NOTE: Since reviewing this DVD, we've done some of the newer videos (2013) from EpicPlanet. They've raised their game, with better music, nicer graphics and even better footage. If you're looking for 'real rides' kind of videos, these guys are a good place to start.
Nothing warms up to the Sufferfest spirit on snowy winter days like getting cycling DVDs filmed in sunny places. The folks over at EpicPlanet.tv sent me the first version of their new "Epic Rides" series, which is a first-person ride through a very nice bit of Vermont. It's a 45minute workout, filmed "first person" during a group ride over a big climb. The workout footage covers 5 minutes of warm up, 10 minutes of easy climbing, 20 minutes of hard climbing, 5 minutes of fast spinning and 5 minutes of cool down.
As I hopped on my trusty Tomahawk and got started, the lush green trees made me a bit homesick for the US as the snow fell outside my window. And the scenery through areas like Vermont's Mad River Valley and the town of Bristol is nice...but I wouldn't really describe it at "epic" - it's more like a nice ride through some green hills. The Hawaii setting of Global Ride was better for putting you (or at least me), someplace you'd never been. In any case, it was better than catching frostbite outside. Through those green hills, you follow four cyclists - 2 sixtysomething guys, 1 twenty something woman and 1 thirtysomething guy. They go along at a pretty good clip, and the feeling of riding with them is realistic enough. Through the mostly first-person footage from behind or alongside the riders, there are also a few cool "bike cam" shots spread throughout.
Unlike the Global Ride DVDs which I reviewed last week, these have no audio coaching track, so you need to make up your own workout. For those looking for a coach or spin instructor to take them through the workout, this is a real drawback as there is no guidance (other than the dashboard - see below) to what you should be doing as you watch the video. To help you out, EpicRide.tv provides printouts with the DVD containing three workout ideas and an explanation of heart zones. It's all written by Joey Adams, who is a CycleOps master instructor. This is a pretty nice touch, especially for those who aren't comfortable designing their own workouts.
I rode the video twice, using it as base training, and chose to pretty much follow the terrain without adding too much complexity. There are a couple of times on the climb where you can tell the pressure is on a bit, and it subtly encourages you to go that little bit harder. For the most part, though, they stay together on a nice even pace. For the kind of workout I was doing, it was fine. But if you're trying to do intervals or really lay it down on the climb, the pace of the riders would awkwardly contrast quite noticibly. In fact, cadence threw me a few times, even at my steady rate - the riders were going at a slower cadence that I was pushing..and it created a strange feeling that took a bit to get over. If I had been doing intervals or more agressive climbing, I would have liked to see one or two of the riders attack a bit more, to make the workout less monotonous. Would have been more fun.
Now, on many of these sort of "real" ride DVDs, the coach tells you you're going uphill, or downhills, but it just looks plain flat on the screen. Capturing grades is quite difficult on video, but EpicPlanet gets by that quite nicely with a digital dashboard that tells you where in the workout you are, what the grade of the climb is, which heart zone you should be in and how much time has elapsed. I found myself watching that dashboard almost as much as I was the riders. I can imagine that on more complicated workouts, with lots of hills, it would be even more useful.
Now, to the music. Ah, the music. This DVD is really let down by the generic "techno" they've laid down over this. It's really not something you want to listen to for very long. Since there is no audio coaching on this DVD, I just turned the music down and used the playlist from Sufferfest 4, which worked pretty well. If you're watching it on your computer, you can do this by running iTunes at the same time you're running the DVD player. If you've got it on TV, then throw on a set of headphones.
But, if you're doing your own workout and listening to your own music, is this really worth 30 bucks? At this price, I'd only give it *** as I don't feel the value is there. If the price was lower, then I'd be more inclined to give it four stars for what it is - a nice ride through a nice place to take your mind off the indoor bike.
EpicPlanet has two more rides coming out - Acadia and the Florida Panhandle. From the photos at their website, the footage looks just as good and the riders more agressive - we'll see how the music is!
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