Looking for a way to make those indoor training sessions more engaging? Feel like time stands still when putting in the winter hours? Or simply looking for a year round training platform that will give you extra motivation to go the extra mile? Zwift was created to tackle all of these issues. Here is everything you need to know if you are thinking of giving Zwift a go.
So What’s it All About?
Zwift is an online interactive training and racing platform that links your turbo trainer up to your computer (PC or Mac), iPad, iPhone, Apple TV or an Android smartphone or Tablet. This allows you to ride with others cyclist in multiple virtual worlds often based on real life places. As well as just riding with others you can also complete specific training sessions that have been designed by professional coaches. These can be completed on your own but also with others. This is done by signing up to group workouts via the app or the companion app. The benefits of this over completing these sessions outdoors is there are no external factors that will impact your session. For example, weather, traffic and the terrain around you. It is also great for those that have time constraints as you can get in a high impact session in a small amount on time.
There are seven different worlds to ride with two worlds available to ride each day. The worlds available to ride depend on what day of the week it is and is published on a calendar each month by Zwift.
For those looking for some competition, there are also races you can enter over varying distances and terrain to suit the length of session you want to do and the time that you have available. These are split in to categories based on your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) in w/kg (Watts per Kilogram), so you will always be able to find a race and level that suits you.
There are multiple gamified elements to Zwift which include unlocking bikes and clothing to encourage you to ride for longer and harder and over hillier terrain. There are also challenges often based around total distance ridden and metres climbed which give you access to some of the fastest equipment in the game once completed.
How does Zwift work?
Zwift uses ANT+ or Bluetooth to connect to your devices. These can be either a power meter, a smart turbo trainer (such as the Wahoo KICKR and Tacx Neo 2T) or just a speed/cadence sensor as well as heart rate monitors. To connect via ANT+ you will need to purchase an ANT+ dongle for your computer so the information can be sent between your devices and the computer. For Apple TV and other phone/tablet based devices connection is via Bluetooth which is usually built in. This data is then used by Zwift which is translated in to speed on the virtual course. It takes in to account your weight, power or calculated power, the road gradient and the draft, or lack of, from other riders.
Below is more on the various ways you can get started on Zwift.
- A dedicated indoor trainer bike, such as the Tacx Neo Bike and Wahoo KICKR Bike – this is the most expensive option and one for those really committed (and have the cash lying around).
- A smart trainer – these require you to use your existing bike and can be wheel on (Wahoo KICKR Snap) using the resistance of your rear wheel on a drive unit or a wheel off trainer (Wahoo KICKR/Tacx Neo 2T) that require you to remove your rear wheel and place your bike on to the trainer. These measure power and sometimes cadence and transmit this directly to Zwift.
- A power meter – with a power meter you can use any indoor trainer or rollers and data will be taken from your power meter and transmitted to Zwift. With this option you won’t get the simulated gradient changes and controlled workouts that you get with the indoor training bike or smart trainer.
- A speed/cadence sensor – this is the most basic option and allows you to use a regular bike with no power meter and a standard wheel on trainer. Zwift will then use the numbers (cadence and wheel speed) to estimate your power. This is not the most accurate or realistic option but it is the cheapest and is a great way to get started on Zwift.
How much does Zwift cost?
Some indoor trainers come with a free trail period, for example 30-days, for Zwift so you can give it a go without having to commit to start with. You do get a free 7-day trial when you first sign up for Zwift if you haven’t got a longer trial period with a trainer purchase. After the free trail it costs £12.99 a month but you can cancel and re-join anytime and you will keep your progress and unlocks that you have achieved so far.
How do I get started?
To get started first you need to sign up for an account. On a Mac or PC you can do it online at Here On a phone or tablet device you can download the Zwift app from the relevant app store and sign up through there.
If you are using a computer or Apple TV to use Zwift it is highly recommended to download the Zwift Companion app. This adds a number of convenient features such as being able to message other Zwifters, enter events and changing the direction of your avatar.
Once this has been done you just need to pair your devices and choose the world you want to ride in. You are then ready to experience next level indoor training!