zwift indoor cycling

The gamification of indoor cycling: How Zwift and co. have changed the game

For those who have used Zwift’s online cycling platform, you’ll know what I mean when I say it has totally changed the face of indoor cycling.

What is Zwift?

Zwift provides a gamified, online game that enables cyclists from around the globe to meet up and ride together in a virtual world – signalling the end to lonely, boring indoor cycling workouts.

Zwift’s software works with any type of indoor trainer – all you need to do is download the Zwift app on your computer/phone and add an ANT+ cadence/speed sensor (about £20-35) on your bike to connect to the app. Alternatively, there are plenty of smart trainers with built-in functionality to connect directly to the app and measure your power/speed (plenty of gyms have also jumped on the Zwift bandwagon and provide specialist Zwift bikes – all you need is the app).

What’s really clever about the Zwift platform is it takes the data generated by you cycling and calculates your speed within the game by rider weight, the virtual terrain, power and drafting other online riders. At £12.99 a month, you get a truly immersive virtual cycling experience!

The Zwift effect

Indoor cycling has become a staple part of many cyclists fitness regime. Particularly over the winter months when the weather isn’t so good.

Essentially, Zwift enables cyclists, of all abilities, to participate in either group cycling rides (great for a social online experience), specific training workouts, or simply cycle in the virtual worlds of Watopia, London or Richmond.

Zwift has been keen to emphasize that the platform isn’t a replacement for the real thing. Instead, they see it as the perfect complement to outdoor cycling – the best option for when time prevents getting out on the road or the weather is bad.

Indoor cycling was previously a very lonely, isolated, solo experience. Not anymore.

“Although Zwift is a video game, it’s one of the best video games you can imagine for building cardiovascular endurance”.

Kevin Abt, sales and marketing director for Wahoo’s European operation

The impact of virtual cycling

The surge of gamified cycling has totally transformed the face of indoor cycling.

Nothing will beat the real thing, cycling outdoors, but there has proved to be a serious appetite for thrashing out a highly intense workout from the comfort of your own home. It’s obvious to see why.

Gamified cycling in a social, virtual environment provides the benefits of a HIIT session (maximising the time on the bike), in a fun, competitive environment, with plenty of different routes and workouts readily available to mix it up and motivate riding.

The market for gamified cycling has certainly grown. Zwift has challengers popping up left, right and centre. Alternatives now include Bkool, TrainerRoad, Tacx (who are joining the Garmin family), and Road Grand Tours.

Additionally, the new generation of smart turbo trainers, which respond to inputs from these platforms (such as climbing hills, drafting and descending), have taken virtual cycling to another level.

So, if you haven’t tried it, I’d recommend giving it a go – there is a free trial for anyone on the fence. It’s the perfect fitness companion for cyclists who don’t want to cycle in bad weather.

Zwift also has a virtual running world, so if you want to run instead, check it out.

Chris Smith
Founder of Vivi Nation, sports enthusiast, occasional triathlete, keen cyclist and optimistic Liverpool FC fan.

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