Zwift – How does It Work and What can You do with It? [How-To]

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Zwift turns any training session on your turbo trainer into a fun experience. In fact, once you’ve started using Zwift, you might not want to try anything else. Zwift is the most used software to connect your interactive turbo trainer to your computer. All your efforts on the turbo trainer can be seen – on your computer screen – in a virtual landscape. Even the rate of increase – if you have the right smart turbo trainer – is automatically adjusted. Cycling on the turbo trainer has never been so much fun! We’ve listed everything about Zwift for you, from how to get started, what you need, to tips that will benefit even the most experienced Zwifter.

You will know what you were missing, once you pair your turbo trainer with your computer, smartphone or tablet. You do not have to train at home, staring boringly at a wall on a rainy day.

Zwift is cycling and training with thousand of others

Zwift is not only fun, because you ride in a virtual landscape, complete with realistic gradients. Perhaps, the most fun part is that you can cycle against or with thousand of other cyclists.

Are you going all-out on Zwift?
Are you going all-out on Zwift?

These people are of all kinds of different levels. From beginners, who are just riding their first metres, to professionals. Do not be surprised, when Steve Cummings, Simon Yates, Mark Cavendish, Mathew Hayman or one of the many other profs who ride with Zwift regularly, catch up with you uphill.

But how does Zwift work exactly? How do you start with Zwift on a turbo trainer? And what do you need to Zwift? We take you by the hand – step by step – to ride your first kilometres – and altimetres – on Zwift, without any problems. Cycling on a turbo trainer never has to be boring again!

How does Zwift work – how-to in 6 steps

No time to read the entire Zwift How-to? Here is the super quick guide Zwift in six steps! But real fanatics read, of course, this blog from top to bottom to really get the most out of Zwift!

How does Zwift work? – Contents

  1. What is Zwift?
  2. What do you need for Zwift?
  3. Which turbo trainers are suitable for Zwift?
  4. Recommended turbo trainers for Zwift
  5. Zwift on your PC, Mac, iPhone or Android
  6. Zwift on Apple TV
  7. Whatsensors do you need? Sensors with Bluetooth or ANT+
  8. Get started with Zwift? Create a Zwift account
  9. Before your first ride: Pairing turbo trainer and sensors
  10. Your first ride on Zwift
  11. Upgrade your bike and wheels for improved performance
  12. How do I get a different cycling jersey on Zwift?
  13. How to pair Zwift to Strava and other apps?
  14. Cycle in virtual Watopia, London, Richmond and Innsbruck What maps are there on Zwift?
  15. Alpe d’Huez on Zwift: Alpe du Zwift
  16. Zwift training sessions and workouts
  17. What can you do with the Zwift Companion App on your smartphone?
  18. Zwift hacks, always choose your own map!
  19. Achievements to challenge yourself
  20. Zwift Challenges
  21. How much is a subscription to Zwift?
  22. Kom Try Zwift for free in our superstores

Zwift is actual cycling, just in a virtual world

Zwift has been around for a few years now and is very popular among cyclists and mountain bikers. Training on a turbo trainer is becoming way more fun with Zwift.

This popularity is partly down to the realistic cycle experience of Zwift. Are you going uphill on your screen? Then you will actually feel the resistance increase when you use a smart turbo trainer.

Profs take full advantage of Zwift as well.
Profs take full advantage of Zwift as well.

An added bonus is that you no longer have to ride alone when you’re on the trainer. It’s also possible to chat with other riders and give them kudos for their efforts, for example.

Add to that the fact that whenever you draft behind another rider, you’ll feel the same effect as you would on the road. And, because of the difference in level between all cyclists, there is always a cyclist with whom you can compete with. Drafting behind another rider or overtaking cyclists one after the other, when riding uphill.

Zwift is very easy. Put your bike on the trainer, and go!
Zwift is very easy. Put your bike on the trainer, and go

Regardless of when you log in, there will always be at least 1000 to 1500 fellow cyclists online with whom you can ride or against. At the busiest moments, you can already cycle with over 5000 others!

The realistic experience Zwift offers, combined with fun game elements, ensures that Zwift is the most popular way to make cycle on a turbo trainer more fun.

What do you need to Zwift?

But enough about why you have to Zwift. In order to be able to use Zwift, a number of things are needed, such as a turbo trainer or suitable sensors.

Below is a list of things you really need to get going, as well as a few items which can make it more enjoyable or realistic. We explain what to look for and whether you really need it for each item.

What do you need to Zwift?

  • Turbo trainer or rollers
  • Cadence sensor and speed sensor with ANT+ or Bluetooth
  • Windows PC, Mac, Apple TV, iPad/iPhone or Android tablet/telefoon
  • An ANT+ and/or Bluetooth receiver for the data by the sensors
  • Heart rate sensor*
  • Power meter*
  • Smartphone* (For the Zwift Companion app)
  • Fan*
  • Towel*
  • Trainer mat*

* Useful extras, but not essential

The basic setup for a trainer with Zwift

As you can see, you need, next to your road bike, a little more to start using Zwift.
The easiest Zwift setup consists of a basic turbo trainer or rollers. These can’t register data nor adjust the intensity or level of resistance automatically. This means they also cannot communicate with Zwift.

In order to conquer the mountains of Zwift you’ll need a proper turbo trainer, preferably one with sensors.
In order to conquer the mountains of Zwift you’ll need a proper turbo trainer, preferably one with sensors.

Some of these trainers or rollers can adjust the intensity though. Since you need to do this manually, Zwift does not automatically change it. So, the experience is a little less fun.

