I recently received my beta invite to try out Zwift. Coincidentally, the same day my speed/cadence sensor came in the mail. So over the weekend I gave it a try and let me tell you, I’m pretty happy with it overall considering it’s an early beta. The setup was pretty self-explanatory, especially if you use any sort of online training setup such as TrainerRoad. You basically install the game client, launch it, and pair your sensors. After that, you are good to start. When you start, you can either find someone to start near or just head onto the island for a ride. I didn’t know anyone so I just went for a ride. Just for reference, there were 108 people online when I started so it’s pretty easy to find real people to ride with. Currently, there is only one road on the island. It’s a 3 mile (roughly) loop around the island. As you can imagine, with over a hundred riders on a 3 mile loop, you see others a lot.
My intention was really just to go for a quick ride, but I was having a lot of fun. So my initial idea was to just ride a bit. I changed my goal to riding for an hour, but at the end of the hour I decided to finish up 20 miles, but then I figured I’d go ahead and finish my lap I was on – so my first ride was about 21 miles. I found a lot of people which led to some interesting times. I couldn’t help but jump on it a few times when I got dropped to try to catch back up. You see that happen a lot when you pass folks as well. That can be motivating and helps you get some extra work in. I found a few different groups of riders while I was there and I was able to tuck in with them and draft for a bit to test that out.
If you are getting into the Zwift thing, I highly recommend you install the companion phone app. You don’t need it for the workout, but it does add a layer of fun to the experience. With the app, you can change camera angles, you can have your character wave, elbow, ring a bell, and you can send individual or group messages while riding. You can also trigger a snapshot which will take a screenshot of whatever is on your screen and save it on your computer (in your pictures folder). The screenshot feature is handy, especially if you find yourself getting dropped by someone famous!
For all the cool features, you may find yourself getting bored if you try to ride on Zwift all the time. For me, it’ll be a once a week adventure. I’ll continue to do my Sufferfest videos daily (which I’ve recently started using TrainerRoad for – more on that soon) but I intend to stop by the Zwift Island for a ride weekly. The main reason you might get bored is that there is only one road. You simply ride in circles, that’s all there is, for now. I personally don’t think it’s boring, as the other riders on there keep things challenging. When I remember that there are real people behind those on screen characters who are also riding on trainers busting their asses, it makes it fun. You also have to remember, this is early beta. We are all Guinea pigs testing the product and helping to scale it. As Zwift develops, there will be new roads, new scenery, new features, events, etc. We’re all just getting in on the ground floor, I have no doubt there will be much more in the future.
So, my opinion overall? I love it! I think this is a very cool bit of software that can be used to add some variety to your training. It might not be your everyday go to right now while it is still being developed, but I think it is valuable and I think you can have a lot of fun while getting in a quality workout! You’ll see me on there at least once a week. Feel free to track me down, draft me, drop me, or throw me an elbow!