Overweight non cyclist. Is Zwift for me?

Hi Everyone,

Looking for a bit of advice on whether or not Zwift is for me. I’ve read through lots of posts on the forum but most come from current outdoor cyclists. Those that don’t usually fall into the “I’m a bit overweight now but used to cycle 24/7 365 days a year” or “I’ve never cycled before but I do run marathons every weekend” category.

I love the idea of Zwift, the social, gaming and competitive aspect and think it is something which would really motivate me to get fitter, lose weight and compete (although probably super casually), but most importantly for me, actually stick with it. But the upfront cost is not cheap. It seems to be more tailored towards experienced cyclists rather than beginners. And I’m worried I will spend a lot of money to be way too unfit to even get to the bottom rung of the Zwift experience and therefore not enjoy it or not be able to get any use out of it.

About me, I’m 29, male, 110kg Ish, 5-10 Ish. Overweight for sure, but not inactive. I compete at a national standard (just about) at table tennis. While I need to get much fitter (and table tennis is high intensity but short length and usually not much requirement for stamina), I wouldn’t say I’m massively unfit compared to what my raw numbers probably suggest. I ran on a treadmill 2 years ago (almost daily) for 6 months and combined with diet lost 5 stone. Then I moved and couldn’t keep the treadmill and all has gone downhill.

I would say I have absolutely no desire to ride outside. I would be cycling purely indoors for fitness, gaming, social aspect. I also don’t have a bike and haven’t cycled for years. This makes my cost to entry even higher. As I don’t want to go outside on my bike I have been thinking about the concept 2 bikeerg static/exercise bike. Originally I was just looking at a £250 or so exercise bike but going down that rabbit hole led me to Zwift which has me more than interested. This seems to be a good middle ground for me to get into Zwift but is £750 more.

But the question remains, with the bike and accessories etc I’m going to be spending more than £1000. Is Zwift for me? Should I just buy the non compatible exercise bike and get fitter the none connected way?

Absolutely!

No!

As far as the second part goes, stationary exercise bikes in themselves are boring (in my opinion, but it’s an opinion widely held). You need to be very motivated and have deep reserves of mental fortitude to sit on a stationary bike regularly.

Of course, you can use other approaches such as watching Netflix, but you’ll enjoy your time on any stationary bike with a distraction. And Zwift is a fantastic distraction. It also offers more in the way of goal-setting and motivation than you’ll get from an unconnected experience. You can upload to Strava for example, and compare yourself to other riders.

As for whether it’s for you; why wouldn’t it be? Even amongst Zwifters who also ride outside, many are choosing to ride indoors more and more. It’s more convenient, not affected by the weather, potentially safer…

Cycling itself is great exercise. It’s not weight bearing, so it’s kind on your joints, and it offers as much of a cardio workout as you want to get out of it.

I also think you can get into Zwift for a lot less money than you’re suggesting - assuming you already have a computer. You could start with a “dumb trainer” for example. That’s less immersive than one that will adjust resistance automatically, but they cost a lot less. You do need to buy a speed and cadence sensor, but that’s probably £50 (e.g. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Garmin-Wireless-Connectivity-Bluetooth-Technology/dp/B07PG9MJ79/)

Then you can buy a second hand bike - there’s no reason to buy a new bike for Zwift. I started off using my old steel bike from the 80s!

8 Likes

It is. I was 118 kg (taller though). I road outside a handful of times and didn’t like cars or the snow/ice from Nov to May. I started out with 30 min rides and 10 miles three days a week. The more I rode, the more addicted I became. My first climb was the volcano and it took me a long time. I then started riding 40 min/15 miles. Then 45/…etc. I slowly dropped to 94kg over 9 months and am still addicted and doing much longer rides and bigger climbs. Is it worth it? It was to me.

16 Likes

I think you would enjoy Zwift more than a spin bike. I just sold my spin bike after 1 year of use and just started using Zwift. I just started cycling about a year ago and while I prefer riding outside I find that Zwift motivates me more than the online spin classes did. My hope is that using Zwift during the winter months will make me a stronger cyclist when warmer weather arrives.

3 Likes

Yes yes and yes.

You can start cheap. Get a used bike (I am still on a cheap steel no name bike). Start with a cheap fluid trainer, I have seen kurt kinetic fluid trainer for a good price.

