Zwift setups - I don't have one. What am I missing?

I see on Strava that a lot of you ride Zwift.

I ride an indoor magnetic spinbike. It’s a Sunny one. Got it about 2 yrs ago? It runs pretty much silent.

I only have one dropbar bike - Gravel Giant Advanced Revolt 1 (circa 2019). I bought it used from my brother-in-law last July. Is it bad to put your only bike on a smart trainer for the winter?

It’s a 1x drivetrain with a 10-42T cassette in the back and a 40T ring upfront looking at online specs. I have a 4-5yr old Wahoo Chest strap.

I would run the app on a 5yr old gaming laptop. It has a GTX1050 2GB graphics card. Or I could run it on a Samsung tablet S8.

I figure my options are:

  1. Use the Spin bike:
  • get powermeter pedals (don’t have any) possibly the Garmin dual sided XC-200’s. I’m interested to see if my R & L legs are even, I’m not super confident in my R knee with other activities, so there’s a good chance they aren’t. The powermeter should get me watts to send to zwift. I would move the powermeter pedals to my gravel bike in the spring. (~$1600cdn plus tax)
  • I would need to manually adjust the resistance. From youtube, it looks like zwift displays the gradient on the top R of the screen. It looks like the gradient changes quite often.
  • there is no freewheeling on a spin bike. though without magnetic resistance the large flywheel should drag my legs along.
  1. Budget Smart Trainer. (looks to start around $700)
  • remove the rear wheel and put the bike on it. Will a 10-42T cassette (~$100-$150) work on a smart trainer? It looks like most people put a 2x road bike on them. the internet says it has a 142mm thru axle in the back.
  • I’m about 200lbs. is that a lot of weight for a carbon fiber bike locked into a smart trainer?

In the past couple winters, I rode (~200) of the Peloton classes from my work laptop (I work remotely from home). I have the Peloton app on hold until sometime in November. I doubt I will go back, I learned how to get a decent workout from it, and would rather spend the $16cdn subscription on something else.

I tried watching YouTube, Netflix etc while on the bike, but the workouts aren’t as good as the Peloton classes. I struggle to get more than 30 minutes on the stationary bike before boredom sets in.

I tried a “GCN training” video on youtube, and it was decent. n=1, I would need to try it more and see if I can repeat the results.

Is Zwift really the bees knees?

my quick 2 cents as someone who really doesn’t enjoy zwift, but that is because I would rather risk frostbite then ride inside. I personally don’t find the challenge of zwift keeps me more engaged, but many others find it beneficial

I would get a smart trainer and single sided powermeter if cost is a concern. Current prices will put you relatively close when compared to getting a dual sided powermeter. I’ve seen the kickr core on sale for 700 recently not sure of the current state of prices.

In terms of L & R, for the average (non pro) I see no benefit in knowing if you are biased. Now if you end up getting injured it can help with monitoring and recovery, but if you are already injured with no baseline I’m struggling to see the benefit.

As for weight and being locked into a trainer, it might mater if you are rocking from side to side, but I’m sure there are a lot of heavier and more powerful riders doing the same.

I’ve used Zwift two ways. One was with an old ‘dumb’ magnetic trainer using a wheel speed sensor and cadence sentor. My trainer was old enough that it wasn’t supported by Zwift, but I found a setting that felt about right. The drill here (if I recall correctly) is you end up targeting watts … shifting to get the right resistence to match the course. I’m not sure it was super accurate, but least it was consistent ride to ride!

When that (25 year old!) trainer died, I bought another wheel-on trainer that is ‘smart’ (Elite Novo Smart). I went this way for two reasons. First, I didn’t want to spend the money for a direct drive trainer – I think this Elite was around ~$500 when the Wahoo Kickr and the like started at about double that. The second is my basement ride is my old steel-framed Miele, which as a six-speed gearset and the older (narrower) hub spacing. So, it’s probably not going to work well with a direct drive trainer anyway, meaning I’d be using my newer, carbon road bike and I too wondered how happy it would be clamped into a trainer. Probably not an issue (lots of people do it) but this also gives the old bike a purpose.

