A bicycle trainer is a piece of equipment that makes it possible to ride a bicycle while it remains stationary. A popular choice among cyclists these are commonly used to warm up before races, or when riding conditions outside are not favorable. Almost all bicycles can easily be used by with most trainers.
Quite a few virtual training programs have been released recently that have opened up a whole new dimension to riding. Trainer Road and Zwift are two popular options that have taken the cycling world by storm by gamifying riding.
We’re going to be deep-diving into the Zwift platform here.
Check our post that deep dives into the TrainerRoad training platform.
WHAT IS ZWIFT?
Zwift is a virtual indoor trainer game that enables you to use your trainer paired with your smartphone, letting you ride, practice and compete with other riders across the world.
You can ride with thousands of other riders inside Zwift. You can join group rides or races – and even get a draft from other riders, how cool is that? Or you could simply join the world and jump on with other riders when you want to. You can also do structured power-based workouts. Yes, there are separate training programs for riders looking to simply train and workout at home.
Zwift is ideal especially when the conditions outside are not ideal – you don’t have to miss out on that group ride even if it’s pouring outside.
WHAT DO I NEED?
- A smart trainer
- A bike
- A computer or smartphone
- A Zwift account
You can project Zwift onto virtually any screen such as a TV, iPad, iPhone or any Android smartphone. Using a tablet or portable device would be the most practical but for a more immersive experience, we’d recommend using an HD TV screen. If you don’t have a smart TV you could run Zwift on your PC and mirror it onto your TV using an HDMI cable.
The current minimum requirements in order to run Zwift on your PC
- OS: Windows 7 x64 bit, OSX 10.8
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo
- Memory: 4GB
- Graphics: 1GB dedicated GPU, or embedded Intel HD 4000/AMD R5
- Hard Drive: 4GB of free space
You don’t necessarily need a “smart trainer”; you could use Zwift with a roller or a classic trainer. The whole experience is a lot more immersive and realistic with a smart trainer as the trainer adjusts resistance, speed and a lot more. Additionally, (non-essentials) you would want to have a sweat guard and a trainer mat to protect your bike and flooring.
Check out our post on how to choose the right trainer
NOTE- In order to use a non-smart trainer you will need an additional speed/cadence measurement device that is ANT+ or Bluetooth enabled.
HOW DOES ZWIFT WORK?
Zwift takes inputs from your trainer/ speed or cadence sensor and uses an algorithm to translate that to your virtual Zwift avatar. Zwift also takes into account your weight, your power or calculated power, the road gradient and the draft, or lack thereof, from other riders. You’d be amazed to know how accurate Zwift is – if you’ve got a smart trainer then you’re getting to experience a ride as close to real life as it can possibly get from the comfort of your living room.
As mentioned before, you can use Zwift on a computer (PC or Mac), an iPhone, an iPad or an Android smartphone or tablet. Zwift is now also compatible with Apple TV, so if you’ve got one of those, you can set yourself up in front of the TV and ride away.
HOW DO I START ZWIFTING?
First things first, you’re going to have to set up a Zwift account online. Head over to zwift.com to do that. If you’re on your mobile device you can head over to the Play store/Apple store and download the Zwift Companion App.
Check out our uber awesome post on Setting up Zwift on your trainer if you’re keen to get started.
WHERE CAN I RIDE IN ZWIFT?
There are currently eight different worlds on Zwift:
- New York City
- Crit city
Each of these worlds has a number of preset courses for you to ride, or you can just free-roam around each map. There is a catch though. On any particular day, there will only be two worlds available to ride. If you think about it, this is a smart move – having a narrower choice of maps will allow you to ride with more people at any given time.
The map that is available on any given day can be viewed from your homepage on Zwift.
CAN I RACE ON ZWIFT?
Of course you can! You can do group rides and some general training rides as well. It’s easy, simply choose a race from the events list, choose which category you want to compete in and sign up.
Categories for racing are based on Functional Threshold Power (FTP), in watts per kilogram (w/kg):
- A = 4.0 w/kg and above
- B = 3.2-3.9 w/kg
- C = 2.5-3.1 w/kg
- D = 2.4 w/kg and below
These are the different categories you can sign up under on Zwift. If you’re not sure about your FTP then you can simply run one of the FTP tests available on Zwift. Once you’ve selected a category and signed up for a race, Zwift will automatically take you to the race start when the race is about to begin.
Just because these are virtual races don’t take them lightly, there are super competitive people who take part in these races. Have your water bottles, and towels ready, because if you have to stop mid-race, you’ll get dropped and left behind immediately.
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get warmed up too, Zwift races are notorious for starting fast – some people even pump up the watts just before the start to get a jump on everyone else. Be aware that drafting is also a thing even in virtual racing! Try to use this to your advantage, just like in the real world.
For those of you wondering, yes, you can share your rides on Strava, there is an option to connect Zwift with your Strava account. This will mean that all rides you do on Zwift will be automatically uploaded to Strava.
Check out our uber awesome post on Setting up Zwift on your trainer and get rolling!
That’s it! You’re now all set to conquer the world of Zwift.
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WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CYCLING
I’m an avid mountain biker and I like riding fast and flowy singletrack. As I keep riding, I continuously work on honing my riding skills. I like to ride whenever possible, especially with friends. I also like to influence folk into getting to ride more often.
Working on bicycles has also been a keen interest of mine for quite some time.
DISCIPLINE: Mountain biking and Road biking
CURRENT BIKE: Merida One Twenty 9.600 & Specialized Allez Elite DSW
DREAM BIKE: Santa Cruz 5010