There’s nothing better than an outdoor ride with your friends and training partners, right? However, there are times when indoor training is a better option, especially when the weather makes riding outside risky or unpleasant, and when you want to hit specific training targets.
I’ve been using an indoor trainer for about 20 years. I’ve always found it a very useful training tool, especially for specific interval training – you can put your head down and go hard without any danger. It’s also very convenient when you have a busy life and/or if you live a fair way from safe riding roads.
Indoor trainers have changed a lot from when I first bought one. I still have my first trainer, a Tacx, and I still use it now and then when I travel. But of course the biggest and most obvious change to indoor training was the invention of the smart trainer. The smart trainer pairs with a cycling program or app to provide resistance to the back wheel. I now have a Wahoo Kickr Snap, which is an amazing piece of technology, and there are a heap of other smart trainers out there which are pretty good too. My personal preference is for a ‘wheel on’ trainer, like the Wahoo Kickr Snap (as I can’t be bothered taking the wheel on and off, especially when I come home from riding outside and want to have a spin-down on the trainer), however the Wahoo Kickr is great if you prefer the wheel-off version. Some people complain about the tyre wearing out on a wheel-on trainer, however I’ve never had a problem with that – I use the Continental GP4000II, and they seem to live forever!
Obviously a smart trainer isn’t very smart unless you pair it with a device and app. There are quite a few apps out there, and I’ve used most of them – Wahoo app, TrainerRoad, Fulgaz, Grand Road Tours, and Zwift. Definitely my favourite at the moment is Zwift. Zwift really takes indoor training to a new level of fun and interaction. Apart from GrandRoadTours (which is in beta), it’s the only one where you can ride with other riders in a virtual world. For the rest of this review, I’ll concentrate on Zwift.
Getting set up on Zwift is super easy. For optimal performance, it’s best to have a smart trainer, cadence sensor, and heart rate monitor. However, a lot of people don’t know that all you actually need to get started is a basic indoor trainer and speed sensor (Zwift will estimate power based on your speed and type of indoor trainer). Once you’ve got that sorted you then need to download and sign-up to Zwift. You can download and use Zwift for free for the first 25km, but after that you need to pay a monthly fee of about $20 (it’s cheaper for an annual subscription). Zwift can be downloaded onto a number of different devices: iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, PC, and Mac – but be careful to check your version is compatible (see link). An android app is in beta testing.
Once you’ve downloaded the Zwift app you need to pair your devices. This is pretty intuitive – the app will guide you through the set-up. Pairing Bluetooth devices (trainer, cadence, HR) on most formats is generally not a problem, as most devices have Bluetooth, however ANT+ devices can only be paired with a platform that has an ANT+ dongle. Usually I pair my Wahoo Kickr and Wahoo Tickr HR sensor with a PC via an ANT+ dongle. For cadence I rely on my Stages power meter (which I use for power on outside rides); it has cadence built in, however there are plenty of ANT+ or Bluetooth cadence sensors around that can also be used. Pushys make it even easier to get set up on Zwift with their Wahoo/Zwift packages, which are the most cost-effective way to get started.
Once you’re set up on Zwift, the fun begins. There are so many options for training available in Zwift – you can join a group ride or training session, join a race, create your own custom workout, or just ride around enjoying the virtual scenery! If you or your coach uses TrainingPeaks, you can even link workouts to Zwift – I use this function a lot, it’s a fantastic way to do interval training.
Riding around Zwift is very realistic. Zwift takes control of your smart trainer and varies the resistance depending on the terrain. For example, if you’re going up a hill, it gets harder, so you either push harder or change gears (or just slow down!). You also get the benefit of drafting off other riders – just like outside, sitting behind someone is a lot easier than going it alone out front!
There are currently four different virtual worlds on Zwift. They follow a daily schedule –officially, you can’t choose which world you want to ride in (there is an unofficial hack for this, though). My favourite world is Watopia. It’s very extensive and has many different terrains and microclimates! My favourite climb is Alpe du Zwift – a close replica of the famous Alpe d’Huez in France. Innsbruck is modelled on the UCI 2018 Road World Championship course – it’s so realistic that apparently pro riders are using Zwift to prepare for the event!
One of the great aspects of Zwift is that you often get to ride and chat with your heroes. You’ll often find famous triathletes such as Jan Frodeno (see image below), Lionel Sanders, and Terenzo Bozzone riding around Zwift worlds. If you ‘follow’ them, Zwift will even prompt you by asking whether you want to ride with them – although I wouldn’t recommend this unless they’re doing an easy ride! Last week I joined a group workout hosted by three-time Ironman World Champion, Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander (see image below). Crowie guided us through a 60 min workout, all the while chatting with the group via Zwift’s inbuilt messenger.
In addition to joining a hosted workout, Zwift also has lots of in-built training programs that you can sign up to, such as triathlon training plans and FTP-booster plans – there are many and the list is growing.
Another great aspect to Zwift is that you can customise your own avatar. Various options are available, including different kits and bikes. Some options are only available once you reach certain game levels. Riders are rewarded with points (or XP) for every kilometre they complete on Zwift. Once the rider reaches a certain number of points they go up a level. There are currently 25 levels.
Well, I’ll probably have to leave it there – I could probably write about Zwift all day! If you have any questions about set-up, etc, let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) – I’m happy to help!
P.S. I’m not sponsored by Zwift – I just love it!
By Stuart Harsley – Pushys Sponsored Athlete
Categories: Product Recommendation