Zwift - does it get better?

rdtrdt Posts: 863
I've been using TrainerRoad for 18 months or so for structured training, am quite happy with it, and keep an annual subs for use throughout the year, which I use a lot.

A background plan has been to add in a bit of Zwift during the darker months, but I've been in no hurry...

I've not previously had a device capable of running Zwift, but I've seen plenty of videos of it and follow developments from a distance. I've been waiting for the next Apple TV box to launch, hoping this would set me up as a cheap but decent Zwift device that'd last for a few years. NB It's 2 years since the 4k box launched, and it looks like there might be a an upgraded one incoming ( https://www.macrumors.com/2019/09/04/ap ... ng-rumors/ ), which I'd be interested in buying.

But last week I got a new Android phone that can run Zwift so gave it a whirl using my Neo on the free 25km per month (not the 7 day trial yet, as I was about to travel...).

I was a bit underwhelmed, but I realise there were a few things less than ideal:
- Tiny phone screen vs. TV screen (which I'd be using if I bought an Apple TV);
- Limited route options because I was a newbie.

I found Zwift quite motivating in terms of caning it for 30-odd minutes, but not really very immersive. It reminded me of a slightly fancier version of riding a GPS route on the old Tacx Android app, which showed you on a Google Maps route. I actually felt "trapped" on the Volcano and NY course segments I was riding and thought it would quickly become a bit tedious if that "was it".

Does it get much better with
(a) a big screen?
(b) more routes to choose from (NB it's majorly off-putting that the gamification means you cannot access everything from the get-go)?
(c) other stuff such as races (NB virtual group rides don't currently have any appeal to me)?

TIA.
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Posts

  • StillGoingStillGoing Posts: 5,007
    I'm not a big fan of Zwift for the just riding side of it, but the workouts are useful and easy to follow with ERG mode. You can use codes to change locations even with the trial versions. The codes are easily found on the internet.
    TACX iFlow - basic, Bushido smart -Rubbish, Elite Kura - not smart, Direto - awful, Tacx Neo1 - perfect.
  • rdtrdt Posts: 863
    philthy3 wrote:
    You can use codes to change locations even with the trial versions. The codes are easily found on the internet.

    Are you talking about prefs.xml changes? Not possible on Android or Apple TV, to the best of my knowledge.

    Or something else?
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  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    It doesn't take long to get the extra access. Level 10 for the jungle isn't it ?

    Zwift has a lot of training sessions and events so that might motivate you ?

    I did enjoy trainerroad too but you need to be more dedicated to go with TR I found. Zwift is a bit more fun.
  • rdt wrote:
    Does it get much better with
    (a) a big screen?
    (b) more routes to choose from (NB it's majorly off-putting that the gamification means you cannot access everything from the get-go)?
    (c) other stuff such as races (NB virtual group rides don't currently have any appeal to me)?

    a) I just run it on the laptop screen, it's not there for the scenery for me
    b) agree it is a bit annoying not to get everything from the start but the basic stuff in Watopia gives enough variation doesn't it? I can't remember missing much except the Alpe and maybe a bit of the jungle.
    c) THE RACES!!!! This is what it's all about for me. It's a way of getting a hard unstructured workout that really pushes me.

    The workouts with erg mode are good but I guess no better than Trainerroad, but the races are what makes it worth it. I'm not interested in group rides on there at all either.
    and then the next thing you know
  • nitrousoxidenitrousoxide Posts: 3,791
    On a laptop, you can easily force a world change that deviates from the calendar schedule, plus tweak other settings https://zwiftinsider.com/zwift-preferences-update/

    The "level" system in Zwift is silly IMO, that opens up courses and equipment. For example, Alpe Du Zwift opens up at level12, but climbers earn level-up points based on distance rather than elevation or riding time! You can cheat the system by joining events taking place in locked locations, or joining a rider... But you have to guess from their pace whether they might be say climbing the Alpe hairpins.

    The quickest way to earn level-up points is to select distance units as Km (20 per), as opposed to 30 per mile. Ride flat courses (you could use ERG mode on smart trainer to make things more variable) on the Zwift TT frame and the deepest rim wheels you have (before then buying the ~91000 units Enve set ASAP).

