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Bike Trainer Upgrade - Zwift Compliant

Hannah Fleming

So, you want to Zwift, but don’t want to buy a smart trainer to reap the benefits? Me neither. Below is everything you need to know about a few upgrades you can make to your "dumb" trainer that will allow you to Zwift.

Why do I need to upgrade my trainer?

First of all, why can’t you Zwift with your trainer just the way it is? In order to get the most of the app, the training, and the rides, the bike computer (in this case, Zwift) needs to be able to tell how much power you’re pushing out (Watts) and how quickly you’re pedaling (cadence). Combining these two metrics with your height and weight, it can accurately access the intensity of your ride.

What do I need?

 1.     Heart rate belt – A Heart rate belt/strap will the computer how hard your heart is working. This allows you to train in specific zones, track you progressions, etc. This is also helpful for those of you who use Strava. Zwift will push your workouts directly to Strava, and those of you with Strava premium, you’re able to analyze your Heart Rate after each workout within the app via their Suffer Score. ( $85 - Suunto HR Belt)

2.     Bike Speed & Cadence Sensor – This kit has what you need to measure your speed and cadence. Zwift (acting as a bike computer) will calculate your power based on your speed, height, and weight. ($55 - Garmin Bike Speed and Cadence Sensor)

3.     ANT+ Stick – Think of this as Bluetooth from your sensors to your computer. This is a USB stick that plugs into your computer.  ($50 - Garmin ANT+ Stick )

If you’re using an iPad to run the Zwift app, you will need a slightly different setup. Here is an article explaining that set up. I only have experience with using a laptop. Above are the items I used to connect my Cycleops Magneto trainer.
*If you have Strava premium, make sure you use your discount at Competitive Cyclist*

How to get set up?

1.  Create an account, and download Zwift onto your computer.

2.  Connect your Bike Speed & Cadence Sensors to your bike as described in the directions.

Speed sensor

Speed sensor

Cadence sensor

Cadence sensor

3.  Launch Zwift, and follow the set-up instructions (know your trainer model and tire size). You will then be prompted to pair your devices. In this case a speed sensor, cadence sensor, and heart rate.

4.  Log-in, and start Zwifting!

Helpful Zwift tips

1.  Customize your avatar! Do this by clicking "menu" on the screen, then "customize".

2. Do an FTP test. Finding out your Functional Threshold Power is imperative for doing workouts in the app. Everything from your warm-ups, sprints, intervals, and "sweet spot" training is determined by your FTP.

3. Make sure your trainer is set up with the proper resistance on the tire. This can skew the perceived power you're pushing out. Also, make sure to regularly pump up your tires as you would on road rides. (Instructions to set up a Cycleops Magneto)

4. Have fun! While you're at it, connect with me on Zwift @hannahfleming!