Do you own rollers or a turbo trainer without sensors? No problem, you are still able to Zwift. But then you will need a cadans- and speed-sensor and/or a power-meter to be able to use Zwift.

Zwift uses the data from your sensors to determine your speed and power in the game. This is always less accurate than when you could use a smart trainer, however. That one measures your power and speed directly.

A realistic experience with a smart trainer

For the most realistic Zwift experience you will need an interactive turbo trainer that can be controlled by Zwift. This is called a smart turbo trainer or interactieve turbo trainer.

Is there a change in gradient? Then Zwift adjusts the resistance of your turbo trainer. So automatically it becomes heavier or lighter, depending on the terrain where you cycle. You can really suffer up climbs and enjoy the view downhill.

Thanks to the automatic adjustment of a smart turbo trainer, training with Zwift is more realistic and fun.
Thanks to the automatic adjustment of a smart turbo trainer, training with Zwift is more realistic and fun.

Do you choose a smart turbo trainer? Then again you are faced with a choice. Not each smart turbo trainer can produce the same level of gradient. Various trainers list what level of gradient they can simulate.

The gradients which can be simulated by a smart trainer start at around 7% go up to about 20 percent.

Casual cycling or as real as possible?

That 7 per cent is enough for those who want to go on the occasional spin. If the rate of increase is higher than 7 per cent, then Zwift will decrease your speed very wisely. In the end, you will lose as much energy to reach the top as a trainer who can simulate a higher rate of gradient.

But do you really want to finish some heavier training? Do you like to suffer a bit or do you just want to have a very realistic experience? Then you should buy a more expensive smart trainer. Then you get a maximum level of gradient of around 15 per cent.

The steepest climb on Zwift is currently at 17%.
The steepest climb on Zwift is currently at 17%.

You want to get the most out of it? Then you will have to put the most into it and opt for nothing other than the very best turbo trainers. Most turbo trainers which can simulate high gradients are the direct drive turbo trainers..

Instead of securing your rear wheel into the trainer, you place the rear dropouts of your frame directly onto the trainer. You do not need a training wheel then, just a cassette you fit to the turbo trainer.

The advantage of a direct drive turbo trainer is that they are a lot more accurate than turbo trainers with a braking roller. The deviations are therefore smaller, and you get a better idea of how you perform.

What goes for the road goes for Zwift too: just keep pushing...
What goes for the road goes for Zwift too: just keep pushing…

So take a trainer’s specifications into consideration when purchasing your new turbo trainer. A stand-alone trainer can also be a smart trainer, for instance. If you want to get the most from Zwift, a smart trainer is an absolute must.

Our recommended Direct Drive Smart turbo trainers for Zwift

Our recommended Wheel-on turbo trainers for Zwift

Zwift on your Iphone, Android smartphone, PC or Mac

A trainer alone will not get you there. You will also require a PC, Mac, or smartphone to install the Zwift software onto. Opting for a PC or Mac? Then you will need the desktop version of Zwift.

Zwift is up and running on iPhone and iPad, but you’re going to need a little patience for Android compatibility.
Zwift is up and running on iPhone and iPad, but you’re going to need a little patience for Android compatibility.

Want to run Zwift on your smartphone or tablet? That is possible on the newer iPhone models and high-end Android models. The Android version has not been completely released yet, but can be used as a beta version.

The Zwift Companion App – which allows you to control Zwift with your smartphone – does work on all smartphones. You can read more about what you can do with Zwift Companion later.

Zwift on your Iphone, Ipad or Mac

For Apple devices, you can download Zwift and play it immediately on your iPad or Iphone. Pairing the sensors is only possible through Bluetooth on all Apple devices.

Do you have sensors with ANT+? Then you cannot pair them directly to your Apple device. You can read below on the part Apple TV in what way you can pair ANT+ devices to iPhone or other Apple devices.

Zwift Companion works on both Apple and Android devices.
Zwift Companion works on both Apple and Android devices.

Besides a great turbo trainer and a computer or smartphone, you need multiple sensors. With a regular non-smart turbo trainer you cannot cycle without those sensors.

Do you have a smart trainer? Then one or more of those sensors are often already incorporated in the trainer. Essential is that you can pair your sensors to your computer or smartphone.

Zwift on Apple TV

Do you own a 4th generation Apple TV? Then you can easily run Zwift on it. The only requirement is that you need to have at least a 4th generation Apple TV as you will otherwise be unable to install the app on it.

Zwift works exactly the same on Apple TV as on any other device. Surprisingly Apple TV is the cheapest way of running Zwift on your TV.
Zwift works exactly the same on Apple TV as on any other device. Surprisingly Apple TV is the cheapest way of running Zwift on your TV.

By the way, Zwift does not recommend streaming your mobile device through Airplay. There is a chance that the image malfunctions. In all cases, it is recommended to establish a wired connection.

You install Zwift just like any other app. You can pair your turbo trainer and other sensors quickly. But, and it is an essential point, up to 2 Bluetooth devices can be connected to the Apple TV itself. And it is even not possible to use ANT+. But for both problems there is a solution: the work-around.

Pairing Bluetooth and ANT+ sensors with Apple TV

Do you own more than 2 Bluetooth sensors? Then you can pair them, but you will have to do so via your smartphone. A combined sensor like a speed- and cadence sensor, only count as a single Bluetooth connection.

With an ANT bridge, you can even pair ANT+ sensors on Apple TV or connect more than 2 Bluetooth devices.
With an ANT bridge, you can even pair ANT+ sensors on Apple TV or connect more than 2 Bluetooth devices.

