With the inclement weather in full swing the explosion of smart turbo trainers and improving software applications have invigorated the whole indoor training experience. The software du jour is Zwift, which adds a gaming aspect to proceedings. SNCC member and Zwift user Dave Lindsay has written an article explaining what's it all about.

The days of staring at a wall on the turbo trainer could be over…

Most of you will have heard of Zwift, but may have limited knowledge about what it is, how it works and how it can benefit. Given the volume of our members using this new training software I will attempt to shed a little more light into this dark art of cycling “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Gaming” (MMORPG).

What is Zwift?

Put in the most simplistic terms Zwift is cycling software (or Game) that interprets your efforts on a static trainer or turbo into a cycling world and character of yourself. There are similar software options out there but the clever part about Zwift is that you join thousands of other cyclists doing exactly the same thing in a separate “world”. This means that you are riding with other people at the same time or own your own depending on what you wish to do. You have the flexibility to do a structured workout, race against others in events or just engage in a group ride for a spin. Similar rules apply for riding such as drafting and increased resistance on hills etc.

How does it all work?

Zwift can be installed on a PC/ Mac or iOS device but there are minimum specifications to run the software and you also need either a Bluetooth or ANT+ dongle connection to pick up the devices on your turbo training / bike.

You simply start the software, connect your devices and then select your bike and numerous other options to customise your experience and off you go! When you have finished your ride if setup correctly it will link your rides when saved to STRAVA and Training Peaks.

There is a wealth of options with sensors. As a minimum you need a speed sensor or power meter attached to your bike. Zwift will work out the rest. A whole new wave of turbo trainers are available now with Zwift in mind that will automatically vary resistance with the terrain in Zwift, have integrated power meters and cadence sensors. Many cyclists will also use Heart Rate monitors to measure effort.

Zwift isn’t free although you can try it for 25km for free if you like then there is a subscription cost of 8 pounds a month.

Why would I want to use it?

Personally I am not surprised that many members have started to use this software, particularly in the winter months. Traditionally turbo trainers are popular but have limited interest levels and not particularly social! I can speak from experience here…. Suddenly you are presented with something interesting to look at and other riders to engage with or race against.

This shouldn’t be considered a threat to traditional riding, it is simply just a new way of riding on a turbo. More fun, more interesting and may even have the ability to make you train harder.

About 70% of my cycling is completed on the turbo in the winter months due to the TT specific efforts I am trying to build and limited time I have with a young family. I have been using Zwift for 3 weeks now and completed over 10 hours on it and I actually look forward to using my turbo sessions now. That for me is worth the money!

My setup is:

  • Lemond turbo trainer - Discontinued and not very fancy but great resistance
  • Power Meter - Pioneer
  • Viiia+ HR strap - This connects my ANT+ devices and coverts them to Bluetooth connection for IOS
  • Apple ipad air 2

 pic 1

What do members think about it?

Ian Burroughs:

I dabbled with Zwift last year after receiving a free trial via Strava, however with an old and loud turbo and a cold garage this never took off.
2016 was a poor cycling year for me and therefore as the nights drew in I resolved to buy a Smart Trainer and give Zwift another go.   I originally went for the TACX Vortex which I found to be excellent, however after a few weeks I took the plunge and bought a TACX Neo as I was after a direct drive unit and something as quiet as I could get.   The Neo is just fantastic (although I could never really justify the cost).  It provides accurate power measurement, an almost real ride feel and can even simulate road conditions, such as cobbles.   It’s so quiet I have even been allowed to move the setup into the dining room !
I am currently using my summer bike, a Giant Defy, which is mounted on the Neo.  With Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity to my laptop, I use a combination of the trainer and a Garmin Heart rate monitor to track everything I need to.  An HDMI cable to a TV screen completes the setup, if you exclude the Sonos I use to provide tunes while I’m training.
In the past few weeks I have been using Zwift 2-3 times a weeks and have followed a number of set training programs lasting from about 45 minutes to 1 hour 30.   I plan to do this throughout the winter and summer when I just can’t get out.   It will never replace real riding, as us Zwifters have been accused of, but I wouldn’t be without it now.
Typical programs I follow revolve around interval training in an effort to improve the FTP and this will remain the focus for the time being, although I have my eyes on some of the Zwift events (races) which I know some of the club members take part in.   I will, however, need to be a bit (lot) fitter before I give these a go.
Over all experience has been excellent, with pretty good reliability, a good range of rides, nice graphics and interfaces which will keep most people engaged.

Ian’s Setup:

  • Tacx Neo turbo trainer - Integrated turbo trainer with power meter
  • Garmin HR strap
  • Laptop
  • TV - HDMI connection from laptop to it

 pic 2

Chris Green:

Chris is one of the newest users of Zwift in the club, here is his very early thoughts:

I've decided to use Zwift as a tool to help with my training and to try to make it as 'fun' as possible while sweating and suffering. Up until now I've only used it once but after being a bit skeptical I really enjoyed it. After 1 min I was totally fixated with it and before long was trying to overtake riders on the hills. Great way to make the 'boring turbo' fun and looking to use it more!

Chris’s setup:

  • Elite Crono Fluid ElastoGel Trainer
  • Garmin HR monitor
  • Garmin vector power pedals
  • Garmin speed and cadence sensor
  • Laptop is a HP 14 Inch AMD E2 4GB 500GB

 pic 3

Final thoughts:

This represents only a snapshot of current users out there both in the club and beyond. There will always be those that a cynical of such tech but its there to be used so why not try it for yourself? I am sure it will have limited appeal in the middle of summer but the next time you look out the window and its snowing or black ice all over the roads there are other options. If you would like help in creating your own setup or getting started please get in touch!