Zwift: Taking Your Trainer Ride “Social”

Any cyclist will tell you: indoor riding can be tough. Riding alone on a trainer for hours at a time can bore even the most competitive cyclist, and it can often feel lonely and isolating, too. Luckily, over the last decade or so, technology has stepped in to try and solve this problem. Television sets offer some mindless distraction, and if we’re not breathing too hard, we can sometimes chat on the phone or scroll social media. But if what you really want is to connect with other riders, you might have to try Zwift.

Described by enthusiasts as “Fortnite for cyclists,”  Zwift is an app that connects your turbo trainer (like Kinetic’s Rock and Roll or Road Machine) to a laptop, tablet, or smartphone and lets you ride—and compete—with fellow cyclists in a virtual environment. On one of four courses (set in London, Richmond, Innsbruck, and Watopia—a fictionalized location—respectively), you can ride three official course segments, or a whole slew of user-generated Strava segments. When you’re the fastest, your avatar gets to wear a special jersey for the rest of your ride (unless, of course, someone beats your time).

Using the Zwift race calendar, you can sign up to race other cyclists in real time. You can also join group workouts or even just tag along on organized social rides. In essence, Zwift provides all of the activities you would want from a local cycling community…only now that community is worldwide, and you don’t have to leave your living room. You might miss the feel of the breeze on your cheek or the taste of that latte at your mid-ride pit stop, but at least this way you don’t have to worry about weather or traffic. No more packing food hours in advance or traveling miles to a meetup spot only to wait for stragglers and pray that those rainclouds don’t open up. Just get on your trainer, fire up the app, and you’re on your way.

Zwift, of course, is not the only app trying to connect—and entertain—indoor riders. RoadGrandTours and VirtuGo have the same goals as Zwift: offering interactive courses, races, and training programs that connect riders around the world. Spivi takes these offerings a step further, by moving them off of a flat screen and into a 3D 360-degree virtual reality experience. However, RoadGrandTours and VirtuGo are still in beta testing, and Spivi is only available to fitness studios. So for now, if you’re tired of staring at a blank wall every time you climb aboard your trainer, Zwift might just have the solution you need. 

FeaturedRachel Cochran