ANT+ is not supported by Apple at all. This means that you cannot connect sensors that only work with ANT+. But… Also here we can use a work-around. You can still pair your ANT+ devices with an ANT bridge.

An ANT bridge is a device that converts an ANT+ signal to Bluetooth. That Bluetooth signal is then transmitted again. A good – and very useful – example of this is the 4iii heart rate monitor. It does not only function as a heart rate monitor but also as an ANT bridge.

This allows you to connect all your ANT+ sensors to the heart rate monitor. It converts all signals to Bluetooth and transmits all data, including your heartbeat, with Bluetooth. This way all signals are combined to 1 Bluetooth signal.

Zwift on Apple TV relatively cheap

Surprisingly enough, the latest generation of Apple TV is the cheapest way of running Zwift on your TV when you do not already own a suitable computer or smartphone. Ideal then if your old computer or smartphone simply cannot handle it.

With the Tacx with Zwift turbo trainers in our superstores we have also chosen Apple TV 4k, so you can experience for yourself how smoothly that works.
With the Tacx with Zwift turbo trainers in our superstores we have also chosen Apple TV 4k, so you can experience for yourself how smoothly that works.

A final advantage of Apple TV is that you can choose a 4k version. This gives you a razor-sharp picture. Zwift also runs just a little smoother on an Apple TV 4k. Do you go for maximum performance and an image without any disruptions? Then it’s best to buy a 4k variant for those few pounds.

Sensors with ANT+ and Bluetooth

In order to pair your sensors to your computer or smartphone, you first need to look at what data protocols your sensors use to transmit. You need to make sure your computer or smartphone is capable of receiving the ANT+ or Bluetooth signals.

At the bottom right of this picture you can see how close we placed the ANT+ dongle on the turbo trainer.
At the bottom right of this picture you can see how close we placed the ANT+ dongle on the turbo trainer.

Bluetooth is something which is pretty standard on most phones and computers these days. In order to pair an ANT+ sensor however, you will be needing an ANT+ receiver. It is a tiny USB stick which you can simply plug into your phone or computer.This budget-friendly set is kind to the wallet.

Pay particular attention when using Garmin sensors, as they’re a little different compared to other sensors. They can only connect using ANT+. So do you own Garmin sensors? You will definitely need the ANT+ receiver!

Paower meters, such as those by Stages, can be paired to Zwift as well.
Power meters, such as those by Stages, can be paired to Zwift as well.

An ANT+ dongle or receiver often doesn’t cost all that much and works using the Plug & Play; no installation required. Using Bluetooth? Do not forget to turn on Bluetooth on your computer or smartphone before trying to connect.

Our ANT+ Dongles for your turbo trainer

Pairing your sensors

After having installed the Zwift software, you will have to pair your sensors to the computer or smartphone. If needed, turn on Bluetooth and/or plug your Bluetooth or ANT+ receiver into the computer.

There is always space for an ANT+ receiver under your bottom bracket if you need one.
There is always space for an ANT+ receiver under your bottom bracket if you need one.

Make sure you do not place an ANT+ receiver too far from the trainer or sensors. It is preferable to use a USB extension cord with which you can place the ANT+ receiver almost directly under your bottom bracket or turbo trainer.

If the connection is not stable, the data on Zwift will fluctuate wildly. This will not help your results and enjoyment. USB extension cables are not expensive and make it a lot easier to maintain a stable signal.

Cooling is convenient

If it is your first time riding on a turbo trainer, you will soon be amazed at how quickly and how much you sweat on one. Since there is no airflow along your body, sweat remains on your skin for longer. Before you know it, it will come gushing out of every pore.

On the one hand, it could be nice, but a lot of cyclists place a fan next to their Zwift-setup. If you let it blow slightly angled on the front, you will suffer less of dripping sweat.

A simple, inexpensive fan is enough to keep you cool.
A simple, inexpensive fan is enough to keep you cool.

By the way, placing your fan at an angle on the front has a better cooling effect than directly from the front, because the fan wind hits a larger part of your body. Also, your body temperature remains a little more constant, and you will not get cold quickly if you keep your legs still for a while.

Also open a window and place a towel over your handlebars to collect the sweat that drips down. You can also purchase special covers which run from your bars to the seat post to keep your beloved bike from getting soaked in sweat. A towel does pretty much the same however though.

A trainer mat to keep the noise down

A turbo trainer can cause significant training noise. If you live in a flat or on an upper floor, a trainer mat can reduce a considerable amount of that noise. The vibrations of a turbo trainer can really cause the sound to carry deep through a building.

A trainer mat doesn’t just help with the noise, it keeps the floor from getting covered in sweat as well.
A trainer mat doesn’t just help with the noise, it keeps the floor from getting covered in sweat as well.

It could very well be that the noise is not too bad in your room, but that you’re neighbours are going crazy with the low hum of the trainer. So ask them after your first ride, as you might be able to do something about it before they’ve had enough with your Zwift adventures.

A special trainer mat for turbo trainers is one of the solutions for noise complaints. You could also use an old yoga mat or a few rubber floor tiles from your local hardware store though. Anything to reduce the noise and vibrations.

Turbo trainer mats

Create a Zwift-account

In order to be able to use Zwift at all, you first need a Zwift account. You can do that very easily through the site.

It might not seem that relevant at first glance but it is very important that while you are setting up your profile, you are completely honest on your age, weight, gender, and other data which you are required to enter. Zwift uses that data to calculate your speed in the virtual world. The more honest you are, the more realistic your results will be.

If you are honest about your body, the results in Zwift will be much more realistic.
If you are honest about your body, the results in Zwift will be much more realistic.

