Zwift is certainly not a replacement for riding your mountain bike outside and by no means is it anywhere near as much fun. In a time when many of us are time-poor and struggle to get the time on the bike we want to maintain the fitness levels we need to achieve, indoor training via the Zwift app may well be an answer to get some miles in the legs. We’ve been spending a bit of time on Zwift over the last three months and thought it’s time to share our thoughts and pen a review.
Getting Set Up
To jump on Zwift and get your indoor trainer legs spinning you need to make sure you have a few things first. An Indoor trainer, a bike and a speed sensor are the minimum requirements but to access all the features and improve the experience it is worth getting a heart rate monitor and cadence sensor.
If you really want to maximise the experience then the best option is to get a smart trainer. Smart trainers are either wheel-on, meaning you keep the wheel on your bike and the bike is fixed via the axle to a rear wheel driven trainer; or wheel-off meaning the rear wheel comes off your bike and the bike is placed on the trainer using a cassette fitted to the smart trainer.
Smart trainers can communicate directly with zwift and give you direct feedback altering resistance in relation to the terrain you are riding. Essentially it makes it more life-like and enhances the simulation experience. When it comes to racing it also means you can race and place in any race, something that riders on basic trainers cannot do.
The biggest draw back to using a smart trainer is the initial outlay, as they are definitely not a cheap option costing a minimum $700 for the trainer and ranging up to 6k for a complete wahoo trainer bike. Whereas a basic setup with a trainer, heart rate monitor, speed and cadence sensor will set you back about $400 or even less if you go second-hand.
How Zwift Works
Zwift is a virtual world, one that you can ride in or run in. It costs $21 a month to subscribe which gives you unlimited access to Zwift with multiple worlds to utilise for riding, racing, training or working out. It has plenty of routes to conquer, bikes to buy and wheels to whack on the steed; its a simulation that allows those of us that are time-poor or in recent times, locked down, to get some bike time.
Watopia is the main Zwift world and what the whole gaming platform was built on, since it’s inception Zwift has grown rapidly and now there are multiple worlds. London, New York, Innsbruck and more recently France have all made their way onto the platform. With plenty of routes to ride and multiple worlds available, Zwift is sure to have something for everyone, including two mountain bike specific tracks and some gravel grinding.
Racing on Zwift
Racing on Zwift comes in many forms from long distance endurance races, time trial races, crit city races and handicap races. If you are keen for a bit of competitive motivation then Zwift has a race format for all riders. Races classes are A through D and are set by your FTP in watts per kg, meaning that it dissuades people racing in the incorrect category or sandbagging as it’s commonly called in the cycling world. The system isn’t perfect and as such it still occurs but to a lesser degree than it could. Those serious about racing on Zwift use Zwiftpower an independent website that vetts results and removes sandbaggers from the results list.
If you want to race on Zwift it is best to use a smart trainer as some races wont allow people using old trainers without power meters to compete for the top spots. You can still race some races but a majority of the races will require a smart trainer if you want to compete for results.
The Final World
Zwift is something that I wasn’t sure that I would take to, it’s certainly not something that I would have thought would take its spot in my training regime. However, I have been pleasantly surprised and it has meant more kays in the legs, more steady state training and more bike time. Don’t get me wrong it hasn’t nor will it ever replace time on a mountain bike on the trails, but for those of us with busy lifestyles full of kids, work and other distractions; it can play a pivotal role in maintaining a higher level of fitness for race season.
Rain, hail or shine Zwift is a means to achieve quality training in a simulated environment and certainly beats the old days of a boring indoor trainer without the interactive platform….