    I moaned when they put the price up to £13pcm, but the second consecutive subscription payment headed to Zwift yesterday. Through illness, injury and carp weather, my outdoor summer season has been a write-off. But mixing up courses; freeride or ERG traning sessions; races; TTs; odd group ride has made me turn the corner since late July. It probably helped that I found turboing in a different room meant I could put out some feable power on the flats and downhills without upsetting the downstairs neighbours or my better half!
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    2017 Cube Attain GTC Pro Disc 2016
    2016 Voodoo Wazoo
  • rdtrdt Posts: 863
    [c) THE RACES!!!! This is what it's all about for me. It's a way of getting a hard unstructured workout that really pushes me.

    The workouts with erg mode are good but I guess no better than Trainerroad, but the races are what makes it worth it. I'm not interested in group rides on there at all either.


    To expand on my initial post...

    Indoor structured indoor interval training has a clear focused purpose, and is very effective IMO, while outside riding in the nice rural places I get to ride I find to be very good for the head (and the soul!) in addition to the exercise benefits. But just riding around in Zwift felt uninvolving for me, and felt rather "pointless".

    I plan to keep retain my TrainerRoad subs (for the structured training plans) for the foreseeable future, eg. until they bin my grandfathered-in $10 pricing, which will happen at some point, such as when TR gets acquired one day (anytime between 1 week and 10 years from now...).

    But Zwift RACES, I can understand the potential appeal of that, so I should give a few a go before deciding whether to spend money on the Apple gear I mentioned.

    How do I go about finding and entering suitable races, ie. ones scheduled at the right time and at the right w/kg etc?
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  • nitrousoxidenitrousoxide Posts: 3,791
    https://zwiftpower.com/

    Click an event and expand the description.

    Far easier on the Zwift Companion app, but no idea if there is an iOS version.
    ================
    2017 Cube Attain GTC Pro Disc 2016
    2016 Voodoo Wazoo
  • and then the next thing you know
  • rdtrdt Posts: 863
    On a laptop, you can easily force a world change that deviates from the calendar schedule, plus tweak other settings https://zwiftinsider.com/zwift-preferences-update/

    As mentioned, no laptop for Zwift, so not possible on Android (now) or Apple TV (future).

    The "level" system in Zwift is silly IMO, that opens up courses and equipment. For example, Alpe Du Zwift opens up at level12, but climbers earn level-up points based on distance rather than elevation or riding time! You can cheat the system by joining events taking place in locked locations, or joining a rider... But you have to guess from their pace whether they might be say climbing the Alpe hairpins.

    The quickest way to earn level-up points is to select distance units as Km (20 per), as opposed to 30 per mile. Ride flat courses (you could use ERG mode on smart trainer to make things more variable) on the Zwift TT frame and the deepest rim wheels you have (before then buying the ~91000 units Enve set ASAP).

    Thanks for the tips.

    NB I do find these gamification aspects of Zwift ***massively annoying and off-putting***. Such mickey mouse stuff might help keep a few punters hooked, I suppose, but that's perhaps offset (or more) by those like me who think it's idiotic and see it as a barrier to using and subscribing to Zwift!
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  • rdtrdt Posts: 863
    Thanks for the links folks!

    Appreciated.
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  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,297
    £13/month for Zwift ... I'll stick with Bkool which I get for £3/month atm ...

    Choose any course I want - from the get go - and upload my own if there's nothing I fancy ...
  • alex222alex222 Posts: 583
    For me it is definitely about the races. But for that I don't think there would be enough to keep me motivated.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    Rdt if you think it's idiotic then why bother with something that clearly annoys you.

    Use something else ?
  • cougie wrote:
    Rdt if you think it's idiotic then why bother with something that clearly annoys you.

    Use something else ?

    I also think that not having access to certain routes until you have ridden for weeks is daft.

    Power ups I'm a bit less bothered about - I think they are a bit weird in races but part of the game I guess. Prefer races that say no power ups though.
    and then the next thing you know
  • rdtrdt Posts: 863
    cougie wrote:
    Rdt if you think it's idiotic then why bother with something that clearly annoys you.