After filling out your email address, you get to pick which flag should be shown next to your name. Enter your preferred metrics under Display Units. With this, everything is set in kilometres, kilos and centimetres, so that is a good idea. Your basic profile is now complete, and you end up at your own profile page.

Customising your Zwift Avatar

Like with many games, Zwift too lets you customise your looks. Firstly, you can set up the general appearance. Add a mustache, beard, long braided hair or wild manes, anything is possible. Even a cycling helmet and glasses can be tailored to your needs.

Cycling glasses, helmet, clothing- everything can be altered if you want to look stylish in the virtual world as well..
Cycling glasses, helmet, clothing- everything can be altered if you want to look stylish in the virtual world as well.

Perhaps the most fun to personalise are the cycling jerseys, your bicycle itself, and even the wheels. You always start with the same cycling clothing, but the more kilometres you rack up, the more different kinds of gear can be unlocked.

Some jerseys, such as this 'Jensie', are only available if you have participated in specific events. In this case a ride with Jens Voigt.
Some jerseys, such as this ‘Jensie’, are only available if you have participated in specific events. In this case a ride with Jens Voigt.

By also participating in challenges or special events, you get to unlock specific cycling jerseys as well. To make it even more exclusive, some cycling jerseys can only be unlocked for a limited time.

Some jerseys are always available, provided that you have the correct unlock code. Fortunately you can find a lot of unlock codes on convenient Zwift sites such asZwift Insider. Not an official blog by the makers of Zwift, but definitely one of the sites you should add to your bookmarks if you plan on seriously taking to Zwift.

How do I pair my turbo trainer and sensors to Zwift?

Before your cycle your first ride on Zwift, you will have to pair your turbo trainer and sensors. After clicking on start a new ride you get to see a menu listing which devices and sensors you wish to connect to Zwift.

Pairing your turbo trainer and possible sensors is easy to do.
Pairing your turbo trainer and possible sensors is easy to do.

Want to pair your turbo trainer? Then click on the turbo trainer-logo. Make sure it is active first though. Often you need to spin your pedals a few times for it to switch on.

As soon as the connection is complete, you will see a clear “OK” on the screen. Do you want to pair sensors as well? Then select each individual sensor separately. When you are pairing your speed- or cadence sensors or power meter, you will often have to pedal in order to create a connection.

As soon as all the devices you wish to pair have been connected, you can get started on your first ride.

Your first ride on Zwift

If all goes well, you now have a suitable turbo trainer -with or without any extra sensors- paired to Zwift. Starting a ride is very easy, just click start and you’ll be shown a menu to choose from.

This lets you choose between a simple training, riding a predetermined route, or just start riding and find your own way around. Once the map has loaded, you can start pedalling.

What do you see on-screen with Zwift?

The screen shows you a number of things. Firstly, your wattage is shown in the top-left corner as well as your cadence and heart rate, provided you have connected the sensors.

In the top-middle section of the screen displayed on a white bar, you see your speed, your covered distance and height covered so far, as well as the time you’ve been riding.

The Zwift screen during a race. A lot of very useful information.
The Zwift screen during a race. A lot of very useful information.

The broad grey bar shows you how much longer till the next level. Every covered kilometre earns you points which slowly fill the bar. The number under the grey bar represents your current level.

There is a mini-map in the top-right section. All the marks on that are other cyclists. You are the largest marker shown, and the arrow points to the direction you are currently heading. Top-right on the map is the gradient. The steeper the climb, the more red that image becomes and the larger the number shown is.

On the mini-map in the top-right section, you will see useful information about the area and people who cycle close to you.
On the mini-map in the top-right section, you will see useful information about the area and people who cycle close to you.

The various colours of all the markers represent the different roles someone could have. A yellow marker denotes the leader in a group ride. The red represent the riders who pick up the dropped riders. And your friends? They are given an orange circle with a star in the middle. This makes it easier to find them again quickly.

How good are other cyclists?

Below the elevation maps, there is a list of nearby cyclists. Besides the name and country of origin, you also see how far away you are from them. Those with a minus in front of their time are ahead, the others behind you.

Their Watts/Kg what they are pedaling is shown as well, plus their covered distance. The phone-sign some might show is representative of the fact that they use Zwift Companion.

The results of a virtual race on Zwift.
The results of a virtual race on Zwift.

Is there a small lightning bolt next to their Watts? Then that means that he or she is using a smart trainer. They own a trainer which is automatically being controlled by Zwift, adjusting the resistance according to the gradient.

But Zwift is so much more than just cycling about in the virtual world. Almost everything about you and your bike can be customised. Those who ride more can even unlock special items, provided they cover sufficient kilometres.

Upgrade your bicycle and wheels for improved performance

Like cycling in the real world, the equipment you choose to ride with can make a significant difference. Aerodynamic Zipp wheels on an aerodynamic road bike? Saves you an easy minute around the Richmond map.

Sleek deep-section wheels on Zwift? You’ll have to earn them first!
Sleek deep-section wheels on Zwift? You’ll have to earn them first!

In order to unlock all of that awesome gear, you will first have to start riding. In fact, for some of that equipment, you will have to cover some serious distances or elevations! Each kilometre covered earns you points. With enough points, new gear is automatically added to your options list.

Besides these useful upgrades which actually make you faster, there are plenty of other things to change as well. To start with the various cycling jerseys. Some are easy to unlock, others need to be earned, and some are no longer available.

How do I get a different cycling jersey on Zwift?

Everybody starts with the same cycling jersey on Zwift. There are however numerous different cycling jerseys which you can earn or unlock with a special code.