The Elite is basically just changing the magnetic resistence automatically based on a signal from Zwift/Sufferfest. That auto-resistance mechanism bit the dust last year and – to my surprise – I got good support from Elite (despite the unit being out of warranty) and was able to purchase a needed replacement part and follow online video to fix the until for far less than the cost of replacing it (even accounting for shipping the needed part from Italy).

For me, the Elite is good enough for the kind of basement training I do (combo between Zwift and SufferFest or whatever Wahoo calls it now!). I also try to keep riding gravel, even if it’s just a couple of times a month in the winter and join the Track’n’Thai gang periodically at the Milton Velodrome for track riding as a way of creating a different, winter biking season!

There are cheaper direct drive trainers now – Zwift even has it’s own branded unit that I’d be curious to try as the price point is low enough to compete with my Elite. But I haven’t read the reviews yet: Zwift Hub Smart Trainer for Indoor Cycling - Zwift

A dumb trainer with a power meter is great for doing intervals.

Smart trainers are great for doing simulation rides, like the alpe de zwift and all that stuff.

I think erg mode is fine too but didn’t find it a massive revelation when I got my kickr, but I largely gave up on doing intervals anyway so my opinion might not be worth much lol

Peter, I have run Zwift on a wheel on trainer for a couple of years now throughout the winter and will be scheduling/posting/riding Rec Zwift rides twice a week starting in a couple of week’s time, (I as well prefer riding outside so I hold off as long as I reasonably can before moving to the basement).

I change out my carbon wheels for the stock aluminum ones and run the stock tire on the wheel on trainer. I chose a fluid trainer since it progressively increases the resistance as you pedal faster providing a more ‘real’ feel. They are also fairly inexpensive. It holds the bike on the rear axle so the rest of the bike is fine. I also have a small riser under the front wheel to bring everything on to the same level. I run a power meter on my bike now but before that I just moved the speed sensor to the rear wheel and paired to that and the cadence sensor and it worked fine. I use a laptop on a stand in front of me to run Zwift and have a small table fan running pointed at me. You will also want water and a towel.

We have dedicated group rides where we ride together and use a Discord channel so we can talk.

Here is the previous setup.



Leaning towards a smart trainer.

Jet Black is the one that zwift commisioned as their own… comes with a 11-28cassette - 11 spd cassette.

Wahoo Kicker Core.

no cassette included…

will research further and submit business plan to CFO.

Given you are going to be close to $800 with tax it might be worth checking out the used market. People often upgrade to fancier trainers or just don’t use them. You can probably pick up an older device which is a few years old for half of this from Kijiji or Facebook marketplace. Just poking around there seems to be Tacx flux’s for around $450 for example. Just make sure you test it first :slight_smile:

I would also strongly recommend getting a smart trainer (vs a fluid trainer + power meter).

My sons and I have been riding and racing on Zwift for several years now as well as several of the alternatives. We started with a regular fluid trainer but quickly upgraded. Having the resistance change to match the gradient makes the ride much more interesting and realistic. Hills feel somewhat ‘real’ and the impact of drafting can actually be felt. Without it I’m sure I would have given up indoor riding.
In addition to that, having a smart trainer makes it possible to race. When I first started on Zwift I wasn’t interested in racing at all…until I tried the ‘Tour de Zwift’. I now actually look forward to the TdZ every year. It is an 8 stage ride (race?) over 4 weeks with 4 different categories and races every hour. It isn’t technically a race, but it isn’t unusual to have >1000 people in a single event. Which means there are always packs of riders with similar abilities.

Having said that, I personally prefer Rouvy as an application since it uses real video during the rides instead of computer graphics. Not nearly as good for racing, structured training and group rides, but for long zone 2 rides I find it much more enjoyable.

But if anyone was still interested in regular fluid trainer I have a Cyclops Fluid2 that I’d be willing to give away.

1 Like

I’m interested in your saris M2

Not sure if this is allowed but I have a Saris wheel on smart trainer for sale. Haven’t posted it anywhere yet.

