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Zwift's £1,199 Zwift Ride smart bike with singlespeed frame, Kickr Core trainer and Zwift Cog system is now available to buy: how does it ride?

Zwift didn't stay away from hardware for long, unveiling a new smart bike/smart trainer hybrid in collaboration with Wahoo featuring smart controls...

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Last week Zwift launched somwe intriguing new hardware, the Zwift Ride, which is now available to buy in the UK for the price of £1,199.99. So if you thought Zwift was moving away from its own hardware with the demise of the Zwift Hub One, think again: this is, again, a collaboration with Wahoo, but very much a Zwift thing. It’s a real smart bike (of sorts) for not a lot of money, albeit one that’s tied to the Zwift environment.

> View now: Zwift Ride for £1,199.00

So what is the Zwift Ride?

It’s a smart bike, of sorts. Remember the Tron bike that got leaked back at the start of 2022? Well, it’s not that. Although a quick trip to the Zwift HQ in London – where the hardware development team is based – is enough to confirm that yes, that was very much a real thing, even if it didn’t see the light of day. And a lot of what we’re seeing released today stems from that project. The Zwift ride has been very quick in development – 18 months from concept to market – and it borrows plenty from its halted predecessor.

2024 Zwift Ride - drivetrain.jpg

Like the Tron concept was, the Zwift Ride is in two parts, a combination of the Wahoo KICKR Core Hub One, which we’ve reviewed, and a dedicated steel frame with Zwift controls that attaches to it. The controls will be familiar to anyone that has seen the Zwift Play controllers, and again those controls started their life on the concept bike before being developed as a standalone product.

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For launch, the offering is the whole thing, trainer plus frame. At a later date (autumn was the suggested timeline) you will also be able to buy the bike bit as an upgrade, but there are some tweaks needed to the design before that happens; for example Zwift is hoping to expand compatibility to different trainer models with different axle heights, so some kind of adjustable foot will be required at the front.

2024 Zwift Ride - downtube logo.jpg

Why develop the Zwift Ride?

Given that the Tron bike never made it to market, what was the thinking with trying again? Well, Zwift has spent a long time studying user journeys: what prospective indoor riders want, and what prevents them from taking it up. The key points to come out of that were that users wanted simplicity, clarity, and something that’s high value, fits into a domestic environment, is always ready and can accommodate multiple users.

Zwift identified two main pain points while studying user journeys onto the platform. The first is cost: a dedicated setup is expensive. And the second is complexity: Many prospective Zwift users aren’t technically savvy and the thought of taking their bike to pieces and then having to reassemble it correctly so it doesn’t fall apart on the open road… well, it scares them. So the Zwift Ride is designed to address both. 

2024 Zwift Ride - head tube bar adjustment.jpg

It’s (arguably) cheap for what’s a true smart bike, with controllable resistance, virtual gearing and dedicated controls. If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated space for your indoor trainer it’s still likely to be in your house, and Zwift says it’s designed the Zwift Ride to look good in a home environment. The overall look is very bike, rather than gym equipment. It’s a recognisable diamond frame, it’s white rather than black, and it even sports a nice retro-themed head badge

Setting up the Zwift Ride

The Zwift Ride is easy to set up. Like with the Zwift Hub One, which was designed to massively simplify the process of getting on Zwift – though I’m still undecided about whose benefit that is for – the Zwift Ride has been extensively user tested to make the setup as easy as possible. Everything – from the through axle to the adjustment points to the flat pedals it’s supplied with – is adjustable with the same 6mm allen key, and you get one in a neat magnetic mount underneath the top tube. 

Zwift Ride Launch - size card.jpg

As well as that, Zwift has moved away from the slightly opaque numbered scales on the adjustable points you’ll normally find. You get a card with the bike, and all you have to do is find your height on the scale which corresponds to a letter (I was T).

