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What is Zwift?

As the nights are drawing in, soon it will be winter, it may be time for some of the FLAB community to dig out their old turbo trainer, put on a video on their laptop and pedal like there is no tomorrow for an hour or until their legs say no!

However there is another way to wile away the hours on a turbo trainer… Zwift!

Zwift is a turbo trainer multi-player online game that enables you to link your computer/iPad/iPhone to your turbo trainer, Allowing you to virtually ride with 1000’s of other riders across the world in a virtual cycling nirvana, free from traffic and headwinds.

There are three virtual worlds to choose from Watpoia, London and Richmond. There are an array of routes, workouts and organised races to take part in or just ride round on your own workout. When you have finished, your ride can be uploaded to Strava.

What do I need to play Zwift

Obviously you need a bike, a turbo trainer, and a computer* /laptop/iPad/ iPhone. If you want an immersive gameplay, are going to be using Zwift regularly, and can afford it, then a smart turbo trainer such as the Wahoo Kickr or the Tacx Neo Smart would be a good investment.

These turbo trainers generally have a direct drive design, with a built-in power meter and variable resistance. These turbo trainers will measure your power output, then send this data to Zwift to power your online avatar.

The variable resistance on these turbo trainers will also allow you to feel as if you’re actually riding in the online world, so when you are going uphill on-screen the resistance will increase, and when you are going downhill it will decrease.

However you dont need a smart turbo trainer - any turbo trainer can be set up to use Zwift. All you need is a speed sensor / cadence sensor, and a ANT+ USB dongle for your computer. Data from the sensors is then sent to your computer and transferred into the game.

Your also going to need a couple of water bottles, a towel, a fan and a rubber matt to put under your turbo trainer­ (although Halfords do workshop flooring for £10 which locks together and is perfect).

Zwift isn’t free but they do offer a 7-day free trial, and after that if you like it, it’s £8 a month.

Setting up Zwift

Once you have got all your equipment, you’re ready to set up Zwift, firstly download and install the Zwift application to your chosen device. You are then prompted to set up an account, and give details such as your gender, height, and weight (its best to honest, as this will reflect how you are progressing through your training and plus this information isn’t displayed to anyone other than you). This data will be used to create your Zwift character and to give an accurate measurement of your speed in the game.

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Its all about the bike…

In Zwift your character is completely customisable, including changing skin tone, hair colour, and also what Jerseys you wear. When you first start out you get a basic bike with basic wheels, but after every km you get 20 experience points which go towards unlocking upgrades, for example, Zipp 808 firecrest wheelset, or a Canyon Aeroroad, s-works Tarmac, etc. The more you ride the quicker you will get upgrades!

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There are three different worlds to ride in: Watopia, London and Richmond:

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Watopia is by far the biggest map and has everything, from serious alpine style climbing to flat routes for time trial, racing or a social ride, and lots more in between, including the Volcano, with its own lap counter.

There are also live Zwift segments including a sprint and two king of the mountains each giving live results and also awarding a temporary winners virtual jersey (green for sprint and poker dot for king of the mountains).

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The London map uses the route of the Prudential RideLondon Classique Course and the Richmond course is a copy of the UCI 2016 World road race championship course.

Let’s ride

Once you have finished setting up its time to ride, first select a course ( if your on Watopia I would recommend the Flat route it has a bit of everything but nothing to extreme a full lap is about 10km), next click ride now, and you will appear on the virtual world, just start pedalling, remember you don’t need to brake on the downhill (although to be honest I did on my first attempt), cornering is also a bit weird when you first start out, as you think you will fall off!

So now your up and running, explore the various routes and extensive workout plans, or take part in a social ride. If your on a smart turbo trainer, your going to notice the hills, it does get harder on the inclines, you also see that when you get near another rider, it gets easier, this is virtual drafting, and works exactly the same way as it does in the real world. The start of sprints and hill climbs are marked on the road as a solid white line and finish under a banner arch green for sprints and blue for climbs.

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