Getting the most out of a 'dumb' trainer

Hi All, I’m new to zwift and have a dumb trainer (Tacx Booster) it’s set up to the resistance level that zwift suggests for the power curve of my trainer. Also have Garmin HR strap, speed and cadence sensors- all pair fine. Workouts and FTP have been good during this 7day trial but would be interested to know if others with similar trainers stay on the resistance level and go up and down their bike gears when gradients start or up and down the trainers resistance levels? Just trying to get the most out of the manual trainer and how others use them. Also can you still race but in Cat D? I don’t have a power meter to compare my stats against. Will be continuing with zwift as online support desk has been great with my setup questions. Many thanks

Hello Marie. I’m pretty new to Zwift myself - about two weeks worth. I’m also on a dumb trainer, as I didn’t want to invest too much before I knew if I’d like it.

I love it.

I manually shift gears to simulate slopes.Now, I’ve never been a biker outside of Zwift, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. In addition, I take it from others that are actual cyclists that hills probably shouldn’t be harder. After all, watts are watts - you just put the bike into a gear that allows you to keep pumping out your watt maximum. You go slower, but it’s not necessarily physically more taxing. (Again, that’s just what I’ve heard.)

BUT… as a novice, that doesn’t feel right to me. I like the fact that hills give me a chance to really push myself hard. So completely reverse of what you’d do in the real world, go to a higher gear on inclines while trying to keep the highest cadence I can tolerate. The higher gear simulates the harder incline.

I have four gears I use (4,5,6,7 on my “dial.”)

I use 5 as my default level. It’s what I use if the incline is anywhere from -2% to +2%.
I use 6 as my middle climb. It’s for 3% or 4%.
I use 7 as my hard climb. It’s for 5%+
I use 4 as my downhill gear - for -3% or lower.

I thought I’d find it unrealistic or strange or cumbersome, but I actually like it a lot. It feels pretty real and immersive to me. I don’t plan to change anytime soon. In fact, if I ever get a smart trainer, I hope I can get it to work in a similar way.

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You actually should not be changing the resistance level/lever on your trainer, there is only a power curve for the one that Zwift suggest you put in on in the Pairing Screen.


Glad you are enjoying Zwift. For racing, keep it in the right level but remember without a power meter, your power will usually be higher than reality so most race organizers have banned zwift power estimated power from winning or even podium positions.

If you change levels, it should be for training purposes and should be in the harder levels which may simulate uphills better. But only training, not racing.

If or when you get addicted to racing, you will want a power meter. A power wheel or other used power meter can sometimes be reasonably priced. I got a 1200 power wheel on ebay for only 100 dollars. I still have a ‘dumb’ trainer but I love it (smooth and quiet).


It sounds like you’re trying to make a “dumb” trainer emulate a “smart” trainer by changing your resistance settings but that really won’t work. Just set your trainer to the resistance level recommended by Zwift and ride it the way it is that way Zwift can do a reasonably good job of calculating your power. Make sure you check your tire pressure and mounting as these can effect power numbers and lastly do a spin down calibration and you should be all set.

When riding with a dumb trainer keep an eye on your watts and speed and when a hill comes just try to maintain watts and/or speed. Don’t mess around with the resistance.

Yes, you can race without a power meter or smart trainer but your results on Zwiftpower may be not allowed in some events if you do really well but go ahead and race and see where you end up. I would recommend registering with as it keeps a nice record of all your races and racing efforts.


Many thanks everyone for your replies, I’ve learned something new from them all. I really appreciate this help as these things can be a minefield when you don’t know what your doing. It’s a great workout neither way! Thanks again :+1:

I’m new to zwift and I’m using a dumb trainer and a cadence and speed sensor; how do I check the ‘power curve that zwift suggests’?

Also - tips on how to simulate climbs? Changing gears on my bike? Are there ‘target’ watts and rpm numbers I should look at to adjust my level of effort?

What trainer?

Yes, shift to a higher gear, more or less the opposite of what you would do IRL.

@Gerrie_Delport_ODZ is better at power curve questions.

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cycleops fluid 2

Hi @John_Kim1

Your trainer power curve look something like this. Zwift calculated their own curves but this should be a good example.


There is no target watts for climbs, just change gears so that your avatar goes faster.


Thank you so much! So I should use this chart to adjust the tension on my dumb trainer? Meaning if I’m on a ‘flat’ section - I should be at approx 100 watts at 20km/h?

oh and are there target watts/rpms in general? I’m just having trouble understanding how hard I should be going. IRL I avg about 17mph but on my first zwift ride I was doing about 23 on avg and was working hard…so not sure if I should be going slower or faster or switching to different gears! EEK

You need to set the resistance to the same setting as what is in the Pair Screen for that trainer.

Also, please read this:

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@John_Kim1 the cycleops fluid 2 does not have resistance settings.
No just ride and enjoy it. Don’t try to do the same as outside. Find a good pace that work for you.

No there is no target watts.

You can change gears anytime.


Thank you so much! It’s all new to me and I’m just wanting to make sure I’m using it ‘right’! I’ve only done one ride and got a good sweat in so so far so good!

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That is the main point. You will get used to it.

Ride On. :ride_on: