Wednesday 1 April 2015

Zwift - Next Level Awesome.

I've been feed flooding my Instagram account for a few weeks with screen shots of Zwift and the shenanigans I've been up to on the virtual island. This has prompted a number of questions from people asking what it is all about. There are a few reviews of Zwift already floating around but I thought I'd put it into my own words... and describe my new indoor training addiction.

I've owned a Wahoo Kickr for almost two years now, and was recently close to selling it. I only held onto it because I knew the potential of the unit was huge. The applications I have used with it to date were bit of a let down.... until now.

What is Zwift?

"Massive, multiplayer video game technology meets the indoor cycling community."

Zwift is an indoor training application/game that plays on all my weaknesses. Indoor cycle training, real-time statistics, real-world opponents, and goals to achieve. Zwift is what the Wahoo Kickr needed from launch.

To get involved you'll need a power meter or a compatible trainer, a computer with enough grunt to run the application (Mac/Windows), a USB2 ANT+ stick, and at the moment an invite to the beta testing pool.

Zwift cover this in a lot more detail here:

Getting Up and Riding...

It is straight forward to get it up and running. Load the app, pair your devices, ride on!

While you can use Zwift with a number of different indoor trainers, it comes into its own when paired up with a Kickr (or other electronically controlled resistance units).

The realisation of just how good this is with a Kicker was on a ride outside last week. As I rolled down a hill and started pedalling faster with less resistance. My first thought was "this fells like I'm on Zwift island". When was the last time riding outside reminded you of an indoor ergo session?

With a good set of headphones you can notice the level of detail they've gone to in making this virtual world very realistic. The faster you go the more wind noise you'll hear. It is only subtle, but you'll almost subconsciously know when your speed has changed. The visual representation of gradients, corners, and speed are also nicely done. 

The triple jersey!

Trainer X has done this for a while...

Just as there were touch-screen phones before Apple came along and did it right, there is similar software and set-ups that do similar-ish things to Zwift. And like Apple, Zwift have nailed it, and they're still only in beta! (*replace Apple with Android if you're that way inclined) :)

Zwift Island....

The Island itself is a real place (Jarvis Island). When you upload your ride to Strava it has a real location, elevation, and all your stats. You can even use tools like Strava Labs Flyby to see who else you were riding with at the time. The Strava KOMs are there, and somewhat messy, the real KOMs are transient on the Island within Zwift where they all expire after 60 minutes.

The Potholes...

Like most things, it isn't all roses. There are very simple ways to cheat the system that can ruin a jersey chasing session. The developers are well aware of this and have a massive pool of equipment data to work with, I expect cheating will be at a minimum soon.

A 6:38 lap is around 420W at my current weight (72kgs). 5.83k/kg. A 5:32 lap, taking into account the virtual wind resistance would be pushing boundaries never seen in the pro peloton.

A lot of ergo workouts are focused on specific efforts that may be difficult to replicate within the Zwift world, for now. A standard 5x5min at FTP is interrupted by that damn hill, every time. Once more roads and options are paved in the application, I expect there will be more than enough terrain to use for any kind of training.

The Potential...

Is mind-blowing. Real-time races, Gran Fondos, replication of classic climbs, you name it. Zwift-Roubaix with virtual cobbles? 21 virtual switchbacks on Alpe d'Zwiftez? They could even mix it up with muddy virtual CX races or single-track MTB routes.

Imagine paring a Sufferfest workout with the Zwift world to create a parcours that visually matched the workout. Sprint signs, hills, virtual pro riders popping up on course to chase, and/or other riders completing and competing in the same workout in-real time.

Maybe they could replicate a classic stage of the Tour with a virtual peloton of pro riders you could mix it up with.... I'm sure we'd all love to sit on Floyd's wheel on Stage 17, 2006.. then teaching him a lesson by rolling him at the end.

For now... Get on it (request a beta invite) and get riding! 


1 comment:

fishboy said...

Wot! Screenshot (selfie?) at 39 watts - Oh the shame....

Nah seriously good dude ;)