The VZFit is a unique accessory developed by Virzoom that allows for any stationary bike to be connected wirelessly to an Oculus Quest or Oculus Go headset. The hardware package consists of a Bluetooth pedal mounted sensor and a simple Bluetooth controller. Check out my complete and comprehensive VZFit review for an in-depth look at the hardware itself. With the sensor installed on your bike and paired to your headset you can then use your bike to access and play through Virzoom’s two apps, VZFit Play and VZFit Explorer, available together via a monthly $9.99 or annual $99.99 subscription. In this review I will focus exclusively on VZFit Play, which represents Virzoom’s games collection and in a complimentary review, I will cover Virzoom’s Google street view cycling app VZFit Explorer.
The Gamification of Exercise
Let’s face it, we all know exercise is good for us and that traditional cardio machines like stationary bikes are excellent tools to lose weight, boost our aerobic fitness and improve our cardiovascular health. Yet, despite our best intentions, we are rarely able to commit to using them regularly. Why? Well, most likely, it’s because stationary bikes are tortuous inventions only moderately less unpleasant in usage than being subjected to the dentist’s drill or the rack of the Spanish Inquisition. Rare is the individual who gleefully wakes up and leaps out of bed eager to start their day with a punishing lactic acid leg burn for 30 minutes whilst staring at a wall.
VZFit Play is Virzoom’s attempt to ease the suffering by distracting you from the painful tedium of exercise with a collection of 11 simple but addictive mini-games. Although they all utilize your pedaling power as the basis for locomotion, only two of them actually simulate a bike ride at all. Most of the experiences attempt to transport you away entirely, by having you pilot a helicopter, race cars, engage in a tank battle, and even ride a flying horse.
For my thirty-minute play session, I took to the race track, using my legs to pedal drive a formula one car around an oval circuit. This game mode challenges you to attempt successively faster laps, unlocking additional rivals the faster you go. It’s essentially a speed trial, encouraging you to push as fast as possible. There are easier game modes available. I could have chosen to pilot a helicopter through a river canyon engaging enemy hostiles for example. Here your pedal speed controls elevation, pedal fast to soar, and slow to descend. The focus is on combat and you burn some calories as a side effect. I wasn’t interested in that. I want to be pushed hard and how better than to imagine my stationary bike as a formula one race car! I recorded the session using my Fitbit Charge 2 and prepared for the inevitable sweat-fest by wearing a headband and using a wipeable VRCover replacement face pad. As the VZFit sensor only measures cadence not resistance, I used my bike’s preset functions to set up for a timed 30-minute session at a constant 120-watt output.
- Calories burned: 555!?
- Calories per minute:19!?
- Average heart rate:147
- Max heart rate:155
- Active Minutes:30
I must preface this by saying I am highly skeptical of the calorie burn here. I weigh 140lbs, there’s no way I’m burning 550+ calories in 30 minutes! I think my Fitbit is rather overestimating the energy expenditure here. I’d suggest around 300 is more likely. Even so, this workout WAS absolutely punishing, and the hardest I’ve ever worked in VR. Whereas VR games like Beat Saber and Pistol Whip help you burn calories as a side effect to having fun, this really felt like a workout. I went flat out and pushed as hard as I could. It was awful, the lactic acid burn in my legs, the paralyzing stitch down my right side, the taste of bile in my mouth, all testified to the fact that my body was being pushed far harder than it’s used to, or enjoys. Before I got the VZFit sensor I hadn’t cycled for years and although I’ve been using it for a while I clearly don’t have anything approaching the endurance of a Bradley Wiggins or Chris Froome. My bike certainly still felt like a torture device, but the feeling of being in a motor race and wanting to keep pace with the other cars provided enough of an incentive to push me far harder than I would have otherwise been motivated to do.
If you’re using a traditional stationary bike there is no arm workout here aside from gripping on to your bike’s handlebars. As the vast majority of VR fitness games are all arm-centric however this shouldn’t be an issue. Stick to Thrill of the Fight. Beat Saber and BoxVR to work your arms and shoulders, VZFit Play is all about challenging your legs. However, if you own an air bike, like a Schwinn Airdyne you would be working your arms too, in which case this would score an 8 I’d imagine.
Of course, cycling is all about using your legs and VZFit Play really delivers here. If you’re experienced in using VR for fitness you’ll already appreciate that an effective leg workout is hard to come by given the fact that in the vast majority of games only your head and hands are being tracked. VZFit Play is a great corrective to that deficiency and can, therefore, both complement and expand your virtual reality workout program. Put simply there is no VR game currently capable of giving you such a sustained leg workout as using a stationary bike on high resistance and therefore VZFit Play can add a whole new dimension to your training.
Core and Balance 5/10
To a large extent how much core activation you experience will depend on the type of bike used. If you use VZFit Play on a real bike with a trainer or spin or upright bike then your core muscles will be activated by you maintaining good form, keeping your back straight and balanced, and by leaning sideways into turns. If you’re on a recumbent bike, however, you won’t be using your core much at all.