Some bike-related companies and websites even have their own jersey which you can get with the right code. You can enter those codes after starting a ride by hitting ‘p’. For instance, to get the jersey used by our friends at Tacx, you enter the code GOTACX. You will then have a jersey and bib shorts by Tacx.

During some events you can also earn exclusive cycling jerseys, such as the 2017 Trek cycling kit.
During some events you can also earn exclusive cycling jerseys, such as the 2017 Trek cycling kit.

There’s a ton of different cycling jerseys available right now. A nice and complete list of all the current jerseys available to unlock can be found on Zwift Insider.

We would happily have given you a code for a Zwift Mantel cycling jersey, but unfortunately, it is impossible to add new cycling jerseys right now. As soon as we add this possibility, we will inform you about it through our Facebook, Twitter, and newsletter.

All of the unlockable gear on Zwift in a list? That is possible. Below is a list of what gear you get on which level.

Unlockable gear on Zwift per level

  1. Zwift cycling kit
  2. 2nd set of Zwift cycling kit
  3. 3rd set of Zwift cycling kit
  4. 32 mm Carbon road bike wheels
  5. De Specialized Allez bike
  6. Classic aluminium road bike wheels
  7. Steel road bike
  8. Collection of vintage cycling clothing
  9. Camouflage cycling clothing
  10. Zipp 808 road bike wheels (fastest wheelset on Zwift)
  11. 2nd set of Camouflage cycling clothing
  12. Zipp 202s road bike wheels
  13. Aerodynamic Zwift road bike
  14. Zipp 404s road bike wheels
  15. Level 15 cycling jersey
  16. Set of Neon cycling clothing
  17. Parlee ESX road bike
  18. Set of classic cycling jersey
  19. Bontrager Aeolus 5 road bike wheels
  20. Trek Madone road bike and the level 20 cycling jersey
  21. Mavic Cosmic CXR60c road bike wheels
  22. Canyon Aeroad road bike
  23. Enve SES 6.7 road bike wheels
  24. Cervelo S5 road bike
  25. Level 25 cycling kit

Besides all of the unlockable jerseys, road bike wheels, and bicycles, there is also a few you can no longer earn. They are handed out during special events or challenges. For instance, you will have to climb over 1000 metres in a single ride to obtain a special sponsor jersey.

Cycling jerseys for KOMs

Within Zwift, there are a few jerseys which you can only (temporarily) earn. Those are the so-called KOM jerseys (KOM = King of the Mountain, but naturally you knew that already). You will get these jerseys automatically when you are the fastest on a specific segment of the map you are currently on.

Inside the vulcano, with the KOM jersey for the vulcano route.
Inside the vulcano, with the KOM jersey for the vulcano route.

Do you own multiple KOMs at once? Then you will get a combined jersey. You automatically lose your jersey if someone is faster than you, or when you change direction. So you can only wear the KOM jersey belonging to the direction you are riding in.

The polkadot jersey naturally represents the KOM on the real climbs.
The polkadot jersey naturally represents the KOM on the real climbs.

If you own a KOM in a certain direction, then that is also shown as a miniature of the jersey next to the list of cyclists on your screen on the right side.

Pairing Zwift to Strava and other apps

The unique thing about Zwift is that you can pair with Strava and other apps. The virtual location where you are cycling has actual real-world GPS coordinates. This shows your ride on Strava as if you have actually ridden there.

Pair Zwift to Strava and you can look back on your ride there as well, even with Fly By’s.
Pair Zwift to Strava and you can look back on your ride there as well, even with Fly By’s.

There are Strava segments as well then, and you can compare your results to the rest of the Strava community. Pairing Strava to Zwift is simple and can be done by logging on to the Zwift website on your account. Go to Settings and click on Connections.

Once there, select Strava or your other favourite training tool. Now all you need to do is log onto that app or tool and complete the connection. Now all your Zwift rides are automatically shared and processed, allowing you to keep track of all of your cycling kilometres.

The Zwift maps; Watopia, London, Richmond and Innsbruck

Right now, you can train on four different maps through Zwift. You can choose for the 2012 London Olympic course. Experience the virtual version of the 2015 World Championships in Richmond. In Innsbruck, you are allowed to cycle the 2018 World Championship.

And at last, there is Watopia, by far the most popular map on Zwift right now. This is a self-designed world with a lot of climbing. It even includes an exact copy of Alpe d’Huez!

Waiting for the start of a group ride on the pier in Watopia.
WWaiting for the start of a group ride on the pier in Watopia.

Unfortunately, you cannot officially choose which map you wish to ride on that particular day. You have to depend on the planning from Zwift for that instead. Fortunately, they publish which route can be ridden at what time far in advance every month. You see the calendar when you are logged on as well, meaning you might be able to plan your next ride on your favourite map.

London Olympics

You can ride part of the Olympic course in London. You get to see part of the city centre and then ride to the short but sharp climb up Box Hill via the Metro. In total you get to cover 40 kilometres of tarmac in London, with a maximum elevation of 228 metres on Keith Hill.

Naturally, the Tower Bridge is also part of the London Olympics map.
Naturally, the Tower Bridge is also part of the London Olympics map.

At the beginning of 2018, the route in London will be provided with a substantial extra loop. With lots of climbing on Keith Hill and Leith Hill. A nice place to thread the miles together. In total you can now cycle 11 prescribed routes in London.

The 2015 World Championships in Richmond

Richmond is the least favourite map on Zwift right now. The course is relatively flat, bar a single climb with an elevation of just 65 metres. The route is also only 18.9 kilometres long, making it a little boring when you have got a long training session planned.

