If you are into virtual reality gameplay then Zwift paired with the Wahoo KICKR Ecosystem is for you. If you are into cycling, and want to maintain fitness during bad weather days and winter then Zwift with or without the KICKR Ecosystem will also be for you. In other words, we discovered through this Zwift review it’s fun for everyone.
If you don’t know what Zwift is, its a virtual cycling environment. You choose one of three available maps. One map, Watopia, is always available. The other two maps rotate on a schedule. Once you choose your map you are riding with other cyclists from around the world in the same virtual environment.
Zwift isn’t just for Cyclists. In fact, they have a running option, too. I love that Zwift gives me a fun cycling option during the winter. Above all, it helps keeps my mental health where it should be.
How Do I Pair My Indoor Smart Trainer With Zwift?
The first step is making sure you have the Zwift app installed. Whether your on a mobile device, desk top, or tablet visiting Zwift.com will guide you to the right place for installation. Once installed you will need to setup your account. If you want an accurate watts per kg reading you need to make sure your weight is accurate within your profile.
After your initial setup you get a brief walk through as it takes you to the pairing screen. With your Smart Trainer turned on Zwift will automatically find it. If you don’t have a smart trainer but are using a speed/cadence sensor you can pair it separately. This page will also give you the option to select other sensors like a heart rate monitor and a controllable like a smart trainer with a KICKR Climb.
Does Any Bike Trainer Work With Zwift?
Yes, any bike trainer can work with Zwift whether its a smart trainer or not. In lieu of a smart trainer, a basic trainer with a power meter installed will work, or even a speed or cadence sensor. The accuracy of data and similarity to riding outdoors will all increase exponentially with a direct drive smart trainer. In other words, any trainer can work, but it will not be as fun.
The problem with a basic bike trainer over a smart bike trainer is the controllable resistance. With a basic trainer controlling the resistance is up to you. On a smart trainer when you begin to climb a mountain road the resistance cranks up automatically.
For Smart Trainer Owners: When you do a Zwift workout you select ERG Mode On. Doing so means you leave your bike in whatever current gear it is in. The resistance adjusts automatically and you simply enjoy the ride. There are some workouts that require ERG Mode to be off, or you may prefer riding that way. When ERG Mode is off, you are controlling the resistance yourself to hit your specific power numbers.
Price Review: How Expensive Is Zwift?
At $14.99 per month Zwift is not cheap. Thankfully you can pause membership during the summer months when you ride outdoors. Because I have a dedicated trainer bike I use Zwift year round. I think Zwift combined with the Wahoo Ecosystem (Read: Wahoo Ecosystem Review) makes working out fun on those days you really don’t want to ride.
Relative to other cycling apps Zwift may seem expensive. However, it is much cheaper than a gym membership. The Zwift experience can be enhanced with products like the KICKR Headwind and KICKR Climb.
For an insane virtual riding experience you are looking at a total cost of $4,000. That gets you an $1,100 Smart Trainer, a $600 KICKR Climb, a $250 KICKR Headwind, a $250 KICKR Desk, a $1,300 Apple TV With 75″ Screen and a $500 used road bike to put on it. With that setup you may never want to ride outdoors again.
Do You Need The Zwift Companion App?
This is a loaded question. The short answer is no, you do not need the Zwift companion app to use Zwift. The Companion App does make Zwift more fun allowing you to further your engagement with other Zwifters. Similarly, you can go for a run without shoes. Using Zwift without the Companion App is like running barefoot.
With the Zwift Companion App your mobile device acts like a remote control. Zwift has an excellent tutorial that can be FOUND HERE that explains pairing the Zwift Companion App (ZC App) to Zwift.
For users that don’t care about the social aspect of cycling the Zwift Companion App won’t do much to get you excited. It is the only way to get your Zwift rides to pair with Strava. To do so go to Zwift Companion App’s Settings. Then sync Zwift and Strava through the Connected Apps setting. You pair with Strava by logging in and giving permission for Zwift to post ride data to Strava.
Zwift Review Tips and Tricks
Tip #1 is to get the Zwift Companion App. That is the most important step to enhance experience after initial setup. I also recommend subscribing to ZwiftInsider and ZwiftPower. These resources will make your riding and training experience easier and a lot more fun.
Once you have a few Zwift Resources coming in, I recommend chasing down various goals. If you see a glowing neon bike and want to get one yourself you need to take on the Climb Everest goal. Once completed that bike upgrade becomes available within your Zwift garage.
Depending on how you connect to Zwift you may or may not be able to easily navigate these features. I have found my cell phone screen is too small to really enjoy Zwift. I only use my mobile when the Apple TV or my laptop are unavailable.