Some of us have been doing it for years. Some of us have never done it. Some of us have just started doing it. But no matter what we say about our usage, there are some tell-tale signs when we’re definitely a Zwift newbie (like this writer). 

Zwift confusion

So, you’ve downloaded the Zwift app on your computer and you’ve got the Zwift Companion app on your phone, as well as the Zwift app itself. You’ve registered on www.zwiftpower.com (which is not Zwift). What now? You’re totally confused. What do you use when, and with which technology? This writer started Zwifting in late January 2019 and still has little to no idea as to what he’s doing. It’s a lot to take in all at once. You need to link your power source, heart rate monitor band, cadence device and controllable trainer to the Zwift app. Your power source (not electricity but cycling power) can be your smart trainer, or a bike-based power meter, if you have one. Once you get your laptop (or tablet) linked up to your set-up, it feels like a small miracle that you can actually watch the riders go past virtually in Watopia! Yay. And if you watch for over 15 minutes without moving you unlock the ‘Stalker’ achievement. Lol.

Zwift

Tech stress

Once you’re in and riding, there’s even more to work out. First: how in hell can these people all be chatting to each other while training at full tilt?! How do you get wheels that light up? What are those holographic screens in front of the riders? What are those floating blue thumbs? All these questions really distract you when you’re on the bike. But, hey, you haven’t started training or entered an event yet, so no sweat. I still don’t know how all these people chat to each other while riding! I’m a newbie, after all. The wheels will only light up if you have climbed over 50,000 virtual meters (!). The floating blue thumb is a ‘ride on!’ encouragement token. It can be given by riders to one another. These give you extra XP points. And the screens in front of riders mean they are taking part in a structured training: if you look carefully, you can see their training statistics.

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That illuminated screen thingy in front of his bike means he’s actually training

But all that’s nothing compared with the stress of getting your pain cave set-up to work smoothly for the first time. Hours of reading about Ant+ dongles, Bluetooth, head unit (in)compatibility, and how it all interacts with everything else will cause stress. It will however, work, once you get it all harmonised. And when it has worked once, it will all link up so automatically afterwards, that you will wonder what all the fuss was about.

Zwift

When all these light up, you’re ready to ride.

Severe leg pain

When you enter a Zwift race your mindset changes. It’s a race. And beware: when the people at Zwift say, it’s not a race – ignore them. It’s always a race, except when it’s called a ‘social ride’. In any case, this user has ridden three different events on Zwift at the time of writing. Three days of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) was the result. He’s also ridden a six month 20 minute power record and, after the Tour de Zwift (including the exclusive Alpe de Zwift), a 60-minute power record. What does all this mean? It’s actually tougher than real racing – you go full gas from the gun, and unless you’re happy to slip down the rankings, you need to keep pushing hard. Especially on the big events like the Tour de Zwift, you realise you’re part of a giant community of people sweating away at home in front of their computers. Weird. And interesting at the same time.

One of the added benefits of joining an event is that you have a deadline which you have to stick to. This means turning up to the race, warming up for 15 minutes or so and then: boom! Off you go, keeping the hammer down until you hit the finish line. Even a small amount of riding will unlock new clothing for your avatar, or a bike, or some socks (if you’re into that).

Zwift

After only three rides, a wealth of new wardrobe goodies

Addictive tendencies

Once you’ve started, and paid your first month’s subscription, you obviously want to get your money’s worth. So you keep entering events. And you keep losing, or ending up in the middle of the pack. Or the wifi goes down and you get mighty angry. But you’re showing signs of a new addiction, just like those children who play Fortnite. You disappear into the pain cave more often. You come out sweating more than usual. This is the great thing: the more you train, the better value for money you get.

This Zwift newbie only has one reservation so far: this is doubtless due to the nature of the events, and himself. So far, it has been full-on hard riding, with no let-up. This means efforts often become sort of FTP tests. The advantage is that I certainly haven’t trained this hard on the home trainer before. The disadvantage is I’m not doing intervals any more. But I have heard there are many structured training sessions on Zwift. But so far, I just love to race. Against myself. And the rest of the world. See you in Watopia. Ride on!