Want to reenact the World Championships? You can with the Richmond map.
Want to reenact the World Championships? You can with the Richmond map.

Fortunately they are aware of this at Zwift, so the Richmond map is usually only activated for 1 day every 2 weeks. In addition, Richmond is also never on the schedule for weekend rides either.

The World Championship in Innsbruck

In the summer of 2018, before the Road World Championship, Zwift introduced a new map of the course of the World Championship in Innsbruck.

For now, the route consists of the local circulation of the World Championship in and around Innsbruck. But do not think it is a boring course. There are quite a few altimeters in those 24 kilometres. The steep side of the climb regularly hits gradients of around 15 per cent with a peak of 17 per cent.

Anyone who takes the climb from both sides is really close to the 1000 altimeters. It should take some time for many cyclists.

Zwift pays more and more attention to the environment you cycle through. This is particularly noticeable in the centre of Innsbruck.
Zwift pays more and more attention to the environment you cycle through. This is particularly noticeable in the centre of Innsbruck.

Fat chance that the Innsbruck map will have some expansion. There are several exits to see that are still turned off. And from some places you will see, very tempting, the Alps. Many Zwift cyclists with climbers legs will have crossed their fingers for a nice extra climb in case of a possible update of the map.

With gradients of 15 per cent and more, Innsbruck is a huge challenge for even the most experienced cyclists.
With gradients of 15 per cent and more, Innsbruck is a huge challenge for even the most experienced cyclists.

It is noticeable that the people at Zwift pay more attention to the environment you cycle through. First of all, the centre of Innsbruck is beautifully designed. Who knows the city in real life will certainly get an eureka effect.

The possibilities in Innsbruck are a lot larger and more varied compared to the map of Richmond. Because the route is also a lot longer, it probably will be a lot more popular, and therefore more often return in the monthly planning of Zwift.

Watopia, the cycling utopia

Watopia is by far the most popular map. Not only because it is easily the most extensive map, but also because it is very diverse. You can opt for a relatively flat route. But if you love to climb, you can also cycle uphill an exact copy of the Alpe d’Huez; Alpe du Zwift. More about that epic climb further on.

Real mountains!
Real mountains!

Besides real climbs, you can also choose a route over more rolling terrain, or one which is virtually flat. The map of Watopia is extended in the last few years, including a volcano you can ride on, and a jungle where you can cycle through the Mayan ruins.

Watopia offers many beautiful views.
Watopia offers many beautiful views.

Is climbing not your thing? But do you want to enjoy a different view? Then the jungle route is an excellent route for you. You have to be at level 10 to enter the jungle.

The jungle is not only a fun, challenging route, but it also looks gorgeous as well. You have to be at level 10 to enter the jungle.
The jungle is not only a fun, challenging route, but it also looks gorgeous as well. You have to be at level 10 to enter the jungle.

The jungle was the first extension where you have to be at level 10 to enter the jungle. With the addition of the Alpe d’Huez, that closed area has been increased. And for Alpe du Zwift, even a minimum of level 12 is required. But level 12 is easy to reach when you cycle every now and then. And then you can go uphill at the Alpe d’Huez!

Alpe d’Huez on Zwift: Alpe du Zwift

Many fanatical cyclists have been waiting for an extension on a huge and long climb for a long time. So, Zwift provided the extension with Alpe du Zwift. This is an almost exact copy of Alpe d’Huez. So you can defy the 21 iconic turns in a virtual landscape as well. And from afar Alpe du Zwift can be called impressive.

From afar Alpe du Zwift is quite impressive.
From afar Alpe du Zwift is quite impressive.

The map of Alpe du Zwift corresponds precisely to the real Alpe d’Huez. The length is the same, and the percentages of the gradient are very similar. Cyclists who have also climbed the real mountain generally think that the virtual version even is a little heavier and a little more irregular concerning the gradient.

The iconic turns also have a few motivating cries, fortunately. You will need them just before the peak.
The iconic turns also have a few motivating cries, fortunately. You will need them just before the peak.

The climb itself is fun, of course, but there has to be something for the eye. It all starts with a custom mini card at the top-right of your screen. There you will find now a small map of only your climb. The 21 turns are numbered, and you get a star after each rounded turn. A countdown always has a motivating effect.

Corner 7? Yeah, orange tents! Even in a virtual world, the Dutch managed to claim corner 7...
Corner 7? Yeah, orange tents! Even in a virtual world, the Dutch managed to claim corner 7…

And luckily there is enough to see while going uphill. Castles, forest activity and occasionally a beautiful view from afar. And depending on the time of day, you can also watch a sunset or sunrise.

The view is also worthwhile, with castles and forest activity.
The view is also worthwhile, with castles and forest activity.

During our first ride it was on top of night and we even seen bits of the northern lights…

Descending like a pro

But there is more than a northern light waiting on the top. When you pass the finish arch, you randomly unlock a bicycle helmet, cycling clothing, or, for example, bicycle wheels. But perhaps the biggest reward for reaching the top is the descent. You can enjoy that after your hard work.

At the top of Alpe du Zwift not only satisfaction awaits, but also a reward with in-game gear.
At the top of Alpe du Zwift not only satisfaction awaits, but also a reward with in-game gear.

And you do not have to pedal for the entire descent. In fact, we even started to make tea. Next to the bike trainer, you will find a cup of tea in your hands while still touching 70 km/h, which is sometimes a pleasant experience.

Going downhill? Make a cup of tea and drink it next to the bike trainer!
Going downhill? Make a cup of tea and drink it next to the bike trainer!