Time Perception 7/10
Using an exercise bike is like eating plain chicken, broccoli and rice. Undeniably good for you, but it hardly gets you salivating. VZFit Play is tantamount to putting a spicy seasoning on your vegetables. Eating your five a day is never as enjoyable as gorging on chocolate or pizza but you’re doing this for your long term health, not for fun, right? The games on offer here are necessarily simplistic in nature, designed to motivate you to pedal through a twenty or thirty-minute workout without distracting you from the job in hand. They don’t have the addictive hook you get from Beat Saber or Synth Riders but they will provide enough focus to pull you through a workout session that you might otherwise have quit out of. In the ten years, I’ve owned my Tunturi e80 bike I have never managed to complete a 30-minute hill climb session on my bike. Using VZFit Play and turning my ride into a virtual reality race however, I smashed it.
Given that most people are probably only planning on cycling two or three times a week, there’s enough here that you could have a different workout on Play for all your workouts in a given month. For me, personally, VZFit Play has less replayability than its sister product VZFit Explorer. I enjoy dipping into it every couple of weeks but Explorer gets the majority of my attention. The two-cycle rides Le Tour and Cali Rally are my favorite parts of the Play experience and I do enjoy a thirty-minute session on each at least once a month. For those wanting a more gamified experience then the Pegasus flying horse mode is the most challenging and rewarding of the games on offer, requiring some measure of skill to master, and if you’re competitive an enjoyable challenge getting to the top of the player leaderboards each month. As this is a subscription model I hope that new content and game modes continue to be added, to ensure users always have a new reason to come back.
Fitness Scalability 7/10
It’s important to note that whilst the VZFit sensor measures your pedal speed or cadence and translates that into movement in-game it does not control the resistance that you set on your bike. When it comes to fitness scalability therefore obviously the bike you are using is going to be the decisive factor. If you’re using a cheap bike with just a basic flywheel you’ll probably just get a few resistance level options. This should still be enough to progressively overload your workload over time and provide a scalable experience. If you own or have access to a high-quality magnetic bike with a computer ergometer then you’ll be able to create far more varied programs simulating rolling hills or mountain peaks, and resistance from 50 all the way to up 400 or more watts. Just as having a more powerful PC and graphics card improves your PC VR performance, having a high-quality exercise bike will improve your VZFit experience.
That said VZFit Play does incorporate ways to allow for fitness scalability within the software. When pedaling you complete what VZFit calls ‘spin cycles’. This is a concept similar to revolutions per minute, but you can select from 1 to 5 difficulty levels. At level 1 you need to perform fewer revolutions per minute to count a spin cycle than on level 5, so you can go faster and cover more distance with slower pedaling. This a nice option for people who might be playing multiplayer with somebody but are less fit. They can keep up without having to pedal as many revolutions per minute.
Lack of Nausea 8/10
Virzoom has done a great job with VZFit Play in minimizing the potential for nausea. This is thanks largely to its movement system. To turn in-game you tilt your body in the direction you want to go. This prevents your brain from feeling that awful disconnect that occurs in VR when your body is stationary but you’re moving in virtual reality. Here because you are moving to turn it will feel natural to your brain and therefore most people will not experience motion sickness. I am moderately susceptible to motion sickness and I’ve never once experienced it in VZFit Play. That said, the games do feature both simulated ride movement and flying movement and there might be a small percentage of people who are susceptible to motion sickness who could be affected.
Social Competition 7/10
The team at Virzoom has tried hard to make VZFit Play a social experience. There are PVP multiplayer modes, game leaderboards and monthly challenges where you can compete individually or as part of a team. Unfortunately, as with most VR apps, the online user base is low, and here exacerbated by the fact that when most users do hop on, they do so with the intention of getting in a quick workout rather than hanging around looking for game opponents. If multiplayer cycling is something you are interested in doing in virtual reality then I’d recommend you join the VZFit Facebook community and connect with other fans there. There are members there happy to join your rides or face you in a tank battle, it will just take a little prior arranging.
VRFI Fit Score 8.5/10
The VZFit sensor is one of the best accessories you can buy for your Quest or Go if you are wanting to get fit in virtual reality. As one half of the software subscription package, VZFit Play comes with a variety of game modes; shooting, flying and racing opportunities that help to liven up what can otherwise be a tedious form of exercise. I personally have never been able to develop a regular habit of using an indoor bike, despite always owning one for their proven health benefits. VZFit Play has completely transformed my bike into a workout tool I now actually enjoy using. At $9.99 per month the subscription might be offputting for some, but if you’re committed to your health and want to integrate an indoor biking habit into your daily lifestyle what’s on offer here will make your bike significantly more attractive and appealing to use.
You won’t get a better leg workout in VR than this.
Works well even with an Oculus Go, making virtual reality cycling super affordable.
A nice variety of game modes allows you to mix up your workouts.
Subscription pricing is very competitive compared to traditional flat screen cycling rivals like Peloton and Zwift.
Having a subscription model at all might deter gamers.
Only compatible with Oculus Quest and Go headsets, PC VR not supported.
VZFit Play runs on Oculus Quest and Oculus Go headsets and requires the VZFit sensor and an exercise bike to work. The game comes as part of the VZFit premium subscription, priced at $9.99 month or $99.99 per year. Also included in the subscription is VZFit Explorer