Are You Zwift Curious? Here's Everything You Need to Know to Get Started (2023)

Because of the coronavirus pandemic keeping us in our homes for much of the past two years, you probably learned about Zwift (if you hadn’t already known about it). The online gaming platform dedicated to indoor cycling was already huge, but it nearly doubled in size over the course of 2020, according to The OC Register.

Plus, it’s just fun. Think: Mario Kart on bikes, but with more sweat and fewer talking creatures.

For $14.99 a month, Zwifters gain entry to a virtual cycling world with numerous courses, group rides, and even races, which can make (sometimes monotonous) indoor riding way more fun and interactive.

And this isn’t the domain of hardcore gamers who happen to ride bikes: Cyclists of all kinds can be found pedaling around, including pro cyclist Geraint Thomas and former NBA star Reggie Miller (and even hopeful pros enrolled in Zwift Academy).

To help you get started with your Zwift setup, here’s everything you need to know, from the gear you need, to tips for using the app, to how to virtually ride well with others.

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Get the Gear

Are You Zwift Curious? Here's Everything You Need to Know to Get Started (1)

The gear you need for a Zwift setup is similar to what you’d use in a standard indoor cycling setup, but with a bit more hi-tech hardware.

Start with the basics, recommends Hunter Allen, the CEO of Peaks Coaching Group, who uses the platform both for himself and as a way to deliver workouts to his athletes. “You need a fan, a towel, some music, a water bottle, and something to blow your nose with. Then ideally, you have some kind of power meter or smart trainer that measures power. That’s really critical,” he says.

Are You Zwift Curious? Here's Everything You Need to Know to Get Started (2)

Indeed, a smart trainer is the only way to replicate that true ‘road feel’ experience indoors, where resistance is adjusted automatically based on a virtual course’s elevation changes (you can train for hills indoors!). But Zwift also seamlessly interfaces with most standard power meters and can even calculate estimated power output via data from speed and cadence sensors.

Whichever data delivery method you choose, you’ll need to connect to this virtual world via Bluetooth or ANT+ on a device with a processor, from Mac and personal computers, to iOS devices and Android devices, and now, on Apple TV. Download the Zwift App to your device, and you’re off and riding. Zwift also has a companion app for smartphones that acts as a separate display for workouts, a Bluetooth connection bridge, and an event interface. All this may sound complicated, but the Zwift website is full of easy-to-follow information that’s backed up by a solid tech support team.

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If you have the luxury of setting up an indoor training space that can stay in place full-time (say, in a garage or basement), dial it in to make your indoor sessions more enjoyable. Set your trainer on a sweat-catching mat with your display in view; position a fan in front to stay cool, and have your essentials (water, headphones, towel) within reach.

When it comes to the display, the bigger the screen, the more immersive the experience will be. Of course, a good graphics card will help, too—this is gaming after all.

Find Your Zones

Are You Zwift Curious? Here's Everything You Need to Know to Get Started (7)

Allen is a big proponent of using Zwift to determine your functional threshold power (FTP), a metric of fitness. To do so, you’ll need a power meter or a trainer that can estimate power.

FTP tests are used to identify the likely max power you can reasonably hold for an hour-long time trial, usually calculated while you put out your highest sustainable power for 20 minutes.

After doing an FTP test—available through Zwift’s online menu of workouts—you can use your result to set up training zones that allow you to work toward specific cycling goals, such as riding faster, further, or both. With Zwift, if you want to increase your power in certain conditions, you can choose to ride hillier courses, longer distances, etc.

Choose Your Route

Once your Zwift setup is dialed, it’s time to choose a course and get pedaling.

There are several worlds you can ride in. Some examples include Watopia, also known as Zwift Island; a true-to-life route around London and some of the surrounding countryside; an online version of the 2015 World Championships course in Richmond, Virginia; Innsbruck, Austria, a world built around the 2018 UCI World Championship cycling course; and New York City, which is modeled on the roads of Central Park as they will be in 100 years along with miles of skyway, flying cars, and futuristic buildings. These worlds are constantly being expanded by the Zwift team.

“They’re all unique in terms of course demands,” says Allen. “And that’s part of the appeal. You’re not doing the same loop over and over.”

