Hopefully, you’ve noticed recently that we’ve been widely reporting that many of our favorite VR fitness games have tournaments running as part of the upcoming VR Fitness Summit, hosted by the Virtual Athletics League. The summit itself runs from September 3 through 12 but there are various tournaments active right now, that you can participate in with prizes to be won.
From the many options available I’ve decided to participate in the VZFit Explorer Summer Adventure Challenge. This is a 300-mile event consisting of 7 separate rides, and 21 days to complete, from 17th August to 7th September.
As you can see from my VZFit Explorer game review, I’m a huge fan of Virzoom’s Streetview cycling app. Since trying it late last year it’s become an essential part of my weekly VR cardio routine. I love visiting real-world locations in VR whilst working out, and thanks to the Covid19 pandemic and global lockdowns severely restricting my forays into the physical world, these virtual adventures have become even more precious. Hence signing up for this was a no brainer!
Aside from its own intrinsic rewards, the tournament also involves real cash prizes, with races completed and finish line snapshots tweeted being converted into points that then give you more entries into the raffle style prize fund. The more points accumulated, the greater the chance of winning that $400 first prize, $300 for second place with three further lucky riders getting $100 each.
Even free members who don’t wish to pay the $10 monthly subscription fee to sign up to VZfit’s premium service get the chance to take part with the great race challenge, a 150-mile slog through America’s Badlands, the infamous Death Valley, being free to play for the next three weeks to anyone who registers with VZFit.
You’ll need an indoor bike, any design will do, and a Bluetooth cadence sensor. I wrote a complete guide to get set up with VZFit using a third party sensor recently so check that out and get signed up if you want to get a free taste of virtual reality biking through Google Streetview, courtesy of VZFit Explorer.
The Challenge outlined
The challenge consists of 7 separate rides of varying lengths that comprise a 300-mile total distance. All races completed add points to your total which are converted to points for the prize entry, with 53 bonus points for those who complete all 7 routes. But there’s a time limit. The competition ends on the 7th of September, which gives me 21 days total to get them all in.
Virzoom has handpicked some excellent ride locations for this event, which I’ll list below. For me, the great strength of Explorer is that it’s not only a great exercise tool but a fantastic travel app as well. I like to read a little about each location before and after, and then load up Google Earth VR to fly up and get a nice birds-eye view of the landscape. That way it’s a cultural education too, fuel for the mind as well as the body.
I’ll briefly summarise the rides below in the order I intend to complete them. For a more complete description, you can check out Virzoom’s blog post along with the excellent trailer video below.
7 Rides 21 Days
- Budapest River Front: 11 miles following the River Danube through Budapest, a city with a rich heritage and great architecture. The highlight is the Hungarian Parliament Building.
- Ronda City: a 5-mile tour of a mountaintop Spanish city. This is notable to me for being one of the standout world zones that Google Earth VR often starts you from when you load up that app.
- Bealach na Ba: 55 miles through the Scottish Highlands, this is considered one of Britain’s greatest cycle rides.
- The Great Dolomites Road: 60+ miles of epic mountain climbing through gorgeous Italian country.
- Shimanami Kaido: 50-mile ride across the smaller islands of Japan, an ocean ride.
- Bolivia’s Death Road: 9 miles on the world’s most dangerous road. Stunning waterfalls and precipitous drops abound.
- Badwater in Death Valley, USA: one of the hottest ultra-marathons (155 miles) in the world
Preparation – Time allocation and my challenge rules
In order to successfully complete this challenge, I know I need to have a plan. I did some quick back of the envelope calculations to work out how long the challenge should take, and how much I would need to do each day.
300 miles divided by 21 days is just over 14 miles per day. Knowing that it takes me approximately 30 minutes to cycle just over 10 miles that means approximately 40 – 45 minutes of cycling per day. As long as I’m consistent that’s eminently doable, but if I miss any days those miles will quickly add up. I estimate the total challenge should take around 15 hours.
