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Zwift Review

This blog doesn’t do many product reviews but the virtual world of Zwift is worth exploring both as a consumer product and a theoretical concept too.

This is also a follow-up to a previous post that mocked indoor trainers as pointless or, at best, poor solutions because they never feel real no offer all the joys the open road can bring. Most of that remains true but new machines ensure a more realistic pedal stroke so you can at least get a workout which is why most people turn to these machines during the winter. A broken wrist two months ago meant a plaster cast and no outdoor riding so it was time time to try indoor riding again…

What is it?
Zwift is software that you run on your computer in conjunction with a home trainer and your efforts on the machine are replicated in a virtual world. Instead of going nowhere in your garage, cellar or spare room you can start lapping a virtual world with hills, descents and lots of other riders, all while gather data from split times to watts and doing pre-set workouts.

The Tech Bit
You’ll need an indoor trainer and a power meter helps but a speed sensor is ok; a computer with sufficient memory and a dedicated graphics card is a must; an ANT+ USB antenna is required so that your computer can read the output from your trainer and or bike and finally you need a good internet connection. There are three setups:

  • a “basic” setup with a simple home trainer and a speed sensor
  • a “flexible” setup with a simple home trainer and a powermeter
  • a “premium” setup with a smart trainer

Despite the “premium” term there’s no cost differential to users. That depends on what you’ve spent on the hardware at home. Zwift’s website lists the compatible units, there’s close to 80 models from Merckx-era rollers to the latest “smart trainers” which employ motors to control the resistance. The basic system takes speed as a proxy for watts so if you pedal at home at a constant effort you avatar will roll along the flat roads and climb more slowly uphill; by contrast a smart trainer will apply more resistance the moment you ride up a grade so that you have to change gears to respond to the road.

Overall the tech interface works well but I was lucky to borrow two premium trainers to test this, a Wahoo Kickr and a Tacx Neo and they were simple to pair and operate, it took a couple of tries to set up the ANT+ system but once it worked it was quick to pair every time. The software is intuitive and easy. In case you’re wondering of the two units I’ve given the Wahoo back and am trying to keep the Tacx for as long as possible.

The Money Bit
It’s $10 per month. There’s a free trial touted as “14 days” but only 50km so you’re going to use it up in a ride or two. It’s enough to test whether you have a compatible trainer and home computer and to get a quick feel but no more.

Zwift sample screen

First impressions
Once setup you start beside the road and the moment you begin pedalling your avatar clips into their pedals and starts moving. On the top left is your power output in watts and cadence, a circle displays a “power-up” which you can use during the game ride for a quick boost, in the middle is the bar with your speed, distance, vertical gain and elapsed time and then on the right the course profile and below it a list of the other riders nearby.

There are two courses to ride, the make-believe land of Watopia and a recreation of the 2015 Worlds course in Richmond and there’s no choice, the course depends on the day of the week. Once you get rolling you’ll soon notice the other riders on the course as they fly past before you can pick up speed, each person accompanied by a national flag. It seems very popular with British and American cyclists and there are blue Tron-like avatars used to populate the course when there are few users. Fortunately it’s a virtual world and nobody is crashing into each other, the steering is automatic. On Watopia you can chose between a hilly or a flat route, either pre-ride which means when you get to junctions you carry on towards or away from the hills as determined or you can tap your computer cursor keys to change.

It’s realistic and immersive, even the graphics are not amazing – think Grand Theft Auto San Andreas – for example if you pair a cadence sensor then the pedalling rate of your avatar responds accordingly. It feels right and on an early ride I turned round to clear my noise and just caught myself before I spraying the room.

The drafting aspect is good but the sheer number of participants means that if you sit up for moment it can be seconds before you find another wheel to hop on. This is nice but means there’s not the same incentive to hold that wheel at all costs that you can have in a real race or out on a regular ride. Get close to a wheel and “close the gap” appears on screen which gets annoying after a while as if a DS is barking orders when you just want to ride tempo. Indeed wheelsucking exists online too and there’s netiquette too. You can use an app on your smartphone to make your avatar gesture, like waving, and take part in group chats but the body language is never clear. Is someone waving hello or goodbye? The group chat proved distracting with too much white noise from people on the other side of the course.