(Video) How To Use Zwift | Zwift For Beginners

For example, Watopia has one main climb, a few rollers, some downhills, and plenty of flats. There are various choices along the way: Turn one direction to practice climbing, head the other direction for more flats. This diversity means you have plenty of opportunities to personalize your route and training, making it longer or harder in certain ways.

The 14.9-km (9.2-mile) London loop has 722 feet of climbing per lap, while the Richmond circuit is mostly flat, save for a pair of precipitous cobblestone climbs that require arduous out-of-the-saddle efforts (which can be great if you’re interval training).

Other added features include avatar customization so your Zwift avatar can look just like you, with options for skin color, hair color, facial hair, and even preferred sock length. The game also has a mini map feature that allows you to track your place in any Zwift environment as you ride, as well as proximity to sprints, KOMs, and other climbs or descents. And you can sign up for Zwift flexible training plans, which can be tailored to your goals and available training time. This allows you to progress logically, as you need to put in the work to unlock later workouts.

Also to note, if you’re a multi-sport athlete, there’s also Zwift Run, which allows users to take their treadmill experience shoulder-to-shoulder with cyclists on the roads of Zwift. Users need access to a smart, Bluetooth-enabled treadmill or a ZwiftPod (or similar footpod) to connect into the game.

Ride Well With Others

Are You Zwift Curious? Here's Everything You Need to Know to Get Started (9)

Perhaps best of all, Zwifting means you never have to ride inside alone. Right now, interacting with other riders means riding alongside their avatars, and tapping out a quick message on your smartphone screen or laptop keyboard. Increasingly, though, popular apps like Discord are now allowing riders to talk to each other in real time. “Eventually everyone will have a microphone,” predicts Nathan Guerra, a Wisconsin-based pro mountain biker and frequent Zwifter.

And just as with outdoor group riding, Zwifting is governed by group riding etiquette. The most basic edict is simply, don’t be a jerk.

If a group ride has a predetermined pace (typically indicated by a watts-per-kilogram number), don’t jump in and start smashing heads. Most group rides will have a leader, indicated by a beacon over their head. Follow this person’s lead and you’ll fit right in.

Jump Into Races

The same group ride ethos applies to the myriad Zwift races available to users. Just like in the real world, nobody likes the Cat 1 rider who sandbags the Cat 3 race.

“That just ruins the race for everyone,” says Guerra. “If you know your FTP or at least an estimation, you’ll know what races make sense for you.” (For a list of upcoming Zwift races, check out the third-party website zwiftpower.com.)

Guerra also discourages outright cheating where, for instance, you lie about your weight in order to increase your watts per kilogram. Go above 5 w/kg and you’ll get flagged by ZADA (short for Zwift Anti-Doping Agency) and need to provide specific “in real life” ride data to get Zwift-approved. And no, this is not a joke. ZADA is a real thing managed by volunteers from the Zwift racing community.

Fortunately, the vast majority of Zwifters log on simply to have fun and exercise. And the more you ride, the more chances you have to meet new people and unlock equipment and jersey upgrades to keep your indoor training engaging and fun.

This content is imported from poll. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

(Video) 10 Mistakes To Avoid On Zwift | Get The Most Out Of Indoor Training & Racing

FAQs

What should a beginner do on Zwift? ›

After your trial period ends, Zwift costs £12.99 / $14.99 per month.
  • Smart trainers aren't as expensive as you think.
  • Use a fan.
  • Download the Zwift Companion app.
  • Prepare yourself before you get on the trainer.
  • Don't sweat it.
  • Get some (Bluetooth) headphones.
  • Be friendly.
  • Don't forget about heart rate.
10 Dec 2021

Is paying for Zwift worth it? ›

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.

What is the hardest Zwift route? ›

The final 5 hard rides of the schedule are Zwift's toughest routes: The Pretzel. The Mega Pretzel. Four Horsemen.

How many days a week should I Zwift? ›

If your riding schedule includes racing on Zwift, consider racing no more than three times per week, with recovery rides, days off, and lighter training in between. And even if your training load is more steady (with few “race day efforts”) taking a day or two for recovery per week is smart.

Is Zwift harder than riding outside? ›

There's no coasting on Zwift, so it can be a more intense workout because you're constantly pedalling. This could give you a more intense and effective training session.

Is Zwift good for weight loss? ›

The workouts are designed for weight loss. Based on the research of Dr. Jeukendrup, who identified the highest amount of fat is consumed at 45-52% of VO2Max or 50-68% of your given FTP.

