Training apps for cycling fall into two categories. Training apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad provide a virtual environment for you to ride, train and even race on your smart trainer, while apps like TrainingPeaks give you tools to log and monitor your training, measure your progress and even help create training schedules. Let's take a look at your options in the best training apps for both types.
Training apps for your phone, tablet or desktop computer provide a vast range of ride-logging and training assistance features from virtual bunch rides to simple records of your riding
Indoor training apps that work with smart trainers have never been more popular, but the outside world is still there and training apps that provide coaching programs and ride logging can help you get fit out there as well
The big players work with just about any platform you care to name, but smaller operators tend to specialise in just, say, Windows or iOS or Android
Most apps that you pay for by subscription offer a free trial so you can try before you buy; we recommend trialling as many as possible
Want more indoor training options? Check out our guide to the best indoor cycling apps
Paying a professional coach to provide a personal training plan can be a really good way of realising your potential and helping you achieve your cycling goals, whether it’s preparing for a big sportive or an attack on the local crit series.
But hiring a coach can be pricey. There are, however, now quite a few personal training and coaching apps that can provide structure to your riding, with personalised training schedules and workout plans tailored to your requirements. Some are free or require a small one-off or monthly fee.
There are many training apps that will track a range of data from a ride and help you chart your weekly and monthly mileage and time in the saddle. For many people, that is enough. But if you want to add more structure by way of a training plan to your time in the saddle, some of these apps can provide workouts and specific goals that are designed to help you achieve the results you want.
Some of the apps take into account your current fitness level and, just like a real coach, tailor the intensity and volume of the training plan. Some of the apps provide real-time feedback and are flexible when real-life throws a curve ball your way.
Rouvy's creators, brothers Petr and Jiri Samek from Czechia, describe it as "a one-stop complete indoor and outdoor training solution for tracking and analyzing all your training efforts".
Rouvy's key feature is "augmented reality" riding, in which it provides videos of classic cycling routes and tells your FE-C home trainer how much resistance to impose to simulate the effort of climbing an Alp or three. It works with non-smart trainers too, calculating your virtual power based on your current speed, the profile of the course and the type of trainer.
There are even UK routes, like the segment of the mighty Fred Whitton sportive, above.
As well as indoor training, Rouvy can import your rides from the real world too, so you can keep all your riding data in one place and track your progress.
One subscription covers a whole household, which sounds good if there are several of you cooped up indoors at the moment.
Rouvy offers a 14-day free trial.
Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last year or so, you'll know that Zwift is the massively multiplayer online game where you ride and train with groups of other cyclists, and race against them. It includes a number of training plans and workouts and used with a connected — or 'smart' — indoor trainer it eliminates most of the boredom of indoor training.
Zwift offers a 7-day free trial.
This app can connect to compatible training sensors (like a power meter or heart rate strap) and can provide workouts scaled to your fitness, determined by an FTP fitness test. It provides over 100 training plans with specific goals and offers training instruction and motivation while you’re doing a workout.
It was originally geared for use on a smart trainer, but TrainerRoad can also send workouts and training plans to your Garmin or Wahoo GPS cycle computer so you can use it for outdoor traning too.
TrainerRoad doesn't offer a free trial, but there's a 30 day money-back guarantee. TrainerRoad says: "If you sign up for TrainerRoad and decide within 30 days that TrainerRoad isn’t a good fit for you, then you can cancel your subscription and request a refund."
If you like watching footage from real races while you train, with a bangin' soundtrack to keep you hammering the pedals, then you'll love Sufferfest, which was recently acquired by Wahoo. It offers a range of workouts aimed at tuning different aspects of your fitness and each one is accompanied by a video featuring appropriate clips from races, and the music suits the intensity of each interval or recovery period.
Rather than just focusing on your functional threshold power, the common metric of fitness, Sufferfest works with what the company calls Four Dimensional Power or 4DP. This tracks four measurements, neuromuscular power, anaerobic capacity, maximal aerobic power and functional threshold power for what's alleged to be a more complete profile of your fitness. The idea is that you can then more accurately work on different aspects of your fitness, concentrating for example on neuromuscular power if you want to improve your sprint.
Sufferfest also provides structured training plans, though you don’t get feedback from a coach so it’s down to you to follow the plan and chart your own progress. As well as video cycling workouts, your 13 quid a month gets you a yoga program customised for cyclists, a ten-week mental training program to help build your psychological toughness, and a circuit-training program designed to build up whole-body strength.
There are apps for Mac OS, Windows and iOS, and while you can stream the videos as you train, Sufferfest recommends you download them first so an outage doesn't interrupt your session.
The curiously-named GoldenCheetah is an application for MacOS, Windows and Linux that provides a comprehensive set of visualisation and tracking tools to monitor your power meter training.
GoldenCheetah is very much an application for people who have at least some understanding of training with power. It has a fairly steep learning curve, but if you take your time to read the wealth of supporting material on the website and watch the tutorials you soon get to grips with it.
It can import ride data in pretty much any format there is, and also bring your history over from Strava, though not directly from Garmin Connect.
You can then display your data and training/fitness progression over time in a vast number of ways or home in on a particular ride to see how and where you’re putting down the watts.
