New! Zwift Blends Cycling with Entertainment

Zwift Cycling Screen Shot

To those who endured the bitter winter of 2014 in the Northeast on an indoor trainer, help may be on the way in the form of added challenge and motivation, relief from boredom, and fun.

A new company, Zwift, blends cycling with entertainment to turn the indoor sufferfest in your woman cave or man cave or laundry room or what have you, into a massively multiplayer game. Access to Zwift enables you to ride with or race against others in real time on a brilliantly rendered course that appears on your laptop or video screen (above). All that’s needed is a bike and trainer, an ANT+ speed and cadence sensor, and a computer. Subscribers pay $10 per month for access and to become part of the Zwift online community.

Revolution in Fitness Entertainment?

Zwift unveiled the platform to press and investors at an interactive event (above) conducted simultaneously at Rapha Cycle Clubs in New York City, San Francisco and London last week. A follow-up email over the weekend revealed that 10,000 people had signed up on the Zwift website to request participation in beta testing.  Zwift is expected to roll out the platform to the general public this winter.

In what the company is calling “fitness entertainment,” Zwift combines indoor cycling with robust video game technology and social networking in a bid to revolutionize indoor training.

Zwift is not meant to replace outdoor riding, but rather to complement and add a new dimension to it when poor weather interferes with getting outside, when work schedules or other commitments limit time, or when motivation ebbs due to boredom, according to Alarik Myrin of Zwift (below). In a promotional video, Zwift has busy Super Mom on her trainer in her living room competing virtually with Road Warrior Dad on his trainer in the garage, complete with a real-time pause for coffee and a bathroom break.

ZwiftPressConference

Zwift’s developers hope the gaming format might even serve to inspire a commitment to fitness.

“Our goal is to get fit people fitter and people who aren’t fit off the couch,” Myrin says.

Taking Zwift for a Spin

I am by no stretch of the imagination a “gamer,” but the technology here seems pretty accessible if you’re accustomed to using an indoor trainer. I climbed onto the demo setup that most closely resembled my own, which is a CycleOps trainer with a Stages power meter, and gave Zwift a try. (Zwift notes that users will get the most realistic experience with an electronically controlled set-up, like a Wahoo Kickr power trainer.)

I logged in on an iPhone mounted to the handlebar, and I was able to view the names of other signed-in riders. One course called Swift Island, with varied terrain, is available for now, but others are to be added. The road and landscape appeared on the screen in vivid detail. I could also view the data that I’m used to seeing on my Garmin: cadence, watts, time, elevation, and so on. As I continued down the road, prompts and messages appeared on the screen. A QOM on a timed climb, for example. You get the picture. It’s like Strava for indoor training.

Variety, said a Zwift representative, is key. Using Zwift, I could arrange a group ride at an appointed time with friends who are subscribers; we would see representations of one another on the screen and communicate. Or, I could follow a workout set by my coach. In fact, coaches can virtually join a training ride or provide coaching and encouragement right from their laptops, the Zwift representative said.  Zwift says it will also partner with real-world event and Gran Fondo promoters to create simulations for mass virtual participation and competition. A separate charge, or entry fee, will apply to those.

So bring it on Winter 2015. I’m curious to add new variety to my indoor training mix.

Read Zwift FAQs here.

Lead photo: Zwift. Others: velojoy

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