To your questions, I have found some kind of program helps the indoor riding. I have ROUVY (real life routes) and now Zwift. I like different things about each. Also I way prefer riding my road bike versus a stationary as I feel more comfortable in it, have it fitted etc. Having a training plan helps things feel less boring for me as well.

I am the opposite of @bike_daniells and I actually use my trainer year round because I don’t want to deal with traffic, lights, etc when doing intervals. Winter long rides do start to get a bit boring but at least having to shift gears once and while on a smart trainer breaks up the monotony. If you go with a “dumb” trainer it gets pretty boring having the same resistance all ride. Kickr Cores are a great deal right now, but the Canadian distributor is currently sold out so what shops have is all there is for the next few weeks.

As for gearing you might find the jumps in the cassette on a 1x to leave you searching for the right gear. I find using a slightly smaller range cassette like a 34 is better, you just might have to adjust the “trainer difficulty” if you find the hills to be a bit hard.

As for powermeter. I would start with the smart trainer and when you get addicted to having power targets get a single sided powermeter in the spring. Most people have a bit of a left/right discrepancy, but that discrepancy is usually consistent from ride to ride. There also is very little research to say having this imbalance is actually a bad thing that you should work on bringing back to 50/50.


@AlexV is much wiser than me!

No doubt the quality is better on the trainer, and I’ll second the smart tranier. As much as I hate them, even doing straight intervals was “easier” in that I could set the wattage in erg mode and just suffer.

As for power meters I’ve abused both my stages and garmin pedals to the point of they should be destroyed and they are both functioning well. I prefer the stages in that they deal with temperature changes better, the ability to move pedals to multiple bikes has me sold now.

1 Like

for the direct drive smart trainers, I guess most people get the 2nd cassette, instead of swapping the cassette over from their outdoor wheel?

on my 10-42T cassette in the real world, I’m probably less than 2% of the time in the 10T, and less than 2% in the 42T. I’m not strong enough to go much past 45kph pedalling (or sustain it), or the the downhills around here aren’t big enough or long enough me to sustain the speed.

1 Like

I move mine. Once you have the tools it is pretty easy. You will likely have to adjust the rear derailleur too after the switch. Again, pretty easy.

If you are someone who switches between trainer and outside frequently then I would buy a second cassette, as much as its easy changing is one more hassle and cassettes are a wear item. In the long rin there is no major cost difference.

If you are someone who basically stays on the trainer until the weather is good then switching can make sense.

1 Like

In case anyone is interested I just did a quick search across online shops and found the Elite Suito direct drive trainer on sale from Bicicletta. At $659 with free shipping it will be hard to beat.

I haven’t used this one myself but the DC Rainmaker review is generally positive. DC Rainmaker has made a name for himself as “the gold standard” for indoor trainer reviews.

If I needed another direct drive trainer I’d definitely consider it. Otherwise for a higher cost I’d recommend the Tacx Neo. While the ‘road feel’ feature of the Tacx is entertaining, the biggest advantage to me is that the Tacx neo has some built-in flex which allows enough side-to-side movement to help avoid some body fatigue. I know McPhails used to carry the Tacx (now Garmin).

1 Like

Just throwing in my 2 cents since I went through this fairly recently.

There seems to be a continuum of how people see Zwift. There are sort of 3 camps within the set of Zwift users:

  1. Zwift is a necessary evil during the off season and I do it to keep fit during the winter
  2. Zwift is another cycling discipline that compliments outdoor riding
  3. Zwift is my primary way I cycle. What’s this IRL thing?

How you proceed with your equipment choice will depend on where you fall.

I’m firmly in camp #2. I view Zwift as a “first class” citizen in my cycling world. So my experience is shaped by that. So for example, I want to have a dedicated Zwift setup at all times and especially in spring/fall so I don’t have to choose between indoor and outdoor.

My 3 setups I’ve ridden on:

1) Dumb spin bike + Favero Assioma DUO power pedals. I did a lot of Zwifting with this setup including ZRL racing for almost 2 years. This was surprisingly good and I got good at manually adjusting resistance by keeping the eye on the grade (race/ride) or power targets (workout).

