But, as I have shown previously here in my Tour de Basement™ DVD review series, it is not always a grind at all. In fact, with the right DVD, meaning great scenery, a challenging course and suitable music, training sessions can fly by.
epicRides™, the productions from Vermont-based epicPlanet.tv, fall fully into the latest trend of outdoor training ride DVDs. The press release notes that the DVDs are intended to complement indoor drill-type training DVDs and not replace them, but I think the producers are being overly modest. The two discs I have ridden to so far are slickly-produced, attractive numbers with some innovative features.
The first ride I enjoyed (and I have actually ridden it two times in a row!) is “Epic Vermont.” From the charming village of Waitsfield, Vermont, you ride with a group of four local cyclists (including a hammerhead in his 70s) towards the Appalachian Gap. There is a five minute warm-up sequence, followed by ten minutes of easy climbing. Now begins the serious stuff, with 20 minutes of hard climbing to the top of the Gap. After the successful ride to the summit, you get to spin downhill rapidly for five minutes and then roll into Bristol, Vermont for the last five minutes of cool-down.
This totals 45 minutes, and one of my criticisms of these kind of DVDs is that while they might be ideal of indoor training in a spinning class, they are actually a bit short for the kind of training dedicated road cyclists need to do. That said, epicPlanet.tv has come up with some interesting variations on the theme. Each of the DVDs comes with a downloadable training guide. Besides the usual disclaimer–do people who actually aren’t very fit buy these DVDs? Has anyone ever dropped dead while doing them?–there is some background on training zones and how to use them. There is an image of the digital dashboard used in the DVDs (we’ll get back to this in a moment) and then three suggested training rides: one to improve your VO2 max; another to strengthen aerobic capacity; and the last to serve as a recovery ride. All of these use the same 5/10/20/5/5 minute sequence shown on the DVD.
The digital dashboard used on the epicRides™ is exceptionally well-designed. It is simple and does not interfere with the image on-screen. In the upper left corner is an indicator of the segment (for instance, “HARD CLIMB”) while a thin strip at the bottom has all the other information. The indicators are: training zone; average grade in the segment; a terrain profile with a marker to show where you are on the ride; and a timer showing elapsed time. The only unnecessary thing on the screen is the occasional appearance of “bike cam,” which is pretty obvious. The dashboard cannot be turned off but not only is it unobtrusive I found it very useful and probably the most thoughtfully designed one of its kind I have seen.
Music, as the epicPlanet.tv people note, is a pretty subjective thing. Some of the DVDs I have reviewed have no music, while some have very good original scores and some of the others make me wish they had no music at all (we can always press “Mute,” of course). The music on “Epic Vermont” is okay, although I personally prefer trashy, beat-heavy Eurotechno when I work out. But here too the folks at epicPlanet.tv have come up with something novel. Don’t like the music on “Epic Vermont?” No problem–just download a new companion mix from Cadence Revolution, a workout music specialist based here in my city of Ottawa, onto your MP3 player and run it in sync with the muted DVD. I tried this yesterday after making a CD of the new soundtrack and it worked beautifully. It is possible that you could get a whole series of different soundtracks for this one DVD so those long winter months will fly by.
The other innovative feature offered by epicPlanet.tv is that you can save the shipping costs of the DVD and simply download it directly from their website to your iPod.
The second DVD I have had the chance to use is “Epic Acadia,” which also has a downloadable training guide. This ride, through Maine’s Acadia National Park, is somewhat more elaborate than the Vermont one. Leaving Bar Harbor with three local racers, there is a five minute warm-up, followed by fifteen minutes of rolling hills. You then get into a power paceline for ten minutes in preparation for 20 minutes of what looks like pretty serious climbing (7%+) up to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Fast spinning again follows on the descent for five minutes and then a cool down for another five as you come back to Bar Harbor, so the workout totals 60 minutes.
The ride is an autumn one and the trees are in full colour, reminding me of my own rides in Gatineau Park here. However, the scenery in Maine, with views of the water and the mountains, is much more impressive. This ride was the subject of another, simpler DVD I have reviewed here.
The dashboard is pretty much the same as for “Epic Vermont,” but there is an added indicator to mark intervals during the climbs in the upper right corner. This is a valuable feature for pacing climbs.
epicPlanet.tv has recently launched their third production, a double DVD of rides in Tucson, Arizon, totalling 110 minutes. I am looking forward to reviewing this as well, although the ride up Mt. Lemmon is one I have already done on another training DVD. The world might be a small place but I hope that there will be less duplication of riding routes from producers. There is a lot of great riding in areas such as Colorado and Utah and Virginia and North Carolina, if you are looking for adventure in the United States, not to mention the vast number of possibilities in Europe.
So, to summarize the offerings from epicPlanet.tv, these are innovative DVDs produced to a very high standard and useful training tools. At US$29.95, they are certainly competitively priced. I liked them so much that I think I will take advantage of yet another downloadable feature: detailed route maps that would allow me to get out to Vermont and to Maine and actually ride the courses outdoors. After my typical October-April Tour de Basement I will ready for them!
For more information, and to order the DVDs, go to http://www.epicplanet.tv/ .