There is now a new and improved BKOOL SMART PRO 2 Turbo Trainer. Read all about it here…
The Bkool Pro is the high-end turbo trainer from Bkool to sit along side their NEW BKOOL GO trainer. The Bkool Go is a lower priced version of the Pro and has nearly identical specifications. The only major difference is that the Pro simulates inclines of 20% while the Go simulates inclines of 8%.
She new Pro model is quieter, more stable (has extendable support arms), and has an in-built cadence system that eliminates the need for an external device. The Bkool turbo trainer uses an electromagnetic braking system so that your resistance is automatically controlled via the Bkool software. This means if you go up a hill the resistance will automatically increase and if you go down a hill it will reduce.
Watch the latest Bkool promotional video. The simulator software and riding environment looks absolutely amazing…
This is an in-depth review of the Bkool Pro indoor trainer from unboxing to a live online race using the impressive 3D World Simulator software.
Let’s get right to it. The video below shows how easy it is to setup the Bkool Pro trainer and what it is like to compete on an online race. Warning, I chose a tough race here, set off too hard and thus could not last the distance. 🙁
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Bkool Pro trainer unboxing
The Bkool Pro turbo trainer has arrived so let’s get unpacking…
All testing of the turbo trainer was done in a standard garage just like a lot of you will be using if you decide to get a turbo trainer. The Bkool trainer does not take up much room so you should be able to set it up and get a good workout even in the most cluttered of spaces. Of course you can use the trainer inside your house or anywhere else you choose.
The trainer comes with a front wheel riser/support block, an ANT+ USB, a trainer quick release skewer, a power cable/current transformer, and of course the trainer itself. The trainer comes in two sections, one being the support frame and the other being the resistance unit.
Setting up the Bkool Pro turbo trainer
It’s pretty straight forward to set up the Bkool trainer. First hook up the two sections of the trainer itself, which while a pretty snug connection it is something that won’t cause any trouble.
Now it’s time to attach your bike’s back wheel to the trainer. First replace your bikes skewer with the one supplied. This ensures a good fit with the trainer and also stops you damaging your own skewer.
Now fit your wheel into the trainer as shown in the video below.
Rest your front wheel in the supplied support block and plug the power cable/current transformer in and connect it to the mains power supply. Now the trainer is setup we need to move on to the software.
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Setting up the Bkool Simulator software
You need an account with Bkool to use the trainer software because it creates a profile for you where all ride data is stored etc. Just head over to Bkool.com and click ‘Sign up’ in the top right of the screen if you have not already created an account. This is totally free so don’t worry.
Once you have an account click on the ‘Apps’ menu tab on the Bkool website and download the Simulator software for your device. Here we are using a laptop running Windows 7 so we download the Windows Desktop software. The video below runs through this entire process.
Note that we have a premium subscription with Bkool, which means we have access to all video routes and other features. The Premium subscription gets you access to all Bkool Simulator features and costs £8/month, or if you pay for a year at once it works out at £6.50/month. There is a free subscription so you can use the trainer without paying a penny more. With the free plan you can still ride routes in the map view and you can pay for one off video rides but some features will be limited.
Connect the included ANT+ USB into your computer and then launch the Bkool simulator software. This USB allow the software and trainer to wirelessly communicate with each other so that your ride data (cadence & power) can be monitored and displayed, and that the resistance of the trainer can be automatically varied depending on the route (or workout program) you are riding.
When you have logged in you will see the main Simulator page where you can choose a route to ride, set up your settings, and configure any external monitoring devices, for example a heart rate monitor.
We’re now ready to start cycling…
Your riding options with the Bkool turbo trainer
You have a few different types of rides to choose from, and with each type you have options for ride length, time, or difficulty. You can simply choose a route and ride or you can join others in a scheduled event and compete against other real riders and/or bot cyclists.
On the main simulator page there are a selection of session types along the top to browse through. We’ll briefly mention what these different options are:
LIVE.. A ride you can do with other people. These sessions have at least one active user ready on them that you can ride with/against.
PROGRAMMED/SCHEDULED. Sessions scheduled by you on the website. When you log in at bkool.com you can browse routes and then select ones to add to your Programmed section of the simulator.
FAVORITES. On the Bkool.com website you can select rides as favorites and can therefore access them in the simulator whenever you like.