    Use something else ?

    As mentioned, I do use something else (TR) for structured training, so have that base covered.

    The "idiotic" reference was to the overt gamification aspects (gaining access to new levels, power ups, etc) of Zwift, not the overall concept, aspects of which do appeal hence me beginning to kick its tyres a bit and ask questions...

    What I am interested are its cycling simulation aspects and ability to be competitive to some degree with other people, which can be motivating and fun. Zwift is the leader here, not least because is has the first mover advantage subscriber numbers (punters simultaneously online), but clearly I'm not "committed" to it and am open to other suggestions...

    Bear in mind I don't have Windows, Mac OS or iOS devices, so options are a bit limited :wink:
    However, I am prepared to buy an Apple TV, so options are beginning to open up there as apps get ported over. Zwift is one of the few options I can check out today on Android (phone), and if I really like it, be able to pony up for a more immersive Apple TV setup.
    NB the Apple TV (& TV) would be housed in a gym room, and be bought solely for this bike training purpose, so I'd need to be pretty sure I'd make use of it before buying.
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  • TR is far better for structured training. Zwift only allows access to a workout if you have done the previous one. If you are coaching yourself and want access to specific workouts you can't always get them.
    If you want to smash yourself and get a hard workout then the races are great...even if some peoples power numbers look better than a pro when you lose :-)
  • dannbodgedannbodge Posts: 705
    slowbike wrote:
    £13/month for Zwift ... I'll stick with Bkool which I get for £3/month atm ...

    Choose any course I want - from the get go - and upload my own if there's nothing I fancy ...

    I've only paid £8 a month for my next 12 months of Zwift.
  • nitrousoxidenitrousoxide Posts: 3,791
    dannbodge wrote:
    slowbike wrote:
    £13/month for Zwift ... I'll stick with Bkool which I get for £3/month atm ...

    Choose any course I want - from the get go - and upload my own if there's nothing I fancy ...

    I've only paid £8 a month for my next 12 months of Zwift.

    How have you managed that? The £8pcm for long term subscribers was supposed to finish November 2018. The best deal I've come across by chance was something like ~£130 for 12 months, getting a voucher from Hargroves IIRC.
    ================
    2017 Cube Attain GTC Pro Disc 2016
    2016 Voodoo Wazoo
  • dannbodgedannbodge Posts: 705
    dannbodge wrote:
    slowbike wrote:
    £13/month for Zwift ... I'll stick with Bkool which I get for £3/month atm ...

    Choose any course I want - from the get go - and upload my own if there's nothing I fancy ...

    I've only paid £8 a month for my next 12 months of Zwift.

    How have you managed that? The £8pcm for long term subscribers was supposed to finish November 2018. The best deal I've come across by chance was something like ~£130 for 12 months, getting a voucher from Hargroves IIRC.

    There was a guy on eBay selling 1 year subscription cards for £100.
  • The appeal of Zwift is greater than just structured training. I guess they're pitching somewhere between the hard-line TrainerRoad crowd and the mainstream Peloton audience.

    Zwift's niche is the social aspect. Group rides, group training sessions, races, virtual clubs, etc. Even at a lower level much of Watopia is unlocked and there's always a guest map available too. Chasing down and virtually drafting other riders, hitting the sprint or KOM segments, levelling up and unlocking (or buying) virtual kit. It may not appeal to all, but it appeals to a large audience!

    I love a good Zwift group ride or race, but for proper training I choose The Sufferfest.

    If all you want is structured and complete training, then Zwift is not for you. TrainerRoad and The Sufferfest will arguable give you much better sessions and results.
  • JP69JP69 Posts: 2
    I've used Zwift for getting on for 2 years now & can honestly say that it's improved my on road fitness massively. I keep my subs up all year long but obviously it's the winter months where Zwift really comes into play. Agree it's annoying at first to not have access to all areas but it doesn't take long to get to level 10. There's plenty of structured training & the 12 week long "build me up" program was brilliant over the winter & really kept my fitness level strong, in fact it improved it. I'm not a fan of the racing on Zwift as it's generally full of people just drafting in a group achieving average speeds that they cannot get anywhere near in real life. There's now plenty of variation in locations, Watopia, Innsbruck, New York, Richmond, London & now Yorkshire - something for everyone & don't forget that Watopia has an exact Alpe D'Huez replica in Alpe Du Zwift. When used with a direct drive smart trainer & a laptop, the experience is superb.
  • I used Zwift for a while on an iPad (no big TV in my garage) and while it was ok, I found myself getting easily distracted as it's difficult to find yourself immersed in the world. I have tried it in my living room on a big TV using Apple TV and the experience was better but not perfect.

