New (cycling) Zwifter here. Thought I’d share my initial impressions, and see how they compare to others.
I’ve been a road cyclist since 1999. Caught the bug back when a certain L. Armstrong was riding for US Postal. Did about a hundred or so miles per week in the US mid-west. But never joined a club or trained systematically. I was a happy solo cyclist, riding flat roads.
But I’ve been off the bike for about six or seven years. My mom got sick, and life got in the way. I put on a a half dozen kilos and lost a lot of my fitness. And I moved to SW England. And then covid-19 came along. All of a sudden the social life I’d planned on enjoying disappeared overnight. And I found myself drinking too much wine and watching too much Netflix. I could tell I was headed in a bad direction.
Fortunately there is a strong cycling community near me. I’d see riders of all ages grinding, and sometimes zooming, up hills that would have terrified the Wisconsin-cyclist I used to be. So I bought myself a very nice titanium-framed, gently used bike from a local shop.
Wow! Has cycling changed a lot. We’ve now got disc brakes. And cycling computers come with GPS.
I spent the first couple months getting used to cycling again. Broke in my sit-bones. Restocked my cycling wardrobe. And started logging a few miles. My speed wasn’t what it used to be. I was used to dodging the wind on flat midwestern roads and averaging a good 17-18 miles an hour. Now I found myself panting and puffing up quarter-mile 5% grades like they were Alpe d’huez. And finishing rides between 12 and 13 mph. And then I found Strava. Where I could compare my times to that of other local riders.
Man! There are some strong folks out there. Guys (and gals) who could power up climbs at 20mph+, climbs I was grinding away at 7. My times slowly got better. But I knew that I had some work to do if I was going to be able to stay with the pack if I wanted to do club riding next summer. And it started getting cold, and wet. And dark at 3.30 in the afternoon.
I’d bought a Wahoo Element Bolt, so I was familiar with the brand. So I started looking at indoor trainers. I didn’t want a wheel-on trainer (too noisy and too much wear on the tire.) I looked at the KickR and the KickR Core. The Core was £200 cheaper. But they were sold out for several month. And you need to buy and install a cassette. So I pulled the ripcord and paid a cool thou for the KickR.
Next obstacle: Boredom. While riding outside I’ve been tired. I’ve been sore. I’ve been cold, and hungry, scared, and happy, and hot, and thirsty. But I’ve never been BORED. My prior experiences with indoor trainers (bikes, rowing machines, treadmills) have been so-so. I got bored very easily. You can watch TV or read or listen to music. But it’s hard to do that while staying focused on training.
I’d seen (as have we all) the Peloton TV ads. I been intrigued. But the cost put me off. As did having a dedicated indoor machine that was different to my road bike. So I came across Zwift, mainly through GCN and other cycling-orientated YouTube channels. So Zwift became my goal. Signed up, and started my journey.
Initial reactions: Massive Kudos to the folks at Zwift for taking the boredom out of indoor cycling. I’ve only seen a tiny fraction of the Zwift universe so far. But it gets the balance between realism and excitement just right. I haven’t gotten into the social aspects yet. Right now I’m working through one of the FTP-building plans. And I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how engaging they seem. I’ll let you know in a few weeks if my FTP has moved in the right direction. But I’m pretty confident it will. I’m working on aspects of my riding I’d totally ignored before. And the workouts seem designed to build strength, power, and endurance without leaving my body shattered, as some (too many) of my solo efforts had.
Technically? I’d rate the whole experience as 99/100. Took me a little while (as in about ten minutes) to get the KickR, and my MacBook, and my iPhone, and my Bolt to work together. I’m still waiting for my heart-rate and cadence monitors to arrive. Took me a ride or two to figure out how to use the ERG mode properly.
And I’ve got the project of building my perfect Zwift Cave. I wasn’t happy with my MacBook perched on a little table next to my bike, and I had trouble reading some of the smaller details on the screen. So an unused LCD TV got bolted to the wall of my garage. A couple of industrial fans came from my local builder’s supply shop. I’ve got the process of clipping my road bike frame into and out of the KickR down to a couple of minutes. And I’m still looking around for the AppleTV that I hope to use to run the Zwift app, so the laptop can stay out of the garage. I now know not to start until I’ve got the fans placed right, a couple water bottles to hand, and towels to keep me and my bike relatively sweat-free.
Looking forward to building my FTP and endurance over the next few months. I’ll never win the Tour de France. I’ll never win a club race. And I doubt I’ll ever win a KOM of any hill that’s not in my own driveway. But that’s OK. I feel physically and emotionally and mentally better than I have in years. Thanks to my bike. And thanks to Zwift for giving me a pathway (literally and virtually) for many happy miles ahead.