Then, it’s just a case of setting saddle height, bar height and reach to T and you have a basic setup that’s likely to fit you. I can confirm that T worked for me, although it was a little bit upright for my taste. But then all you need to remember is that the bar height needs to be Q next time, and you’re sorted for fit in no time.

With only three adjustments for basic fit it’s simple to swap between users in a multi-rider household. There’s just one crank length – 170mm – both for reasons of cost and simplicity, and the bars aren’t designed to be swapped. So it’s not as configurable as some other bikes on the market, but it’s versatile enough for the majority of riders.

Zwift Ride Launch - bike close up at launch.jpg

The setup process is really straightforward, and at the launch the product manager Graham completed it in about six minutes, even with all the eyes of the press on him.

The Zwift Ride ships in three boxes – frame, trainer and bars – because it’s a lot cheaper to send it that way. UK postage will be £50, and you won’t need to phone a friend to shift it when it arrives.

It’s not light – the frame is 17kg, and the trainer is a similar weight – but at least you can move those bits one at a time. Once you’re in position it’s just a case of setting the bike on the trainer and tightening up the through axle, then fitting the bars and plugging them in. 

2024 Zwift Ride - tool.jpg

The colour coding is neat: Bolts with an orange outline are things you change for fit, and bolts without are just for setup. So even if you have very little technical knowledge you should be able to work out what’s what. Zwift even decided to switch the direction of the through axle so you’d only have to work on one side of the bike.

If you’re taking the Zwift ride apart then the chain has a channel to sit in on the dropout so it doesn’t dangle from the bike, and the tensioner holds it in place. There’s a foot on the bottom bracket too, so you can set the bike down without worrying about your carpet.

Zwift chose a chain for various reasons: it gives you the feel (and sound) of your outdoor bike, it’s cheaper, and it’s easier to tension in a system that’s designed to be demountable. The chain itself is a narrow singlespeed chain, and there’s a slightly redesigned sprocket engineered to be quieter when working with the Zwift Ride’s chain. If you wanted to put a different bike – your TT bike, for example – on the trainer at any time then the sprocket is still compatible with all chains up to 12-speed.

The Zwift Ride experience

What’s it like to set up and ride? Well, a lot of the actual ride feel is being delivered by the KICKR Core trainer, which is regarded over here at road.cc Towers as about the best budget smart trainer you can get your hands on. I’m not entirely convinced about using the Zwift Cog with your nice road bike that has crisp, well-adjusted derailleur gearing; that’s always going to feel better than virtual shifts. However, paired with this frame as a smart bike it makes sense: that’s how all smart bikes work, after all.

2024 Zwift Ride - detail.jpg

Setting up the Zwift Ride is pretty simple. You only need the 6mm Allen key that Zwift provides as part of the package, unless you’re fitting your own pedals that use something different. The way the bike is stable on the trainer even without the through axle is well thought out, and the chain tensioner is simple and works well.

I like the fact that Zwift has added a chain dock and foot on the bottom so that you can sit it on the carpet without getting oil everywhere. The only fiddly bit is getting the handlebar assembly into its slot, but most people aren’t going to struggle.

2024 Zwift Ride - Play controller 1.jpg

I’ve things to say about pairing the bike in the game, though. Given that a major driving factor of this product is to simplify things for people, it does surprise me that Zwift hasn’t done more to make the pairing a one-click job. This bike that it’s selling as a complete thing does not appear as a complete thing in the game: you have to pair the trainer and the controls separately.

On top of that, it’s possible depending on your setup to pair the trainer in a way (via ANT+) that will render some of the controls inoperable: the gears won’t work. Okay, most newcomers aren’t going to have an ANT+ dongle in their system, but at the point that the game sees both a KICKR Core trainer and some Zwift Ride handlebars available for pairing, it should be showing them as a single unit and connecting everything at once.

