Introduction to Zwift
My indoor training routine has been transformed after I started riding on Zwift. I never thought indoor cycling could be so much fun. And addicting! Zwift is still a fairly “new” program, and as such not perfect for every riding or training occasion, but it is possible to use it for many of your cycling purposes. In this post I offer an overview of the “Zwift experience.” Also, check out my favorite playlists for riding on Zwift.
One of three courses is available each day based on the Zwift calendar. In them, the weather is always perfect (well, except for the occasional rain in London).
Six routes in an imaginary paradise island in the South Pacific. There are butterflies, hills, an underwater tunnel, and a long climb with snowy grounds and beautiful views. This course keeps getting expanded and it seems to be everyone’s favorite.
- Richmond, VA
Four routes in the 2015 UCI World Road Race course. Just like in the real world.
- London, UK
Five routes in the 2016 Prudential RideLondon course. This one is also just like the one in the real world.
First-timers, cycling enthusiasts, and pro riders all rub wheels and have a great time. Some of the pros I’ve seen on Zwift include Jens Voigt, Mathew Hayman, Kristin Armstrong, and Matt Stephens (form GCN). The more you ride, the more features you unlock for your avatar: “cooler” and faster bikes, wheels, and jerseys so you can customize your rider.
And now athletes can also use the platform for running! This feature was added more recently, and it is starting to catch on. I suppose this is a welcome option for triathletes.
The Social Aspect of Zwift
Riding on Zwift is an opportunity for social interactions with other riders from over 150 countries. After a while you start to recognize riders who are usually on course at the same time as you every day, and you start to build a group of virtual “friends”. You can also chat with other riders if you chose to do so through the computer keyboard or phone/iPad app. Plus, you give and receive “Ride Ons” to encourage and cheer your fellow cyclists, as shown in the picture below—this is a feature everyone seems to like.
Having virtual friends is a good way to exchange information about set-ups, workouts, group rides and more. Of course, interaction is not required, and you may chose to stay quiet instead and concentrate on your ride, your numbers, etc. I am usually “social” on long rides in Zone 2, and quiet during my high intensity rides when I am just trying to survive…
There are several group rides offered every day, around the clock, to attend to the various time zones around the globe. The group rides are either organized by Zwift or by cycling groups/teams who use the platform on a consistent basis. There are easy and hard group rides, flat routes or climbs. It’s a great way to keep things interesting while on an indoor trainer. It is also a good way to get some experience on how drafting and other effects work before doing a race.
Group rides can also be an opportunity to learn more from your fellow Zwifters. See, for example, the ODivaZ Chat & Chill series I lead every Monday where we discuss all things cycling.
Similar to the group rides, races can be organized by Zwift or by cycling groups/teams. Some are as short as 5 miles, others as long as 45, and most are somewhere in between. Results are published on Zwift Power and sometimes goodies are given to the winners or participants at random. I lead a women’s only race twice a month on Zwift. Racing on Zwift has definitely made me stronger, as proven by my recent race win in the early Spring.
From time to time, Zwift offers one or more rides as part of an event to benefit a charity, such as the “Zwifatlon” on December 3, 2016 benefiting the World Bike Relief, where riders completed over 250,000 community miles in 24 hours and unlocked significant donations to WBR from Zwift and Trek.
Other events involved completing a metric century on a tricycle; each completed ride unlocked a donation to disadvantaged children and a trip to Zwift Headquarters.
There are several workouts that any user can access from the program’s menu. There are single workouts and series (e.g., FTP builder weeks) available directly from Zwift. You can also upload your own workouts from Training Peaks. The workouts can be done in ERG mode. The workout feature “flattens” the course, so you can increase resistance but won’t ride through terrain variations. Still, it’s a useful feature and it shows your intervals and progress right on your screen so it’s easy to follow.
Lastly, if you are looking for information on the technical aspects of setting up Zwift, such as pairing it with a trainer, finding workouts and more, I recommend that you check this post from Titanium Geek.