Adventures on ZWIFT

Cycling outdoors in the winter can be pretty horrendous, so a Turbo Trainer has been a way to keep fit without getting cold and wet.

Generally riding a turbo trainer is boring… looking at a garage or bedroom wall, but over the last few years that has all changed with the arrival of Zwift. (Other games / training programmes are available).

Zwift is a turbo trainer game that enables you to link your trainer up your computer, laptop, tablet or phone, letting you ride with other cyclists in a virtual environment, therefore helping to alleviate some of the boredom associated with indoor riding.

Zwift is a fully featured online platform that allows cyclists to complete virtual rides, training plans, group ride, races, or just exploring on your own.

There may be up to 1 million riders signed up for Zwift, fortunately, not all of them riding at the same time! The online software features the fictional world of Watopia (left), and real worlds of London, Innsbruck, Richmond and New York.

There are long routes, shorts routes, flat roads, and hilly roads, in fact a route to suit everyone, whether you are a climber, a sprinter or just trying to keep fit and keep the years at bay.

There are events going on 24hrs a day, you can work out when you want, for as long as you want.

So, what do you need to get started on Zwift?

A Bike, any Turbo Trainer, and at least a speed / cadence sensor in order to provide some data that the platform can translate your efforts into speed on the screen of your laptop or tablet.

To download Zwift go to: https://zwift.com

Up until 2017, I had never used an indoor trainer (Turbo Trainer). All my riding, even in the winter, had been outside.

However, four months after my accident (The Crash), I had withdrawal systems, and desperately needed to get back on my bike.

Apart from anything else, I needed to raise my fitness levels and get moving again.

I wasn’t allowed out on the road, and with no balance, I would have fallen off anyway!

I had read about Zwift, but had never used it, nor had any idea of how it worked.

So, in May 2017, I downloaded Zwift for the first time onto my laptop and tried to work out the best way to manage the programme with one of my bikes.

I needed some sort of fixed trainer, and there are a lot of models and brands out there – ‘dumb’; ‘smart’ and ‘interactive’.

And with prices ranging from £150 to £1,200, all doing different things, I really didn’t know what I was going to buy.

Thinking that I would ‘start easy’ and work my way up, I looked at various models of the ‘dumb’ trainers – these are mainly the basic rollers, with no adjustable resistance.

Initially, I decided to go for the simplest of trainers – a basic set of rollers, the Tacx Antares; but with limited balance, I also bought a  fixed front mount for my front wheel.

This was a “good idea” as my balance was taking a long time to ‘come back’ and I didn’t fancy falling off again.

I also bought a ‘training mat’ to clear up the sweat and to make the rumble noise a bit quieter.

The only problems with Rollers, is that they are no way interactive and don’t make any changes to the resistance when you ride up hills on Zwift.

After a couple of months, I decided it was time to move on to the next stage of ‘Turbo Training’.

I settled on an Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ interactive turbo trainer – a mid-range trainer, which had received a good write up and was reasonably quiet.

I started off by using my SpeedX Leopard Pro, however, the SpeedForce cycling computer, and the Cadence & Speed sensors are not ANT+ or Bluetooth compatible, so I added a Garmin Cadence Sensor and a Garmin Speed Sensor. They worked perfectly!

As the SpeedX had deep section carbon wheels, after a few test miles, I realised that I needed to change my rear wheel and organise a ‘proper’ Training Tyre.

Starting on Zwift, there are a great selection of routes too choose from, and then there are organised Rides, Group Rides, Clubs, Races, Group Workouts and Training Plans that you can join. At first glance it can seem somewhat overwhelming.

However, the Zwift Community on Facebook and the Zwift Forums are a great help. They will answer any questions.

Slowly finding my way around, I started with a few simple rides and then joined a Training Plan that started off with a Fitness Test and six weeks later another Fitness Test to see for any improvement.

Rides  and Tours, such as the current Tour of London (Dec 2018), are going on all the time. So there is always a ride you can join.

What makes Zwift addictive:

Zwift is addictive, (especially when the weather is bad) because of two main factors – it’s realism and the interactive element of riding alone in your ‘Pain Cave’ but you can be riding with people from the other side of the world.

You can see who is on the Course with you, you can interact by sending them a message, and with Group Rides / Races you are really in the mix with a lot of other riders. Draft, Sprint, take a Turn at the Front… you can ‘do it all’.

With continued expansion of Routes and new ‘Worlds’ appearing, the team at Zwift are adding more features all the time.

Training is boring! However, for whatever reason you want to ride your bike, Zwift can help make it fun for racers and non-racers, for seasoned riders, or for those members of the cycling community who are just starting out riding a bike.

Pain Caves:

Pain Caves come in all shapes and sizes, be it a garage, a spare bedroom or a bit of space in the dining room, if you can fit in a Turbo Trainer, a bike and a laptop, you have the foundation for a perfect Pain Cave.

Mine is a spare bedroom at the top of the house (3 storeys up) – but it is set up permanently, so all I have to do is change into my shorts, put my shoes on, and I’m away…!

Laptop linked to a TV + a couple of fans… (Even the ‘fans’ like to get on and have a ride around sometimes… even if their feet only just touch the pedals.)

Zwift is a great way to free the mind and get fit at the same time.

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