I finally broke down and got on Zwift. And I wonder why I hesitated so darn long? Man it is FUN!
For those non-bicycle types, Zwift is an on-line community of bicyclists. I can basically put my bicycle on a stationary trainer, hook a bluetooth speed, cadence and heart rate sensor to my bike, feed that data to the Zwift app on my iPad, and then go on virtual rides with other Zwifters. I can ride a variety of routes around one of three Zwift cities – London, Richmond Virginia, and a virtual place called Watopia.
What is really fun is that I can join races, or go on relaxed scenic rides, or join a variety of training and workout rides, do individual time trials, ride in a peloton. While riding I can communicate with other riders, send them messages, invite other riders to join me. It is all pretty cool and a way to be social and more important for me, competitive.
You see, I like the competitive part. I try not to show it to much in my daily life, but I like challenges and I like competing against others. It is just great fun, even when I lose – which I lose a lot. Today I rode a time trial race on Zwift and competed with a guy from Spain on the final sprint to the finish. I hit the gas too early. He hung right on my tail, we were both pedaling hard (I am assuming he was pedaling hard, I know I was going as hard as I could) but 1/2 mile from the finish he passed me again and I couldn’t hang on and he beat me by two seconds. Sweat was pouring off my head and dripping from my arms, my heart was pounding at 175 beats per minute, I was gasping for air, and smiling big time. What fun!!!
All while in my kitchen on my stationary bicycle and it was 8 degrees F outside.
I had been holding out for a smart trainer, because I thought that was what I really need to do Zwift. I have been riding Expresso stationary bicycles at the YMCA the past year. These have a virtual world you can ride in, but you don’t ride with anyone else, just by yourself. There are virtual riders but they are all computer controlled, not real people. You also have to steer and shift the bikes a lot, and I don’t really care for that when on the trainer. So at the YMCA I just run the Expresso in trainer mode and just pedal without the virtual riding. It does give me wattage output, which is great for training. I can use my watt output to plan my training, do my sprints, gauge my progress, and a host of other information. Wattage is basically how hard I am pedaling at a particular moment and how many watts – or work effort – I am putting out. A very useful tool.
Virtual trainers are expensive however – over $500 for a decent one and some run well over $1,000. I just didn’t have the budget for that. But after watching Zwift for a while I finally figured out I could hook a cadence and speed sensor to my bike and it would give me a pretty decent estimate of my power output, and it only costs $50 – much better than $500. I also got a heart rate monitor that will feed data via bluetooth to Zwift. This helps in calculating power output and also in training.
So now I have a nice setup at home. What I really like about Zwift riding at home is that I can jump on the bike for a 30 minute ride right before bed, after the YMCA closes. No need to load up in my truck and drive to the Y. Just toss on some shorts and my cycling shoes, climb on the bike and start riding. If I have a few minutes to spare at lunch, the same thing – jump on the bike and ride for a bit. As mentioned earlier, I can also see upcoming races and rides and join those and ride with other Zwifters, which is really fun and competitive.
So yea, I am liking this Zwifting thing. A lot. It won’t replace riding outside, but it is a very nice supplement when the weather is cold, and is also a great way to add some extra miles and training in without worrying about traffic, loading the bike and driving somewhere, dealing with the dark and cold, etc. I am gonna be having fun with Zwift!