Getting set up for indoor training

A few people have asked me recently about getting set up for indoor training, especially with using Zwift.  If you’re new to the “gamification” of indoor training then I can understand what you need, how much it will cost and how it all works can be a bit confusing.

Firstly – you do not need a “Smart” trainer to use Zwift.  A smart trainer provides a more immersive experience as it will adjust the resistance of the trainer to match the ups and downs your avatar will ride in Zwift and it will have built in power functionality but this is by no means absolutely required.  Smart trainers are from around $500 up and “dumb” trainers can be had for $100 up so if budget is a major factor I’d consider the dumb trainer option.  If you are planning on using Zwift, check their website to see if they support the trainer you are proposing to buy.  All you will need then is a speed sensor and Zwift does the calculation to determine your power from the speed your wheel travels over the trainer (called “Zpower”).  If you are planning on racing on Zwift be warned that zpower racers are frowned upon if they are putting out w/kg that will get them up there in the results.

You will also need a computer, appletv or tablet/phone that is supported by Zwift.  Bigger screens and higher specs allow for a more immersive experience, and I believe the cheapest way to get going if you don’t already have something compatible is the appletv.  Zwift are saying most of their development is now being centered around appletv compatibility.   I hook my laptop up to an old 48″ TV in the garage – the larger screen is good as there are all sorts of windows over the screen with your speed/power/hr, other riders, mini course map etc which doesn’t leave much screen left on a smaller screen.  Eric Min (CEO of Zwift) told me (and several thousand others) on his Thanksgiving Ride that they planned to update the user interface in 2020.

Once you have your trainer and computer/appletv etc (and have set up your zwift account) you will need a way for them to communicate with each other.  Communication on bikes is either ANT+ or bluetooth LE.  You could have a power meter (or speed sensor), heart rate monitor, cadence sensor, smart trainer to connect up. If you only have ANT+ on some of your equipment (for example my power meter is an older quarq model which is only ANT+) then you will probably need an ANT+ dongle for your computer, but most newer stuff supports BLE and ANT+.

Then either connect them individually using Zwift or pair them through the Zwift Companion app (which you can download to your phone and run in parallel to Zwift.  Ipad’s and Appletv’s I believe limit the amount of BLE connections you can have so in this case you might want to connect through the Zwift Companion App to consolidate the connections.

If you are receiving training plans from Gear Up Coaching through Training Peaks then you can connect this to your Zwift account and Zwift will pull your workout directly into Zwift to follow – no additional steps which is great.  Likewise Zwift will export your ride direct back to Training Peaks.  If you use Strava, it will post there too.

Once you are connected up then you are good to go.  Couple of other essentials – a good fan and some kicking sounds!  Enjoy.

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