Training
Once you’ve got the set-up taken care of and got past the novelty factor you can get down to the serious business of riding. There are two modes, free riding and workouts. You can ride around the courses as you wish. Neither Watopia nor Richmond are that inspiring and once you’ve lapped them several times they get familiar and then repetitive. Yet I’m not sure if a virtual stage of the Tour de France would be any better though, with these short circuits it’s easier to go and do one more lap and the short hills mean shorter descents as opposed to a replica mountain stage of the Tour de France where you could be climbing for an hour and doing nothing for 20 minutes as you drift down the Galibier. Indeed the prospect of climbing Mont Ventoux might sound appealing but a flat course offers the same workout: just pedal hard. Along the way there are sprint sections with a green jersey up for grabs each day and climbs with a mountains jersey too. Win both and you get a combined jersey. Plus heckling which we’ll come to shortly.

All this takes place in a computer game environment. Ride more and you get experience points which unlock achievements along the way such as a new virtual bike or different wheels. Hold 500W for a while and you get a bonus, manage 100km and you get another and so on. There are many of these and you can aim for them or just pick them up as you go along depending on how acquisitive you feel. It works as they keep you riding for longer. Normally it didn’t take much of an excuse to end an indoor session before (“maybe I could iron some t-shirts?“; “surely the freezer needs defrosting?“) but with Zwift you often keep going in order to finish a lap, go up another level or show that wheelsucker who’s boss. It made for longer rides and more regular use of the indoor trainer. You can save rides and upload to Strava so friends know you didn’t wimp out.

What would be better is some sort of virtual partner so you can race yourself. Laptimes are dependent on whether you draft or just the amount of people on the course because when things are busier you draft more. Of course you can just focus on the watts on screen but the realism means there’s more going on.

Zwift workout

One way to escape the rest is the workout mode. This was introduced late last year and instead of letting you ride around as you wish it comes with pre-set goals and segments. There’s a warm-up and then you do X watts for Y minutes as part of structured intervals along the way. It’s a useful tool as it provides a better workout. The gaming element makes it more fun than an ordinary session where you might say “I should do X watts”, here your screen comes alive with a virtual start and finish point and on-screen targets to hit. Once you’ve completed each interval you’re scored by how well you stuck to the protocol. It’s almost like having a coach or rather you set yourself to sticking to the plan. The forensic DC Rainmaker walks you through the whole experience over on his site.

Cyberspace and the online world
As well as the practical aspect the virtual side opens up many theoretical and conceptual ideas. Join Zwift and the first of the issues you’ll confront is bound to be cheating. Online games like World of Warcraft have been dogged by cheats and the problems of policing them. Just as someone might use a cheat code for a bigger sword or infinite lives in a game, Zwift seems to have people lying about their weight so that they fly up the hills. Of course Zwift is meant to be a training tool rather than training for tools but the “you’re only cheating yourself line” doesn’t stop a few from using a dangerous drug like EPO to win a village kermesse. Someone out there will always game the settings. Judging by Twitter conversations it creates a spiral where because someone lies about their weight, others follow but longer term users say this has been reduced of late.

It works the other way. Crest the climb with the fastest time of the day and your avatar sports the mountains jersey. It might be virtual but you can feel real pride – shallow perhaps but let’s take what we can get in January – only it doesn’t take long for the hecklers to arrive and accusations fly via the chat function. Before the ensuing descent is over you’re wondering whether to ignore the haters or book yourself in for an independent VO2 Max test.

Cyberdoping is one aspect of the virtual world but there are many encouraging things from group rides where someone from Iceland can ride alongside someone from Japan, there’s not exactly cultural exchange but you can get online with friends and ride together too. There’s a calendar of group rides. There’s racing too, could these become official? Why not as sport is just competition defined by agreed rules. Rowing has its erg competitions and just as they don’t worry about driving the blade correctly an indoor trainer race feels artificial. Zwift allows for drafting but in a simplistic way, you don’t need to focus on the gap or the angle in case of a crosswind or fight for the right wheel as the drafting effect seems to be the same for everyone.

