Zwift is a feature-packed online platform that brings weekend warriors up close and personal with Grand Tour Champions. With over one million registered users now part of a smart trainer revolution that knows no bounds, here’s what Zwift offers any rider looking to get the most from their smart trainer.
WHAT ZWIFT OFFERS: TAILORED TRAINING AND REALISM
Between Watopia, Innsbruck, London, New York City, Richmond, and Yorkshire, there are six different worlds to choose from on the Zwift platform. On any given day, three of these worlds are available, and mindless junk miles quickly become a thing of the past on such varied terrain.
Cycling is much more fun when you’re not alone on the open road. And this approach ensures not only variety but a healthy mix of cyclists of all levels chomping at the bit to test their legs on the same roads.
Between relaxed group rides, individual or group workouts, and full-on racing, Zwift offers a myriad of realistic training and racing options for cyclists of all levels and budgets, anytime, day or night.
GROUP RIDES: SWEAT IN COMPANY
Group rides comprise a large group of riders of similar abilities and enable you to obtain the benefits of group riding. Group rides are categorised from A through D, with each category based on fitness levels determined by functional threshold power. Group A rides fastest, while riders in group D are at more modest speeds.
- A: 4 – 4.5 W/kg
- B: 3.2 – 4 W/kg
- C: 2.5 – 3.1 W/kg
- D: 1 – 2.4 W/kg
Those who don’t know their FTP can do a test within the Zwift platform before beginning. Categorised riding ensures that riders within a group are of similar ability. The main purpose of a group ride is to enjoy all the benefits of group riding, such as drafting, something that Zwift can effectively simulate by varying trainer resistance. In group rides, the strongest riders often set the pace under the guidance of a leader, while the weaker riders benefit from the draft behind.
Zwift has some unique solutions to ensure that group rides are productive for everyone involved. A group ride leader, who appears with a yellow beacon on-screen, will attempt to keep the group together via regular communication with cyclists through the instant messaging feature. While those that fall out the back can benefit from a ride sweeper. This rider, who doesn’t exist on every group ride, has a red beacon above them. And as the ultimate domestique, they’ll help bring detached riders back to the main group.
Make sure to warm up before a group ride. Zwifters don’t hang around and head out the gate notoriously fast. A 15-minute warm-up will get the blood flowing and will also serve as a check for sensor and smart trainer connections to the platform.
RACING ON ZWIFT: NO HOLDING BACK
A slow-rolling group ride may be no place for the ultra-competitive. But luckily on Zwift, there is a constant lineup of races that’ll challenge the very best of us. To join a race, simply select one from the calendar. Categorised based on FTP, races are again tailored for differing abilities from A down through D.
- A: 4.0 W/kg and above
- B: 3.2 – 3.9 W/kg
- C: 2.5 – 3.1 W/kg
- D: 2.4 W/kg and below
Racing on Zwift provides incredible realism. Just like many amateur races, Zwift races go from the gun and are notorious for catching out those who arrive at the start line without a warm-up. As in real-life racing, drafting plays a major role in the virtual world too. When you tuck in behind an on-screen competitor, Zwift will adjust your smart trainer resistance to a surprisingly realistic degree. When coupled with a quality smart trainer, Zwift has done a remarkable job in ensuring that riders experience the thrills of racing just like they were on the road.
Unlike with group rides, everyone is out for themselves in a race. Don’t expect your fellow competitors to take their foot off the gas. People constantly attack during races, and many others fall out the back as a consequence. The secret to surviving a race is to settle into a group that suits your abilities. Be prepared to do your fair share of the work though, as the same etiquette applies as on the road.
STRUCTURED WORKOUTS FOR FOCUSED TRAINING
Sometimes we require quality miles all on our own. And for this, Zwift offers over 1000 structured workouts designed by some of the top coaches in the world. Whether it’s a long-term training plan or a one-off evening session, Zwift caters to the needs of the pros as well as the time-crunched part-timer.
Each workout comes with a description and simply requires you to fill in your FTP for a personalised training experience. Those working with a coach can import 3rd party workouts, while riders can also create their own custom routines.
Anyone using a smart trainer equipped with ERG mode such as the FLUX 2 Smart will benefit greatly from Zwift’s workout features. Zwift will dynamically adjust the resistance based on the target wattage of a particular workout. This form of training holds you accountable. And with such realism, there’s nowhere to hide when the legs get tired.
Structured training sessions provide all the on-screen data you require about your performance. It provides you with a firm goal and also provides motivating and interactive on-screen action for extra entertainment.
GROUP WORKOUTS: THE SOCIAL WAY TO BURN CALORIES
For those who need to put in the hard intervals, but somehow can’t muster the motivation to do them alone, there are group workouts. Similar to group rides, they differ in that the on-screen software compensates and keeps everyone together. As long as riders pedal, they stay in the bunch.
Group workouts are rated by TSS and duration and are categorised in terms of FTP from levels A through E. Group workouts target a myriad of body systems and often include sprint lead-outs, hill climbs, XC simulations, FTP surge intervals and much more. There is no shortage of events from which to test yourself in the company of thousands of others. Events start approximately every 30 minutes, so you never have long to wait before another group rolls out for a social sweat.
As with the individual workouts, your effort is relative to your FTP. As everyone’s FTP is different, Zwift tethers everyone together. Hence, it’s just like being in an indoor spin class where everyone follows the same workout, but at different power outputs according to their fitness levels.
BRING YOUR SMART TRAINER TO LIFE
Just what the greats like Anquetil and Coppi would have made of Alpe du Zwift is anyone’s guess. But few can argue that the Zwift app doesn’t help them achieve their goals in a much more fulfilling, social, and enjoyable way. And for the small investment of $14.99 per month (including a 7-day free trial and ride), it will truly bring the high-end features of your Tacx smart trainer to life for an incredibly realistic riding experience. The real world has nothing on this.