This article has been produced in association with Zwift
Gone are the days when winter training was synonymous with shrugging it off, wrapping yourself in multiple layers and continuing through the harshest conditions. The indoor training revolution has hundreds and thousands of users counting on Zwift to not only keep them on their bikes during the colder months, but to take their performance to a whole new level.
Before you begin your journey through Watopia, there are a few things you’ll need to do.
One, is to buy a Zwift account. You can have a 14-day free trial, and then it’s just £12.99 a month, the cost of two trips to the cafe, or just £129.99 for the whole year. Next, you’ll need to start setting up your space to mount Zwift. It is also known as the modern cave of pain, all singing and dancing.
Assuming you have 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 gear up and get 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 wheels of the bike spin against a metal drum that is attached to the steering wheel. They are functional, but if you really want to maximize the benefits of Zwift, a direct drive trainer is recommended. What is this? This is where the rear wheel is removed and the bike is attached to the trainer via a standard cassette. Smart versions provide power and cadence data and can automatically adjust to the gradients and surfaces you ride on in Zwift.
The explosion in popularity of indoor training means that more and more brands are entering the scene with their own direct traction trainers. Just like buying a real bike, the choice can be overwhelming.
Which one you go for may depend on your budget, costing a few thousand pounds. Our favorite, especially for a beginner who doesn’t yet know if the bug will bite them permanently (they will, it’s just a matter of time), is the Zwift Hub One.
Priced at £549, including a one-year annual subscription, it’s very competitively priced and has all the features that even the more expensive options have. It’s the smart trainer that makes getting fit with Zwift easier than ever: the Zwift Cog, for example, lets you enjoy seamless compatibility with almost any 8-12 speed bike; with virtual shifting, the pre-installed Zwift Cog is the only gear you’ll need.
Reviews are consistently high. Over time, you might want an upgrade that has higher peak power or can simulate even harder gradients, but you really can’t go wrong with the Zwift Hub One.
Trust us, you’ll want to buy a fan. Scratch that, you need to buy a fan.
Indoor training is a sweaty affair, and if you don’t have adequate ventilation (opening a window won’t suffice), it will not only lead to overheating which will affect performance, but also become a problem miserable A fan is really a necessity.
Like everything, there are a range of options: some cheap, some moderately priced, and some that cost more than a good set of wheels. The Wahoo Headwind is the market leader – it can even simulate headwinds that are more reminiscent of a gusty day at the coast!
The Vacmaster AM201R is probably the best remote control 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 be playing.
We like the remote control option as our preferences change over the course of a workout, and this one is certainly affordable and effective.
Speaking of sweat… the floor of the room you’re using can look like a sticky nightclub at 4am if you don’t take the right precautions. A waterproof training mat is practically an essential piece of kit to prevent the trainer from moving and to collect all those sweat drops.
You want a mat that has a few important features: one, water-resistant foam; two, material that absorbs the noise and vibrations of the trainer; and three, a mat that can be lifted at the end of a session.
We know that early on in your Zwift adventure you won’t be permanently turning a room into your Wattage Cottage pain cave, so we recommend a mat that folds up and can be easily stored. This is where the Elite Folding Training Mat excels. Perhaps best of all, it covers a lot of space (180cm x 90cm), so it will definitely keep the floor clean.
Zwift also has a mat: it’s also waterproof, absorbs vibrations and keeps the floor clean. It’s ideal if you’re looking for the Full Kit Zwift look.
Towels and sweat band
Okay, we promise we’ll stop talking about sweat soon, but before we do, you’ll need a few more 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 easily accessible and not so big that it weighs down a nearby table or the bike. Zwift’s central sweat towels dry perfectly over the handlebars and are soft enough to drape over your face and arms when needed.
Another worthwhile purchase is a sweatband. Sure, you might look like a tennis player from the 80s, but stopping those beads of sweat from running down your forehead and into your eyes is a smart move that you’ll thank yourself for. Zwift’s Core Color Block sweatband is our tip.
And finally, no Zwift ride is complete without some music. On-screen graphics keep you pumped and pumped, but when you’re gassing up Watopia or trying to record your fastest time on Alpe du Zwift, some motivational beats help.
A good set of headphones will do the job, and we recommend wireless so the cables don’t risk getting tangled somewhere on the bike. If there are other people in the house who would rather not hear your music of choice, headphones are the way to go.
Alternatively, if you want to replicate a concert hall, place a portable bluetooth speaker a meter or two from the bike. A note on this: It’s best to place it away from the fan so you can hear the sound more clearly.
And that’s it! You are completely ready to start Zwifting. Of course, there are many, many, many other things you can buy. This is cycling, after all, a sport of infinite accessories. But with these five pieces of kit you’ll be hooked as a Zwifter in no time.