Is it better to be heavier or lighter on Zwift? ›

The 90kg rider is 1.8% faster than the 80kg rider (2.9% faster than the 70kg rider). Remember that the 90kg rider is putting 300w to go up, whereas the 70kg rider only needs 233w. So, the finding here is that if you can support it with absolute power numbers, it's better to be big, rather than small, on the Zwift KOMs.

Can you get addicted to Zwift? ›

So, can you really get addicted? As Dr Griffiths outlines, it's very unlikely for even the most committed indoor cyclist to fulfill all of his criteria that would classify someone an 'addict'. Zwift themselves are well aware of the dangers of overtraining, and have taken steps to ensure people train responsibly.

Does wearing a helmet make you faster on Zwift? ›

Headgear (helmets, caps, headbands, etc) is part of the virtual cycling apparel that your avatar wears while riding in Zwift. These are simply for decoration or fashion as the headgear does not impact the performance of the rider in Zwift.

Is Zwift speed realistic? ›

Zwift's algorithms for calculating speed are incorrect. Zwift's calculations include assumptions (such as your position on the handlebars or the condition of the road) that do not reflect your outdoor rides. Outdoor rides are slowed in ways Zwift rides are not.

What happens when you finish all routes on Zwift? ›

To earn a route badge, you'll have to complete the full distance of the route, including the lead-in. Many of the courses in Zwift have lead-ins that aren't part of the main route, and you must complete this portion to earn the badge achievement.

What is the longest Zwift ride? ›

Here is the one you've been waiting for — the Tour of Watopia finale. If you have completed stages 1 - 6, this is your final challenge. It's also the longest. Covering 45 miles // 72.4km, be prepared to spend some serious time in the saddle to complete this epic route.

Is it better to walk everyday or bike once a week? ›

Cycling can be better for burning more calories, and it helps increase your lower-body strength. On the other hand, walking may help with bone density and tends to cost less than cycling.

Can you ride solo on Zwift? ›

Once they've linked their indoor trainer to the Zwift app, which can be viewed on a tablet or smart TV, riders can complete solo workouts for time or distance, join a peloton, or compete in live events with other players in a virtual world called Watopia.

What is the easiest workout on Zwift? ›

The 2x15 FTP Intervals workout is pretty simple: warm up, then ride two 15-minute intervals at your functional threshold power. (Try an FTP test, if you haven't yet established yours).

Why am I so slow on Zwift? ›

Zwift's speed calculation is determined by: Wattage: the more power you are putting into the pedals, the faster you will go. Terrain: the various terrains in Zwift (road gradient, surfaces, draft effects) impact the speed of your avatar.

Does tire size matter on Zwift? ›

You will see the tire size selection menu at the top of the search menu for a speed sensor in Zwift. If your using a wheel-on trainer with a speed sensor that supports Zpower— you'll need to set your tire size for the best experience.

Why do I only see 3 worlds in Zwift? ›

Why? Because Zwift doesn't want to open up all maps to free-riding, since they don't want maps to feel “empty” because Zwift is a social platform. Therefore, Zwift has three maps available each day: Watopia plus two guest maps.

Can cycling help with belly fat? ›

Yes, cycling can help lose belly fat, but it will take time. A recent study showed regular cycling may enhance overall fat loss and promote a healthy weight. To reduce overall belly girth, moderate-intensity aerobic exercises, such as cycling (either indoor or outdoor), are effective to lower belly fat.

Is cycling 30 minutes good for weight loss? ›

In order to lose weight, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) says you'll need to cycle at a moderately intense level for at least 30 minutes at a time. To burn even more calories, you'll want to cycle for longer. ACE also suggests incorporating two activities into one cross-training session to boost weight loss.

Does a better bike make a difference on Zwift? ›

Each frame and wheelset has its own weight and CdA setting in game, and these affect your in-game speed just like they would outside. A lighter setup will climb faster than a heavier rig, and a more aero (low CdA) setup will go faster at higher speeds than one less aero.

What is a good FTP for a beginner cyclist? ›

An amateur cyclist will have an FTP of between 1.5 and 2.5 watts/kg, whilst more experienced cyclists could be around 3.0 – 4.5 per/kg. Bicycling.com says that new riders with some fitness level will be approximately 2.0.