5 Likes

I’d say go sign up for a spin cycle class just to see if you enjoy the workout before dropping the money for a setup. A spin class is not the same as zwift but it can show you what a cycling workout feels like. Some bike shops have zwift test setups too, you may be able to try it locally.

I think zwift has a 30 day return policy now too just in case you don’t like it, that may be helpful just in case it’s not for you.

I love the competition vs other riders, drives me to push myself.

1 Like

The old saying goes … the best workout routine is the one you’ll do and keep doing. :slight_smile:

In the long term, exercise should feel fulfilling both mentally and physically, not drudgery that you dread. Of course the first few weeks of any meaningful exercise routine WILL feel like drudgery. You’ll not like doing it, your body and mind will try and convince you to stop. You’ll be sore and tired and frustrated. Keep going.

The trick is finding something (or things) that engage your non-exercise brain while exercising. For many people, the gaming and social aspects of Zwift do exactly that, which makes the exercise not feel like exercise.

If you can last the first few weeks, your body will start to accept and EXPECT the exercise load (this is where the magic happens) and you’ll crave the time you spend exercising. :slight_smile:

Ok now it’s story time with Wes, buckle up :slight_smile:

I say this as a formally 250lb (~113kg) software nerd who put on 5lbs for every year I spend behind a desk in Seattle working for Microsoft. In mid 2012 after taking what I felt was the worst DMV photo ever (I did not recognize the fat face man in the license they handed me after taking my picture), I decided something needed to change.

I signed up for MyFitnessPal to track calories because everything I had read up that point broke weight loss down into a simple formula, less calories + more activity = weight loss and set a calorie budget that would let me drop the standard 2lbs per week.

I needed to add the “more activity” component so I started walking every day at lunch for 20 min (while cutting out the fast food and sodas). Walking turned into longer walks and even longer walks on the weekends. Walks turned to slow jogs and slow jogs turned into a 5K then a 10K. I even walked the Seattle Half marathon with my wife (which was a terrible idea, walking 13 miles is the absolute worst, I do not recommend that. Run it instead, it’ll be over faster.)

In Feb 2013 I was down to 180lbs (82kg) and as a reward to myself, I bought my first road bike. The day I bought the bike, a friend convinced me to also buy an entry into the Seattle to Portland ride. The ride was 204 miles over two days and I had just 5 months to go from haven’t-ridden-a-bike-serously-for-over-a-decade to riding 204 miles in two days. Luckily I already craved daily exercise. :slight_smile:

I started riding to and from work a few days a week (~12 miles each way) and this quickly turned into riding to work 5 days a week and a group ride on the weekends. Those rides turned into larger group rides (longer, more hills) and my commutes grew to include some “bonus miles” because I craved the work. I rode over 5,000 miles in 2013 including that Seattle to Portland ride.

Now at the end of 2019 I have over 41,000 miles on Strava and still weigh around the same as when I started riding that bike in 2013.

Note: All of the story above was before Zwift even existed and before I worked here. I tell it to illustrate why it’s important to do whatever workout routine you’ll keep doing. For me it happened to be simply walking at lunch where I could listen to a daily podcast. For you, maybe it’s Zwift. :ride_on:

16 Likes

ditto to the idea that you just need to keep doing it. if zwift keeps you coming back, then it’s for you!

the thing that keeps me coming back to zwift every night is that it makes me want to work and get better. there’s a ton of things going on that push me further each night, even on nights that i’m just not feeling it:

  • the trainer changing grades on its own. if i have to do it, then i might not!
  • other people’s avatars are there, and can be passed
  • group rides are awesome, and tend to go a bit harder than i would otherwise (and there is banter that keeps me occupied)
  • workouts are available, and if you just can’t bear the thought of riding, put one of those on and sort of zone out – the time goes by pretty fast when you’re doing a bunch of little intervals
  • FTP increases. it happens! and it shows you you’re getting stronger!
  • personal best records on routes. if i’m close to the line, and i’ve got some left, i go for it!
  • sprints! i could just ride through it… but i can push a little harder right?!
  • all the counters. i can do just one more minute! i can do just one more mile! i can do just one more vertical foot!
  • scenery. i just need to see that roadrunner. ok, now the train. ok, now the slot canyon. ok…

zwift keeps me riding. that’s the key!

