Do you hate exercising alone? Do you get bored if you just follow a video tutorial, or mindlessly track miles on a treadmill? Do you need the support of an exercise buddy—or the energy and vibe of being in a group class?
For many people, exercise needs to be a social experience. You like the camaraderie and friendly competition. But since COVID-19 restrictions have limited many group fitness activities, you need to look for other ways to recreate that experience.
That’s where Zwift comes in.
What Is Zwift?
Zwift is an interactive cycling game that allows you to train with other cyclists or even join virtual races set in different parts of the world.
The game is connected to a turbo trainer and a screen. You select a course, and Zwift will adjust your turbo trainer to mimic any topographical challenges you would experience if you were actually doing it in real life.
When you travel uphill, you will feel the additional resistance as you pedal. If you’re drafting behind another biker, you’ll notice that pedaling becomes slightly easier. Even cycling on grass or cement will show up in subtle adjustments to your turbo trainer’s resistance and speed.
But it’s not just a very immersive game—Zwift is set up so you can achieve your fitness goals in a fun and effective way. Here are some benefits of this popular cycling app.
Benefits of Zwift
Zwift has many benefits, we go through them below.
Zwift Connects You to Real People
The people you encounter on the route aren’t artificial computer animations—they’re real players, who are also using their Zwift in some corner of the world. You can chat with them, cheer them on, or race with them.
Zwift even lets you arrange a meet up with friends so you can exercise at the same time. Go the Events Screen, then tap the “Create Meetup” button. Then type your friends’ profile names and send an invite. You can add up to 100 people to each event, and customize the settings.
You can also join open meet-ups or races to make new friends. You can find a list on Zwift Companion, and pick one that suits your fitness ability. Ride leaders will yell out encouragement, and keep the stronger cyclists in front so the weaker ones can take advantage of the draft. It’s the same benefits you’d get from joining a group cycling activity in real life!
Even Beginners Can Use Zwift
Zwift has a wide range of courses, which are rated by difficulty or “Stress Points” (SP). You can pick from Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Levels. So if you feel like you’re in the worse shape of your life, you can start with an easy workout and then move your way up.
Zwift even has a special course for beginners: Zwift 101. This is a one-week introduction that teaches you the basics and helps you ease into the training. Then, you can go into the FTP Builder program that helps you build up your aerobic strength and endurance.
Fun fact, the CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerburg used a Zwift exercise bike while he was rehabilitating from an injury. This shows that Zwift is great for people who are new to exercising and might be on the lookout for an exercise bike for beginners or people who want to buy an exercise bike for knee replacement rehab, for example and don’t want an outdoor bike like the GTX 3 or an outdoor elliptical bike.
Get Training Plans Designed by Experts
You can freely choose and customize your own course, but if you want something more structured than you can jump into one of the pre-programmed workouts and training plans.
These fitness programs were designed by experts like Italian national time-trial champion Marco Pinotti and race-winning coach Matt Rowe.
For example, the Pebble Pounder Program helps strengthen your aerobic ability and prepare for a race. Dirt Destroyer mimics the steep inclines and high resistance of mountain bike riding, in order to build endurance and stamina. Crit Crusher, which teaches sprints and bursts of speed, can help prepare you for cyclocross or any kind of competition.
You can also find thousands of Zwift training programs on third-party sites and forums. These are designed by trainers, cyclists or Zwift aficionados. Many of them are completely free!
Enjoy the Best Views
Through Zwift, you can feel like you’re touring the world on your bike. The main world is called Watopia, where you can explore underwater tunnels, snowy mountain trails, desert dunes, and tropical seashores.
You can also access virtual recreations of famous cycle routes in London, New York, and other major cities of the world. There are also “guest worlds” that change every day. You never get bored at looking at the same view, every day.
Ride with The Pros – and Maybe Become One!
Zwift has over half a million users around the world, and some of them are professional cyclists who use it as part of their training. In fact, Australian cyclist Matthew Heyman said that it helped him win the Paris-Roubaix race in 2016!
If you’re lucky, you’ll spot one of the pros during one of your cycling sessions. You’ll find a full list of pros who have been seen on Zwift on the site, ZwiftInsider.com.
Some Zwift users have also successfully become biking pros. For example, Ollie Jones won the Zwift Academy training program and was signed on by the Dimension Data Development Team. Tanja Erath also got a pro contract with Canyon-SRAM.
The Best Bike to Use with Zwift
You can use almost any classic turbo trainer or roller with Zwift just by adding a speed sensor or power meter. However, these won’t be as effective at adjusting resistance based on the terrain or course. The game can calculate the power, but you’ll miss a lot of the immersion and accuracy that you would get with the right bike.