Why do some Zwift riders have screens? ›

You may have noticed a colored screen floating in front of people riding or running around Zwift. This means the Zwifter is in workout mode doing a structured workout. If you look closely, you can even see a graph on the screen, along with numbers representing their power and heart rate.

Can my wife and I share Zwift account? ›

Q: Can two people share an account? A: No. Each user on Zwift must have their own membership. Because many calculations within Zwift factor in your height, weight, and fitness level, using someone else's account will result in a poor experience for both Zwifters.

What happens to your body if you bike everyday? ›

Cycling every day is a great way to lose weight and body fat if those are your fitness goals. High-intensity but low-impact, cycling provides all the benefits of HIIT without taxing your joints.

What happens if you cycling everyday? ›

Cycling can help to protect you from serious diseases such as stroke, heart attack, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity and arthritis. Riding a bike is healthy, fun and a low-impact form of exercise for all ages. Cycling is easy to fit into your daily routine by riding to the shops, park, school or work.

How long can you rest in Zwift? ›

During the time your membership's paused—you won't be able to ride, but you can still run in Zwift without being charged. If you want to pause your membership for more than eight weeks, you'll need to cancel your subscription. If you do cancel—your progress will be saved so you can come back whenever you want.

What is sandbagging in Zwift? ›

Questions over the fairness of Zwift, at an amateur racing level, come largely from the evolution of 'sand-baggers' — those who purposely enter a race category that is below their ability, to ensure that they win or achieve a high placing.

Should you change gears when using Zwift? ›

No need to change gear here, Zwift tells the trainer what the resistance should be at any given moment, you just have to keep those pedals spinning.

Can you steer your bike in Zwift? ›

You can steer using Zwift's Companion App and no extra hardware, but I'm going to skip that for now. Below is a short video of what it looks like to steer in Zwift.

Does lower weight make you faster in Zwift? ›

Weight: lighter riders will go faster on flats and climbs than heavier riders if both are putting out the same wattage. Heavier riders will descend faster.

Why are Zwift races so hard? ›

It's harder than real racing

Racers have the chance to rev their engines on the start line, meaning they can be pushing 500 watts as soon as the race starts. If you're not privy to this bold tactic, you will find yourself immediately slipping back in the group and trying to play catch-up in the opening stages.

What does ABCD mean in Zwift? ›

The 4 Zwift Race Categories

Zwift Categories normally fall into the following ability levels. Category A: 4.0 w/kg FTP or higher. Category B: 3.2 w/kg to 4.0 w/kg FTP. Category C: 2.5 w/kg to 3.2 w/kg FTP. Category D: Under 2.5 w/kg FTP.

What does the ghost do on Zwift? ›

From what we understand, this ghost rider will represent your fastest times on Zwift segments with a hologram of yourself to chase and pass. This Holographic replays will ride your 90-day PR and/or your most recent segment attempt.

What is the Four Horsemen on Zwift? ›

Related Posts. When it was released in March 2018, the “Four Horsemen” covered all of Watopia's timed climbs: the original Hilly KOM, Volcano KOM, Epic KOM, and Alpe du Zwift. Along the way it also covered (nearly) every bit of Watopian road.

Do you keep the green jersey in Zwift? ›

Once you get a jersey you keep it for up to an hour in game, or until someone bests your time.

Who has ridden the most on Zwift? ›

Geraint Thomas
RiderTotal KM
1Edvald Boasson-Hagen19353
2Robert Gesink10644
3Mathew Hayman (Retired)8604
4Tanja Erath7068
48 more rows
15 Apr 2020

Can you ride real routes on Zwift? ›

Turn a real-life route into a custom Zwift workout, personalized based on your rider and bike data and desired intensity. The rider's progress along the route is calculated using physics.

What is the fastest bike on Zwift? ›

Zwift Carbon

What loses more weight walking or cycling? ›

Cycling burns more calories

Cycling at a moderate speed of 20 km/h (12 mph) burns approximately 563 kcal per hour. And the difference is even bigger when we increase the intensity. A fast walking speed of 6.5 km/h (4 mph) burns 352 kcal per hour, while a fast cycling speed of 30 km/h (19 mph) burns 844 kcal per hour.

