Indoor Cycling, Zwift An Unbiased Review

Riding indoors may seem a bit monotonous to some, it did to me at first as well but over time is has grown to become my primary source of cardio. If the thought of sweating away inside the convenience of your own home seems like a completely foreign concept let me explain some of the major advantages.

Convenience, when you want to get a workout in, you simply load up the Zwift program throw on the bare minimum clothing and your shoes and start working out. It saves time, in the winter especially for cyclists riding outdoors is a bit of a production. First you need to get all of your layered clothing, then you need to check to make sure the bike is in proper riding condition, then you need to go outside and freeze your tail off. Then after the ride you need to wash all of the those clothes and clean your bicycle of all the road grime from poor weather conditions. A 1 hour workout can take you about 3 hours of total time and some of that time is spent coasting… On Zwift a 1 hour ride takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes and you can spend the whole time actually working out.

Cost, While it does cost 14.99 a month for a subscription to Zwift, if you figure in the cost of tires and wear and tire on a bicycles drive train from operating in sub par weather conditions it is a lot cheaper to use Zwift… even during the summer as you don’t need to replace tires or tubes from flats…

Safety, the chances of getting hit by a passing motorist on Zwift is zero. The Chances of having any kind of accident from a flat tire to a fork failure on Zwift is also zero. You also can not be left stranded with a double flat in the middle of nowhere. The benefits here should be rather obvious.

The key to a good indoor setup is making it seem as realistic as possible and yes having a big screen helps trick your mind into believing you are doing something besides sweating like crazy in your make shift gym room. The Zwift software itself goes a long way to making it as realistic as possible. I have been using Zwift now for 5 years and it has sadly almost completely replaced my outdoor riding besides in the most favorable summer weather conditions. The Zwift hub trainer is my choice of equipment for a trainer, for $499 it rivals the much more expensive Wahoo models and from a functionality stand point I can not tell any difference. It keeps track of cadence, watts, and changes the resistance based on what the course demands in the software. The only additional piece of equipment you need is of course a bicycle to mount to the Zwift hub trainer.

Source: Jeff Cunha

There are additional devices you can get to further simulate riding outdoors such as a device that attaches to the front fork that will raise or lower the front of your bike as the virtual terrain changes gradient. I have forgone that option myself but some like the added realism. You can even get a fan that will change the wind velocity based on your current speed. I skipped that option as I have a tendency to sweat a bit more than average so went with just a remote controlled high velocity floor flan.

Source: Jeff Cunha

They recently introduced handlebar mounted controllers that do make it easier to perform certain functions without having to fiddle with the mobile app, keyboard or mouse. They even have a breaking feature although I’m not sure why, who uses breaks indoors? The handle bar controllers do allow you to turn in game which can be nice if you are trying to stay in the center of the pack for maximum draft. Drafting is fairly realistic with a few glaring exceptions. You can literally ride right through other riders and the draft stays in effect until you pass them, in real life passing someone at high speed is normally met with a wall of wind as you attempt to make the pass. This does make sprint finishes a bit unrealistic, but they are still fun.

Source: Jeff Cunha

The in game graphics are good, they do not attempt to simulate real life more of a close description of what you would look like. Your weight will be reflected in the size of your avatar, you can be male or female. You can adjust hair, hair color, skin tone, facial hair and of course a plethora of clothing and bike options. Although the more miles you put in the more features are unlocked and the choices become almost overwhelming.

Courses range from real world locations like Downtown London, France, Scotland,Japan etc.. to the made up world of Watopia. There are rides happening virtually around the clock as the audience is global so someone is always looking for a race or a training ride. You can do structured workouts based on wattage output as well if the solo thing is more your speed. There are hilly rides , flat rides and of course massive mountain passes for the compete masochists.

On a scale of 1 to 10 for people who like cycling I will give Zwift a 9. There is still room for improvement but they have done a tremendous job of making indoor riding fun enough to rival outdoor without the risks involved.