Zwift Ride Launch - in shed.jpg

On to riding. The Zwift Ride feels more like a bike on a trainer than it does a smart bike, in terms of how it behaves. It doesn’t have the weight of something like the Stages bike (sadly discontinued) I have set up behind it in my cramped and untidy shed, and so there’s a bit more movement when you’re sprinting, or getting out of the saddle, but I’m okay with that.

Also the KICKR Core doesn’t have adjustable feet, so if your floor isn’t perfectly flat you’ll get some rock from that too. The sound is a chain sound, which reinforces the feeling that you’re on a bike rather than a trainer. It’s not silent, but neither is it loud, and there’s very little vibration; everything feels well-balanced. It’s quite compact; not quite as compact as the Stages bike behind it but pretty similar, and certainly you’ll need less room than with a bike on a trainer as there’s no front wheel poking out.

2024 Zwift Ride - shifter button 2.jpg

I’m not sure why you wouldn’t use sequential gearing on a smart bike, so I haven’t played around with the other options, but the 24-speed virtual drivetrain works well and in my experience gives you gears small enough to spin up steep stuff. At the other end the big ratios are stiff enough that you can sprint even down the hills and find enough resistance, which I haven’t always found to be the case with smart bikes.

I haven’t done a huge distance aboard the Zwift Ride, but it feels to me like Zwift has done a bit of work on the gear changes: they feel a bit less – what’s the word? – 'manufactured' than before, and take less time to settle down after a change of ratios. The feel of the gear changes using the Zwift Cog on the KICKR Core wasn’t my highlight of the testing, so it seems like a move in the right direction. More time in the saddle is needed there though.

2024 Zwift Ride - shifter button 1.jpg

The controls are an improvement on the Zwift Play controllers in a number of ways. Firstly they pair as a single unit; even though there’s still work to be done there, at least you’re not pairing them individually like you do the Zwift Play controllers, which you would never use individually. The steering and braking paddles are more accessible on the outside of a pretend brake lever, rather than tucked in behind a real one. And they’re properly bolted on to the bars, which just gives a much better experience: the buttons are easier to find and press, stable and always in the same place.

It’s good that you can now turn off braking in the game, because it’s currently useless 99% of the time, and it’s easy to accidentally brake when you want to steer. At the point when you have to do both more often, I still don’t think one control handling those two actions is the best option. Ideally the buttons and controls will become more configurable in time, through the game interface.

Overall my feelings about the Zwift Ride are positive. It is, in effect, a real smart bike, is enjoyable to use, and is half the price of even the Wattbike Atom, which I’d consider to be the least good of the other readily-available real smart bikes (It’s still good). That’s a compelling reason to buy, so long as you’re prepared to commit to Zwift.

This bike uses the game engine for some of its functionality, and it’s not a standalone unit that you could use in Rouvy, say, if you decided you were bored with Zwift: shifting wouldn’t work, and nor would any of the other controls. Whether that’s a problem is a decision you’ll make based on your circumstances, but if you’re happy in Watopia and the other worlds of Zwift and you want a permanent setup, there are a lot of positives here.

www.zwift.com

Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.

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16 comments

Avatar
HKR | 1 month ago
0 likes

I like it.  But I'd prefer something that allows for different crank lengths and bar widths.  If they can crack that in the future, I'm in.

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Paul J replied to HKR | 1 month ago
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It just needs a wider crank and offset holes really. Seen this on some other smart trainer or ergometer.

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mctrials23 | 1 month ago
0 likes

A very interesting price point but unfortunately for myself, its not got the adjustability needed. My partner wants to be able to use a bike trainer and at the moment we just have a Kickr V5 and all the issues that go with having different drivetrains on different bikes etc so I am looking for an "all in one" trainer. 

Shes 5'2" and I am 6'2" however so we need very different fits which this probably won't cover easily. The cranks being the main dealbreaker. 

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wattagecottage replied to mctrials23 | 1 month ago
0 likes

The size range is 5" - 6'6", so you should both be ok

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espressodan replied to wattagecottage | 3 weeks ago
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So they claim. I have my doubts about the reality of those two extremes.

