I hope this post will fall on attentive ears.
I tried to think how to go about writing this and decided to just be blunt but with good intentions – You need to reinvent yourself and quickly or you will lose the market that you yourself invented and sooner than you think.
You could say that I lost my indoor-cycling-training virginity on Trainerroad back in 2014 and I absolutely loved it. The structured workouts, the plans, the instructions and above all the simplicity of using it – have all been great and improved my cycling abilities tremendously over the years. However – 5 years have passed and….nothing changed.
True there were some features updates, additional plans, workouts, calendar, analysis tool, more heterogeneous capabilities… but that’s it. It is almost as time stood still. You need a super huge magnifying glass to search the internet in order to read and find some interesting new features or updates to the SW (and no I don’t consider News pods as features).
I understand that Trainerroad is not Zwift nor should it be – each training SW has it’s own niche which is the core that defines it and with Trainerroad it’s the structured workouts and training plans, but even with structured workouts there is so much you can do…
Look at Sufferfest for example, which plays on the same niche more or less (without going into an argument about which is better) – They have so much less ‘material’ to offer, however they are brilliant in the way they do it using the social media to the maximum in attracting more and more active users. Look at what Zwift is doing with their workouts and plans – and there are more examples.
A successful product in this century can’t exists without harnessing ‘virtual resources’ whether users, functionality, social and other.
Such as –
Periodic Tours (x days doing consecutive detailed workouts),
Multi rider functionally which will allow virtual friends to do a workout together,
Tools for coaches to use this platform for real time training sessions.
UI and UX makeover.
Active Facebook (and other) communities.
I’m sure that the common wisdom of all of Trainerroad’s users can greatly improve this list.
Unfortunately time is scarce.
Anyway this is just my 2 cents (as they say)…
Edited to add link to Nate’s response to this post and subsequent discussion.
my opinion on this topic:
I’m with you @Schneum. TR imho has things just about right and sticks to their ethos of making us faster rather than adding superfluous features. The social/game aspects are done elsewhere and the ‘small’ features mentioned in OP like Calendar and Analytics are game changers I think.
From an outside perspective it seems like the other platforms spend a lot more on marketing and perhaps appeal to more casual riders (I’m talking marketing audience here - plenty of serious/strong riders use Zwift).
Wow, let me just make some popcorn, this is going to be good…
+1 on disagreeing with original post… if OP would like to visit my business then I’d be interested to hear his unsolicited critique there too.
TR provides the service I expect, and does it very well. They make me faster, and they lead me to a place where I can educate myself on all things related to training by providing sources, links and suggestions for reading materials.
It’s pretty much all I want or need from my subscription fee and I’d prefer that the money was not used to gamify the platform. Also, to focus on the ‘other’ platform, I’d just re-state that the vast majority of us are just riding our bikes, sometimes to our physical limits, but we are NOT suffering. Suffering is what millions of people around the world do when they go without food, water or shelter and/or are attacked by people or diseases, through no choice of their own. To fetishize ‘suffering’ is bullsh** IMO.
I view TR as the ‘academic’ of training platforms. You have to think a bit about why you’re using it, it may not be exciting, but you’ll come out better in the end.
Personally, I’m not interested in games, videos, groups, socializing, social media. I’m 100% focused on my A race in July, and TR is the best vehicle to get me there. Between the podcasts and the app, I’ve learned a ton and made huge progress in a short amount of time. Change nothing.
I don’t need challenges and group rides. I am happy to be completely flexible in choosing the timing for my workouts.
I think TR should stick to their claim “making you a faster cyclist” and using their insights to tap the users full potential:
- Show bell curve of FTP improvements for their different plans
- Help users to identify their maximum weekly sustainable TSS
- Optimize training towards race specific goals and courses
I don’t need fancy stuff as long as I am sure that the software helps me unlucking my potential… Personally I would like to see more improvements in this direction.
And one more topic about making TR like Zwift…
Interesting point of view. My feelings are a bit different in one particular area - TR vs Sufferfest and social media. I’ve been a very very long time Sufferfest user (almost from day dot [one] with the single video purchases) and have recently joined TR to do SSB type training. I will definitely go back to Sufferlandria for my high intensity training, but the reason I joined TR is because of the podcast/youtube and the deep knowledge that is shared in relation to the training plans and the workouts. So my perspective is that the TR gang are really making the most of their social media channels.
I will say, I genuinely enjoy doing Sufferfest workouts because of the video, music, workout integration. TR I do because it works and I would probably struggle to stay focused without the previous experience with the Sufferfest (no smart trainer so need to pay attention to what I’m doing).
The thing is that hardly any of the things that you mention fit in with the core goal of TR, which is making people faster. In fact, things like challenges, tours, and competitions only serve to distract people from the structured training that TR is built upon and can even lead to overtraining and loss of fitness.