2) Wahoo Kickr trainer I briefly experimented with this by putting my gravel bike on the Kickr. I liked not having to manually adjust resistance. I disliked dealing with the mechanical aspects of the setup, the fact that I had to take a bike out of commission, and that the setup felt “shaky”. While this was my least favorite setup, I recognize I’m in the minority here, as the trainer + dedicated bike is probably the most economical for most people. I would be hesitant to put a carbon bike on a trainer if you are going to put out serious watts.

3) Garmin Tacx Neo smart bike. This was the clear winner for me. It had the same dedicated rock solid foundation of the spin bike + pedals, and the benefits of automatic resistance (and road feel!) of the Wahoo trainer. I bought previous gen on sale to save some $$$. This option is pretty expensive, but worth it for me. It was pretty much 50/50 between the Garmin Tacx Neo and Wahoo Kickr smart bike here.

I did a conversion of the Favero pedals to make them into gravel bike pedals following this guide once I moved the pedals outdoor use. I recommend those pedals very highly and they do come in cheaper (especially the UNO).

I use an old wheel on trainer and a stages single arm power meter on my old Argon 18 TT bike.
I was using an old desktop PC so just about any decent PC from the last 3 years should do fine.
Now I am using my laptop hooked up to a monitor.

I just keep the trainer resistance at a constant level and just adjust my gears and/or cadence to affect my power output. Zwift basically just uses your power reading and what you entered as your weight to affect your speed on the course. If you don’t have a power meter then it needs a speed sensor paired to the PC to try and estimate what your power would be.

The dirt cheap method would be a wheel on trainer, Bluetooth heart rate monitor, Bluetooth speed and cadence sensor and a PC with Bluetooth. That would be the absolute bare minimum.

Some of the racing though probably requires a power meter or even a smart trainer since estimating power based on your entered weight, expected resistance of the trainer and speed is very inaccurate.

I am hoping to get a smart trainer but for now I will carry on with my wheel on trainer.

1 Like

Other then sweat I wouldn’t sweat putting a carbon bike on a trainer. To loosely quote GPlama all the pros do it, and bike companies never tested for trainers hence its easier to just put an escape clause in the warranty.

Sweat is bad for bolts and headsets so a towel will help with corrosion there. And in reality I can’t see watts mattering much when on a direct drive trainer, the force is through the cassette. Now if you are rocking and rolling from side to side then I could be convinced of some unusual forces on the frame. But given how many people ride trainers and how few bikes are damaged at the dropouts I wouldn’t worry too much.

I can see the argument for a smart bike but I’d rather have the exact same pedal position and you can buy a trainer plus a new bike for the cost of one of them.

My two cents,
I own a jet black trainer…best investment I’ve made. I had a fluid trainer before that on zwift, with sensors and no power …rides weren’t as realistic…and much more difficult to keep consistent.
I ride with my good road bike on the trainer…no issues so far. I am upwards of 225 lbs and am very powerful. I have not had problems with the bike. Gears yes, but frame no.
The jet black is perfect trainer with the included cassette. Zero setup time …just mount the bike calibrate once and ride. I’m hooked up to a gaming laptop…about the same as you have Petee…use the Zwift companion app on my phone on bike for ease of chatting, and other controls, and run the display thru to my big screen tv…but can run it just on the laptop too…and did for many years.

I have tried many of the other training platforms, and keep coming back to zwift due to the social aspect, multitude of ride options and course selections. It is a much more immersive experience then many of the others were in my opinion. I have tried the following apps: Rouvvy, FulGaz, RGT, SpinervalsDVDs… Zwift keeps bringing me back though.

I also have dual power pedals, but as Rob D mentioned, the value in them is greater for rehab …if it’s just to know power output, then go single sided. I had major surgery 2.5yrs ago and use the dual side to monitor balance and keep from over doing the efforts. With the smart trainer it’s not as important though and don’t use them on the trainer, just on outside rides or at the track.

“Enjoy” your indoor season.