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So now that you finally have that interactive trainer, what software will you use to run it?

For a vast majority, the answer may have already come even before the purchase of the trainer. And the answer is Zwift. 

With 550 thousand accounts as of January 2018, Zwift has proven to be perhaps the most popular indoor cycling training software available. While retaining the familiar training elements found in other trainer programs, Zwift has added the experience of riding in a virtual 3D world with other 
Zwifters in real time.

By doing such, Zwift has, almost miraculously, taken away the monotony of turbo training.  After all "I enjoy staring at numbers the whole duration of my workout" said no one ever. 

Zwift as we know it today began as an idea back in 2014. Long story short, Eric Min, the founder, was a cyclist looking to spice up his indoor training; not satisfied with the options available. He found a post by programmer Jon Mayfield regarding a 3D trainer program. They developed a partnership and in September 2014, launched the Zwift open beta. With the goal to incorporate gaming, social and competitive elements into the software, the team received 13,000 join requests for the 1,000 slots they opened. They knew they were on to something and by October 2015, things got ironed out enough that they went to full commercial launch.

Zwift is available on PC, Mac, iOS and is currently on beta in Android. It uses Bluetooth Smart or ANT+ FE-C to connect to your interactive trainer. 
At this point I have to disclose that I absolutely love Zwift. True it has some UX niggles and not at all perfect but these things can be worked around on to a point where it's almost nitpicking to mention these flaws.

Cycling courses never came this perfect. 

So what makes Zwift a no-brainer recommendation? Here's a list: 

1. The Virtual Environment 

Let me rephrase that: IT. IS. NOT. BORING. Trainers can and will get boring. It's just a matter of time. Zwift's gorgeous 3D environment and high quality rendering keeps your eyes and your mind on the road, and gives you an authentic feeling of riding out. That said, this experience is highly dependent on the display device and what hardware you're using to run Zwift.  The experience of running it using an iPad will definitely differ to that of a PC using a GTX 1080 displaying on a 75" flat screen. 

You have the virtual island of Watopia, based on the islands Te Anu and Naunonga in the Solomons. Here you can ride on piers, islands, underwater glass tunnels and even thru a volcano. Perhaps most challenging is an analogue of the Alpe d'Huez called Alpe du Zwift whiich is located in the same environs. So from Pacific Islands to the Alps, Watopia has it all! That is, if you survive 'till level 12...long enough to unlock it. 

Manta rays, lava, birds, wisps of frost and even the Dutch corner.... all here. 

BUT WAIT! There's more. 

As of August 2018, there are three more locales being rotated with Watopia on a regular basis. First, we have London (where you get to ride through Box Hill and the London Underground). Here you can have a go at the Prudential Ride London course and various sub-routes. 

Next we have Richmond, Virginia site of the 2015 UCI World Championships and last but not least, a partial rendering of the 2018 Worlds course in Innsbruck, Austria. The buildings and scenery of the real world courses are wonderfully rendered, and trust me when I say that this has to be viewed at maximum detail (4K setting) to be fully appreciated. 

In providing real world courses, Zwift has given everyone a chance to ride these courses and have a taste of what it would feel like to actually be there. Professional cyclists pop up from time to time to actually recon these roads using Zwift. 

Reaching for the PRT SCR key apparently reduces your power to 1W.

2. The Social Element

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far go together". If you want to do both, go Zwift. 

It still brings a sense of satisfaction when I see a fellow Filipino rider when I hit the virtual roads of Zwift. Seeing your flag being carried by a someone going 4.5 watts/kg brings a sort of pride, even if said person is blowing past my 2.0 watts/kg. Better yet, riding with someone you know and comparing notes afterward is not that far off from riding with them in real life. You get to compare which parts killed you, see the same sights and even measure yourselves against each other and the Zwift community in general. 

Like Facebook, you get likes to motivate you realtime.... and even gestures to wave or elbow flick  people riding aside you.

We have a Zwift community of around 300+ members who do weekly rides and races. Most are serious athletes there for the training and it can get challenging to keep up. But hey, getting stronger is the point right?

