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Home Gym – Stage IVb


In October 2012 I completely redesigned the cardio section of my home gym: I added a fluid trainer, a laptop and some other stuff that would allow me to do structured indoor training using my road bike. If you’re interested, you can check out the initial version of my Bike Torture Chamber (BTC) here.

My BTC has served me well over the past couple of years, but recently I decided that some changes were in order. Many of these changes were inspired by the very cool and innovative massive multiplayer indoor cycling software Zwift, which is currently in Beta.

Zwift requires a fairly beefy GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) to run well (CPU is not as important). The low cost Alienware Alpha console is more than up to the task, and even the base model does a phenomenal job of running Zwift. While the Alpha’s primary function in life is to run Steam games, it is also a fully functioning PC (it ships with Windows 8.1 installed). So you can install any Windows software you like on it, and run it just like any other PC. Very versatile, and highly recommended as a Zwift engine.

While Zwift is engaging, sometimes you just want to ride along and watch a movie or whatever. I’ve got that more than covered with a tablet, a smartphone and a laptop–all easily reachable while riding (along with a wireless keyboard/touchpad to control the Alpha). Of course I’ve got my MP3 player for tunes, too.

Although it’s rumored to be in development, right now Zwift doesn’t have anything in the way of structured training programs. With a second ANT+ dongle, however, it’s easy to run software like TrainerRoad in its compact horizontal mode just under the Zwift GUI. This setup allows cyclists to take advantage of TrainerRoad’s extensive library of workouts while riding on Zwift Island. Awesome!

Another piece of software that I find indispensable for post-ride number crunching is Golden Cheetah. This free and Open Source software also has a large library of structured training workouts, as well as real-time data while training. There’s a learning curve, but it’s worth it. Very powerful stuff.

Okay, I’ll shut up now and get to the pictures. 🙂 Click any image to zoom. A complete parts list (with links) follows the pictures.

Wide shot of the Bike Torture Chamber (BTC) v2.0, lights on.

Wide shot of the Bike Torture Chamber (BTC) v2.0, lights on.

This is how things look when I'm riding on Zwift Island.

This is how things look when I’m riding on Zwift Island.

 Running Zwift on the main display, Golden Cheetah is running on the laptop, the Zwift app is running on the smartphone and Netflix is fired up on the tablet.

Running Zwift on the main display, Golden Cheetah is running on the laptop, the Zwift app is running on the smartphone and Netflix is fired up on the tablet.

View from the saddle.

View from the saddle.

Closer view from the cockpit, this one with the lights on and in Windows 8.1 desktop mode. Laptop is running my security camera software so I can see if anyone is at the door or whatever (nice when I've got my earbuds in).

Closer view from the cockpit, this one with the lights on and in Windows 8.1 desktop mode. Laptop is running my security camera software so I can see if anyone is at the door or whatever (nice when I’ve got my earbuds in).

Closer view of the controls and computer.

Closer view of the controls and computer.

Alienware Alpha, wireless keyboard, smartphone and tablet.

Alienware Alpha, wireless keyboard, smartphone and tablet.

 

Here is a complete list of items (with links) that I have the BTC section of my gym:

BIKE & FLUID TRAINER
ELECTRONICS (HARDWARE & SOFTWARE)
MOUNTING HARDWARE

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