New to biking (in general) / Must Improve Cardiovascular Heath

Hi Everyone,

I’m new to the Zwift forum. I’m also a complete novice bike rider. I learned to ride as a kid. Rarely rode my bike during my youth, and haven’t since.

I let myself go and am very out of shape. I’m a 37 year old male, 5’11 and ~250 pounds. When I was in decent shape, 6 years ago, I was probably around 170 pounds. My health has suffered and I’m on a mission to get into the best shape of my life (however long that takes) and change my lifestyle for good.

I’ve always found treadmills to be boring, not that stationary bikes are any better. But Zwift looks like a lot of fun and very motivating.

I don’t want to spend a ton of money. My limit is $1000ish, but I’d prefer to spend less if $1000 isn’t a drastic improvement over something in the $500 dollar range.

I looked for info online, but it’s just information overload and I’d love to hear your advice on:

  1. What should I get?
  2. How to best approach improving my cardiovascular health starting from zilch.

Thank you,

Daniel

If you just want to ride for fun and for getting in shape then any reliable trainer will do.

If you want it to be interactive, then get a smart trainer (can be wheel-on).

You can use whichever bike you’re comfortable with, so long as it’s compatible with your trainer if choice. You should be able to get both for $500. Granted this would be on the low end, but it would function just fine.
If you really start enjoying it you can upgrade later when you get the chance.

PS: welcome aboard :slight_smile:

Ales, thank you very much for responding and the wise advice.

Yeah, my main goal is to get my resting heart rate in order and to lose weight.

Do you have any recommendations regarding a bike and a smart trainer? If you don’t have concrete examples, maybe you have a website that you like that gives objective advice.

Any bike will work as long as it fits you and fits on the trainer.
The bike can be of any style you like but most beginners gravitate toward the exercise bikes or bikes that are called flat bar road bikes (no shocks).
These bikes tend to have a more upright open posture.
They have a straight handle bar instead of the curved handle bar of a traditional road bike or racing bike.
This allows the rider to sit more upright.
You might also look at a bike with an adjustable stem or purchase one cheaply.
This will allow you to adjust the the height and distance (or reach) of the handle bars.
This adds very very little weight but will allow you the flexibility to see what feels comfortable.
You can take the bike off the trainer and ride out doors if you wish or leave it on the trainer.
I have a dedicated trainer bike.
What’s nice about dedicated trainer bikes, weight is no issue.
I can use very inexpensive parts to change or adjust things.
My trainer bike was made from an old (heavy) steel schwinn road bike and a Next mountain bike that someone had thrown out.
I just swapped out the drop bars (curved handle bars) for the flat ones from the mountain bike, ditched the brakes and used the gear shifter from the mountain bike.
I did buy pedals and a comfortable seat.
This bike will never ride outside (no brakes) but I only spent $110 on the seat and pedals.
You could use the old seat and old pedals for a totally free setup.

For a turbo trainer, get a used one for sure and don’t spend a lot of money on it.
It’s best to check the Zwift web site to see if a perspective trainer is supported or not.
You can use all trainers but it is easier and fewer headaches if your trainer is supported.
I don’t use an interactive trainer meaning it does not simulate the hills.
Mine is a smart trainer because it broadcasts the power directly to the game.
It is a Kinetic trainer and I feel this brand is the top of the line non interactive trainer and highly recommend it.
Usually used, its about $150.
There are lots of steps to Zwifting.
Lots of things to work out.
It wont work on your first attempt.
Just work thru each issue, one at a time and you will be really happy.
Start with a bike that fits you and a trainer.
Come back to the forums with your questions.

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Tim, you are so kind for taking the time to give me such quality information.

I really appreciate it.

Best,

Daniel

Something you didn’t mention yet is whether you’ve already got something you plan to use to run Zwift on. I used an iPad for a few years, which works surprisingly well in terms of screen size as long as you can place it close to your handlebars. However I recently upgraded to a PC that powers a 24 inch monitor. Much nicer, but not essential, a tablet will work fine if that’s what you’ve got. A plug and play alternative that many people use is an Apple TV with a monitor, fine but but not the ultimate graphics quality. So, don’t forget you may need to spend some money there. Huge range of $ depending on what’s available to you and how good you want the graphics to be.

I would also recommend getting a heart monitor, so you can keep track of what “zone” your rides are, and so you don’t overdo it. Not too expensive, but another cost to remember, roughly $50.

People have different opinions, but I’d recommend you get a smart trainer that can simulate hills. The realism is much better and it will be the best plug and play solution. Something like a Kickr Snap would be good, but it would blow half your budget (ie $500) However, I don’t think you’d regret it.

Don’t forget to budget for a decent size/power fan as well. Riding in real life you get a huge amount of cooling from air flowing past you as you ride, this is missing inside and you’ll overheat quickly, stress your heart. Not a lot of $ but another thing to include.

I’d follow the others advice to get a used road bike. Make sure it’s the right frame size - for your height a 56cm (maybe 58) frame should be about right. Get something that is currently working (test ride it) recently maintained, gears shift properly, isn’t rusted up, tires not worn/cracking, brakes working, seat in good shape. Something that’s at least a 10-speed should be fine. Your local bike shop might be a good place to look, they would also set it up to fit your frame properly by adjusting the seat so your body position is right and your leg flex is correct so you aren’t over stressing your knees. If you have a biking friend they could also help with set up. Alternatively Craigslist always has bikes available, should be able to get something that fits the bill for about $200, and would be useable outside in the summer if you get caught by the cycling bug.

