Back in the day, we’d usually turn to our stationary bikes at home when we start layering our clothes before heading outdoors or when the infamous pumpkin spiced latte officially makes a comeback at Starbucks.
Cyclists of all levels, save for those who truly hate anything outdoor related, see daily indoor cycling was mostly a late autumn to winter thing -- feeling the breeze and seeing our surroundings in real time as we pedal made the sport even more exhilarating.
But we prefer not to freeze our butts off (and also prefer not to break protocols during a pandemic) so we settle for the next best thing… indoor equipment and a state-of-the-art cycling app.
For casual cyclists like me, I’ve only ever heard of one cycling app, and that’s Zwift. There’s virtually no argument in the cycling community that Zwift is like the Cheerios to breakfast cereal, the Coca-cola to soft drinks, or the Band-aid to adhesive bandages, you get the drift.
It’s only been recently that I’ve discovered other cycling apps that more experienced cyclists use depending on their training and needs, I first found out about TrainerRoad and compared it to Zwift, and now I found a new one; Rouvy.
Now you’d think all cycling apps would be the same, right? Sure, the main goal is to make you feel like you’re cycling in the real world while trapped inside a concrete box, get healthy and fit, and help you track your progress.
But it turns out, unlike other cycling apps, Zwift and Rouvy offer more than just workout programs, like just enjoying a ride on your bike across France or going on a lap around New York, albeit virtually, with like-minded individuals at any time of the day.
While these two are very similar, they do have significant differences which I’m here to lay down so you don’t have to spend hours on the web looking for a legit comparison and review! So read on below and see which cycling app is best for you.
But First, What Are My Thoughts On…
What do I think about both of t these apps? Here is my personal opinion on each one.
Having started my indoor cycling with Zwift, it’s since become my standard for cycling apps and I found it perfect for a casual cycling enthusiast like me.
Zwift, to me, is like the GTA of cycling -- it’s essentially a video game where I can customize my avatar to look as much like me in real life (as far as the app would let me, that is!), it gives out power-ups, badges, awards, and experience points for my progress, it has levels I can complete, it lets me join virtual races in virtual worlds, and lets me ride along other Zwifties who’re on the same route as me.
But this market-dominating cycling app isn’t the most successful just because of its gamification traits, it also provides you with badass training and workouts for when you want to train for a competition.
With over 9 virtual worlds with a number of routes dedicated to each world to choose from, Zwift takes it up a notch by giving you the ability to interact and compete with other Zwift users in-game. (2)
It also has a fitness level profiling feature that can set the pace that’ll fit you based on how often you ride, which is really helpful for those new to cycling. (3)
Having an old trainer wasn’t a problem as it was easy to connect the app through bluetooth and an ANT+ dongle. I did upgrade later on to a smart trainer to lessen the hassle.
Lastly, Zwift can run on MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and AppleTV.
On to one of newer yet popular cycling apps available to download today, Rouvy.
I like to think of Rouvy as the more sophisticated and competitive younger sibling that still wants to do the same things its older sibling (Zwift) is really good at.
While Rouvy and Zwift aim to provide you with similar features, it’s true unique selling point is its real world footage for all available routes. While Zwift claims to make indoor cycling fun, Rouvy out here wants to make indoor cycling closer to reality. (4)
By providing the user with AR footage of about a thousand real routes from all over the world, the makers of Rouvy claim you’ll be putting in real effort while enjoying the real atmosphere of the routes you’re taking, all while at home.
Similar to Zwift, you can customize your avatar, go in training mode, and join racing events.
The first time I used Rouvy, I was extremely fascinated with how the AR footage captured so much of the courses I was virtually racing in. It felt like I was on vacation without having to leave my home and the feel of reality did indeed motivate me to keep pedaling.
I also appreciate being able to hold private races with people I personally know or just being able to train by myself, especially during times where I’m feeling socially burnt out (even if it’s only online) which sets Rouvy at an advantage since it’s impossible to ride alone in Zwift unless you turn off the Wi-Fi due to the latter’s vast number of users.
By the start of 2022, Rouvy launched it’s new format of Rouvy Career, aimed at users who are looking for a new challenge with gamified features.
Rouvy can also run on MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and AppleTV, and basically requires the same equipment that Zwift requires for you to be able to use it.
There’s hardly any difference in terms of their monthly pricing, with Zwift charging $14.99/month and Rouvy charging $15 if you opt for their monthly subscription.
But take note that you can save $1-3 with Rouvy when you subscribe to their 6-month and 12-month plans. (5)
Both do offer free trial periods, Zwift giving new users 7 days to try out all the app’s features while Rouvy lets you enjoy the app for free for 14 days.
Price doesn't make much of a difference when it comes to most workout apps, Zwift, Sufferfest, Rouvy, etc.. since they most of them are priced within a couple of dollars of each other.
What Are People Saying About…
So, what do users think about both of these apps? Let's dig deeper and find out.
It’s a no-brainer that many people praise Zwift, essentially for being the pioneer for taking indoor cycling to another level and turning it into a huge MMO game for cyclists of all levels to enjoy.
With the Zwift companion, you can wave to and invite other online users to join a ride with you, and you’ll always find someone riding on any route you choose no matter what time or day you log in.
This is turning out to be a double-edged sword, though, as users have started voicing out concerns about the routes being too crowded, with too many users riding all across the 9 worlds made available by Zwift.
Speaking of routes and worlds, a few have also commented on forums where people have found it dull and repetitive due to the limited number of courses available and the app’s cartoon-y graphics. (6)
Like me, many love the high quality AR footage that Rouvy provides for each route it's made available in the app. It’s amazing being able to ride across the US one day then be pedaling somewhere in Italy the next day.
Some users note that Rouvy gives a more realistic level of resistance which is closer to what they’d experience outdoors compared to Zwift. This ultimately gives users the feeling that they’re actually riding on their chosen route. (7)
However, other users have had gripes about Rouvy’s video speed where users claim to get choppy videos when they slowed down but their surroundings would suddenly move fast forward when they’d speed up. (8)
Uhh… I’m New to Cycling. So, Which One’s Better for Me?
Rouvy is known to provide more gradients and realistic roads which users have noted to make things a little more difficult, especially with those just getting the hang of cycling.
Rouvy does have “Rouvy Guide,” which as its name suggests, guides you through structured workouts based on what you want to achieve. (9)
Many users of both apps recommend Zwift for beginners as you can catch a group ride every time to improve or to keep your motivation up when you’re trying to pass someone on a route. At the same time, it has structured workout programs you can follow.
One user commented that Zwift’s chat features and social interactions can tremendously motivate someone new to the sport as well as have more fun all throughout since they can find racers with the same level as them everywhere. (10)
Both Zwift and Rouvy have changed the game when it comes to indoor cycling, one being the pioneer for making the sport into an actual online game, while the other letting you see and experience real world routes which you wouldn’t have been able to go to in real life.
If you’re looking for more social interaction while you ride and you don’t mind repetitive routes (which could still take a while!), then Zwift is for you.
But if you’re more motivated when you feel like you’re actually riding outdoors by seeing high quality AR footage of real routes and prefer private races over randomly joining strangers in a course, then Rouvy is the way to go.
Either way, both cycling apps are the best at what they do and what they offer to their users.
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