Is cycling better than walking for knees? ›

Cycling is a nonweight bearing activity, so it is better for your knees and joints,” Dr. Tanaka said, “and it does not cause much muscle soreness.” Walking, likewise, results in few injuries, unless, like me, you are almost comically clumsy.

Is cycling better than treadmill? ›

Cycling is a low-impact exercise, so it puts less stress on bones, joints, and connective tissues than running or walking on a treadmill. If you deal with chronic injuries and pain, an exercise bike may be a smarter choice.

Is it OK to Zwift every day? ›

If your riding schedule includes racing on Zwift, consider racing no more than three times per week, with recovery rides, days off, and lighter training in between. And even if your training load is more steady (with few “race day efforts”) taking a day or two for recovery per week is smart.

What should I do first on Zwift? ›

How to sign-up to Zwift
  1. Smart trainers aren't as expensive as you think.
  2. Use a fan.
  3. Download the Zwift Companion app.
  4. Prepare yourself before you get on the trainer.
  5. Don't sweat it.
  6. Get some (Bluetooth) headphones.
  7. Be friendly.
  8. Don't forget about heart rate.
10 Dec 2021

Is Zwift fun for beginners? ›

ANSWER: Zwift is definitely good for beginners, even though it's also used by serious cyclists who train and race. Zwift is the Swiss army knife of cycling apps. There are many, many different ways you can use it, and there are riders of all different abilities using the app whenever you log on.

What should a beginner cyclist know? ›

These Cycling Tips for Beginners Will Make Riding More Fun
  • Set Your Seat Height Right. ...
  • Get a Full Bike Fit. ...
  • Don't Stress About the Gear. ...
  • Keep Your Bike Maintained. ...
  • Avoid Doing Too Much Too Soon. ...
  • Carry a Spare Tube or Patch Kit. ...
  • Use Your Gears. ...
  • Learn How to Ride in a Group.
14 Apr 2022

Which Zwift training for beginner? ›

The Fondo plan is a low-volume, beginner-level plan designed for the Zwift Hondo events. Weekly workouts cover all intensities from recovery to endurance, tempo, sub-threshold, and FTP.

What do ABCD mean in Zwift? ›

The 4 Zwift Race Categories

Zwift Categories normally fall into the following ability levels. Category A: 4.0 w/kg FTP or higher. Category B: 3.2 w/kg to 4.0 w/kg FTP. Category C: 2.5 w/kg to 3.2 w/kg FTP. Category D: Under 2.5 w/kg FTP.

Are Zwift speeds realistic? ›

Zwift's algorithms for calculating speed are incorrect. Zwift's calculations include assumptions (such as your position on the handlebars or the condition of the road) that do not reflect your outdoor rides. Outdoor rides are slowed in ways Zwift rides are not.

What is the 75 rule in cycling? ›

The 75-percent rule states that during a given training week, at least 75 percent of your miles (or time) should be at or below 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR).

What is the prime age for cyclists? ›

'The standard thinking is that in most sports athletes peak physiologically at around 27,' says British Cycling coach Will Newton. 'It's not quite as simple as that because there has to be a window, and for most pros that can be a broad range between the mid-twenties and mid-thirties.

What should you not do when cycling? ›

10 Cycling Mistakes To Avoid
  1. Saddle height. ...
  2. Not fuelling for a ride correctly. ...
  3. Braking in corners. ...
  4. No spares or tools. ...
  5. Grabbing hard on the brakes. ...
  6. Riding too far, too hard, too soon. ...
  7. Poor bike maintenance. ...
  8. Unsuitable clothing.

Can I ride alone in Zwift? ›

Among the many indoor cycling apps around, Zwift offers a virtual world, with multiple tracks and climbs to explore in both real and fictional places, and you have the option to do this alone or with others.

Is Zwift good without a smart trainer? ›

Do I need a smart trainer for Zwift? No!: How to use Zwift with only a speed sensor. Assuming you've got some form of trainer on which your bike can spin, the cheapest way to use Zwift is by using a speed sensor and the app's estimated power function.

Can I do Zwift run without a treadmill? ›

First—you'll need a treadmill. This is what you'll need to run on while you're connected to Zwift. In some cases, it will also give us the info we need to make you move in-game and let you run with Zwifters all around the world. Second—you'll need a footpod, connected shoe, or treadmill sensor.

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6. How To Hack Zwift
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