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Zwift Subscription (Monthly)

8
£12.99

VERDICT:

8
10
Realistic alternative to cycling outside, whether for fun or dedicated training
Easy to set up
Only requires basic equipment
Makes indoor training fun
Can help motivation
It's free to ride outside...
Weight: 
1g
Contact: 

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Zwift is more than an online training platform – it's changed indoor training completely. Gone are the days of staring at your garage wall for hours on end with a laminated piece of A4 dangling in front of you showing times, heart rates and cadence targets; now you can ride with anyone throughout the world, even just for fun, so long as you're happy to pay the monthly subscription.

I hate the traditional turbo trainer with a passion. I've tried many, many times since I started riding (in 2000) to use its controlled environment and repetition for training, especially when I was being coached for racing. But I just found it sucked the life out of riding my bike.

> Buy this online here

Fast forward seventeen years and my life was very different: I'd started working from home so the 35-mile daily commute had gone, and more importantly my wife had picked up her career, leaving me to fit daddy care duties for three young kids around my daily work and training.

Zwift became a lifesaver, especially during the school holidays when it was impossible for me to get out.

What is Zwift?

You could call it an online game, a training platform, or a kind of social media. It's a lot of different things for a lot of different people, but all you need is some basic tech, a turbo trainer, a bike and an internet connection to get involved in its worlds.

I say 'worlds' as there are currently nine. Watopia is the original Zwift platform with its range of loops, climbs, descents and sprint sections, but there are more: France, London, Yorkshire, Richmond, Innsbruck, Paris, New York and the Makuri Islands. So not only can you ride in fictional places, you can also train around real environments too. Zwift uses Watopia and two of these nine at any one time, and those change on a daily basis.

Once you've created an account and set up your avatar you can get riding. That can be just going for a casual spin around whichever world you fancy, or joining any number of training sessions including Functional Threshold Power (FTP) tests and the like. You can sign up to dedicated plans too, or even create your own.

You can also join an organised ride or event by going to the events part of the site, and select anything from a club run to a race in various categories.

The categories for all events are based on Watts per kilogram, so it's worthwhile doing that FTP test. Zwift uses your FTP score to control how fast your avatar moves on the platform, so if everyone has been truthful you should find yourself in a competitive race... it's not unheard of for people to make themselves lighter and get an edge in a race, but they're only cheating themselves though, right?!

The group rides have a ride leader who controls the pace, just like on your local club run, and instructions appear on screen to keep the group together. I found these rides great for when I just wanted to get some miles in at a steady pace.

You can also set up your own events too, as we have done with our road.cc rides.

Kit requirements

The minimum you can get away with is something to run the app (phone, tablet, PC, Mac desktop or Apple TV), a basic indoor trainer, and a bike. Your bike needs a speed and/or cadence sensor. Most of these things will connect via Bluetooth. If not, you'll need an ANT+ dongle.

You can usefully add to this. Some form of power measurement makes a massive difference, as it gives a more realistic experience, while a heart rate monitor also adds worthwhile info.

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Power data can either come from a compatible power meter or a smart turbo trainer – these cost anything from a few hundred quid to thousands. Smart bikes are another option, and if you can afford one and have the space, great. The bigger the screen the better the overall experience. You'll need a fan too, and a towel!

Finally, if you want to communicate with your ride buddies, it's best to download the Companion app to a separate device so you can add to the group text during the event.

What's it really like?

This is the key thing, isn't it? As I touched on earlier, for me Zwift completely changes indoor training. The app is easy to use, and there's loads of variation in your routes and riding types. Over the years the app has got smoother-running, too, and it now has a more fluid feel.

Also, while it'll never feel the same as riding outside, it does bring quite a high level of realism to your session – especially combined with some kind of smart trainer.

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The downhills are fun while the uphills can feel like a complete slog, and for someone like me who doesn't spend a whole lot of time in the mountains, pacing really is paramount.

It's not all gritty realism, though; like a lot of computer games it has various power ups to earn, from quick ones for use in the session itself to new kit for the long term. And we all love some new wheels, don't we? Riding more can earn you new components, or even a new frame from a range of brands. I find this a big motivation to keep getting back on the turbo day after day.

Value

Register and you get a seven-day free trial, and after that it costs you £12.99 per month. Consequently the true value will come down to how much you are using it... if it's every day, then you are looking at about 43p.

In comparison Wahoo's SYSTM training app costs £14.49 a month. If you read Matt's review, you'll see it's quite different from Zwift, as it's a bit more focused on intense training, rather than giving you the freedom Zwift does.

Alternatively, BKOOL offers preset routes and the ability to upload your own routes via video or .GPX data, which is a nice touch, and costs £8.50 a month.

Overall

Of the various online cycling platforms I've used, Zwift is one of the most complete for those of us who just want to ride as well as train – although you can of course train hard, and those sessions are easy to follow and effective too.

Verdict

Realistic alternative to cycling outside, whether for fun or dedicated training

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Zwift Subscription (Monthly)

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Zwift says, "Zwift is the fitness company born from gaming. We're dedicated fitness enthusiasts, experienced video game developers, and disruptive thinkers. Play is in our DNA and we know fun fuels results.

"Zwift utilizes massively multiplayer online gaming technology to create rich, 3D worlds ripe for exploration. Join thousands of cyclists and runners in immersive playgrounds like London, New York, and Paris as well as our very own Watopia.

"Our app connects wirelessly to exercise equipment: bike trainers, treadmills, and more, so your real world effort powers your avatar in the game.

"From friendly races to social rides and structured training programs, Zwift unites a diverse community in pursuit of a more fun, immersive and social fitness experience."

I find Zwift an all round training/ride package at a decent price.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

PC/Mac Requirements for Zwift: Minimum/Optimal

OS: Microsoft Windows 10 64bit or higher, or macOS 10.12/Current versions of Microsoft Windows 64bit, or macOS

CPU: Intel Core i3 or AMD Athlon/Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen

RAM: 8GB/8GB

GPU: 1GB dedicated GPU, or embedded Intel HD 4000 or AMD R5 2GB Radeon/R9 290 series, or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970

Hard Drive: 4GB of free space/4GB of free space

Bluetooth: Version 4.0 or greater/Version 4.0 or greater

Android Requirements:

Android 7.0 or higher

Arm64-v8a ABI (Arm64 architecture)

At least 1 Gig of Ram

OpenGL ES 3.0 or higher

Bluetooth version 4.0 or higher

iPhone Requirements: iPhone SE, iPhone5S, or higher

iOS 12.0 or higher

Bluetooth version 4.0 or higher

iPad Requirements:

iPad Air or higher, iPad Pro or higher, iPad mini 2 or higher, or iPod 6 or higher

iOS 12.0 or higher

Bluetooth version 4.0 or higher

Apple TV Requirements:

4th generation or higher

Bluetooth version 4.0 or higher

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
6/10

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

A smooth running app that gives a realistic ride feel.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Simple to use and inclusive for all types of rider.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

To get the best out of it you need to invest in decent technology.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

It sits between Wahoo's offering and that of BKOOL.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

I find Zwift a balanced alternative to indoor cycling, whether that's training-influenced or just riding for the fun of it. Once you have the necessary kit it's relatively cheap, too.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,

With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!

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