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RGT: Virtually the real thing

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8 Apr 2022
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Gone are the days where indoor training amounted to staring at a blank wall as you shifted a plastic toggle attached to your handlebars through six degrees of magnetic resistance with only the sounds of a Roxy Music CD for company.

Apps like Spotify have put the world’s music library at the press of a button, delivered to our ears through wireless noise-cancelling earphones.

Smart turbo trainers, meanwhile, allow us to directly mount our carbon road bikes to a machine that can automatically shift through a 30% gradient swing in a matter of seconds, or simulate riding the cobbles of Roubaix.

Then there is arguably the biggest technological advancement for indoor cyclists, the rise of the virtual training app. The immersive experience offered by today’s training apps can transport you into a digital world where you can race, train, socialise and explore like you are on the open road, all from the comfort of your own home.

In short, indoor training has been truly revolutionised. Now RGT Cycling wants to take it to the next level.

Real life replicated

‘The goal of RGT is to bring the culture of cycling into the virtual world. Right now, we don’t think that exists on any app, but we’re working to fix this,’ explains James Vickers, head of brand and marketing at RGT.

‘We are targeting that idea of culture with our dedication to realism in visuals and rider experience and commitment to user-created events and races. We want to emphasise how an event, race or simple ride can translate from the real world to the virtual one.’

While others have embraced a gamified approach to visuals, RGT is dedicated to realism on screen. Currently, all users have access to a selection of 12 Real Road maps on rotation that include the likes of the lunar landscape of Mont Ventoux, the brutal farmlands of Flanders and the iconic picturesque lighthouse of Cap du Formentor.

All of the maps reflect the real-world surroundings with ultra-realistic graphics and details that have you feeling almost like you are actually there. In the future, though, it wants to take things even further.

RGT currently boasts a nifty feature called Magic Roads that allows you to drop in a real-life GPX file and have it cloned in the app, giving you the chance to replicate your favourite club ride or the roads of an upcoming cycling tour from your trainer.

As part of the ongoing development of Magic Roads, RGT believes it will soon be possible to match your ride’s location with graphics within RGT’s database to provide visuals that match the real-world landscape. 

The real feel

It is not just in the visual appearance of maps where RGT is leading the way with regard to real-world experience in the virtual space, it is committed to the same standard when it comes to ride feel too.

RGT has dedicated hundreds of hours to developing an informed and accurate physics-modelling algorithm based upon the speed and movement of real riders.

‘We call it “Real Physics”,’ explains Vickers. ‘Other platforms render rider position on the app locally from the user’s machine, whereas we position you from our server and then tell your machine where to place you on the virtual road.’

This means that all riders are positioned in the same place on each user’s screen. Think you are sitting on a rival’s wheel? You are. Trying to launch a winning sprint from a friend’s lead out? You will be.

RGT’s drafting experience is also much more realistic than what currently exists on the market in recreating what it is like to be sat on the wheel. ‘Real Physics’ creates an appropriate level of draft that emulates the feel of real riding.

The way to achieving fast times or winning a sprint as part of a group of riders is not by riding as a blob, but riding in a paceline, just like you would in real life. Then there is the incorporation of proper braking into the virtual experience. Rather than taking a corner at 80kmh or ploughing through riders in front of you, your rider avatar will shave speed like you would on the road.

This means, like in the real world, you need to accelerate out of corners to avoid the concertina effect of a strung-out peloton and are afforded a moment of respite on long descents.

Where Real Physics really comes into its own, however, is with RGT’s racing feature. Tactics and positioning are just as important as they are in real-world racing, while the drafting system allows you to launch winning sprints just like Mark Cavendish, with first across the line always the winner.

Better than before

Since launching in early 2020, RGT has come a long way. Recently, its interface was improved for easier setup while updates have improved connectivity to trainers and sensors.

However, one of the next big developments for RGT revolves around training. ‘The reality is nobody has done a good job of making virtual training an immersive experience. It is still relatively boring. Beyond being told to hit a certain number, there is no reason to hit your training protocol,’ states Vickers.

RGT’s work on ‘scenario-based training’ wants to solve this with the focus on manipulating your training ride into real-world scenarios such as chasing down a race breakaway or responding to attacks rather than simply riding a HIIT workout or Overs and Unders session, completely changing how you interact with the numbers you have to hit.

And while full access to features such as training plans and Magic Roads on the RGT platform will cost £6.99 per month, there is a pledge to always provide its core service for free, as is the case today.

‘We believe in cycling as a sport to benefit people’s health and well-being,’ explains Vickers. ‘You don’t have to pay to go for a ride, but you do have to pay for an event and for training plans. We’ve recreated that concept in our virtual world so there will always be an element of the platform that you can experience for free. What’s currently available for free will continue to be.’ 

• Sign up to RGT via the app or visiting rgtcycling.com