The UI is simple for a reason - the key metrics are there, there are no distractions.
To suggest that there have been no innovations of TR is also untrue. While controversial, the calendar has been a major development (and one that I find invaluable), and there are features being added all the time. Training plans are also being tweaked constantly.
If you want gamification and challenges/tours/races, then there are other more suitable platforms for you. Personally, I’m not interested in any of those distractions and my only goal for indoor training is to improve my performance outdoors - TR is the best platform for me after trying various others.
I work in advertising and marketing, and if there are any golden rules about creating a successful product, I’d say they are:
- Make a good product you work well and believe in
- Give it a distinct “niche” and don’t be tempted to deviate from that.
Or put another way, you can make a weak diluted product that tries to attract everyone but ends up being appealing to none. Or you can make a product that is irresistible to a specific market - in this case, serious cyclists who want a no-frills training program backed up with sports science.
That said, I don’t think these…
…are bad ideas. Others may weigh in on the difficulty of implementation, of course.
Blackberry had a great working product.
Tower Records (and Blockbuster for that matter) had a great niche service that worked well
Camera film was great for Kodak
And so on and so on.
You can’t afford to be conservative in this business.
I’m not talking about making TR into Zwift nor making it all about gaming.
I’m talking about adding some versatility and options - more choices to bring more new users and keep existing users. Otherwise we (as customers) would end up paying more (as I’m guessing TR install base is decreasing over the years) and might see TR that we all love become obsolete down the road.
I’m a firm believer that choice is a great thing, in terms of indoor training the market currently caters for pretty much every taste. Personally for me where I think TR wins hands down is the ethos of the company and how it conveys it’s message. It doesn’t need gimmicks, it has a team of people genuinely working towards making people faster, Nate, Jonathan and Chad by way of the podcast were probably the biggest factor in me signing up.
I’m a new user of TR but have known about it for quite sometime, the additions that they have made recently just put the icing on the cake. I’ve used Zwift, I enjoyed it but I got nothing out of the gamification or graphics, it’s not why I am pedaling the bike, if anything they just put me off. This is undeniably where the market is heading, having had gazillions of $$$$ thrown at it, it’s not a surprise!
The racing aspect is to me its USP, but we all know about the issues there, group rides with club mates is also a nice feature, but group riders with 200 people who take Zwift way too seriously puts me off massively, all the bitching annoyed the hell out of me!!!
TrainerRoad, despite probably achieving better performance results for it’s athletes hasn’t had the luxury of those gazillions of $$$, maybe because it’s not got that razzamatazz to it, but that as far as I can tell is by design.
Sufferfest I have also used, I was super impressed with what they have done recently with the interface, trainer control and also the 4DP which I think is a strong concept but yet I find myself subscribing to TR.
Back to choice… There is something for everyone, there is no need to slate either company, it’s my hope that TrainerRoad can continue to grow because it would be a MASSIVE shame if TrainerRoad struggled down the line despite having a superb product.
But for every redundant product or brand you can mention, there are functional products that just work and we keep buying them.
Like scissors. Yes, they got sharper, the grips got more ergonomic, but they’re still scissors and people buy them because they cut things.
Not everything fits into the TED Talk style “disruption” narrative.
Fairly recent convert from Zwift to TR here.
I began running the two side by side for a few weeks - but what put the final nail in the coffin for Zwift with me was the New York expansion. When your avatar is riding on a transparent glass road above Central Park you’re definitely in a game.
Versus paying a coach for a training plan - TrainerRoad is very good value.
A lot of people weren’t happy with the recent price hike for Zwift & I’m sure if they keep expanding it’s only a matter of time before that price goes up again.
Using your example -
You can buy the same scissors at different shops but being the shop that you choose is becoming very difficult.
In the past it used to be a very easy choice between Zwift and TR. You wanted serious workouts and plans - TR you wanted racing, gaming and free rides - Zwift, you wanted live courses - other SW etc.
I don’t know if you looked at Zwift lately - their structured workouts and training plans are growing rapidly and you don’t have to them socially - you have a choice.
For years TR ‘rode’ on a niche which made their product unique and addressed certain rider’s community. My humble opinion is that it is not unique anymore - others have got the same scissors and are selling papers clips, colors and pens with it.
“My humble opinion is that it is not unique anymore - others have got the same scissors and are selling papers clips, colors and pens with it”
But what if you only want scissors?
I’d say it’s more like TR are selling scissors and Zwift are selling knives. They’re just different ways to cut things. I use both.
Zwift may be branching out into scissors, but right now they’re considerably less sharp than Trainer Road’s.
By the way, from now on this discussion must be conducted entirely and exclusively within the scissors / knives metaphor. That’s the rules.