With thousands of professional cyclists and cycling enthusiasts in Adelaide for the Tour Down Under, one young entrepreneur has found a way to make the most out of the cycling fever taking over the city- Virtual Cycling.
A former professional cyclist himself, David Parsons, 26, has used his love of the sport to create a unique virtual cycling training centre in Adelaide where each bike is linked to virtual reality software which can be tailored to match a rider’s fitness ability.
The software, called Zwift, has become a popular training tool amongst professional cyclists, allowing them to put their endurance to the test without leaving their home or gym. By virtual cycling, athletes can find more time in their day to train, or even to participate in other activities, by cutting out travelling ties to the gym or other professional cycling training spaces.
When their bike is connected to the software, it becomes harder to pedal when they are going up a hill in the virtual world and vice versa on a downward slope. By creating this experience, virtual cycling is able to emulate the difficulties of difficult terrain or uphill climbs, allowing the technology to be more versatile to a wider range of cycler skillsets.
Parsons had the idea to connect more than one bike to the software, allowing teammates not only to compete against other riders around the world, but against each other — in the comfort of a climate-controlled studio.
“This is the first official studio in Australia,” Parsons said.
He said using the training method in a studio set-up would especially benefit cyclists in the northern hemisphere where it gets too cold and wet to ride on the roads.
“Cycling is a very social activity and generally when you’re indoors you’re separated from everybody else,” he said.
‘Unlocked potential’ could drive interstate expansion of Virtual Cycling
With a little help from his friends in the cycling community, Parsons said the business had been “taking leaps and bounds”, and had been popular amongst professional cyclists visiting Adelaide for the Tour Down Under.
“My racing days are over but I’ve managed to pull in a lot of the people from those days to help me out and to promote and spread the word,” he said.
“One of my best supporters has been … Patrick Jonker, who actually won the Tour Down Under quite a few years ago.”
Members of professional cycling team Canyon-SRAM used the studio on Wednesday.
Alexis Ryan, who won the Young Rider jersey in the Women’s Tour Down Under, said she was not expecting to find such a studio in Adelaide.
“It’s great for getting quality riding in, especially if the weather is poor outside, also if you’re trying to warm up at races. It’s a great program,” she said.
Parsons said the long hours and work it took to set up his own business had been worth it and that the endeavour was “paying off”.
His studio currently consists of just six bike spaces where riders can connect to the virtual cycling software, but there are plans to set up more studios, possibly interstate. With the ever looming threats of viruses and the advancements in making technology more accessible, having more indoor cycling spaces, especially at home, is a blooming market. Many people are looking to get healthier, but for those living in places with little space to practice cycling such as cities, may greatly benefit from access to this technology. Access to virtual cycling, especially in large cities, may also help avoid accidents, by keeping cycling at home, while keeping the health benefits which cycling provides.
Furthermore, this technology would also be incredibly beneficial for those who may struggle to get outside. Virtual cycling may provide an alternative for those fearful of entering the gym for the first time, or those who may have difficulty in social environments, such as individuals living with autism or anxiety. Virtual cycling may also prove incredibly beneficial for those recovering from injuries or accidents, as these at-home systems allow users to go at their own pace and difficulty level.
“There’s so much more potential that we haven’t unlocked,” Parsons said.
“We would love to look into Melbourne. I think that’s our next step.”