What is Zwift?
It’s an interactive app that changes the “game” of indoor cycling.Think that cycling is only a sport for a chosen few? With interactive, subscription-based indoor training applications like Zwift, which has emerged from the world of gaming as a way to train indoors, indoor cycling has been taken to a new level. Gone are the days of inspiration, less adventure-free indoor cycling. With a wide range of tracks and destinations to choose from, Zwift has made the world of cycling for everyone.
To escape the monotony, Zwift has created a virtual world for riders to connect with several thousand other cyclists around the world to compete in races, to participate in Gran Fondos, to ride with a local team or club – even if there’s snow on the ground, or just go for a social ride. If you’re new to the concept of either gaming and/or training, you are not alone, here’s how to get started with Zwift training programmes.
What Do I Need?
There are four basic items you’ll need to buy before you get riding with Zwift:
- A bicycle trainer or rollers. Smart Trainers can transmit speed and power data to Zwift, but you can also connect to Zwift using a trainer with an ANT+ or BLE power meter or speed and cadence sensor. See more about the Trainers and Sensors below.
- A bike.
- A PC or Mac computer, an Android or iOS device, or Apple TV.
- A bridge/receiver for the ANT+/BLE signal.
Trainers and Sensors
A smart trainer transmits power data and has the ability to change the resistance based on the course. As you go up and down hills in Zwift, you'll be able to feel those changes on your bike.
A power meter + any trainer/rollers
A power meter can be the most accurate way to measure your efforts. With Zwift, a power meter also allows you to ride any trainer - including rollers.
Classic trainer + speed sensor
"zPower" is Zwift’s name for a supported classic trainer + speed sensor setup. With this setup, Zwift can calculate your output in watts (i.e. power) based on the speed of your rear wheel.
Some indoor bikes have built-in sensors that transmit power. If you have one of these, you don't need any other sensors.
How Does Zwift work?
With the help of either a smart trainer, speed/cadence sensor which is connectable by Bluetooth, or ANT+, Zwift uses the input from your bike to create a true-to-life cycling experience. It does this by taking your cycling data (which includes your weight, power/calculated power, the road gradient, and other riders’ performance data) and creates an avatar for the virtual course of your choosing.
Zwift has always been compatible with computers, smartphones, and tablets, but it now also works with Apple TV, meaning you could get your ride on right in your living room.
To make Zwift part of your home cycling setup, you’ll need to pay around £12 per month but can get started with a 7-day trial.
How do I set Zwift up?
- Download the app onto your phone or smart device.
- Enter your details into the Zwift app. These will include your height, weight, gender. This will be used to create your cycling avatar.
- Once that has been created, it is now time to give your avatar a cycling kit and your ideal bike. Remember that at the start you won’t have a huge range of options, but the more you achieve, the more bikes, wheels, and kits you will unlock. There is also a ‘Drop Shop’ feature that allows you to purchase further items using an in-game currency that is based on how many Zwift miles you clock up.
- Now that’s all sorted, you are ready to go.
Training programmes on Zwift
Once you’re set up and connected, you’re ready to take to the (virtual) open road. There are over 80 courses in 8 different worlds (including New York, Innsbruck, London, Paris, and Yorkshire) for you to choose from, and they are always adding more. You can hop on your bike, choose a route, and go explore. It’s that easy!
Zwift offers more than 1000 workouts to choose from, and/or a selection of Training Plans to enroll in. The Training Plans will help keep you on track and stay committed to a specific goal.
Group Workouts are unique to Zwift and bring structured training to a group environment. Studies have shown that people are more motivated when they are training in groups. Whether you’re pedaling at 100 or 400 watts, Group Workouts are kept in a group by Zwift’s gaming element, so everyone stays together for a more social experience.
Zwift Group Rides
A little tired of going solo? Zwift has also created two features that allow you to ride with others and stay social whilst cycling.
The first of these is RideWith, which upon logging into Zwift gives you the quick and easy opportunity through the Companion App to cycle alongside someone who has already set off on a route.
However, it’s the Zwift app MeetUp function that brings people together. It allows you to choose from several scheduled rides across the Zwift ecosystem, either from the fictional routes of Watpoia or through other alternate routes that have been created that day.
There is also the option to customise your MeetUp, which is a simple way of creating your own group ride on Zwift. As long as you can find our cycling friends’ profiles via the Zwift Companion app, it’s easy to create an event invitation. The event gives you a number of options to choose from, including time and date details, whether it’s a normal ride or one where you want everyone to stay together, regardless of their power outputs.
Whether you’re the leader or if you’re joining a ride, you’ll be able a see a detailed list of cyclist descriptions, times, and other information. After joining the ride, you will usually be given the option to select your level of intensity, which means everyone will ride at the same pace. Each ride has a run leader, and you’ll be able to read their comments on screen as you go and the more chilled rides, they will work to keep everyone cycling as a group. Even if you aren’t the group leader, you will also have the opportunity to message other riders to keep the morale up. You can even message to let people know if you aren’t going to be there on time
While it’s not always about winning, here is the option whilst on a ride to check out how you are performing. The Zwift leaderboard will be tailored to only show other riders in the MeetUp with you and can show you how you’re progressing.
Virtual racing takes place throughout every day and doesn’t require a race license, timing chip, or race number. Racers choose a race category based on their watts per kg power output, so there’s a race that suits nearly every ability
In the cycling world, this is known as both a fun race and one that tests a rider’s endurance. It’s an event that brings together huge numbers of cyclists, sometimes in their thousands. Although they are long-distance rides, Fondos are known for endless sprint races.
Sounds good? Well, the Zwift Fondos series brings that frenetic energy online. Coming in three different styles of endurance race (Bambino, Gran, Medio), you can choose your own goals and ride at your speed, whilst being virtually surrounded by a community of like-minded cyclists. Fondo events take place at least once a month, and the more you are involved in these events, the closer you get to unlock exclusive virtual Fondo Jerseys.
More recently Zwift has entered into the world of esports. The KISS Super League has brought professional cycling teams together to race on the Zwift platform for the first time.
If you are a card-carrying member of British Cycling, you could even win a national title without leaving your living room. Zwift has partnered with British Cycling to host the very first British Cycling eRacing National Championships. Any British Cycling member is eligible to compete for the prize.
Zwift has been changing the game of cycling so fast that new features are getting introduced all the time. This is good news no matter if you are new to Zwift or not because training should be fun, it’s all part of the game.
FutureWorks Pace Partners
Even if you don’t like riding with others, there is still the opportunity to compete. The Future Pace Partners are bots that ride at certain times of the day. Each of the partners rides at different speeds and is a perfect way to push yourself without having to compare yourself to anyone.