9 Likes

In all fairness Zwift IS cycling/cyclist oriented. There is a lot of cycling jargon and a focus on real-life cycling type activities like group rides, racing, even exploring. There’s focus on power and power/weight ratios, etc. Zwift adds to this virtual cycling lifestyle with a gaming aspect.

Just to throw it out there, something like Peloton is different in that its catered more toward “the masses” and general fitness. There’s no talk of watts or racing or body weights, etc. You just do the spin class and get your exercise. Peloton is pretty damn pricey, though. You could join a gym that offer spin and other classes for its price.

I consider myself a “cyclist” and am interested in such things. I’m new to Zwift but its been a ton of fun so far and i like it lot. But i also have three friends with Pelotons that have zero interest in “cycling” and simply want fun exercise that happens to be on a bike. Peloton seems right for them, Zwift seems right for me.

My point is simply that there are lots of ways to gain fitness, even while on bikes.

6 Likes

Zwift is’nt just fitness, it’s entertainment as well. If your goal is weight loss, change your nutrition and buy some resistance bands. Build muscle. Muscle burns more energy than fat. It’s the inexpensive way to tell if your serious about a health goal or just desiring one. Zwift makes it easy to turn the desire intoa reality. As silly as it sounds, e-badges account for about 75% of my 2019 cardio gains. Leveling upa charcter that has no real world value, has made me lose weight and taught me to push thru discomfort. I’d never have got that with a $50 pack of resistance bands. So you get what you put into Zwift. It may be “pricey” up front, but if you’re going to put the work into it, it’ll more than pay for itself down the road. Plus, it’s entertaining. It’d cost $60+ for dinner and a movie in my area. Zwift costs me $15 a month and I can sell my Trainer and bike if I get burned out.

8 Likes

Thank you all!

Some really great responses, much more helpful and positive than I expected. Really appreciate all the responses, particularly those with stories from your own lives. Really motivating! It seems like this is a really amazing community which I think makes me even more excited to join it!

For info, it isn’t like I’ve never ridden a bike or been to a spin class, but getting a gym membership and joining a spin class isn’t for me. That’s not to say I don’t like the workout. I would much rather train at home. Peloton isn’t for me either. I want the game, the social side, the competitive side. That is what would motivate me, not watching someone run a class. And I’m 99% sure zwift would keep me coming back. I appreciate there are many things I could do to lose weight and get fitter, but this is the first thing I’ve seen that I can do solo which I actively want to do.

So with all that being said, I think I’m in. However perhaps the £1000 zwift compatible spin bike (concept 2 bikeerg) is not the entry point I should be choosing. However I also don’t like the idea of buying a second hand bike, simply because I have absolutely no clue what would be a decent bike as opposed to something falling apart. I’ve also looked at the fluid trainer suggested here. I think that was a “dumb” one meaning I would need additional bits to connect. At that point the price seemed compatible with some entry level smart trainers.

For my initial foray into zwift how would something like the Tacx Vortex Smart Trainer fare? Then I am looking to pick up a cheapish halfords road bike. Probably something like this.
https://www.halfords.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductMobileDisplay?catalogId=10151&langId=-1&categoryId=165710&productId=1454188&storeId=10001

That setup would be significantly cheaper at around £450. Would I massively regret anything there and wish I had gone for something better? Or is that going to get me most of the way to what zwift has to offer (I know it won’t change resistance for me) at half the price? Anything else I should be considering?

Thanks again everyone, really appreciate your help/time/comments.

2 Likes

It can feel like a complicated decision can’t it. I had done a little bit of road cycling before I got on to zwift but not loads. I went straight in with an entry level smart trainer (cycleops m2) which at the time was about 450. I felt the same as you with either going budget and having to upgrade later, or going for something more expensive and risk not really enjoying it. I defo think you’ll enjoy it so its probably just a case of what do you think is bigger risk, going budget option and upgrading later, or going with something a bit pricier and risk not getting in to zwift.

Yes! It’s so engaging and fun! BTW send me a note and I will give you a 30 day code for zwift that I got with the trainer I bought and don’t need!

1 Like

Perfect. I used one for nearly four years before upgrading to a Neo 2.

