Having unpacked my fancy new turbo the obvious next step was to sign up for a trial with Zwift. It certainly seems all the craze and as a bit of techno Geek I felt compelled to explore it’s virtual tarmac. These are my thoughts on my first ride…
Before I talk about Zwift, probably worth covering the set-up that I have assembled, and what I think you need in order to get the best out of this. Firstly I am now using a Tacx Neo smart turbo which gives a direct drive connection to the bike (basically you take the back wheel off!). The bike has Garmin Vector peddles that measure cadence and power. I’m using a Garmin 1030 head unit which is my regular cycle computer.
However, you could use Zwift with a regular turbo. But if you are going to get anywhere then you need some sensors… Probably at minimum something that can transmit cadence, but better would be a power meter. You then need to consider how this sensor is going to connect to your phone or tablet. Most bike sensors will be ANT+ and your phone / tablet is not going to support that, so you will probably need a laptop and an ANT+ usb dongle too. These problems go away with a smart turbo (but at a price!). In addition a smart turbo will translate the terrain and virtual conditions into real life for you, by adjusting the resistance you are peddling against. Essentially a much more immersive experience. If you are attracted to the idea of Zwift, I would suggest that you probably do need a smart turbo to get a worthwhile experience.
But back to my session…. (because it is all about me hahaha)
What worked brilliantly was actually just using the Garmin kit with the Neo turbo! I built a training session using Garmin Connect and used the ‘indoor trainer’ option to connect the turbo as a device to the Garmin. It could not have been easier and all worked first time without a manual in sight! The turbo adjusted it’s resistance to get me to achieve and maintain the prescribed power output and recoveries that I had used in the plan. Didn’t have to use the Tacx software or anything else.
Having finished my training session, I decided it was time to try out Zwift… Used it on an iPhone which was perfectly viewable. The phone connected to the turbo within problems over Bluetooth and even managed to keep the Spotify playlist going 😉 But actually that was about as far as I got… It was completely unclear to me as to how to get a training session working or join one of the ‘virtual rides’ that I hear about… I fiddled about with it for a bit then after 15 minutes frankly I was bored and shut it down!
Obviously it is possible to navigate and use Zwift. I see no shortage of friends on Strava logging rides. And we are all different so perhaps for some people it provides a degree of motivation / interest? But it’s not for me… (although I am sure that the Geek in me will want to conquer it at some point).
I’m not sure I need a computer game to supplement my cycling. I have sufficient motivation that comes from not wanting to turn up next season at races and be shit!! The best way to avoid that is to train consistently and regularly to a plan… In the same way that I find the motivation to swim for an hour first thing in the morning when the pool opens, I am more than capable of getting to the bike shed and peddling. You do it because the plan says so… And you do it because it you want to improve and be the best. But clearly Zwift is VERY popular so a lot of people will disagree with me.
Smart Turbo? Worth every penny and adds value to a training session! Garmin toy collection, not cheap but again I can clearly see that they are a fantastic investment. Zwift? Cheap as chips (yes you pay a subscription) but my view is that it is a complete waste of time and actually a bit of a distraction.
Have you ever been to the gym and seen someone on a recumbent bike reading a magazine and peddling so lightly that the would do better going for a little walk? Or worse still reading on a treadmill?!?!? Zwift… Could it create the next generation of people that go through the motions of training but actually are only fooling themselves? Who knows, but I am sticking with Garmin for my bike sessions (indoors and out).