For many years, cycling indoors on an exercise bike or trainer was a guaranteed study in boredom. But now, interactive apps like Zwift make riding your bike at home feel like playing a video game.
However, in order to use this virtual training tool, you need to have the right setup. Here’s a look at the different bikes and trainers you can pair with Zwift and start exploring Watopia in no time.
How to use the Zwift app
During indoor cycling workouts, Zwift responds in real-time to your bike or smart trainer. Paddle to watch your avatar speed through virtual courses as you race against other players around the world.
Zwift turns indoor training into a video game experience, complete with power-ups and customizable avatars. When paired with a smart bike or trainer, the Zwift app provides information on your speed, cadence, power, and nearly all other metrics that are important to cyclists.
The interactive component means you feel the difficulty of each hill you climb, as pedaling gets harder with the incline.
Zwift data can also be linked with your Apple Health app so that all that effort is recorded.
In the app, you can tour real recreations of cities around the world, as well as explore the app’s fictional world, Watopia. (Just beware the dinosaurs.)
Which Bikes Work With Zwift?
You can pair Zwift with a variety of trainers and indoor exercise cycles. In general, play nice with the new Smart Trainer and Smart Bike apps. A decades-old stationary bike hanging around your garage, however, won’t provide the same interactive riding experience.
What type of real world bike do you have on the trainer? According to the Zwift compatibility page, for the most part, road bikes, triathlon bikes, hybrids and mountain bikes work well with the app.
Road bikes with 700c tires are ideal. The app will not work with tires smaller than 20 inches or larger than 27×1 1/4 inches.
Bike trainers that pair with Zwift
If you want to ride your regular bike inside, a trainer is the way to go. Most smart trainers work well with Zwift, allowing you to get real-time feedback on your pedaling power. However, there are several different types of bicycle trainers available, and each will affect your Zwift experience in slightly different ways.
Syncing Direct Drive Trainers with Zwift
By removing your rear wheel and connecting directly to the cassette, the Direct Drive Trainer provides accurate readings in terms of your power output. Also, it protects against wear and tear on your rear tyre.
Direct drive trainers tend to be more expensive than wheeled ones, however, with many models topping out at more than $1,000.
The good news is that most Direct Drive trainers pair seamlessly with the Zwift app. Aside from a few models like the Jetblack Whisperdrive that require a separate power meter to use with Zwift, most direct drive trainers will be able to work with Zwift right out of the box.
Using Smart Wheels-On Trainers and Zwift
As the name suggests, wheel-on trainers work with your bike’s existing rear tire. These are more economical than direct drive trainers, although they can put some wear on your rear tire with frequent use.
Some smart models of wheel-on trainers, like the Saris Magnus or the Elite Rampa, will pair right away with the Zwift app. Other options, including the Tacx Blue Matic, can work with the app if you add speed or cadence sensors to it.
There are lots of options when it comes to wheels-on trainers, and you can double-check your trainer’s compatibility by referring to the Zwift Trainer Compatibility Chart or contacting the company.
Pairing Classic Trainers with Zwift
Smart trainers get a lot of attention in the world of virtual training, but their classic counterparts still deserve some respect. Often a purely mechanical device, the traditional bicycle trainer relies on friction from fluid or magnets to provide resistance for the indoor rider.
Classic trainers are also the most economical option. In fact, used fluid trainers can sometimes be found on eBay and similar sites for less than $100. And with a few minor modifications, even a classic trainer can work with Zwift, although you might not get the full interactive experience of the app.
You’ll need to attach a power meter to your Classic Trainer so it can communicate with the Zwift app. Power meters measure output in watts and can provide useful training data for cyclists.