Zwift - If This Doesn't Motivate You Over Winter, Nothing Will.
I've heard the name mentioned through the shop several times from happy users and have been wanting to give Zwift a review. Now that I'm nursing a broken rib from last Thursday night's shop ride and we're in the midst of the change of seasons there is no better time.
What is Zwift? Zwift is a software company that produces a virtual interactive game for use with indoor trainers. Not only is this a game but Zwift provides critical data to ensure your training is optimal. No more dull, senseless trainer sessions using videos, stopwatches or any of those other methods to keep yourself both motivated and informed.
Zwift makes the claim on their website that "We think it’s the greatest innovation in cycling since the bicycle," although that is possibly a slight stretch I have to say this has more potential that any other product or service I have seen for some time.
So how does it work? Zwift workouts are all based around power (watts) using your FTP (functional threshold power), if you have no idea what yours is don't worry, Zwift will calculate this for you.
Within the programme, you can select from either simple daily workouts or more structured training plans, plus you'll have the ability to ride with others or a training partner. In the workouts, Zwift displays clear information on screen including the course on the left, interval zone information, speed, cadence, heart rate, power, distance and so forth centre stage, other riders on the left and a real-time graph at the bottom.
What do you need? There are 3 ways you can setup Zwift, which they call Basic, Flexible and Premium. With each of these, you'll need the obvious - a trainer and a bike. You'll also need an ANT+ USB for your computer (Garmin's is currently $79.99 RRP) and an ANT+ speed sensor, which, depending on your current setup, you may already have. As I mentioned above, Zwift is a software company so it's not in their interest to limit which products the software will operate with, meaning any trainer will work. Here is the difference of each.
Basic - This is the most cost effective way to get setup, using an ANT+ Speed sensor on your bike Zwift will calculate a virtual power for you calculated off your speed and taking into account other factors you have inputted into the system such as your weight.
Flexible - If you have a power meter attached to your bike then this is used to calculate your power. The advantages of this are that the power you see in Zwift will be the same as out on the road.
Premium - This is the most immersive and fun way to enjoy Zwift, using a smart trainer the programme will make the ride harder up hills and easier for descents and drafting behind other riders.
Using the programme in conjunction with Zwift's Android or iPhone app allows you to completely control the programme while on your bike and gives you even further functionally through 3 different screens. The dashboard will show all of your current data for the ride. Through the actions screen, you'll be able to communicate with other riders, change screen views, take screen shots, use hand signals and even flick your elbow towards other riders in the bunch. The 3rd screen will show riders nearby allowing you to click through and see their stats. When not in the midst of a workout the app will show an activity feed, your profile and more much like that of Strava or Garmin Connect.
Information on your individual rides and progress is also stored on Zwift's own website. You'll have the ability to sync your data into Strava and TrainingPeaks automatically. The new beta iPhone app has added functionality to use Bluetooth heart rate, speed and cadence sensors which will sync through the app and into the workout on your computer meaning you won't need an ANT+ USB.
The graphics on the programme are impressive giving you a truly interactive experience. There are lighted archways for intervals within the workout and if you're using a smart trainer you'll be able to draft riders and feel this difference in the resistance. This also applies to the down hills and up hills.
You can earn achievements in the Zwift as you use the programme opening up rewards which can use to customise your bike, wheels and riding kit. Much like a video game.
The biggest draw I can see out of Zwift is its ability to socially interact with others, not only do you have the ability to interact with others while doing a workout but you can join group rides and even set these up just like your regular Sunday morning one. There are groups through Zwift's facebook page you can join for this. No more excuses for those rainy days.
You can check out Zwift free for 14 days, after that it costs $10 per month with no contracts meaning you could just utilise the benefits of this throughout the winter months or completely build this into your training programme year long.