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STATO replied to mctrials23 | 1 month ago
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It claims to have enough adjustability, im just not sure how that will work in practice.

170mm cranks are not great for shorter riders, but taller riders will be able to adapt with a tweak to seat/bar compared to their outdoor bike.

Saddle position (fore/aft) looks harder to quickly adjust, not to mention it bening unlikely both riders would want the same saddle for rides longer than 30  minutes.  If they offer seat masts as a separate purchase that might be a solution (this is obviously also an issue for all the pricier static bikes!)

Finally, the zwift bike might not be big enough for especially tall riders or with more extreme positions.  I saw on GP Lama review it has a 'reach' of 509mm, thats to the bar clamp so not same 'reach' as any bike geo chart will give.  My current position is 130mm stem on a 405mm reach bike. So the zwift bike would need to be 405+130=535 (minus a but due to headset rise), so based on their figure, its around 25mm too small for me. (6ft4, long torso).

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Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
0 likes

Why are the words "white elephant" coming to mind? Looks like a solution looking for a need that doesn't exist to me, happy to be proved wrong but I can't see many people going for this strange hybrid for their indoor riding requirements.

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Secret_squirrel replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
4 likes

Why?

I've never used my Tacx smart bike for anything but Zwift and that was double this price 4 years ago. 
 

Not sure whether it will sell in huge quantities but it's a good way to get into a dedicated Zwift set up if you don't want to keep dismounting your bike.   It's also cheaper than anything but the oldest bike + kickr combo. 

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Rendel Harris replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
0 likes

Fair enough, I just suspect that people who want a full on static bike will go for a Tacx or Wattbike and obviously those who don't have the room for one will just go for the trainer without the bike. Not sure about cheaper, the Kickr is available for £450 and any bike with a sound drivetrain would do, even one with busted forks, so very little that extra for that, it's certainly not going to come to £1200. Being locked into Zwift would be a deal breaker for me too as I like to hop around between platforms, also the recent price rise for subscriptions might make many think twice before committing to hardware that is Zwift-only. As I said though, happy to be proved wrong.

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Secret_squirrel replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
0 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

Fair enough, I just suspect that people who want a full on static bike will go for a Tacx or Wattbike 

The next cheapest smart bike is the Atom at £2100 thats a lot of extra money just to ride Rouvy or/and whatever the Wahoo thing is called these days.

After that its the Kickr Shift at £2700

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PRSboy replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
1 like

Agreed... I don't really see the point of this over an old carbon frame, kickr core and Zwift cog.  

I particularly don't like the idea of shelling out £1200 and being tied to Zwift.

Zwift should develop a handlebar kit which could bolt into a standard stem, alllowing bluetooth command of the virtual gears, plus any other steering and braking functions they introduce.

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Secret_squirrel replied to PRSboy | 1 month ago
2 likes

PRSboy wrote:

Zwift should develop a handlebar kit which could bolt into a standard stem, alllowing bluetooth command of the virtual gears, plus any other steering and braking functions they introduce.

This already exists - the Zwift play controllers. https://uk.zwift.com/products/zwift-play?variant=44070279545072

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sizbut replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
1 like

Yes no. I suspect that for many (okay me) those Zwift Ride handlebars would be attractive if sold separately from the whole bike.

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PRSboy replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
0 likes

Ah, thanks... that'd somehow passed me by, looks good!

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ChasP replied to PRSboy | 1 month ago
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Maybe after some of the Pelaton market? People who aren't keen cyclists and want a complete setup out of the box(es).

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Secret_squirrel replied to ChasP | 1 month ago
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They should do a deal with Peloton directly.  DC Rainmaker proved you can sideload zwift and it runs reasonably well on the Peloton+ with built in power meter.

They dont really compete - very difference experiences.

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