This article was produced in association with Zwift
Gone are the days of winter training being a byword for slogging it out, wrapping yourself up in various layers and getting on with it through the harshest of conditions. The revolution of indoor training means that hundreds and thousands of users now count on Zwift to not just keep them on their bike in the coldest months, but to take their performance to a whole new level.
Before you start your journey through Watopia, there are a few things you’ll need to do.
One, is to purchase a Zwift account. You can have a free 14-day trial, and then it’s just £12.99 per month, the cost of two cafe rides, or just £129.99 for the whole year. Next, you’ll need to start setting up your space in which to ride Zwift. This is also known as the modern-day, all singing and dancing, pimped-up Pain Cave.
Assuming you have either a TV, laptop, phone or tablet that can power Zwift, as well as an internet connection, the following five items are the essentials you need to get you equipped and ready to ride.
Smart bike/turbo trainer:
There are two types of turbo trainers that can be used: the cheapest is a basic type of trainer where the bike’s wheels spin against a metal drum that is attached to the flywheel. They are functional, but if you’re really wanting to maximise the benefits of Zwift, a direct drive trainer is recommended. What’s that? It’s where the rear wheel is removed and the bike connects to the trainer via a standard cassette. The smart versions provide power and cadence data and can automatically adjust to gradients and surfaces you ride on within Zwift.
The explosion in popularity of indoor training means that more and more brands are coming onto the scene with their own direct drive trainers. Just like shopping for an actual bike, the choice can be overwhelming.
What you opt for can depend on your budget, with some costing north of a few thousand pounds. Our favourite, especially for a beginner who doesn’t yet know if they’ll be permanently bitten by the bug (they will - it’s just a matter of time), is the Zwift Hub One.
Coming in at £549, including a one year annual membership, the price is highly competitive, and has all the features that more expensive options also possess. It’s the smart trainer that makes it easier than ever to get fit with Zwift: the Zwift Cog, for example, allows you to enjoy seamless compatibility with almost any 8-12 speed bike; with virtual shifting, the pre-installed Zwift Cog is the only speed you’ll need.
The reviews are constantly high. Over time, you might want an upgrade that has a higher maximum power or can simulate even tougher gradients, but you really can’t go wrong with the Zwift Hub One.
Believe us, you will want to buy a fan. Scratch that, need to buy a fan.
Indoor training is a sweaty affair, and if you haven’t got appropriate ventilation (just cranking a window open won’t suffice) then it’ll not just lead to overheating which affects performance but it will also become a miserable affair. A fan really is a necessity.
Like everything, there are a range of options: some cheap, others moderately priced, and others costing more than a good set of wheels. The Wahoo Headwind is the market leader – it can even simulate headwinds more reminiscent of a gusty day out along the coast!
The Vacmaster AM201R is probably the best remote control-operated fan on the market. Equipped with three speeds and three different positions, it’s powerful enough to keep you cool and quiet enough to not disturb the music you might have blaring.
We like the option of the remote as our preferences change over the course of a workout, and this one is definitely affordable and effective.
Talking of sweating… the floor of the room you are using can look like a sticky nightclub at 4am if you don’t take appropriate measures. A waterproof training mat is pretty much an essential piece of kit to stop the trainer from moving around, and to collect all these beads of sweat.
You want a mat that has a few important features: one, water-resistant foam; two, material that absorbs the noise and vibrations from the trainer; and three, a mat that can be lifted up at the end of a session.
We know that at the beginning of your Zwift adventure you’re not going to permanently turn a room into your Wattage Cottage pain cave, so we recommend a mat that folds up and can be stored away simply. That’s where the Elite Folding Trainer Mat excels. Perhaps best of all, it covers a lot of space – 180cm x 90cm – so it’s definitely going to keep the floor clean.
Zwift also have a mat – it, too, is waterproof, absorbs vibrations and keeps the floor clean. It’s ideal if you're going for the Full Kit Zwift look.
Towels and sweatband
Ok, we promise we’ll stop talking about perspiration soon, but before we do you are going to need a few other things to keep you comfortable.
We’re talking towels and a sweatband. The towel, in theory, can just be a standard towel from your bathroom, but you really need something that’s easy to access and not so big that it weighs down a nearby table or the bike. Zwift’s core sweat towels sit perfectly over the handlebar and are soft enough to pad against your face and arms when required.
Another valuable purchase is a sweatband. Sure, you might look like an 1980s tennis player, but stopping those sweat beads running down your forehead and into your eyes is a sensible decision that you’ll be thankful for. Zwift’s Core Colour Block Sweatband is our tip.
And, finally, no ride on Zwift is complete without some pumping music. The on-screen graphics keep you animated and stimulated, but when you’re going full gas in Watopia, or trying to record your fastest Alpe du Zwift time, some motivational beats go a long way.
A good set of earphones will do the job, and we’d recommend wireless ones so that the cables don’t risk being tangled up somewhere on the bike. If there are others in the house that would appreciate not hearing your music of choice, headphones are the way to go.
Alternatively, if you want to replicate a concert hall, a portable bluetooth speaker should be placed within a metre or two of the bike. A note on this – it’s best to position it away from the fan so that you can hear the sound more clearly.
And that’s it! You’re fully set-up to start Zwifting. Of course, there are many, many, many other things you can buy. This is cycling, after all, a sport of endless accessories. But with these five pieces of kit you’ll be hooked as a Zwifter in no time.