Virtual Cycling Can Replace Darker Evenings and Rainier Rides
stave boredom away with Zwift
The number of daylight hours is getting shorter here in the northern hemisphere and the clocks will roll back in certain states. Many of us that work during the day find ourselves with little or no daylight to ride during the week. That leaves us with a few options:
- Don’t ride during the week – no thanks
- Wake up at dawn and ride before work – not very appealing
- Attach as many lights as we can to our bikes, put on reflective clothing and ride around in the dark after work – Not too bad, if the weather is nice
- Ride on an indoor trainer.
The last option, to admit defeat and confine us to riding an indoor trainer, never really appealed to me. It’s the polar opposite of why I like riding a bike. However, in order to maintain or even improve fitness over the winter season, riding indoors is almost a necessity. Tedious hours spinning pedals and not going anywhere always bored me; that is until I used a program called Zwift for the first time during a trial period.
Zwift is an online virtual world connecting indoor cyclists. They currently have three different courses, you don’t get to choose which course to ride but they rotate on different days of the week. There is Watopia (a fictions island in the south pacific), the 2015 Richmond World Championship Course, and the new newest course from Ride London 2016. All of these courses have KOM and sprint segments – just like Strava – that you compete for against other riders. The social aspect and competitive nature are what sets Zwift apart from other indoor training programs.
Zwift is best used with a smart trainer, which is a trainer that adjusts the resistance according to the virtual terrain you are riding on. When you are riding up a hill, the resistance of the trainer is increased. Conversely, they’ve added lower resistance when going downhill that even accounts for the drafting of other riders. If you don’t have a smart trainer than any standard trainer will work if you have a power meter. With this setup, the resistance doesn’t change on the trainer but your speed in the virtual world will be adjusted based on your power output and the terrain you are riding. If you don’t have a power meter, Zwift can also be used with a wide selection of standard trainers. When using a supported standard trainer you need a speed sensor installed because Zwift will use the power curve to generate a virtual power number. With any of these setups, Zwift uses your power output and your weight to calculate the speed at which you move.
Ed Note: There are events available for virtual cyclists, such as the one coming up on December 3rd. World Bicycle Relief and Zwift are partnering to bring the second annual 24 Hour Ride on Zwiftathon to a Zwift platform near you. Ride the digital shores of Watopia for 24 hours and help fundraise for World Bicycle Relief.