NOTE: Since this review, we've also done some of the newer videos (2013) from EpicRides. They've improved their music and the graphics on screen. There's also more footage from 'behind' the riders, which helps in immersing you in the experience. If you're looking for 'real rides' kind of videos, these guys are raising their game.
Although I'm spending a fair bit of time on the indoor bike testing out the new Sufferfest material, it's a welcome relief to enjoy the craft of the indoor workout video as practiced by others in the industry. Allen Jones over at EpicPlanet (@epicplanet on Twitter) sent me his latest effort - Epic Tuscon. I've never been to Arizona, and was in sore need of a decent workout, so I threw it on the laptop, hopped on the bike and gave it a go.
Like other virtual cycling DVDs, Epic Tuscon shows you first person footage of a ride through an interesting area - in this case, Tuscon, Arizona. You're on the ride with three women from a local cycling team, and need to do your best to keep up with them.
The video I tried (there are two in the Epic Tuscon pack), up Mt. Lemmon, was 77 minutes long (including trailers). As I warmed up and learned what I was about to go through, I was a little confused - it was a workout based on a 5 minute warm up, followed by a 30minute climb at 6%, a 15minute climb at 6% and a 20minute climb at 6%. A graph on the screen, along with a timer, shows you where you are in the workout and how long you have to go. But with no breaks between climbs, it ended up being a 65minute slog up a mountain. In a spinning class, it's probably effective, as the instructor can put some structure behind the scenes on the screen. To be fair he DVD does include a few specially designed workouts which you can follow, but I didn't happen to have any with me. Done alone without a prepared workout, I found myself wondering what I was supposed to be doing and had a hard time maintaining focus.
The video footage is great - cactus! Wow. Those are nice cactus. Cactui? Cacti? Anyway. It was a welcome change from the wet leaves outside my window here in late October Zurich. This DVD spends more time featuring a straight-on view of the road than I remember from previous DVDs....which is a good thing. There are very few diversions from the road to look at the view, which I appreciated as it's always unsettling during a workout. The shots of the riders are generally good, although I'd like a greater percentage of them to be from the rear, as the 'looking back at the riders' shots aren't as 'immersive' in nature. The riders do look like they're putting out a pretty good efforts at certain points in the climb, which helps motivate you to do the same.
The music is...dreadful. Now, I know first-hand how hard it is to find good music that is affordable for the cycling video producer. It's difficult work and I've got big empathy for how hard it must have been for them. The guys Epic Planet seem to realise this. They've taken the unique step of teaming up with the guys at Cadence Revolution to create a custom music playlist to listen to while watching an Epic Rides DVD. It's a wonderful idea and I'm sure the Cadence Revolution guys will help out a lot. The idea is that you play the DVD with the sound off and listen to the playlist on your ipod. That's going to work very nicely if you're at home and doing the workout, but if you're at the gym and watching the video on your ipod, it's impossible to listen to something other than the video soundtrack. It's a halfway solution and here's hoping that EpicRides can somehow integrate those Cadence Revolution playlists directly onto the DVD...that would be perfect.
This DVD is better than the Epic Vermont one I did last year....and so earns half a star more. If you're looking for a good video for 'base building' sessions this winter, this could very well be it. Now, if they could get better music on the DVD and a more structured workout on screen, they'd earn that other half star...
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