Concept is turning to reality with the news that the Canyon-SRAM team will offer a contract to a female Zwift user. This nexus of internet gaming, reality TV talent show and power data screening will be an interesting exercise in itself. Of course the virtual talent gets tested in the real world before any contract appears given basics like cornering and race craft matter. Plus they can be sure the person pretending online to be a petite 48kg woman isn’t actually an 80kg man in his cellar. Probably not the first time this has happened online.

Conclusion
Zwift’s virtual world brings real results. Whereas an hour’s ride outside often feels all too brief, an hour on an indoor trainer can feel more languid than one of Dali’s melting clocks. Instead of bailing out after 40 minutes because of boredom it was easier to keep going for 90 minutes. Part of this is down to modern trainers and I was lucky to borrow to high end hardware which enhance the virtual reality but Zwift was the decisive factor, Tacx’s Neo feels great to ride but their software felt older and less involving.

As well as the practical use it’s the virtual world that fascinates, whether the online community and ways to police the cheats or the possibility for more noble pursuits like competition and talent identification. It can’t replace the pure pleasures of cycling but having wheels to follow and chasing a PB lap time do make indoor riding more tolerable than staring at your heart rate monitor or powermeter display. Just as you can stop playing a computer game when you’ve done all the levels you wonder what happens if you do everything on Zwift but hopefully by then the sun is shining and you can put the fitness to use outdoors and begin again once the evenings close in next winter.

Is it for everyone? No, if you don’t want an indoor trainer then you don’t need Zwift. But if you live somewhere with cold and dark winters or face a long injury spell and want to keep the legs turning, try it. As good as it is it still can’t beat the real world. The first ride outside after a long indoor block felt wondrous, akin to the Count of Monte Cristo tasting freedom from the Chateau d’If.

All images from Zwift’s website and press kit

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jan Friday, 29 January 2016, 3:27 pm

    You mention that you can use it if you have a speed sensor and not a power meter. I’ve looked at it (because I live in Wisconsin and I’m a weather whuss for biking), but the website left me thinking I’d need a power meter, and I’m not willing to make that investment (I ride for fun, mostly, but also to help keep a little better fitness). My bike computer does cadence and speed. But I don’t want to invest in an ANT thingy only to find out that I’d still need a power meter.

    What do you think?

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 29 January 2016, 3:33 pm

      Check their website, it’s the basic setup you’re after. You don’t need a power meter to use Zwift but you won’t have the same experience without it. But as you say if you want to try for fun you can give it a go with the trial for nothing and see how it works out.

    • Tim Friday, 29 January 2016, 5:36 pm

      So long as your trainer is listed as supported, then you’re good. The only catch is that because it’s measuring speed and calculating power from a known curve to obtain power, that your power will appear “smoothed” – but only by a few secs.

    • Will Saturday, 30 January 2016, 11:51 am

      I run mine with only a speed and cadence sensor (and a HRM to tell me how hard I’m working). Sounds like the only thing you’ll need to buy is an ANT+ stick from Amazon …

    • Tim Monday, 1 February 2016, 11:02 pm

      Jan,
      I use Zwift on rollers. Obviously chat functions are not happening, but otherwise it adds a lot of dimension to trainer rides. Without variable resistance Zwift adjusts your speed through some algorithm. I feel I really need to drop to my hardest gearing to climb doing a decent enough simulation. It also maxes out your estimated wattage at 400. I think that it is a worthy investment if you already have a compatible speed sensor. I am using a Garmin 800 w/ heart rate monitor.

  • Anonymous Friday, 29 January 2016, 3:34 pm

    Thanks for this, I was wondering about this program, it sounds great. Were you really out there at the same time as Jens Voigt and Laurens Ten Dam??

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 29 January 2016, 5:39 pm

      No, all the screenshots are just samples from Zwift, either their presspack or their blog and for illustration.

    • betabug Friday, 29 January 2016, 5:44 pm

      “All images from Zwift’s website and press kit” probably answers that question.

    • Anonymous Friday, 29 January 2016, 6:05 pm

      betabug – thx, but i skipped down to the comments section before reading the entire article.

