If you like the idea of turbo training but you can't stand the monotony then there's plenty of ways to keep yourself occupied, from your iPod to a full VR trainer. But at just €5.99 this 60-minute workout from The Sufferfest is a real bargain, and it's a session you can repeat without it becoming stale.
The Downward Spiral is available as a 700mb .mp4 download - you can watch it on your computer, and The Sufferfest say it's 'optimised' for small screens, but I think it's better to have it on a telly if you want to immerse yourself in the action, and it's easy enough to burn it to a DVD. The quality's good enough to watch on a decent size screen. The downward spiral itself is two sets of decreasing time intervals – flat out then recovery – starting at two minutes and decreasing by 15 seconds each time (your recovery time goes down too). The racing segments are footage from the cobbles – last year's Paris-Roubaix and Fleche-Wallone races – with recovery sections featuring pack riding from an Australian criterium.
My main criteria for rating a turbo workout are 1) whether it can actually keep me sat there for an hour and 2) how high my heart rate goes in the hard bits. The Downward Spiral certainly has enough interest for the full hour; okay the crit racing gets a bit samey after a while but you're just glad it's that and not the racing, which is littered with on-screen instructions to ATTACK! and to get OUT OF THE SADDLE! and to STAY WITH HIM! and to try HARDER! HARDER! HARDER! Needless to say it's pretty intense, and normally where I'd struggle to leave the 160s on the HRM, on this session I was pushing 178 max. The structure of the spiral means that you can really ramp up the effort as the intervals get shorter. So top marks on both counts.
The middle recovery piece is a nice bit of offroad POV stuff and the warm down is a fixed vid from Gorilla bikes. Music is mostly rocky - no bands I'd heard of (rights to big bands' tracks cost a mint) but good pacy stuff. On screen instructions are accompanied by horse sound effects for some reason – you need them though, as deep into the spirals you don't spend a lot of time looking at the screen, and when you do it's calling you a PANSY.
A cheap and well put together vid to enliven your turbo sessions. I'm already looking forward to 'Berg Attack!', the next one. kind of.
road.cc test report
Make and model: The Sufferfest Downward Spiral training video
Size tested: n/a
Did you enjoy using the product? Not at all. That's kind of the point
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 190cm Weight: 98kg
I usually ride: whatever I\'m testing... My best bike is: Trek 1.5 with Ultegra 6700
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.