3. Gamification 

Just like any progression based computer game, Zwift rewards you the more you keep Zwifting.  You start with customizing your avatar with various hair, clothing and bike options. Where clothing is mostly cosmetic, your bike choice actually matters. At the beginning of your Zwift career, you have several generic, Zwift branded wheels and frames to choose from. These are rated by stars according to weight and aerodynamics. If you choose stuff with more aero stars, then you can expect to go a wee bit faster on the flats. Choose more weight stars and you will be faster once the grades go up. 

Use a TT bike for flat courses.

Some equipment is better than others and you get to unlock them as you go along. Personally, I'm shooting for level 22 because it unlocks the Canyon Aeroad. I already have the Zipp 404s in my inventory so it'll be just a few more levels before I can have the same setup as trainer bike...... you know, for maximum accuracy. 

Leveling up is just one aspect. Achieving KOMs is another. There are sprint sections and mountain sections where you can, If worthy, get to wear the Polka Dot Mountain KOM jersey for an hour or the Green jersey for sprint sections. 

Drafting another Zwifter reduces the trainer resistance, simulating real worlds drafting. There are boosts to be earned at certain stages, such as a Aero, Weight, Drafting and straight up experience points to help you get to that next level faster. 

First person view is immersive but can give you motion sickness especially on twisty descents

FTP is automatically adjusted if you hit a new high, or just do an FTP test

Personally the most challenging virtual climb I encountered: The Radio Tower.

4. Competition

While initially for working out, Zwift's founders found quite a few people getting competitive and having races. So they ran with the idea and introduced racing. Just like real life, riders are categorized by power-to-weight numbers. 

A: 4.0 w/kg FTP or higher
B: 3.2 w/kg to 4.0 w/kg FTP
C: 2.5 w/kg to 3.2 w/kg FTP
D: Under 2.5 w/kg FTP

People who would otherwise not be racing are doing crits in Zwift. However as with any other online game, concerns about cheating are always present. Anyone can just drop a kilo or two or three or ten from their declared weight and suddenly ride like a pro. As such, a volunteer group called ZADA or Zwift Anti Doping Agency was formed to review riders performing at elite levels. Yes, you read that right. 

It may be comical but sometimes there are real world prizes to be won so this actually makes sense. People flagged by the group are asked to submit real life proof that their numbers aren't spoofs. 

Aside from racing, there's also the Zwift Academy. This is an eight week virtual training camp where aspirants go through workouts designed by pro coaches.  Performance is monitored and 4 Group rides and two races are thrown into the mix in order to select the three best U23 riders among the group. These will get a chance of a lifetime and attend Team Dimension Data's real life training camp. In the end, the last man or woman standing will receive an actual pro rider contract from Team Dimension Data.


Motivational messages painted on virtual roads really do boost morale.

5. Workouts

Don't worry, Zwift has not forgotten your intervals! Out of the box, It comes with several structured workouts to help you lift your FTP. Most beginners will likely choose the 4-Week FTP Booster programme, which almost everyone in the Zwift community attests to boosting their FTP by a mean of 5% at the end of the month. There are also workouts from GCN, workouts sorted by duration or by objective. Long rides, Sprints, Climbs.... it has you covered. 

If it doesn't have what you want, you can just as easily make your own workout using the workout creator interface. Thankfully drag-and-drop, creating a two hour workout takes just around five minutes, if not faster. 

In the end, Zwift is fun and can definitely give you a workout. While I struggled at lasting more than an hour on the trainer using previous devices. Just this month, I completed a two plus hour ride up Alpe du Zwift. It's really that fun. 

The Wrap

Zwift runs on a monthly subscription model which goes for around P700 monthly. Depending on how much you actually use it, this can be viewed as the most expensive trainer software or the cheapest  (and only) Cycling MMORPG. The question now is how long will Zwift's dominance last? Two competitors are now ongoing beta testing and both have their own advantages of Zwift. I'm referring to VirtuGo and Road Grand Tours. 

Until we see these new guns in their final form, I'm pretty content with Zwift as it is. For me, as long as it keeps me on the turbo longer, every peso spent is worth it. 

Now excuse me, but it's time to sweat it up in Watopia. RIDE ON! 

The descent from Alpe Du Zwift is exhilarating! 

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