  • Ecky Thump Friday, 29 January 2016, 4:04 pm

    I’ve used the basic graphics screen in front of a spin cycle in Fitness Centres in the past, and really enjoyed them. You can easily make a couple of hours pass by in a growing puddle of sweat.
    This version is the next generation but it all sounds a bit too techy…is that a fair criticism?

    Came outfit, deep rim wheels and power meters – tha’ sly old fox Inner Ring!

    • Ecky Thump Friday, 29 January 2016, 4:05 pm

      *Camo*

  • Omar Friday, 29 January 2016, 4:17 pm

    I think this article puts way too much emphasis on the cheating. Riders who are seriously bothered by cheats on Zwift (and Strava) need to settle down and realize what this is, a training tool. If they are truly competitive and care about “virtual jerseys and KOMs”, then they need to get outside, pin a race number on and go at it. Complaining about virtual cheating (and Strava-cheating) is a dead horse that was beat a long time ago.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 29 January 2016, 5:41 pm

      I found it wasn’t worth worrying about but during a ride a lot of the messages on screen were about it and was on the receiving end of it too for a moment. Talking to people via Twitter it seemed to occupy them too. As you say though it’s just a training tool.

      • SpinCycle Sunday, 31 January 2016, 1:13 am

        You can also completely turn off the chat functions so that none of the messages show up or you can enable only private messaging so that you can just chat with people that directly chat with you.

      • Gingerflash Monday, 1 February 2016, 3:52 pm

        I use the basic set-up and noted a lot of people compaining about such set-ups and the “virtual power”.

        However, I’m there for my own training, not for virtual racing. If Zwift tells me my FTP has gone up since 2 weeks ago, that’s a good thing. Doesn’t matter if the exact figure isn’t correct.

        Those who care about this sort of virtual racing are not the types about whose opinions I care.

  • King Boonen Friday, 29 January 2016, 4:18 pm

    Cycling for the computer game generation..?

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 29 January 2016, 5:42 pm

      I think so and it uses the same hooks like levels, power-ups and points as psychological rewards. But of course you have to pedal, you can’t sit still with a Playstation controller.

      • Chris Saturday, 30 January 2016, 11:37 pm

        I can recall days of Sensible World Of Soccer, where the basic footy management game was enhanced by having a very playable match engine. Would be awesome if they could work on a ProCycling Manager release which utilized the Zwift style of riding… gone would be the days of setting up the tactics and watching the race unfold from the armchair.. but instead select a particular team rider and race!! The in game experience could have lot of variety – pretend to be Contador on the mountain, or a domestique in the sprint train.
        #thefuture

      • King Boonen Monday, 1 February 2016, 12:59 pm

        I can understand the appeal. If you like that kind of thing it would certainly make turbo sessions more enjoyable. They need to add some Road Rash style actions, such as sticking a pump into someones wheels or dumping your banana skin in front of them!

        Not for me though, there’s too much competition in cycling as it is, I just like to ride. If I have to use a turbo then videos Like Sufferfest work fine for me.

        Chris, Sensible Soccer was awesome. That’s about the last computer game I ever played I think!

      • Gingerflash Monday, 1 February 2016, 3:52 pm

        Unless you have a motor in your seat-tube. 😉

        • King Boonen Monday, 1 February 2016, 9:22 pm

          I’d guess there are cheaper, easier ways to cheat at a computer game!

  • lefthandside Friday, 29 January 2016, 4:21 pm

    I’ve got to say I’m grateful for the trainer, in whatever form. With my work hours there is no way I could get in enough time on the bike to develop fitness during the week without it.

    I have tried and very much enjoyed Zwift (haven’t tried the workouts) but find that I’m perfectly happy with the Sufferfest videos and trainerroad – the variety of workouts was the decider for me. As my road bike is at the carbon doctor at the moment, however, I’m forced to ride on the singlespeed whatever the weather – it’s certainly toughening me up again!

    Ultimately I think whatever motivates you to develop your fitness can only be a good thing. One thing about using the trainer whenever it’s rainy is that it doesn’t teach you to handle a bike in poor conditions – I’ve certainly been glad of my all-weather riding experience during the odd race in truly abysmal weather. Nothing like racing down a descent at 75kph in a bunch in the rain to find out those who only ever ride in the sunshine!