LATEST VIDEOS. New video routes for you to ride on.
LATEST. The routes you have ridden in the past.
FRIENDS. Rides created by your friends.
LEAGUES. If you join a league on Bkool.com you can see the sessions here.
GROUP. If you are part of a group on Bkool.com you can see these sessions here.
PLAN. If you have a training plan set up it will show up here on the day you are due to ride it.
MINE. If you create your own routes they show here.
PICKS. Bkool staff pick some rides for you.
SUGGESTED. Rides comparable to others you have done previously.
The video below shows the different views you can choose from when using the Bkool trainer.
How we used the trainer
Over the last month we have been getting stuck into the Bkool Pro trainer, and we love it. But the software can be a little confusing, especially working out which ride to choose or how to get involved in a live race. The sections we use the most are the LIVE, PROGRAMMED, and FAVORITES sections.
By default there are only a limited number of routes to choose from on the main Simulator page, but what you should do (well at least this is what we did) is log-in at Bkool.com and then click on the SESSIONS tab in the menu bar.
This section of the Bkool website lets you find routes and either schedule them (i.e. set up your own races) or add them to your favorites section. This is pretty straight forward to do. Click ‘Video search tool’ in to Sessions section of the Bkool website and filter down the videos using the options on the left-hand area of the page. When you hover over a video route you will see the option to Schedule or to See (watch a video clip of the route). You can also click on SET-UP in the bottom right of the video window to see more details and configure the route/race.
You can either choose to Schedule a race and it will show up under the PROGRAMMED area of the Simulator, or you can click the ‘star’ next to the name of the route and it will show up in your FAVOURITES section of the simulator.
Creating your own races (scheduling/programming) in the Bkool simulator
The following video shows you in more detail how to create races yourself and how to add several riders to the race. You can add GHOST riders if others have completed the route in the past and you can also include computer BOT riders of varying abilities. Once you have your ride setup there is the opportunity for other LIVE riders to join in.
We were very impressed with the Bkool Pro turbo trainer. It’s not cheap and will cost you £400+ (you may get it slightly cheaper than this) and you will need to pay a bit more to get access to all of the software features such as video races. You can however still ride map routes without paying any more and have the option to buy one off videos.
While not cheap the Bkool Pro is significantly lower cost when compared to other comparable virtual reality trainers such as the Tacx i-Genius. While we have not done a direct comparison between the two trainers in terms of quality and online/VR experience, the Bkool turbo trainer does not disappoint in our opinion.
The video routes look great and the resistance changes of the trainers are smooth. There are lots of routes to choose from (again a premium subscription to Bkool is needed to access all videos), so there are plenty of ride types to suit everyone. The 3D World computer generated routes look nice and are a fantastic feature when competing in races. Being able to see your opponents gives you a real sense of a competitive experience which adds to the fun, motivation, and enjoyment of riding indoors. We did find it hard to find live events that were starting around the time we were using the Bkool Pro trainer, although we did find some. You can of course schedule your own races and you can definitely have ghost (human riders from a previous session who completed this route) and computer bots in this race, but if you leave enough time you may get a few live human riders too to compete against.
All-in-all the Bkool Pro turbo trainer is a fantastic bit of kit for those wanting to train indoors. The videos and rides along with the recording of stats keeps the motivation up and actually forces (mentally) you to complete workouts because you know your data can be stored so if you have done a 20 minute session for example and you still have a few kilometers left you will push through because you want those stats in your profile. This is a huge motivation factor and a key attribute to this interactive trainer.
The Bkool Pro is quieter than it’s predecessor (Bkool Classic) but it still makes some noise, especially when you push it and get that back wheel spinning. That being said we did not really notice the noise while riding and it is not too loud. We used the trainer in a garage so those using it in their living rooms etc. may notice the noise some more. All trainers make noise however, and while a fluid trainer may be quieter it may not be significantly quieter than the Bkool Pro.
To conclude, we love the Bkool Pro and definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a turbo trainer with that will bit extra. There are features we have not yet explored in detail, such as uploading and editing your own routes and importing/exporting data between other software, such as Strava. Will will add to this review as we test the trainer some more.
The software & experience of the Bkool VR simulator is updated regularly. The video below shows the latest software.