Last year, we took a look at Zwift as a social virtual riding platform. Over the past 12 months, Zwift has exploded, with more routes, more features, more riders and more events to keep even indoor riding exciting, no matter how often you hop on your trainer.
Maybe the biggest aspect of Zwift is how more accessible it has become since its early beta days. The big news this winter is that it now works with iOS on iPhone and iPad; no more high-requirement computer or laptop, no more ANT+ dongle, just the phone in your pocket and Bluetooth sensors, and you're ready to roll, no matter what trainer you're on.
Once you're on, there's an awful lot to do. Since our last post, Zwift has expanded to include not only another map, the Ride London Classic route, but introduced the ability to turn, opening up all new routes and loops to keep things fresh. The Watopia (an island in the Pacific that Zwift covered with virtual roads) Mountain expansion offers two 1,500 foot climbing options, an updated hilly route, and plenty of flat and fast miles that make it easier to keep a group together. Even Richmond, the whispered "boring" of the maps, has some loop options that make it way more enjoyable, and it's become one of the best race or ride options.
And there are a lot of ride options on Zwift, made easier than ever by the Events tab on the Zwift Mobile Link. Downloaded to your phone, you not only gain all the interactive aspects of the software, like turning, waving, texting to other riders and giving the all-important Ride On! (think kudos from Strava but in real time) but you can also see all of the official rides every day. There's something for everyone, including a massive array of races, which you can see on the 'underground' unofficial calendar or the official rides from Zwift. My personal favorite thus far is the BiciTO ride on Monday mornings at 6.30am. Great crew of Canadians, Brits and a few Japanese riders that do a great job riding steady and making it fun.
If you want some structure, Zwift's Workout mode is incredibly well done, offering pre-made training plans, workouts and the ability to make your own custom workouts as well. Workout mode is especially useful for those without smart trainers, as the mode turns off the dynamic resistance and gets your to focus more on an ERG-mode style setup. You can earn points and prizes quickly, unlocking special wheels, jerseys and the like, which, while not real, but still pretty cool to have in the game.
Plus, the guys at Zwift HQ have a some great events, too, with an emphasis on giving. Earlier this month, over 14,000 riders logged on for World Bicycle Relief, an effort that purchases Buffalo bikes for people all over Africa. Having the bike opens up education, access to health care, and other advantages available with the added mobility a bike provides. The WBR Ride raised over $270,000 and featured group rides led by the likes of Evelyn Stevens, Paris-Roubaix winner Mat Hayman, his teammate Michael "Bling" Matthews, Jens Voight, Lawson Craddock, and the legendary Andy Hampsten.
So what's the biggest difference between the Zwift of December 2015 to today? It's really pretty simple, and it goes back to the whole point of having a virtual world to ride bikes in. It's not boring, ever. The constantly changing maps, the different loops on each map, the dozen or more group rides per day, and the option to take on Workout Mode means it's as different as you want it to be, every single time you log in.
If you want to find out more about Zwift, or are looking for the perfect Wahoo Kickr set-up to enjoy it to its full potential, stop by.