  • cd Friday, 29 January 2016, 4:40 pm

    I used Zwift a bunch last winter. It’s better than just using the trainer and got me to ride harder inside than I normally do, but it’s still the trainer. I still stopped mid-ride and raided the kitchen because I was bored. I’d rather go out and do a spin class (in the back, just hammering) because, for me, its the only time I go hard the whole time. But I’m mentally weak. That said, I think Zwift is worth the money for those who train inside.

  • Michael Friday, 29 January 2016, 5:47 pm

    Overall, I think Zwift is awesome. I definitely prefer the Watopia course to Richmond and I’m hoping that there will be more course options available with future updates. For me, winter riding in Ireland sometimes means icy roads, so Zwift is the perfect way to do a ride without worrying about breaking bones. I also spend a bit of the year in Beijing, and Zwift over there is perfect for the frequent smoggy days. I also love the fact that you can ride with people in different countries at the same time. I think a smart trainer is the way to go in terms of set up. One particularly wonderful feature I discovered over Christmas was what I think of as the Zwift garage stop. When you get a hunger knock (bonk?) all you have to do is stop pedalling and walk to the fridge-way better than petrol stations out on the road.

  • euro Friday, 29 January 2016, 5:48 pm

    Seems stupid. I’ll stick with my Tacx Flow with headphones for my music and just knock out my intervals the old fashioned way.

    • Rod Monday, 1 February 2016, 5:36 am

      That’s the beauty of it. Some people would call you stupid for even owning a flow instead of rollers, some people would call those guys stupid for not simply owning a beater bike and some ski clothes and riding outside.

      I do all of the above, and enjoy the variety. Sometimes riding (even at -20 C), sometimes rollers, sometimes structured training with music, sometimes a movie and sometimes Zwift. The optimal level of technology and distraction is different for everyone. As an example I used to own a flow but I could outsprint it – so now I mainly use a fluid trainer with less bells and whistles and a power meter. Whatever works to keep you spinning!

  • allsideways Friday, 29 January 2016, 5:55 pm

    On the “power up” bit where you get a quick boost, does an Astana team car appear out of nowhere and drag you 400m up the road?

    • Tim Friday, 29 January 2016, 6:33 pm

      Win!

  • Adam Friday, 29 January 2016, 7:20 pm

    Jan, in terms of hardware setup, when Zwift talk about power meters I, too, initially envisioned the £1k plus devices I’ve been unwilling to invest in. And those things are compatible, but, actually, a smart trainer acts as your power meter (and has the added functionality of changing resistance according to gradient/drafting benefit etc). I picked up a Tacx vortex for about £250 which – when you consider that a half decent ‘normal’ turbo will set you back, what, £150-200 – didn’t seem half bad to me. It works perfectly.

    And for those commenters yet to be convinced, I would just reiterate that, yes, if you stack this (or anything else for that matter….literally! Anything!) against a proper outdoor ride then it’s gonna fall well short. But take as read that, weather/circumstance permitting, you’d be out on your bike and compare it instead against other indoor alternatives. Is it better than sitting on a turbo staring at a hr monitor? Hell yes! personally I have always struggled to do anything more than a short (20-40 min) interval session on a turbo due to the sheer boredom of it….this thing provides enough incentive/interest/distraction to allow me to churn out a good two or three hours – that’s well worth it in my view

    • Jan Friday, 29 January 2016, 8:09 pm

      Adam, thanks for that idea! I’d never thought of getting a different trainer set up (I have one I’ve had for 10 or more years, which is basic, but which I’m nowhere near wearing out. Still, it would probably be WAY cheaper than a bike power meter thingy.)

  • Digger wigger Friday, 29 January 2016, 8:45 pm

    So Mr Ring – are you going to release your VO2 max, FTP, and body fat %?

  • Andrew Friday, 29 January 2016, 9:19 pm

    I don’t know, it just doesn’t grab me. Here in MN I certainly do a lot of indoor training during the work week- unless it is really brutal out, I HAVE to get outside on the weekends. I’m just not that enthusiastic about having to always use my own bike, with a massive tech hookup, as opposed to just riding to videos or music on my phone or Ipad at home, at work, at a friend’s house, whatever. If there was a mobile version I might be slightly more interested, but that seems unlikely or impossible. The other thing, and maybe it is an age thing- I just hate video games. Always have. And this looks like a video game.

