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How To

Zwift How-to: Finding the Best Setup for You

on January 09, 2018

The perfect Zwift setup may look different for everyone. There are a lot of choices! To help you find yours, we’ll walk you through some of the biggest factors we consider before making any purchase.

For simplicity, we’re big fans of the smart trainer + Apple TV + mobile phone + heart rate monitor + a really good fan combo. Any Bluetooth-enabled smart trainer will pair nicely with Apple TV (4th gen and higher). Download Zwift Companion App for your iPhone or Android and put all the controls of Zwift at your fingertips. And don’t forget a fan!

But with so many different options for setups, determining “the best” is more specific to your budget, space, and existing gear.  You can check out a wide selection of gear for Zwift at the Zwift Store.

Budget

Aside from a bike, your trainer is likely to be the biggest impact on your budget. Trainers come in several varieties:

  • Smart direct-drive. (Meaning you take your back wheel off.) Generally most expensive, but they simulate gradients and real-world feel and enable you to play with all the bells and whistles of Zwift. If a direct-drive trainer doesn’t include a cassette, you’ll need to install one that’s compatible with your bike. Top-of-the-line trainers include the Saris H3, Tacx Neo 2T, and Wahoo KICKR. For a little less money, the Tacx Flux S, Wahoo KICKR CORE, and Elite Direto X and Suito are great options.
  • Smart wheel-on. More budget-friendly than direct-drive, but they don’t feel as realistic as their direct-drive counterparts and they’ll put some wear and tear on your rear wheel. Consider getting a trainer tire with a wheel-on trainer. Examples are the Saris M2, Tacx Flow, and Wahoo KICKR SNAP.
  • Classic wheel-on. Most budget-friendly, but you’ll need a power meter or speed sensor to work with Zwift. If you use a speed sensor, Zwift will estimate your power based on your rear wheel speed. For power meters, PowerTap and Quarq are solid options. Examples of classic trainers are the Saris Fluid2 and Kinetic Road Machine.

Keep in mind all trainers purchased through the Zwift Store include a 30-day Home Trial, and 0% financing is also available! For more help determining which trainer is best for you, you can visit our in-depth review here. Or check here to make sure your existing gear is compatible with Zwift.

Some Zwifters also ride smart bikes or rollers. Zwift works with all smart bikes that broadcast power (watts) via ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart (BLE) using open standards. Examples include the Tacx Neo Bike and Wahoo KICKR Bike.

Rollers are a great way to work on your bike handling skills, and you can use any classic rollers to Zwift on a bike equipped with a supported power meter. For an immersive experience, try out smart rollers that have resistance control.

Your other notable cost might be the device you choose to run Zwift. Zwift works on Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, and Android. You do not need a fancy gaming computer to run Zwift. Minimum specs are Windows 7 (64bit) or higher, or macOS 10.10 or higher. You’ll want at least an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB of memory. If you’re running iPhone, you need an iPhone 5S or higher. For iPad, it’s iPad Air or higher, iPad Pro, iPad Mini 2 or higher, or iPod 6. And Apple TV is 4th gen or higher, including the Apple TV 4k. Android users can look up the app in the Google Play Store to check whether their device is compatible.

Zwift Setup

There’s a good chance the computer or device you have will run Zwift just fine. Higher-end graphics cards and gaming computers will help the Zwift experience run smoother and look better… but they won’t make you faster.

Space

How much space do you have? Is your Zwift setup a permanent fixture? Or will you be setting up each time you ride?

Most trainers are about 2.5 feet wide x 2.5 feet deep – give or take a few inches, (60 - 75 cm wide and deep) and they weigh roughly 50 pounds (22kg) for smart trainers and 35-40 pounds (about 16kg) for classic trainers. If you don’t have a permanent setup, you’ll want to consider where to store your trainer relative to your Zwift space. They aren’t the lightest things to lug around.

Setup

On the bike

Noise and vibration is another consideration. Modern trainers are getting increasingly quiet. Many boast to be quieter than a shower or a fan on a high setting. However, if you live in an apartment above a friendly neighbor, you may want to test vibration sounds. Trainer mats will do a fair bit to dampen vibration and noise… and protect your floors from all the sweat.

We can’t say enough about a good fan. You’re going to work up a sweat, even in the dead of winter. A fan makes a world of a difference. Any fan will do, but if you want one that automatically gives you more cooling when you need it the most, the Wahoo Kickr Headwind can do that.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated with a water bottle, filled with H2O or your favorite sports drink.

And consider a sweat towel. Did we mention you might sweat?

A heart rate monitor gives you more information about your workout, so you can keep track of just how hard your body is working. The Wahoo Tickr is a good option for a chest strap. You could also use an armband like the Wahoo Tickr Fit or a wrist monitor like the Apple Watch. Keep in mind that some popular fitness trackers won’t work with Zwift. Your device needs to broadcast an open Bluetooth or ANT+ heart rate signal.

Other gear to consider

Are you Zwifting with Bluetooth connections or ANT+? With Bluetooth, it’s pretty seamless, but not all smart trainers or power meters have Bluetooth. For smart trainers and power meters using ANT+ technology, you’ll need a USB ANT+ dongle for your computer. For best performance, consider using a USB extension cable. You can buy the two together in our convenient ANT+ bundle.

If you’re Zwifting on a laptop, iPad, or other mobile device, consider the best way to prop it up. Music stands are a great, inexpensive option. An adjustable standing laptop desk is sturdier. For a purpose-built solution meant just for indoor training, check out the Wahoo Kickr Bike Desk.

A handlebar mount for your smartphone keeps Zwift Companion close at hand. It also lets you use the FutureWorks steering feature!

You may need a dedicated extension cord and power strip to accommodate outlets for your trainer, computer, TV, or fan.

Finally, a wireless keyboard and mouse can make it easier to interact with Zwift on the bike. They might be full size or small enough to fit in your pocket.