Are you going faster than 56 kilometres per hour, and do you keep your legs still? After a few seconds your character takes the same bike position as you know from the pros; the supertuck. So with the bottom on the top tube for even more aerodynamic advantage. And a really nice thing is that you cannot make a steering error, so it is safe to stay on Zwift…

Are you going faster than 56 km/h downhill? And you keep your legs still? Your avatar automatically takes the nice aerodynamic supertuck position for more speed.
Are you going faster than 56 km/h downhill? And you keep your legs still? Your avatar automatically takes the nice aerodynamic supertuck position for more speed.

For Alpe du Zwift alone, it is worth the effort to reach level 12. In the future, there will be more additions that require a minimum level, so you do not do it only for the Alpe.

Zwift training sessions and workouts

Zwift is, besides fun, also very suitable to run through your various planned training sessions with. Since your data is being meticulously recorded and there are no external factors to take into consideration, you can train with great levels of precision.

Every preprogrammed training shows you precisely what it is for.
Every preprogrammed training shows you precisely what it is for.

Zwift even offers a wide range of pre-set training sessions. With this you can work towards an improved stamina for instance, or raise your FTP.

JYou can also compose your own cycling training.
JYou can also compose your own cycling training.

By regularly performing training sessions, you will not only get better but you can also enter into races at higher levels. Great when you love a challenge. You can start a training session on the home screen upon starting Zwift.

Train flexible with Zwift training plans

Zwift is not only a lovely way to continue cycling but also very good as a training tool. You can finish individual training courses, or you can choose a real training plan. The training plans have been compiled together with top athletes and coaches and will make your training even more professional.

A single training course is called a workout. Depending on what you want to train, you choose an exercise that suits you.

There is a wide range of training plans to choose from. Zwift has already said that there are many plans more on the way.
There is a wide range of training plans to choose from. Zwift has already said that there are many plans more on the way.

But do you want to work through a structured training plan? Then you can use the flexible Zwift Training Plans. Here you can choose different types of training plans that fit your training goal. This can be a monster trip, but also an ordinary refreshment, for example.

JYou can change the duration of a training plan at any time. Does your final goal end a bit earlier? Then you just shorten the training plan.
You can change the duration of a training plan at any time. Does your final goal end a bit earlier? Then you just shorten the training plan.

And the great thing is that the training plan is entirely flexible. You can choose how many weeks you want to follow a training plan. The intensity is then adjusted where necessary.

At Zwift, they even take your real life into account. Is a workout not convenient for you? Then you do the training a day later! The training plan will then adjust it automatically. And if the weather is too beautiful for indoor training at Zwift? Then you can just check off your training of that day.

This training plan consists of no less than 51 training sessions over a period of 8 weeks. But then you will start your race very sharp!
This training plan consists of no less than 51 training sessions over a period of 8 weeks. But then you will start your race very sharp!

In de winter van 2018/2019 breidt Zwift de training plans steeds verder uit. Je kunt dan uit meer verschillende trainingen kiezen. Helaas kun je per account maar een training plan actief hebben. Als je wisselt ben je de gegevens van het oude training plan kwijt.

Racing and training at your own level

One of the great and interactive things about Zwift is that you can compete in group rides and races. In order to make sure that everyone can compete, there are five different levels to choose from.

The extensive report on your ride. Great if you are into numbers.
The extensive report on your ride. Great if you are into numbers.

That level is based on how many Watts you can produce per KG of body weight. This way you can compete against fellow cyclists of your own level, which makes competing a lot more fun.

Once you know how many Watt/KG you can produce after a few rides on Zwift, you can easily select a race of your level. Do you want to know exactly what your level is? Then perform an FTP test on Zwift.

Race levels on Zwift

  • A: 4+ w/kg
  • B: 3.2 – 3.9 w/kg
  • C: 2.5 – 3,1 w/kg
  • D: 1 – 2.4 w/kg
  • E: Alles / Open

Generally speaking you could say that D-level is for novice riders. C is for more experienced cyclists. B is for advanced riders, and A-level events are for experts.

You are all put on a virtual trainer before the start of every ride and race.
You are all put on a virtual trainer before the start of every ride and race.

You can determine what level you want to ride on. Do you find yourself between levels and wanting a challenge? Then go one level up. All that can go wrong is that you cannot keep up and get dropped. Nobody will mind.

Give kudos and more with Zwift Companion

You can easily operate Zwift from your computer. But if you want to make quick and easy adjustments on the go, then the Zwift Companion is very useful.

Just got passed by someone? Give them a Ride On!
Just got passed by someone? Give them a Ride On!

Simply download the app for an Android or Apple smartphone in the App store. Make sure that your smartphone is connected to the same wifi network as your computer. When you start the app, you are presented with a list of people currently on Zwift.

You also get to see a list of events on the calendar. Convenient to plan your next training with. In addition, it also shows you your most recent activities.

Have you been on someone’s wheel for a while? Give them a Ride On...
Have you been on someone’s wheel for a while? Give them a Ride On…

Is your Zwift booted up as well? Then you get a menu with several buttons during your ride. Firstly, you can easily capture screenshots with it. Because even though the landscape is virtual, at times, it is too beautiful not to share. It is also easy to give kudos or to change directions.

The mini card is very nice and useful. Quite convenient if you want to follow your route. Do you like to give kudos? Touching your own arrow will automatically give kudos to the 5 closest riders. You can do this, approximately, once every 15 to 30 seconds. If you have already given someone kudos, then, of course, Zwift does not do that again…

Create screenshots, view a mini map and other fun interactions, it is all possible with Zwift Companion.
Create screenshots, view a mini map and other fun interactions, it is all possible with Zwift Companion.