    Basically, indoor training kind of sucks, unless you just embrace the misery and just kill yourself the whole time. Get in, get out, stop f##king about seems to work best for me.

  • Adam Friday, 29 January 2016, 9:36 pm

    Andrew….respectfully, what are you on about mate? Mobility-wise, it works on a tablet….and presumably, if you’re not riding outdoors (which everyone recognises is preferable) then you’re gonna need some kind of static ‘tech hookup’, be that turbo trainer or exercise bike. So I don’t really see how having a connected screen in front of you – tablet or whatever – makes much difference to the complication of the setup.

    You admit that “indoor training sucks”….totally agree….and so do Zwift….that’s why they invented this! Why so closed-minded?

    • Andrew Friday, 29 January 2016, 9:57 pm

      I guess I’m a bit of a Luddite about this. I haven’t even bothered to get the proper bits to get virtual power numbers on the Sufferfest app. I have absolutely no idea how I would get the spin bike at work to talk to my phone. I’m very “happy” riding mostly off of RPE +/- HR. I pretty much take the view that if I explode in a giant cloud of lactic acid at the end of my indoor workout, it had to be better than sitting on the couch eating donuts. I’m not very scientific about all this.

      Did I mention how much I hate videogames?

      : – )

    • T Saturday, 30 January 2016, 10:08 am

      RE: “Mobility-wise, it works on a tablet…”

      Not quite. It only works on the Microsoft Surface Pro i.e. a laptop masquerading as a tablet, and running Windows.

      Absolutely no options to run the full Zwift experience on an Android/iOS mobile device today. However, the mobile “helper” app allows you to control your in-game experience, see your dashboard, look at who’s riding etc.

  • John Butter Friday, 29 January 2016, 10:35 pm

    As a Zwift user since August, I can only say that this product is highly addictive for a lot of people with our wiring. It is immersive as the author states. It works and is not buggy to the point of frustration. It is developed by people who love the sport. I’ve personally ridden with Laurens, Jens, and Tylar Farrar on group rides. I race every week with posted results, and have gotten fitter as a result. From someone who NEVER EVER rode indoors, I am riding 3x a week inside. And something for those with families, my kids love to come and watch who I’m riding against and ride it as well when I throw their bike on the trainer. An 8yr old and a 6yr old riding indoors because they think it’s a game.

    All the data you want too.

    • tfk Friday, 5 February 2016, 12:05 pm

      brilliant angle. my bit a bit expensive to get 3x monthly memberships tho. But perhaps worth it to get your kids into fitness/cycling at an early age.

  • DNAtsol Saturday, 30 January 2016, 2:36 am

    Having literally just complete my first excursion into the world of Zwift 2 hours ago (on the richmond circuit, which I actually physically rode as well – so there is some actual apples to apples comparisons) I can offer the following observation. The circuit matches up quite nicely physically but there does seem to be a slight disconnect between perceived effort – going up libby hill or the second cobbled hill – and the avatar on the course. My Tacx neo vortex did not quite have the resistance capability that a higher priced model might. but it was at least a consistent difference.

    What I found most interesting was the compulsion (?) perhaps to go a little harder than I should just to hold a wheel, even though I have no idea of the capabilities of the person that has just breezed past. In that sense it is more realistic than a trainer session in that I really did develop a sense/responsibility of closing a gap and/or holding a steady pace when someone was on my wheel.

    To be fair, this was m first time and I definitely was over zealous. I had more than enough fun to look forward to doing another session and reap the benefit of no longer being a complete newbie. 🙂

  • Keith_in_Chapel_Hill Saturday, 30 January 2016, 3:13 am

    “if you don’t want an indoor trainer then you don’t need Zwift”

    I bought a smart trainer for the sole purpose of using Zwift. I had not been using a trainer before, but Zwift was so compelling, and I don’t regret it. I have doubled my ride frequency with it, and the racing, though different from real racing, is still racing and still highly engaging and exhausting. It has spawned an ecosystem that includes on-line commentators on those races (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNOhjHeohuU), in fact.