I’ve also set myself a few further rules that I need to abide by. First of all, I want this challenge to be additional work on top of my pre-existing training program. It’s no challenge if I just do this instead of my normal routine so I must still continue to lift weights three times a week, row 5000 meters twice a week, and have three 30 minute VR cardio sessions on either FitXR or Thrill of the Fight.
My other rule is that I’m not allowed to just coast along without any effort. For every ride, I will set up a 30 minute Hill Climb program on my bike so that I’m challenged with variable resistance as my bike increases the wattage to simulate climbing. After I’ve completed the first 30 minutes each day I’ll allow myself to ease off and enjoy some low watt coasting as a cool down, but I must work for the bulk of the workout.
The next practical consideration is preparing for the inevitable sweat fest 150 miles of indoor summer biking will bring. It’s absolutely essential that my headset is protected, to that end I have two replacement faux leather VR cover pads and interfaces that I can swap over to let the other wash and dry after use. I am using a thin headband to further reduce the sweat going into the headset in the first place.
I also decided to purchase a second pair of padded cycling shorts to reduce wash times and protect my delicates from saddle sore.
I did consider writing out a nice journey planner but then decided I’d rather just choose my next ride as the mood took me. Fellow Explorer Tatania Oliveira created such a wonderful training calendar for herself though I just had to share it. If she puts half as much effort into the rides as she has her planner she’ll be doing well!
VZFit Avatar customization and coin collection update
To coincide with the tournament Virzoom has added a nice update feature. Full avatar customization. Now traveling earns coins at the rate of 10 coins per kilometer. You can then use these coins to purchase shorts, tops, socks, gloves, etc. Along with skin color and gender options, this allows the user to personalize their character. With your avatar suitably dressed and booted you can take snapshots of yourself along the route, most likely at the finish line of each race, with the option to adopt a variety of victory poses. It’s a neat update feature that I expect will prove popular and a nice way to popularise VZFit Explorer itself as community members post pictures of themselves enjoying race success.
Which segues nicely into one of VZFit Explorer’s other great attributes, the community itself. It is possible to ride alongside other users, although I’ve not chosen to do this, mainly because it would just be lots of heavy breathing and panting from my end. But the community participation and sharing of rides and experiences on the VZFit Facebook group really adds a whole new dimension to the contest, and VZFit Explorer generally. It’s one thing to be immersed in a 60-mile ride over the Scottish Highlands that requires several hours of effort. It’s another to then be able to share the experience and journey highlights with others who are simultaneously sharing in the adventure.
A solid start! First three rides in the books
Wanting to make a good start, I was off to Budapest for the first ride as soon as the tournament began. I normally choose rural locations so this cycle ride through a major European city was a nice change of pace for me. Far more cars and people than I’m used to seeing but the river views were impressive, with a series of grand bridges and stately buildings. I must have been the first to attempt this ride as I surprisingly was the first to complete it, a little achievement that spurred me on to complete the short 4.5-mile Spanish castle ride through Ronda immediately after. A great way to end day 1!
I spent the next three days tackling the Scottish Highlands, completing the Bealach na Ba route. This was a truly gorgeous ride, with the in-game radio playing some uplifting pop, and my unfeasibly shapely and slim-waisted female trainer accompanying me for the journey it was just a feel-good experience all around. Some moments were so breathtakingly beautiful, that I found myself grinning as I rode along.
I’ve uploaded a sizeable 45-minute clip of the Scottish ride below which hopefully gives a sense of the expansive freedom and scale that VZFit Explorer is capable of. The whole ride took me well over two hours to do.
I ended tonight high up in the Italian Dolomites, snow-capped mountains in stark contrast to the warming gold rays of the sun. This ride is gorgeous so far, and will probably take me another two or three days to complete. I’ve still found time to lift weights and get in some VR boxing this week as well, so I’m showing myself that I’m capable of more exercise per day than I thought.
I’ll update again once I’ve (hopefully) completed the challenge. In the meantime, if you have an indoor bike and an Oculus Go or Quest, make sure you check VZFit Explorer out, it’s well worth it!