So, the indoor training season has just started and you want to hook up with your friends in Zwift? Well, if this is the first time you’re going to train indoors and want to find out if this fits you, let’s see what you can get with a small budget to get started!
What do you need?
First of all, you’ll obviously need a road bike and an indoor bike trainer. There are many brands selling different kind of trainers. The most affordable indoor trainers are the basic wheel-on trainers. You can buy a new one or, of course, check the second-hand market for a used one. Keep in mind though that Zwift (but also other training apps) somehow needs to know how fast you’re riding. Because basic trainers are not equipped with sensors, you need to enhance your bike with some of those.
A speed sensor will do the main trick and tells Zwift how fast your back wheel is spinning. In this way, the software knows how fast you’re riding and it can also estimate your power. This is called Virtual Power and is based on your speed and the resistance level of the trainer. Each trainer has its own power curve, dependent on the speed and position of the resistance unit. Zwift, and various other software packages, have the power curves of all basic Tacx trainers. Check this video to learn more on Virtual Power.
If you add a cadence sensor as well, Zwift can calculate even more precise how fast you’re riding. Make sure these sensors send their data via Bluetooth or ANT+ to the device you’re running Zwift on. If you’re using ANT+ sensors, it might be useful to use a USB extension cable to get your ANT+ dongle as close to your sensors as possible so it can pick up the signals clearly.
Please note that Virtual Power is just an indication of your delivered power and therefore less accurate than a direct power measurement. A smart trainer does the trick and measures your power, speed and cadence. They all communicate via Bluetooth or ANT+ so it’s easy to connect them to your favourite training software. Yes, they are a bit more expensive than the basic trainers, but because of the popularity of smart trainers the prices are dropping rapidly, like the Satori Smart* for example. The fun part comes where software like Zwift can adjust the resistance of these trainers. So, when you climb a virtual hill for example, you’ll notice you really have to push harder.
*Please note that the Satori Smart is not an interactive smart trainer, so the software can’t adjust the resistance.
Before you subscribe to Zwift you can start off with a 7-day free trial. It runs on several devices; from desktops and laptops (Windows and Mac) to tablets and smartphones (iOS and Android, though in an unreleased version) and Apple TV. Furthermore, you can also install the Zwift Companion app on your smartphone. In this way, you can use your phone as a remote control while you ride in Zwift.
Once you’ve started Zwift, you have to connect your sensors with the software in the start-up screen. Zwift will find smart trainers right away, but if you’re using a basic trainer with extra sensors on your bike, choose the option ‘speed sensor + classic trainer’. Select your speed sensor and choose the trainer brand and type you’re using. In this way, Zwift can estimate your power based on the power curve of this trainer. If you’re also using a cadence sensor, you can select this in this screen as well. Now you’re all set and off you go!
To enhance your training cave-to-be, we advise you to use at least the following things: a fan to cool down (trust us, you’ll be sweating like a pig), a big towel or yoga mat underneath your bike to collect your moisture, and a phonebook to put under your front wheel to level your bike. To spice up your training cave even more, take a look at our article on training accessories.
That’s all you need to get started with Zwift on an entry level. Enjoy your workouts and don’t forget to push your limits!