Only downsides of those sorts of “wheel on” trainers are:

  1. they can usually only simulate up to a 6% or 7% slope – this doesn’t really matter much at all
  2. they can be inaccurate in terms of power, and need to be calibrated using a “spin down” test once warmed up (e.g. after 10 minutes). The accuracy can be affected by tyre pressure and air temperature; but it only really matters if you’re racing, and plenty of people race using wheel on trainers, so it shouldn’t deter you.

Eventually when you upgrade to a better trainer (direct drive or smart bike), you are likely to see a drop in power. e.g. I dropped from an “FTP” (functional threshold power) of 270W down to more like 250W.

Im just starting out as well and overweight, I’ve just got a Wahoo Cadence and Speed sensor on an old bike I had, with a Fluid2 Trainer I bought second hand for about $100, ANT+ sensor connected to my PC, so pretty cheap setup.

Football is my sport(not cycled since I was a kid), but am going to use Zwift to increase my aerobic fitness, so far I’m enjoying it, it is a bit disheartening seeing others zipping past you and I slow to a crawl whenever I hit any sort of elevation, my FTP presently is 75w lol, but I find it really engaging in regards to the stats, personal bests etc, and is motivating me to improve.

7 Likes

If you don’t have a Trainer yet, I’d invest in a cheap direct drive trainer like the Elite Zumo.
I understand, for some it’s a lot of money, but you can use this device for several years or sell it for a good price.

Direct drive smart trainer all the way to keep you coming back for more. There is no substitution for the dynamic changes in resistance that makes Zwift so fun to use. Not to mention that such a trainer will allow you to enjoy ERG workouts based on power, which were a game changer for me when introduced.

1 Like

I had the opposite happen when upgrading from a cycleops fluid 2 to a Kickr Core, my FTP rose by 7% from 230 to 246.

Having a smart trainer really does have a huge impact on your ride experience, so if you can afford it I would certainly suggest starting out with one. If you end up not liking it after a few months, you can easily sell it as they are in pretty high demand.

2 Likes

Of course, that’s possible too. More people tend to cite drops in my experience, but it’s definitely a nice surprise for people who have been under-reporting power! :smiley:

Either way, the point remains: a wheel on trainer is more likely to be inaccurate, and they tend to have wider margins for error (even +/- 15% possible from a Vortex: Tacx Vortex Smart Review | GearLab) . A DD trainer will tend to be more accurate - although even that’s a bit of a lottery I think. As far as I know, no manufacturer tests and calibrates every individual trainer that leaves their factory. So although Tacx say +/- 1% for a Neo, I might actually have one that’s 2 or 3% out.

This is a good point worth bearing in mind. Even the Vortex I sold after four years was still worth half what I paid for it. Although not bike trainers, I’ve seen Concept 2 rowing machines sold second hand for 90% of retail value even after a year or more of use.

2 Likes

I’m new to zwift myself, equally as unfit and a higher weight then yourself.

Similarly I was concerned about entry point costs having looked at direct drive trainers such as the wahoo kirk ect. Instead I opted for a second hand tacx vortex I managed to pick up from facebook marketplace with all accessories ect for around 60% of the RRP, combined this with a Ribble bike I purchased through my employers cycle2work scheme I was away. Costs were a lot less upfront thanks to the c2w coming out monthly and all I needed was to pick up a indoor trainer tyre as I too had no intention of riding outdoors during the winter months or at least, until I am fit enough to keep up with much fitter friends. I noticed folks mentioned ERG mode, this works well on the vortex from what I’ve experienced, the only difference between this and a direct drive trainer from what I’ve seen is the need to change gears, the accuracy and the need for a indoor trainer tyre.

I’m an avid PC gamer and initially hooked zwift up through my high-end PC (if you haven’t seen zwift in all of its 4k glory you certainly should it’s beautiful) but eventually opted for a 4th gen apple tv hooked up to an old 1080p monitor I had laying around and I have to say it works fantastically well. The gaming/community aspect of Zwift certainly helps to distract from the physicality of the activity and if you get yourself into the pre-made workouts the motivation and drive to come back for more is definitely similar to that of any other gaming experience.

I’ve heard people within the zwift worlds speak about Zwift oriented Discord servers also, if anyone knows of any links to these that would certainly help the community aspect of the experience.

1 Like