    • J Evans Saturday, 30 January 2016, 9:03 am

      Thanks – the video gives a good idea of what it looks like. Having said that, I’m not sure I’m ever going to come to terms with the fact that that guy is sitting there commentating on a computer game.

    • Larry T. Sunday, 31 January 2016, 10:36 am

      “…. and the racing, though different from real racing, is still racing…” Geez, has the “Strava generation” come to this? What’s next? Why don’t we skip all the closing of the roads, police protection, putting up and taking down the start/finish, weather, etc. and have Froome and Co. just head for a nice TV studio and “race” this way? In this case I’d be grateful to the bike industry as the newest-latest, plastic-fantastic, light-weight aero wonder bike doesn’t seem like it would make any difference, so they’re not going to get behind this? Just like pre-season races, this stuff has its place, but when folks start calling it RACING or handing out WT points, they’ve gone over the edge.

      • jollygoodvelo Monday, 1 February 2016, 11:57 am

        People are competing to see who is the fastest. How else would you define ‘a race’?

        • Simon Wednesday, 3 February 2016, 10:39 am

          Larry. Really, just calm down. And also: have you tried it?

  • joliver3 Saturday, 30 January 2016, 3:26 am

    “a training tool rather than training for tools” — Love it!

    Sorry to hear about your wrist. Hope your recovery is going well!

  • J Evans Saturday, 30 January 2016, 8:48 am

    I’m still dealing with the idea that people cheat on computer games and trying to work out why.

  • Anonymous Saturday, 30 January 2016, 10:38 am

    Great, now I can call myself a cyclist and talk about suffering and stuff WITHOUT leaving my bedroom! pass me another sticky bun.

  • Hammarling Saturday, 30 January 2016, 11:42 am

    Zwift used to be free, but now that $10/month fee has really put me off. I don’t have an indoor trainer and was considering getting one plus Zwift. But i’m not going to spend X on a trainer, Y on an ANT+ and $120/year, the cost quickly becomes high and i might as well buy a specific winter bike and lots of cold weather gear.
    I’d rather buy a dirt cheap second hand trainer and set it up by my TV/Computer. Get the bike set-up and spin away watching a film or some real Cycling on the telly.
    That said, if i came into a bit of money unexpectedly i would seriously consider investing it into a good Zwift set-up, because at worst i’d end up with a cool indoor trainer and wasted a few quid on a month or two membership (that otherwise would have been wasted on a couple of pints)

    TBF i don’t get Strava either. I’ve never been one for the showing off types, i’m perfectly happy cruising around at my own pace just whiling away the time and the miles.

    As for the Canyon-SRAM Zwift Academy thing, i’ve had some nice chats with cycling minded friends. It’s a concept with potential, i just have concerns that Zwift isn’t developed enough as a platform to deliver what Canyon wants/needs. Certainly i can’t see how it’s better than scouting Junior/Amateur racing leagues (beyond cost and publicity). But any discusions here are best served by waiting and seeing what it comes to next season.

    • DNAtsol Sunday, 31 January 2016, 4:48 pm

      I’ve been a premium strava user for several years now. For me strava is less about showing off and more about having a common repository for all my rides with my data.

      Admittedly, I am a data geek but I am no way a monster cyclist. I ride the same routes again and again and there are segments/hills that are my nemesis that I want to improve on. Strava lets me do this. About the only showing off I do is when I filter my results to compare myself with my riding buddies to give them a kudos or a good-natured ribbing. The vast majority of the time I am filtering on my own results, comparing dates of similar performance of my performances and my notes.

      • Will Tuesday, 2 February 2016, 1:48 pm

        Have to say, having gone through at least 2 trial Premium memberships on Strava, I really don’t see the value for money, especially when you can download a Chrome plugin called Stravistix that adds far more features and is completely free.

        Saying that, someone’s got to fund Strava so that I can continue to use it for free – I’m not sure premium’s a great model for generating income but at the same time it’d suck to see Strava ruined by ads etc.

