There’s a place upstairs in our house. It’s scary. When you enter, what greets you is an endless sea of ‘stuff’. Even a passing glance at it stresses me out. Half filled boxes of crap that haven’t been touched since we moved in, an old sofa, a fridge, camping gear, sewing machine bobbins strewn on the floor, wool that’s fallen out of bags and unravelled everywhere. Hobbies go to die here. Yup, it’s a ‘stuff’ graveyard.
Is it a cupboard? No, I wish. A cupboard would suggest a manageable space of bits and bobs that we can close the door on and ignore. No, IT’S A WHOLE FLIPPING ROOM. A ROOM OF DOOM.
Within our mountain of regrettable consumerism and years of hoarding lay my trusty turbo. I held my nerve and plucked it delicately from the human-sized Jenga pile.
My turbo is a seasonal creature, only rearing its head when the weather is bad and the days are short. Not anymore. It now takes pride of place in my living room with my bike and a renewed subscription to Zwift. Lockdown? Pah! I’ve been cycling all over the world for the last few weeks and loving it.
HOLD UP, WHAT’S ZWIFT?
Indoor cycling isn’t known for being the most exciting activity. In fact, it’s really boring, but Zwift helps make it much more fun. Basically, Zwift’s a massive multiplayer online game. It links up to your turbo trainer via your iphone/tablet/laptop allowing you to ride different virtual courses with others around the world.
Route destinations include New York, London and Zwift’s own world, the island of Watopia. You can also take part in worldwide events, create private ride-alongs with friends or simply freestyle it and explore the area.
SOUNDS COOL, BUT COMPLICATED. WHAT DO I NEED?
There’s multiple ways you can get hooked up to Zwift. I’ve explained my set-up below, but there’s a brilliant guide over on Zwift Insider.
Turbo trainer and bike: I currently ride with a TacX Flow Smart and my Specialized hybrid bike. Smart Turbo’s connect via bluetooth to laptops/phones and Zwift, meaning your turbo will react to changes on your ride, like inclines.
Laptop/iPhone/iPad: You’ll need this to run Zwift on. I currently use my laptop and hook it up to my TV via HDMI, but have happily had it on the small screen sat in front of my bike.
Zwift subscription: Zwift ain’t free.A subscription is about £12.99 a month, but the first 7 days are free and you can cancel at any point.
Zwift companion: If you have the option, I’d recommend getting the Zwift companion app for your phone and attaching it to your bike. It means you can give people ‘Ride On’s’ during the game, use any power-ups you have and easily change route direction if you fancy it.
Makeshift fan and phone holder: It may look profesh, but my fan is a USB fan plugged into my laptop and my phone holder is tied to the handlebars using a Garmin charge wire, but it does the job!
Wireless headphones: You know, for the tunes and podcasts.
WHY I LOVE IT
Like I said, indoor cycling can be incredibly boring and gamifying it wasn’t something I thought would keep me interested, but it really has. I look forward to meeting my pals for a ride. Knowing we’re all slogging up the same hills and doing it together relieves the solitude of living room cycling (side note: You can talk to your friends via the messenger function, or on audio using Discord – if you’re not puffing and panting up the hills).
Also, exploring different worlds each day has made me show up and get involved. I often get asked ‘where are we going today?’ by Jason. One time he cycled with me with around London and took photos of the landmarks we’d visited in real life. You know, since it’s the most touristy thing we’ll do for a while… but seriously, sticking my headphones on and transporting myself to a different place helps tick off the miles. There are also loads of training plans available. Olympic triathlon training, winter plans, learning to ride your first century (100 miles in one session) so plenty to get involved in.
From the community aspect, I’m seeing lovely conversations happen daily with Zwifters. People from across the world check in with each other and share their experiences of how Coronavirus is affecting their lives and local communities. At a time when we are physically distant from each other, Zwift is fast turning into a place where people don’t have to feel alone and can meet others while staying safe.
THEY MUST BE DOING WELL OUT OF COVID-19?
The short answer, based on my very scientific research of ‘asking my pals’, is most likely. I know a couple of my friends have subscribed as a direct result of being stuck indoors and I can’t be alone in that scenario. However, the official line from Zwift is:
“As you know, we never comment on subscriber numbers. As an at-home training service, we’re in a stronger position than most, and as the climate changes, we’re likely to see some changes in community behaviour (that change being more activity). That said, assuming a more active base, we’re working on adding new events throughout the calendar to keep our community moving and training.”
Zwift was already in a good position. People loved the platform before the outbreak. Its whole premise is centred around working out at home so didn’t need to adapt from a technology perspective. However, I’m excited to see is how it develops over the months in terms of adding new events and meetups. We might not be outside, but I think there will be some really cool things to get involved in.
It may have taken a lockdown for me to dig my turbo out again, but I’ll be continuing my Social Zwiftancing long after this is all over.