A Zwift Tour

The weather recently has been pretty horrible and that, coupled with a shortage of time, has meant that not many miles have been covered on my bike. I have a turbo trainer that lives in my shed and have been doing some HIIT workouts on it but turbo sessions are pretty dull at the best of times.

I’d heard a bit about Zwift through a colleague at work who had bought a Tacx smart trainer and signed up for the online cycling world. I’d initially discarded it as I wasn’t prepared to shell out £200 for a new smart trainer but after a bit more reading I signed up for the 7 day free trial and watched a bit of the action online. It looked fun so I decided to attempt the budget route!

I bought a Wahoo Blue SC Speed & Cadence Sensor for £49.99 to track my exertions, a Lifeline ANT+ USB Dongle for £25 and a USB Extension Cable for £2.99 off Ebay.

The kit needed to make a trainer smart!

Fortunately my WiFi signal is decent enough that it reaches to my shed, if yours doesn’t you may need a WiFi range extender.

I found the setup incredibly easy and straightforward. Obviously I had already downloaded Zwift and signed up so that didn’t need doing and the most difficult bit was getting my pedal off, but that was only because I couldn’t find my pedal spanner!

Excuse the mess!

I picked the London8 route for my first foray into Zwift territory as I know those roads incredibly well and I was interested to see how well they had been replicated. The maps and scenery are incredibly detailed and, although some creative licence has been taken (Box Hill is in Central London according to the Strava map and I don’t remember the Olympic road race going through the Tube) it is a lot of fun and an hour on the trainer went a lot quicker. There are different challenges within each of the maps, much like any cycling event (KOM, Sprint etc) so you can challenge yourself in different disciplines.

One of the great sprint challenges down The Mall, London

The only major downside to the budget setup is that you have to adjust your gears and resistance manually to reflect the change in terrain, smart trainers alter resistance automatically. It took me a while to get used to that but it was soon second nature.

There is a good communication system within Zwift and downloading the Zwift app for mobile (iOS or Android) adds to the functionality as you can perform a variety of tasks from it without leaving your saddle.

The Zwift app interface

Some maps also have left or right turn choices to make and the app helps here as well, turn left and turn right buttons appear at the top of the screen (above) so you can quickly tap which way you want to go.

One of the guys who is also doing the London to Paris ride also jumped on at the same time (you can follow friends, find out when they’re online and what map they’re on). It was easy to communicate through the text function and I was soon on his wheel as he led me out up Box Hill.

For smart trainer users, drafting yields a real benefit

I really enjoyed my first hour on Zwift, it certainly went by quicker than a normal turbo session. I’ll definitely be back on it soon to explore some of the other maps attempt some of the challenges like ‘Ride California’.

Nice day down by the Thames
Excellent map detailing
Morning Liz!
The start of Box Hill’s torturous climb

If you are considering Zwift and and don’t already own a turbo trainer then you’d probably be better off buying a smart trainer straight off, it will be a lot easier to connect and get going. However, for those with trainers, the budget route I took is still effective and enjoyable without the extra outlay.

Feel free to add me on Zwift, Iain Sisson. See you out there

Ride on!


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