  • Logan Saturday, 30 January 2016, 12:04 pm

    I used Zwift lst year when I was recovering from breaking my elbow, I found it really useful and definitely a really great piece of kit for injuries and winter. I use a Kurt Kinectic and my PM and it works great, however hope to be upgrading to a Kickr for this winter in the southern hemisphere.

  • Stu Ray Monday, 1 February 2016, 3:42 pm

    “Before the ensuing descent is over you’re wondering whether to ignore the haters or book yourself in for an independent VO2 Max test.”

    “Plus they can be sure the person pretending online to be a petite 48kg woman isn’t actually an 80kg man in his cellar. Probably not the first time this has happened online.”

    Brilliant piece as always, sir!

  • Marty Tuesday, 2 February 2016, 2:56 am

    I dig Zwift. I mean, if your going to ride the trainer it does add a element of fun. That said, I often have another screen going with a race via GOPRO.

  • tfk Friday, 5 February 2016, 12:03 pm

    Ty…I am finally incentivised to give it a go. Interesting to read your other post about pro/uci motor cheating. I’m sure there is an already-written angle on Zwift-cheats somewhere.

  • MickR Friday, 5 February 2016, 3:12 pm

    Thanks for the review. My Strava feed is filled with Zwift anymore; seems like all winter this is what everybody is doing. And it is “counting” towards kms and such, which I suppose is right.

    I don’t think any of this is for me though. I have enough trouble getting out of the house. And I feel like I am sore enough from the rides I do get in now; spinning at home and getting more hours is not what I need. I need quality rides. All this new kit and monthly subscription and what-not … I don’t have ANT+ or any power-anything today. I guess I am a dinosaur but I’m really looking forward to a normal group ride where I know people and know the roads and we can chat about stuff and have fun.

    • Michael Friday, 5 February 2016, 3:34 pm

      I can understand the reluctance, and I get the thing about wanting to ride with other people outside-I reckon most of us would rather be outside on our bikes, all things considered. However, what I like about Zwift is that, despite being indoors on a trainer, I can still interact with other cyclists. I can meet up wth friends online and do trainer rides with them instead of just grimly suffering for an hour with some interval session. Definitely worth trying anyway.

  • Chris Robards Monday, 8 February 2016, 11:45 am

    You used both the Tacx Neo and the Kickr. Which was quieter?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 8 February 2016, 12:00 pm

      The Tacx is quieter because the motor does the resistance instead of the fan on the Wahoo. This makes it a lot quieter, someone could watch TV in the same room without much distraction, at least from the noise. There’s a video by DCRainmaker where he even measures this with a decibel meter. However if the motor does the braking sometimes it’s as if the whole unit soaks up the force especially when you’re working hard. Even with a rubber mat laid on top of cardboard it made the floor resonate which can carry sound, worth thinking about if you want to try it in an apartment block.

    • simon Monday, 8 February 2016, 1:31 pm

      Chris. You might ind this useful. I do a podcast for Zwifters. In this episode I did comparative tests of the noise of the Kickr and the Neo. The results are interesting. http://zwiftcast.podbean.com/e/episode-three-1452808095/?token=b0e9978aa8c0f706fe5d7e4e6f16d3b3

  • Anon Monday, 8 February 2016, 6:21 pm

    To get the most benefit you need a power meter, smart trainer, decent internet connection and powerful gaming PC. The cost of these, apart from the power meter could easily pay for a training camp each spring for a couple seasons. And then there’s the zwift subscription.

    Nice idea but not really for serious cyclists.

  • Anonymous Monday, 8 February 2016, 11:15 pm

    Reply to Anon, 8th Feb.

    Maybe. But if you already have a decent PC and Internet connection (which is probably a good 3rd of the U.K.), then you can pick up a smart trainer for about £260, vs £150-ish for a regular turbo. So, actually, this might only cost you an extra £90, plus the monthly fee (which you can cancel/resume by the month, and which is waived for a period of you’re a Strava premium member)…all of which is true for me, personally. So it’s horses for courses I guess, but for some it can be minimal outlay for a seriously effective winter training tool

  • Anonymous Monday, 8 February 2016, 11:16 pm

    P.s – I’d struggle to get a 3rd of the way to Majorca for 90 notes

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