Winter is coming – Part 2

In the second part of our “winter is coming” blog series, we look at the virtual reality training software Zwift.

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n just a few year Zwift has exploded onto the training market with many pros using it to train (https://zwiftblog.com/pros/) and Mat Hayman (http://zwift.com/en/effect/mathew-hayman/) crediting the use of Zwift as part of his recovery on the way to winning the 2016 Paris Roubaix. As the big boss at PRIMO says “Programs like Zwift etc are the biggest threat to winter clothing sales at the moment”. Currently there are three different maps (London, Richmond and Watopia) with numerous different loops and a number of maps and loops in the pipeline.

What the hell is Zwift I hear you asking? It’s a virtual world where you ride as a virtual avatar with thousands of other riders. It works in real time with your avatar responding to every pedal revolution. Because you’ve told the program how much you weigh (and we hope you’ve been honest) and it also knows how much power you’re producing (from the feedback from the turbo) it can make your avatar move at the appropriate speed on any given gradient. Only got a standard turbo trainer? No problem: Zwift has tested the resistance curve of many trainers so all it needs to know is the speed that the wheel is going around to calculate an estimated power output to drive your avatar (https://support.zwift.com/hc/en-us/articles/203968635-Setting-up-a-Classic-Trainer-Rollers-zPower-?section=201145285). If you’re using a smart trainer like the Wahoo Kickr etc. the program automatically adjusts the resistance to simulate different gradients. However, to make the experience as realistic as possible it incorporates algorithms that calculate how many watts you would be saving the closer you ride to another avatar, therefor simulating the drafting effect of a bunch. This makes it very realistic and has given birth to the virtual races where hundreds of riders are released at once. Want to take your “Zwifting” to another level? Wahoo have recently released the Kickr Climb which elevates the front end of your bike as the gradient changes (http://uk.wahoofitness.com/devices/bike-trainers).

Addicted to Strava? Do you need to make sure that you keep your riding numbers up? That’s ok, you can link your Zwift and Stava accounts so your Zwifting is added to your Strava totals. Additionally, there are Strava segments on the Wahoo courses. Zwift also links up to Training Peaks so your rides can be added to your training logs. What else do you need? Until recently you could only run Zwift on a computer as the graphics required a lot of processing power. However, Zwift have more recently launched an iOS and Android version of the software so it can run off a tablet. But for the most immersive experience, you can’t beat a computer hooked up to a wide screen TV (come down to the shop and check out Zwift in our fit studio). It helps to have a desk close by to be able to tap the arrow keys to follow that group you worked so hard to get onto or respond to a message from another rider. Again, Wahoo have you covered with their Bike Desk (http://uk.wahoofitness.com/devices/accessories/wahoo-fitness-standing-desk).

Are you a little more serious about your training? Zwift has an ever-growing list of training workouts in their library or you can design your own. If you’re using a standard turbo, you must push to keep the power levels up to the desired level and Zwift will put a Tour de France style arch to sprint for at the end of each effort. However, if you’re using a smart trainer you can set it on erg mode. Now the trainer will automatically adjust the resistance to hold you at the prescribed power level. It doesn’t matter what gear you’re in or the cadence you’re riding at, if it says you are to ride at 300 watts there’s nowhere to hide, you will do 300 watts or stop.

So who will Zwift suit? If you’re looking to replicate riding on the road without getting soaked or freezing your whatists off, Zwift is great. It takes away a lot of the boredom of riding the turbo and truly makes it an interactive event. I have “virtually” met friends for a ride that live on the other side of the world. With workouts, you are also able to train more scientifically too. Cost? You’ll be looking at a $10 a month subscription which I think is well worth the price of entry for what you get.

Anything else I need to know?

Yes… have you been joining us on our shop rides this summer? Are you going to miss them? Well, don’t worry. With the help of the guys at Zwift, we’ll soon be transferring the Monday night ride to a Zwift ride for winter so you’ll be able to ride with us and anyone else who cares to join our group.

Want to have a go? Pop into the shop and you can have a ride on our Wahoo Kickr and trial Zwift for yourself.

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