Racing without a smart trainer

Hi, I am just starting with Zwift and I am trying to get all info here.

How does it exactly work without a smart trainer? How a profile of the race influences your riding? Do you feel that you are climbing for example? Is there any way of drafting?

Please can you let me know what are the options or is it possible only with smart trainer?

Thanks a lot.

Hi @Marek_Kabat, you can join races on Zwift regardless of your setup, smart or classic trainer, it doesn’t matter to Zwift.

Some race organizers (not Zwift HQ) will DQ people on classic trainers or without HR monitors for example to weed out potential unrealistic racers. However, this DQ only happens on a 3ed party site not managed by Zwift. The majority of serious racers only use zwiftpower to get the “real” results and dont pay attention to the Zwift game results. For example, you could finish in 30th place on Zwift, but in zwiftpower finish in 1st place because all the people ahead of you were either not registered on zwiftpower or over the cat limits, or using a classic trainer… etc…

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Depending on the category, place in the results and race organizer, accurate power reporting from either a smart trainer or a power meter may be required to be included in the results on Zwiftpower. For getting started a reasonably calibrated dumb trainer is just fine, and if you add a power meter, you can race all you want.

In terms of race dynamics, you notice the profile of the race from the behavior of everyone else so that if you keep pushing a constant effort when a climb starts, you’ll fall back in the pack and can even get dropped. To keep up with the pack, you have to remember to change to a heavier gear at the bottom. A bit counterintuitive perhaps (though I do that IRL as well as I like to mash up short climbs…) but not rocket science.


Thank you both for your answers. I think I understand that I cant attend all races, but usually I can normally race without any problems.

I am just not sure if I get that race dynamics. If I change to a heavier geat, how the game will notice it? How do I know what gear should I use in what part of a race? Because the game knows only my speed with a classic trainer right?

Thanks again for an answer.

If you use a heavier gear and your cadence stays the same, your rear wheel will go faster against the resistance unit and you end up having to generate more power, which matches the power increase of your competitors. (Of course races and climbs are different, very different dynamics if it’s cat D up the Alpe vs cat A up to Leicester Square.)

Pick whatever gear that feels comfortable in terms of cadence and generates the power that you can maintain and need to stay with the pack. And change as needed, just like on the road.

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The game know your wheel speed from that it will calculate the virtual power and speed. So when you get to a hill your Avetar will slow down if you keep your wheel speed the same, so if you want to climb faster you need to shift to a bigger gear to increase your wheel speed that will increase your power and speed in game.

So in short it as the opposite than riding outside, you pick bigger gears for the hill, and smaller for the flat.

Thanks, I think that it is clear :slightly_smiling_face:

Just two final questions:

  • so as beginner I need only classic trainer and speed meter, and I can race as you explained before, right?
  • I guess that drafting is then possible only with the smart trainer, right?

Yes you can race with a classic trainer and a speed sensor, or power meter is even better!

Drafting is still possible, smart trainers do not change resistance when you are in the draft either, you just don’t need to put out as much power when you are in the draft. This takes some time to get used to and the more you race the better you will get.


Thank you for all your answers, it was really helpful.

I found a classic trainer Tacx Satori Smart T2400 which should include both speed meter and cadence meter. So that means that I dont have to buy anything esle to race right? And do I need that ANT+ thing or bluetooth is enough to use it?

And do you recommend? :slight_smile:

Thanks again.

It actually broadcast watts (power) and can measure cadence (cadence is flaky at best). I have the same trainer and the watts are fairly accurate. Just an FYI, it does not change resistance with Zwift virtual terrain changes, you would need to shift gears (don’t change the manual resistance setting on the trainer, it will mess up your watts).

I would recommend and ANT+ dongle with a USB extension.

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Thanks Paul.

I was told that without smart trainer you are usually DQ on

What about this trainer? Is it acceptable with heart rate for example?

It is a “Smart” trainer in that is broadcast watts so all you would need is a HRM and you shouldn’t get DQ on

Correct me if I’m wrong @Gerrie_Delport

You are correct it is considered Smart if it broadcast power. So if you connect it as power source it is smart.

Some events does black list some “smart” trainers.

see the Zwift E-sport rules if you get into E-sports the rules get even more specific.


The lightning bolt symbol next to your name on the leaderboards and to your W/kg on the rider list shows if Zwift considers your power measurement accurate enough, and this is what Zwiftpower follows as well. Some trainers that broadcast “power” don’t get the lightning bolt, the Elite Turbo Muin for one for sure, don’t know about the Satori.