How to Start Zwifting?

How to Start Zwifting?

What is Zwift and how do I get started? A beginners guide.

Cycling can be a time consuming hobby and with hectic work schedules, family time, colder weather and shorter days, it can hard to put in those hours on your bike to increase your fitness and performance. Whilst indoor trainers (also sometimes referred to as 'turbo trainers) have been around for over three decades, the increasing popularity of smart trainers has changed how we conduct our indoor rides. 

Software such as Zwift has made these training sessions far more enjoyable with cyclists no longer solely staring at digits on your bike computer, but are offered stimulation with landscapes and fellow riders riding around in real time. 

There are other software options available but for the purpose of this post I will focus solely on Zwift. 

 

What is Zwift?

Essentially Zwift is on online virtual world, a cycling game where your legs are the controller. It is fantastic tool to complete your training and one that I have found very useful to help those hours pass by. You set up your trainer and sensors and then depending on how hard you push is how fast your avatar will go. 

Zwift has three courses that change depending on a schedule that you can ride:

  1. Watopia - A fictional world designed by Zwift with a mix of flat routes, steep mountains, a volcano, underwater tunnels and even a mayan jungle.
  2. London, UK - This is a very close replication of the Prudential Ride London course complete with Buckingham castle, London bridge and the Surrey hills. 
  3. Richmond, USA - This is a replica of the 2015 world road race championships as won by Peter Sagan. A great punchy course complete with two sprints and 2 KOM (King of the Mountains)

Within these course you have a few options.

  • Explore - You can ride around and explore at your own pace and choose how hard you want to push during your session.
  • Group ride - You can join a group ride where there can be hundreds of riders riding alongside you on a planned route. This option has a group leader who will type instructions as you ride like pace and any sprints to open up the legs a bit.
  • Race - Races are split by ability A, B, C and D. A being the strongest and D the beginners. They will have various courses and lengths or you to test out your fitness. 
  • Group workouts - These are like the groups ride but are directed more towards structural intervals to get you moving. 
  • Solo Workout - These are structured intervals that you can complete on your own if you don't have time to join a group ride. There are lots to choose from on the startup screen. 

I like to mix up the sessions during the week. Some days I would do an easy group spin and some nights I would do a race just to gauge how my fitness is progressing. 

Zwift

 

Do I need a smart trainer to use Zwift?

The simple answer is no. You can use any type of indoor trainer once you have some senors that can relay information from your ride to your computer, tablet or iPhone. For example if you have Garmin speed, cadence and heart rate sensors and are using a laptop, with the an additional ANT+ USB key (pictured below) to receive the information, you can get Zwifting at a fraction of the cost of purchasing a smart trainer. 

Image result for ant= usb keyAnt+ USB key.

 

While this will get you moving in the Zwift world it may not give you the best experience. As you ride up climbs in the virtual world there you will not feel it in your trainer and power readings are only estimated and can be wildly inaccurate. Also, Zwift limits non-smart trainer users to roughly 450watts which makes racing very difficult. (Watts is the unit of measure to describe the amount of power a rider is pushing through the pedals)

 

What is a smart trainer?

A smart trainer is an indoor trainer that allows its user to electronically control resistance, most commonly automatically by a head unit or computer software such as Zwift. For example: if you are using Zwift and you see your avatar riding on an incline then the resistance on your trainer will increase to simulate climbing. And vice versa for descending. 

There are two main types of smart trainers: Direct Drive and Wheel-on 

 

Wheel-on

Involves clipping in a complete bike to the trainer and the rear tyre comes into contact with a 'roller'. When the bike is pedaled the roller will move and relay speed and power information to the trainer. 

Image result for elite rampa

 

Direct Drive

Involves removing the rear wheel from the bike and mounting the bike directly onto the trainer

Image result for tacx neo

 

Direct Drive

Wheel-On 

Pros Pros
Higher power and speed accuracy  Much cheaper than Direct Drive trainers
Lower noise emission Lighter and easier to transport
No wear on rear tyre   
Faster response to changes in power and speed  
Require very little (if any) calibration  
   
Cons Cons
More expensive than Wheel-on options Will cause increased tyre wear
Unit will be heavier Power accuracy tends to be lower
  Require more frequent power calibration
  Prone to tyre slippage 

 

 

What is the difference between the cheaper and more expensive smart trainer models?

The main differences from an introductory model to the top end models are: 

  • How much gradient the trainer can replicate: basic trainers may only replicate a slope of 6% whereas inside Zwift there are climbs of up to 18%. You will still feel the trainer press resistance but it will not be completely accurate to what's on screen.
  • Power maximum and accuracy: Top end models will reach a much higher max wattage and their accuracy will be far higher. 
  • Road replication: this is only available on the Tacx Neo at the moment but what it does is replicate road surfaces that you experience in the Zwift world. When you ride over cobbles or some of the off road sections, the Neo will vibrate to simulate the bumpy feel. 
  • Quietness: the more you progress up the price range the less noise the trainer will make. Very helpful if you live in an apartment or shared accommodation. 

 

 

What smart trainer can I get for my budget?

€300 - €400

 

Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+

  • Max gradient 6%
  • View in our store HERE

 

 

€400 - €500

 

Tacx Vortex 

  • Max gradient 7%
  • Max Power 950watts
  • View in our store HERE

 

€500 - €700

Elite Rampa

  • Max Gradient 10%
  • Max Power (@60kmh) 1600watts
  • View in our store HERE 

 

€700 - €1000

Tacx Flux 

  • Max gradient 10%
  • Max Wattage 1500watts
  • View in our store HERE

 

Elite Direto 

  • Max Gradient 14%
  • Max Power 1400watts
  • View in our store HERE

€1000+

Tacx Neo 

  • Max gradient 25watts
  • Max Power 2200watts
  • View in our store HERE

 

We will do our best to answer as many of your queries in the comments sections below and hope to see you guys in the Zwift world soon. 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Mike Daly Mike Daly

    @MJ There are specific tyres for indoor trainers that use a different rubber compound than a traditional bike tyre. This compound disperses heat more efficiently to reduce wear. This will in turn last much longer which will save you money. We've seen some basic tyres disintegrate and spit rubber onto the wall behind that trainer after a single session. These indoor trainer tyres will also reduce the noise levels that a traditional tyre will emit on a trainer. Be advised that this tyre cannot be used on the road as it will not have the same grip. You can view one of these tyres in our online store here https://goo.gl/tkDwNd

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