You can also use Zwift Companion as a chat app while you are cycling. Private messages or group calls can then be easily and quickly started. In short, Zwift Companion is a must-have!

Hacks and Add-ons for Zwift – ride where you want, when you want

Like we said before that -officially- it is not possible to determine for yourself what map you are going to ride. But fortunately there os a non-official add-on available for download with which you can; Zwift-preferences. This is currently only available for Windows computers, and is not supported by Zwift.

No boring living room. With Zwift you can cycle through four different maps. And with the right hack, you can decide for yourself when you cycle which map.
No boring living room. With Zwift you can cycle through four different maps. And with the right hack, you can decide for yourself when you cycle which map.

With this add-on, you can pick your own map and even determine what route you are going to ride on which map as standard. The programme is simple and easy to use, but despite our own positive experiences the installation and use of it is at your own risk.

In addition to the useful card hack for Zwift, Zwift Preferences also offers a couple of other useful tools. So you can always have Zwift’s window displayed in the foreground. Or you can set up convenient hotkeys to operate Zwift without a mouse. But here too, they are not official add-ons, and there is no guarantee that it will work and will continue to work.

Achievements to challenge yourself with

There’s a number of official achievements you can reach. Things like symbolic milestones, such as a 100 kilometre ride, or when you put out 500 or maybe even 1000 Watts. Or even more fun, if you’ve touched on 100 kilometres an hour down a virtual descend.

Some achievements might stay out of reach, but there are plenty of them on there to keep challenging yourself. Look at the menu during the game to see which achievements you have got by clicking on the medal.

If you complete an achievement, then it will show prominently on screen during your ride.

Extra challenges, with challenges

In order to make it all even more exciting, there are a number of challenges you can complete on Zwift. In some cases you can unlock nice extra gear upon completion, such as the Trek Emonda when you have climbed a total elevation equal to the ascent of mount Everest. Currently there are three challenges you can select.

The three different challenges in a row.
The three different challenges in a row.
  • Mount Everest challenge, climb a total of 8.850 metres
  • Ride California, ride a total of 1.283 kilometres
  • Tour Italy, cycle a total of 2000 kilometres

You can only participate in one challenge at a time, and the kilometres or vertical metres covered only count towards a single challenge. You can select a challenge when you log onto Zwift for the first time.

Are you going to virtually cycle across Italy?
Are you going to virtually cycle across Italy?

Want to change challenges? You can by pausing during a ride. Click then on the active challenge and you can change it. A really special challenge, which can only be unlocked later, is the Mount Everest challenge.

If you have climbed a total of 50 kilometres in Zwift – with the Everest challenge selected – you can unlock the Tron Bike. It is a road bike with wheels which light up, which also happens to be really fast. And then you can remarkably show off that you have already completed this heavy challenge.

What does a Zwift subscription cost?

Naturally Zwift is not free. The subscription costs 15 dollars a month. You can cycle as often as you want and as much as you want on Zwift. You do not want to let your subscription run through the summer? Do not worry, your performance, covered kilometres and achievements will just be preserved.

You frequently run into training pros on Zwift.
You frequently run into training pros on Zwift.

Zwift subscriptions can be cancelled every month and you can Zwift buy a subscription online. Lots of cyclists around Europe subscribe from roughly October to April.

This way, you can train all winter long and yet you do not have to pay for something you are not using over the summer. But because Zwift is also being used more and more as a training tool, you can even get an annual subscription.

Zwift free trial – At home or in our superstores

Still not quite sure if Zwift is something for you? Then you can ride a maximum of 25 free kilometres every month. Great to try out the Alpe du Zwift in Watopia. An FTP test does not take more than 25 kilometres either. So what are you waiting for? Fire up that computer, smartphone, or Apple TV and start with Zwift!

Challenge your friends in our superstores in Arnhem or Den Bosch.
Challenge your friends in our superstores in Arnhem or Den Bosch.

In our superstores in Arnhem and Den Bosch, we also have a whole peloton of Zwift setups waiting for you. These are the largest Zwift setups in the Netherlands, and you are always welcome to cycle. Do not hesitate to take a friend with you, and you will be able to compete with each other immediately!

You can opt for different types of turbo trainers from different brands such as Tacx, Wahoo and CycleOps. Then you also immediately know which trainer suits you.

How can I start using Zwift in 6 steps? (TLDR)

Just want to use Zwift, and could you care less for Strava, jerseys, group rides, races and everything else Zwift has to offer? Do you want to get going as quickly as possible, and you do not care much for all the technical malarky?

You can get going with Zwift in just 6 steps. For those who are as quick with a PC as they are with a bike, below in 6 quick steps our How-To Zwift.

How-To Zwift in 6 steps

  1. Buy a suitable, interactive turbo trainer or sensors
  2. Buy suitable ANT+ or a Bluetooth dongle
  3. Install Zwift on your computer, smartphone or tablet
  4. Create a Zwift-profile
  5. Start a ride and pair your trainer and sensors
  6. Ride on!
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Olle Vastbinder

Olle Vastbinder

You can find me on a bicycle almost every day. I commute each day from my house to work and back. Often on my road bike, and during the winter on an old crosser. And if that isn't enough, you can find me on my bike during most weekends too. On my trusty road bike or my mountainbike. And if you can't find me outdoors riding my bike, odds are I might be riding on Zwift

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2 thoughts on “Zwift – How does It Work and What can You do with It? [How-To]”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this interesting content with us. I adore riding a bike, and no virtual reality could replace the feeling.

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