Recently I received a message on Twitter from The Sufferfest asking me to email David, a fellow Hobart local. It wasn’t until I got a reply that I realised it was David McQuillen, CSO and founder of The Sufferfest! He asked if I was free for a ride and chat. Of course, I jumped at the chance and locked in some time away from the office for a weekday roll.
The Sufferfest is an indoor training app that takes professionally designed workouts and sets them to real-life video of pro cycling races and epic rides. It moved from a simple pay per video business model to a much more complete app-based monthly subscription program in 2016 and has become a strong contender in the indoor training scene.
Meeting outside Jackman & McRoss on a chilly Hobart morning, we rolled out along the Intercity Cycleway for an easy spin. We talked about our respective journeys into cycling, living around the world, keeping a positive work:life balance and how our paths gravitated towards settling in Tasmania. We discussed the evolution of The Sufferfest from a simple pay-per-video system to their current incarnation and the release of 4DP, their latest addition.
4DP (which stands for Four Dimensional Power) is the new testing protocol that The Sufferfest uses to gauge your current strengths and weaknesses. In one session, it measures your sprint, 1-minute, 5-minute and 20-minute power to calculate your training needs – rather than relying on 20-minute power as per basically every other application. I’ll delve into these metrics and their unique power profiling test in a future post. In the meantime DCRainmaker covers it in great detail.
Combined with excellent marketing, their “RIP FTP” campaign caused a ruffle in almost every cycling forum across the net! We laugh about “that slow twitch thread” which certainly raised 4DP’s profile and the reaction from others in the industry.
Finishing the ride with coffee at McVilly’s Cycle Cafe our conversation turns to other indoor training choices – Trainer Road, FulGaz, Road Grand Tours and of course the rise of Zwift – and how The Sufferfest is placing themselves within this bustling market. I quiz David on the future. How do they plan on further cementing their place in the indoor training market? What is the next step? They can’t compete with Zwift in terms of the gaming aspect, he freely admits this and affirms this is not their goal. The Sufferfest has a different niche, aiming to be the most complete training tool available to cyclists. Complete training for the complete cyclist.
Before meeting David I did my “due diligence” and gave the app a test, completing the 4DP fitness test and a few other videos. It’s certainly come a long way. I was impressed and plan on delving deeper. It’s a solid platform with many options and if you’re in heading into trainer season up north, definitely give it a go (there’s a free trial). But I felt there was still some way to go.
I’ve spent a lot of time on Zwift and there is that “socially competitive” element missing from The Sufferfest . It’s that element that retain users and keeps people coming back for more. For example Zwift has raft of achievements, unlocks and levels to progress through. The creativity behind Sufferlandria I love, building a captivating back story to go along with the training – I can see future scope to expand on that idea, possibly introducing a way to “level up” as you progress your training. I do feel their official social media accounts are not as engaging as they could be though. Building a strong social following can be a fantastic way of increasing brand loyalty and keeping users wanting more, especially as indoor training moves further online, rather than an offline activity as in the past.
After sharing some thoughts on features I’d like to see, David fills me in on future projects that are in the works. Much of what we discussed I can’t disclose yet of course, but let’s just say that big things are coming. The future of The Sufferfest is looking strong. It may not be the “complete training for the complete cyclist” yet, but it’s well on the way! With a raft of new features on the horizon and a fine tune of the UX, there are exciting times ahead for Sufferlandrians. Definitely watch this space!
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My club (Warrington RC) has complimentary use of a local gym’s spin cycle studio which uses the Sufferfest vids, so I can vouch for their quality. They’re really well produced and the ASO tie-in is a stroke of genius – it’s not just TdF footage, it’s Paris-Nice, Dauphiné etc. so it brings out your inner nerd while you’re doing the workout (although the footage is from 2011/12 which feels like a lifetime ago…).
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I look forward to delving deeper into the world of Sufferlandria!
I bought a lot of SF videos in the early days when you could run them through TrainerRoad. Then SF stopped that connection and I never really enjoyed it as much after that. I did the Tour of Sufferlandia about 3 times and I enjoyed the challenge but it seemed to get harder every year. I never bought into the 4DP thing and so stopped using it. However the Yoga videos are really good.
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The 4DP training is actually pretty good! I’ve had quality results using the tailored training plans. Tough but effective.