    The training plans are good for keeping up fitness but not massively varied and very inflexible when it comes to fitting around other things. Again more for the casual rather than hard core user.

    Personally I'm not bothered about the social side but that may matter more to you. You can definitely move up the levels pretty quickly although I found the scenery quite dull after a while as the graphics become familiar and you get used to the courses.

    In the end I moved back to TrainerRoad using my phone to drive the workouts and watch movies/TV on my iPad to distract me from the pain! TR is definitely more about making you suffer and you can go at your own pace on Zwift.
  • rdtrdt Posts: 863
    In the end I moved back to TrainerRoad using my phone to drive the workouts and watch movies/TV on my iPad to distract me from the pain! TR is definitely more about making you suffer and you can go at your own pace on Zwift.

    As mentioned, I'll be keeping TR. If you follow the plans and do the work it's extremely effective. Similar to you, I run it on my phone and watch Youtube cycling vids on an old tablet.

    I used Zwift for a while on an iPad (no big TV in my garage) and while it was ok, I found myself getting easily distracted as it's difficult to find yourself immersed in the world. I have tried it in my living room on a big TV using Apple TV and the experience was better but not perfect.

    In my "gym room" the bike points near to a window so there isn't space for a giant telly on the wall, only a 32", although it would be close to the bike. I wonder if a big 2019 iPad Pro ($$$!) might do a better job: similar or maybe bigger image (being closer), more graphics grunt, and better control via touch vs. Apple TV remote etc.

    How big was your iPad?
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  • rdt wrote:

    How big was your iPad?

    I was running it on an iPad Air 2 so much less screen real estate than the current batch. iPad pro I guess would run it fairly close to a Peloton style experience although at that rate an Apple TV and a cheap smallish Amazon LCD screen might be a more cost effective option that would still fit on a stand in front of the bike.
  • rdtrdt Posts: 863
    I was running it on an iPad Air 2 so much less screen real estate than the current batch. iPad pro I guess would run it fairly close to a Peloton style experience although at that rate an Apple TV and a cheap smallish Amazon LCD screen might be a more cost effective option that would still fit on a stand in front of the bike.

    That'd be an option, not thought of that. Thanks for the input.

    For usability I'm now favouring a $touchscreen within reach vs. remote control + regular screen: during TR sessions I'll often jump between different vids, and touch would make the Zwift UI easier. And there might end up being a $Neo Bike$ in the mix, which'd also tilt me more towards a big tablet.

    I'll wait to see what new stuff Apple comes up with before deciding what to do.

    Off to rob a few banks now......
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  • NapoleonDNapoleonD Posts: 18,632
    I got a cheap refurbished desktop and linked it to an old 32” tv.
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • Also TR forum has pointed out that a cheap hdmi PC would work well.
  • NorvernRobNorvernRob Posts: 1,448
    Might be pointing out the obvious, but you do know that if you click on a route when it pops up on screen, it then gives you the choice of route options from that junction? I’m only around level 8 so haven’t accessed the Alpe yet, but there’s still loads of road to go at.
  • StillGoingStillGoing Posts: 5,007
    I use an iPad 2 linked to a 40" exhibition screen via an HDMI lead. I get big screen images for Sufferfest and Zwift when my daughter insists we use it (she has a PC linked to a second large screen), and control at close hand.
    TACX iFlow - basic, Bushido smart -Rubbish, Elite Kura - not smart, Direto - awful, Tacx Neo1 - perfect.
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,211
    When you say you're using it via your phone, do you mean the Android app? In which case, I don't think you'll see any of the worlds you're in, which seems a rather limited version of the program to me.
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