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How to set up Zwift – the most cost-effective way

Looking to try out Zwift? Here's the cheapest way to do that this winter.

Zwift makes indoor riding more fun and interactive, motivating you to ride more while helping you get fitter. Alongside thousands of riders around the world, including top professionals, you can gain entry to the virtual training grounds of Watopia, London, Richmond, Innsbruck, New York City and beyond.

If you’ve decided it’s time to start training with Zwift, you might be wondering if the gear you have will work. The most basic setup for Zwift includes a laptop to run the program, a classic trainer with no electronics and an ANT+ dongle to capture the metrics from your speed and cadence sensors so your real-world effort can be translated into movement in the game. This setup is great if you already have a trainer and want to start riding with your friends.

Related: 10 reasons why you should bike on Zwift this winter

The equipment you will need

  • Your bike: Unless you have a compatible indoor stationary bicycle, you can use your bike to ride on Zwift.
  • A trainer: If you don’t have a high-tech trainer, Zwift can calculate estimated power output based on your trainer model and the data from a speed and cadence sensor.
  • A platform to run Zwift: Zwift can run on your laptop, Mac and iOS devices. To connect your power meter, smart trainer or sensors to the app, you’ll need devices that can connect via Bluetooth Smart or ANT+. If you are using a laptop, you may need an ANT+ dongle, while iOS devices can receive Bluetooth Smart signals.
  • Cadence and speed: If you don’t have a smart trainer, you will need a speed and cadence sensor on your bike to ride Zwift.
  • A fan, towel and water bottles: While a fan is not necessary, having it running will make your indoor riding more enjoyable by cooling you down and controlling your sweat. A towel will also help you to manage sweat. Finally staying hydrated while riding, whether indoors or outdoors, is vital.

Related: Can I Zwift with this?

How to set up your Zwift experience

  • Step One: Create an account on Zwift
    • For a monthly subscription of just $18.99, you get access to hundreds of social group rides and races, workouts and clubs.
  • Step Two: Your Trainer or Rollers – Virtual Power
    • Set up your standard trainer and make use of Zwift’s virtual power. Virtual power is not the most accurate measurement, but it is a good way to test out Zwift without any additional expenses.
    • Zwift has two virtual power modes, Classic power and zPower. zPower is the more accurate model, however, it’s limited to only a few trainers. Though the Classic power is less precise, it is easy to configure with the trainer you have.
  • Step Three: Your Equipment
    • You will need to make sure you have equipment outlined above. Especially, a Bluetooth/ANT+enabled bike computer and speed sensor, a computer and an ANT+ receiver.
  • Step Four: Pair and get started
    • By following the prompts on Zwift, you will be up and running in no time. Sign up for the free 7-day trial period to test out the product before committing.