There are a number of great Zwift exercise bikes, but one of the best trainer bikes you can buy is the Wahoo Kickr Bike. Unlike many other trainers, this actually looks and feels like a real bike, for a very authentic and immersive indoor training experience.
The powerful features also help you maximize all of Zwift’s features, and helps you get the most out of each cycling session. This includes:
- Accurate. 13lb flywheel and improved is much more accurate and responsive than other bikes in the market. You don’t even need to calibrate it!
- Feels real. Gradient-changing technology with a range of -15% to +20% smoothly mimics all the uphill climbs and exhilarating descents of your route—in real-time!
- Convenient. Use the app to control resistance through smartphone, computer, or tablet.
- Customizable. You can adjust the bike to suit your preferences or body type. All the instructions are in the app! You can also do quick adjustments to the levers on various points of the bike, and set your braking and shifting preferences.
- Durable. Made of industrial-grade steel and aluminum, this bike will last for years.
While it’s a bit pricey, the Wahoo Kickr Bike has the technology and customization so you can take full advantage of Zwift’s features.
Who Can Benefit from Zwift?
A Zwift subscription costs about $14.99 a month. It’s not free, but it’s reasonable—gym memberships can be four or five times more expensive. But is it the right training program for you? if any of these points describe you, the answer is YES!
- You want an online training program that has a solid community and many opportunities to socialize with real people
- You would like a variety of training programs
- You don’t have the time to exercise and want a high-intensity workout that will burn calories in a short amount of time
- You miss exercising outdoors and want an immersive digital experience that helps recreate that in your living room
Alternatives to Zwift
If you’re interested in online indoor cycling but would like to compare your options, here are some alternatives to Zwift.
Zwift vs Sufferfest
- Pros: Strong coaching element
- Cons: No socialization or community element
Sufferfest first carved a reputation for itself for its high-quality training videos. Then, in 2014 it released an app that has similar features to Zwift.
You can also connect it to a smart trainer or a regular trainer that has been equipped with sensors. But unlike Zwift, it doesn’t allow you to compete or communicate with fellow users, or offer a sense of community and socialization.
However, it has top-notch cycling workouts that improve your strength, speed, and flexibility. You can also access yoga videos that are designed just for cyclists, as well as running and triathlon workouts.
When you begin, you are given a unique 4 Dimensional Power Test that sets your baseline and helps the app recommend the right workouts for you. You can follow the suggestions or choose what you want.
Either way, you will get pop-up messages that give training advice: how to maximize a segment, or tips to get through a challenge. It’s the next best thing to having a cycling coach!
We dedicated an entire article where we compared Zwift to Sufferfest, if you want a more in-depth review you should check it.
Zwift vs TrainerRoad
- Pros: training programs developed by athletes and world-class cycling coaches
- Cons: No socialization or community element
Like Sufferfest, TrainerRoad is really geared towards serious cyclists who want a straightforward training program.
This has over 1,000 iworkouts for different fitness levels, as well as several cycling and triathlon plans. These were developed by Chad Timmerman, one of the world’s best Level I cycling and triathlon-certified coaches.
It has a calendar feature to help you schedule your workouts along with races and other training activities. It also has excellent performance analytics.
During the workout, you can get live on-screen data on your heart rate, power, speed, and cadence. Then, it will will collect the data to help give you concrete feedback on where you need to improve.
This functionality is more appropriate for athletes in training. While Zwift is powerful enough to be used by the pros, it has more fun and immersive elements that will appeal to people who just want to get stronger and healthier, and socialize with people who share the same interest in cycling.
Also, like Sufferfest; we have a full article comparing TrainerRoad to Zwift, check it out if you want a more thorough comparison.
Zwift vs Peloton
- Pros: Feels like a fun spin class
- Cons: No interaction with other members
Zwift recreates the experience of cycling outdoors. Peloton recreates the experience of being in a spin class. You can pick from over 10,000 live and on-demand classes taught by some of the best instructors in New York.
You can also choose the difficulty of the workout, the length, the music genres, and even the vibe of having a live DJ. You ca nalso choose special workouts that are low-impact or will put you in the power zone or faster calorie burn.
While Peloton helps connect you to real people—you can see the instructor, and hear the other people in your spin class—it doesn’t have the same kind of interactivity as Zwift.
And while there are options to bike down scenic roads, it has nowhere near the number or size of the world you will find in Zwift. The majority of the workouts will happen in the “studio environment”.
Verdict: Is Zwift Worth It?
Zwift is one of the best online exercise programs. You get a wide variety of training programs, community support, and an immersive experience. If you want to get fit and have fun along the way, then swiftly sign up and start enjoying it today.
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