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What is Zwift?

Words by David Hicks

on 31/03/2020 13:17:00

what-is-zwift

Written by Rayanne Baker.

If you're a regular Strava user you will have no doubt seen numerous people on your feed racing round London, Richmond, or a mysterious island somewhere in the Pacific over the winter months. Not sure how all your club mates have managed to travel so far for a ride on a January evening? It's not the advent of teleportation (unfortunately) but is instead a result of the growing popularity of Zwift which, along with a new generation of smart turbo trainer, is revolutionising indoor training.

So what is Zwift? Zwift is a turbo trainer app which is attempting to make turbo training a little more fun and interesting. Users simply link their turbo trainer up to their computer, iPad, iPhone,or Apple TV and then they can pick from multiple workout choices, which allow them to ride, train and race in real-time with thousands of cyclists from around the world.

What does Zwift do?

Zwift offers its users the ability to ride on virtual roads where they can explore routes inspired by Central London and the 2015 World Championship course in Richmond, Virginia. Furthermore users have the choice to discover Zwift's virtual world of Watopia. Zwift also offers the option for users to plan structured workouts and the creators work with coaches to build workouts that users can tailor to their own fitness level and ability. Zwift offers both individual workouts and scheduled group workouts. The app allows users to partake in social group rides with thousands of other cyclists from around the world and hundreds of events are available for users from social, easy rides to intense races with real prizes.

Is it free to use?

Zwift offer a free 7-day trial to new users with no payment required. If you choose to keep using Zwift after the trial period, the company charges a $14.99 fee per month for the service (about £10-11 a month). The service can be cancelled at any time.

What equipment do I need to use Zwift?

Those wanting to use Zwift will need the following equipment:

  • A bicycle trainer or rollers, and an ANT+ or BLE power meter/speed and cadence sensor
  • A bike
  • A PC/Mac computer, a compatible iOS device, or an Apple TV
  • A bridge/receiver for the ANT+/BLE signal

So, essentially, Zwift is open to pretty much everyone! That being said, to really get the fully immersive experience that Zwift can offer, a smart turbo trainer is a must - this allows the game to control the resistance you feel on the bike and can better simulate the demands of riding up or down hill, or attacking or sprinting in a race as all the action kicks off on screen. Which brings us nicely on to...

What turbo trainer is right for me?

A turbo trainer is a static device which you attach your bike to, it allows the user to ride their bike indoors with complete disregard for the wet and cold. Most turbo trainers work by clamping the rear wheel into a frame which then keeps the bike stable whilst you ride it. The rear wheel in traditional turbo trainers stays connected to a resistance roller, this then in turn spins the roller, generating resistance. Most turbo trainers allow you to adjust the resistance for the ability and training requirements of the individual. To find out more about all the different turbo trainers make sure to read our Turbo Trainer Guide.

Smart Turbo Trainers

Smart turbo trainers are what you most likely want to invest in to get the most out of the Zwift app and your turbo training sessions. These turbo trainers have the ability to connect to you smart phone so you can use training apps, and have all different modes of resistance that can automatically readjust to simulate real life obstacles such as the hills you may encounter in apps like Zwift. Smart turbo trainers are the closest technology to outdoor cycling indoors.

You can, of course, still use Zwift with a standard turbo trainer assuming that you have the appropriate equipment to connect everything together. Outside of smart trainers you have a couple of different options:

  • Magnetic Turbo Trainers - magnetic trainers use a magnetic field to control the level of resistance. These are considered the most affordable category of turbo trainers, but they can be noisy.
  • Fluid Turbo Trainers - these trainers generate resistance through a propeller which spins inside the fluid-filled chamber of the unit. They are quieter than magnetic turbo trainers and smoother to ride.
  • Direct Drive Turbo Trainers - direct drive trainers are a little different to magnetic and fluid turbo trainers in the way that they are fitted. Direct drive turbo trainers sit in place of the rear wheel which means you don't need to worry about specific turbo-tyres. Due to the removal of the wheel the direct drive turbo trainer is the quietest, they are also very stable.
View All Turbo Trainers

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