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Thank you, Justin.

Yeah, I have an iPad that I’ll use.

I agree re a heart rate monitor. I need to take it slow until I build a base level of endurance. I’m really doing this for my health. I’d like to get to a point where my resting heart rate is in the 60s.

I’ll consider a smart trainer.

I live in Brooklyn, NY. There’s one bike store not too far from where I live but the selection seems small and there are fancier stores in the more expensive parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

I’ve been looking at pages with titles like “Best road bikes under $500” and then searched for those bikes on sites that sell new and used bikes and it seems like they are often out of stock. I searched on google and apparently there’s been a bike shortage since the pandemic. FML. :rofl:

I just checked Craigslist for Brooklyn, there’s lots of steel frame road bikes that look to be in ready to ride shape, but it does look like the pandemic has pushed prices up, so you might need to spend closer to $300.

Thanks for taking the time. I’ve never purchased anything from Craigslist, but I’ll take a look.

I’ve bought on it several times (bikes and guitars) and haven’t had a bad experience yet. If it looks OK and rides OK, offer about 2/3 of what they’re asking and they’ll prolly take it… if you have a friend who knows more about bikes try and see if they’ll go with you.

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Justin’s comments are excellent advice. You really shouldn’t forget the fan unless you’ll be Zwifting in a veeery drafty place. Everybody heats up on the trainer so fans are crucial.

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Hello, Daniel.

I would recommend a smart trainer if you can stretch the funds. I started with a fluid trainer and a speed/cadence sensor. I’m a bit overweight, but at 57 years old, I also need to keep my heartrate in check and using a regular, non-smart trainer, made it more difficult. A smart trainer will mimic the climbs and descents on Zwift, so it gets tougher on the climbs, but easier on the downhills. The reduced resistance on the downhills allows you to recover from the climbs and allows your heartrate to go back down, ready for the next climb. Racing (and once you get more fit, you WILL want to race, lol) was tough with the “dumb” trainer because you are still giving it all you got on the downhills so you don’t fall behind, never a moment to recover during the ride. I’m now faster and my average heart rate is lower than it was on the dumb trainer. Those reduced resistance downhills gives you much needed recovery, whether you’re racing or just out for a ride. It’s also a much more interactive experience since the changes in resistance on the trainer means you have to shift gears, instead of just using one gear and spinning your pedals.
Zwift is a lot of fun and for sure makes exercising more enjoyable. I’ve doubled my yearly cycling distance now that I can ride indoors. I’m still 20 lbs heavier than I’d like to be, but that’s the junk food and portion sizes, not Zwift’s fault. :laughing:

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I would look for an aluminum frame complete bike Cannondale CAAD 10 to CAAD 13. They are IMO the best value of any road bike. It will come with drop bars. I would keep those. You can ride with your hands on top of the bars and periodically ride with your hands on the drops. I am not a fan of carbon fibre bikes on a on trainer. The CAAD series is great for the trainer or on the road or trails. In 2009 I got him by a car going 60 mph so now I am too paranoid about being hit by a car again to ride on roads so I ride on trails. Another fine option would a used quality aluminum gravel or cyclocross bike.

For a review of trainers look up DC Rainmaker. I generally agree with his analysis and recommendations. My suggestion would be to get a used Tacx Neo or similar quality smart trainer.

The iPad is fine for starting out.

Good luck cycling is great fun and healthy. I highly recommend it.

Thanks very much. I simply need to start to get moving. I gained a lot of weight (hit a rough patch in my life) and not only is it unpleasant aesthetically, my health has been compromised (bp/heart-rate). Getting winded after walking up and down two flights of stairs is just not good.

I need to start very slowly and work my way up.

Yeah, junk food is hard to resist (especially if it’s in your home), but at least you’ve made major improvements.

All the best.

Thank you, Paul.

Oh my, thank ■■■ (not an expletive, but you know who I mean) you’ve recovered.

Thanks for the info, I’ll check out the bikes and the trainer.

All the Best!

if you want a bike for outdoors as well, you can buy an entry level road bike for ~£600 and a mid-level smart trainer for around the same, a little over budget, but well worth the investment as it lets you train indoors and outdoors throughout the whole year.

if you want to bring costs down, buy a bargain road bike 2nd hand off ebay or w/e. recommend getting the trainer from new though as 2nd hand ones can be busted/over-used etc. and it is hard to tell before buying (unlike with a bike). go for a direct drive smart trainer 100% if you can afford it, they are miles better than dumb trainers or wheel-on trainers.

with regards to training, start off just exploring zwift routes in free ride mode, aim to do up to 30min rides a few times a week at a steady pace, build up to 1 hour. invest in a decent heart rate monitor and you can start riding based on heart rate. you can also join group rides / events if you wish, but these will be a bit spicier.

once you have built a baseline of cardio fitness after a month or so, you can start thinking about doing some of the more interesting/fun stuff like interval workouts / racing etc. with varying power output and cadence requirements to continue your cardio development, but it’s good to get a solid baseline first i.e. be able to ride for 1 hour at a moderate pace relatively comfortably.

some people like to charge straight in to interval training / racing, but personally if you haven’t got previous experience I don’t recommend this as a) you probably won’t enjoy it very much unless ur super competitive and/or a ■■■■■■■■■ and b) risk of injury / over-exertion is high until you learn your capabilities/limits…!

Thanks very much for the sage advice.