With an ANT+ dongle in your computer GoldenCheetah can also control your smart trainer so you can program an indoor session without the need for paid apps like Zwift or TrainerRoad. You’ll have to design your own session and watch re-runs of Lucifer rather than looking at your Zwift avatar’s bum and thinking “I wish mine were that small”. You can also upload your own ride videos.
One of GoldenCheetah’s most useful features is the ability to edit an activity, and to combine two activities. If your GPS goes haywire and records you as being at the equator, or gets turned off and restarted mid-ride, you can tidy things up.
The good news is that Garmin’s fitness-tracking website is free and has lots of useful features. The bad news is that it works best with Garmin devices and is a bit notorious for rejecting apparently-valid exercise files from non-Garmin devices. Given that it’s intended as a service for people who’ve bought into Garmin’s GPS and exercise-recording ecosystem it’s not entirely unreasonable, and you can pick up a secondhand Edge GPS for not much more than a year’s subscription to the various premium services.
Major features of Garmin Connect include a record of all your activities; a route-planner with popularity routing based on Garmin’s huge database of people’s rides; a workout creator; training plans; a huge library of routes; and for folks trying to lose weight or just track their weight, a calorie-counting tool that works with MyFitnessPal. Garmin Connect will also sync your rides with Strava and Garmin has its own segment system too.
What Garmin Connect doesn’t have is much in the way of power-based fitness tracking, which is slightly odd given Garmin’s presence in the power meter field and the way its latest devices use your ride data. My Edge 1030 Plus suggests training rides, tells me how long I should recover after a ride and lets me know if it calculates that my FTP or VO2Max has improved; none of this appears on Garmin Connect.
Nevertheless if you’re a Garmin device owner and you haven’t been footling around in Connect’s features recently, it’s worth exploring.
A highly regarded app this one, TrainingPeaks offers a very comprehensive suite of tools for tracking your fitness and viewing time spent in training zones, using power or heart rate. The premium version of the app lets you choose a training plan created by some of the best coaches in the sport and delivers daily workouts to your email. You can also choose from a wide selection of workout plans, such as a Cat 1-2 Base Period for 12 weeks by Joe Friel, or a Cyclo-Cross plan by Hunter Allen.
TrainingPeaks also now allows you to create your own training sessions that you can then export to your bike computer.
You can read more about the TrainingPeaks coaching service.
TrainingPeaks offers a 14-day free trial of the Premium service.
Strava is a hugely popular app that records and shares rides, but did you know it also offers a wide range of training plans? They’ve been developed by Carmichael Training Systems and include workouts aimed at the full spectrum of cycling fitness, from climbing to endurance and anaerobic sessions. They can be customised to suit your available training time from just five hours a week. You need a premium subscription to Strava to access the plans and a whole lot more besides.
Strava's basic features are free so you can decide whether you like it before ponying up for the training system.
This iPhone-only app functions as a bike computer but can also store your route in Google maps, which can then be exported to social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. A calendar makes it easy to see your recent rides at a glance and help to plan your next ride, and your favourite routes can be saved for future use.
You can easily keep track of training rides with graphs of the total distance and time accumulated with this app. Information is clearly presented with the main screen a log showing some of your latest rides, so you can see at a glance how training has been going. You can also search your recorded rides too. Data is manually entered, but there’s an Autofill option for rapid entry.
This app lets you share and compare in a number of sports. As well as speed, distance, time, it works with compatible heart rate monitor straps and cadence modules. You can replay tracks on Google Maps, share with Facebook and Twitter friends, and export to the SportsTrack website. .
This free app adapts workouts to suit your demands, goals and progress. It charts your progress and can adapt the workout to match how well your training is going, and can make a change if you are going really well, or struggling and hit a bad path. As well as workouts, it can also help you to keep track of your daily nutrition with a food diary. It’s also useful if you want to improve your core strength and general flexibility as there are lots of non-cycling workouts as well.
There's more to life than cycling (who knew?) and improving your general conditioning can aid your cycling too. Fitify provides a variety of off-the-bike workouts that'll help boost your core strength, flexibility and like that. You can use simple equipment like Kettlebells and resistance bands with it, or just do bodyweight exercises.
Described as the “Swiss army knife of GPS tracking and timing” Kinetic lets you organise your training sessions by activity or event. It can set goals and monitor your progress against a predicted finish time. Voice notifications chart your progress in real-time.
Kinetic GPS Lite is free, while the full version is $3.99.
This app offers a decent range of workouts, with some of them apparently based on Sir Chris Hoy’s own training regime, such as the VO2 Max Interval Training Workouts. Workouts are accompanied by photos and videos and as well as following one of the many workouts, you can also create your own workout. Also covers many other sports if you don’t just cycle as well.
For a little under six quid a month, the Pro+ version incudes over 100 training programs, the ability to create your own programs and a whole lot more besides.
Workout Trainer's basic service is free so you can decide whether you like it before stepping up to the Pro+ paid version.
Thanks to everyone who suggested other apps and tools they prefer in comments to a previous version of this article. We're adding them to our regular review process so future versions of this guide will include the best ones.
Got a personal training and coach app you use that isn't on this list? Let's hear them below.
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John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.