Should I buy a Zwift Hub for a MTB?


This isn’t a request but rather the story of my Zwift journey so far. It should give you some advice if you’re thinking of using a Zwift Hub with your MTB.
I thought I’d share this since I’ve been in this situation about a year ago and, with summer ending on the northern hemisphere, there might be somebody else thinking about this. So let’s get into it.

A year ago I only rode MTBs and I loved it. I still do, in fact. And while there’s fun to be had riding a MTB in winter, quick after-work rides aren’t really an option (if not in the freezing cold in pitch black darkness). Enter Zwift.

The Zwift Hub seemed like a reasonably priced, well performing unit that would allow me to extend my riding during the winter months. Back then I wasn’t really into bike tech that much, so I was thinking that using the 12-speed cassette option would work with my 1x12 MTB setup. And it did, to some degree, but not very well.

My initial goal was to simulate rides just like if I rode outside. I had the idea that I could ride just as usual, with shifting and all. This was a big mistake. The road bike cassettes that are provided with the Zwift Hub do not play well with a MTB setup at all, at least if you’re not in ERG mode all the time. If that’s new to you: In ERG mode, the Zwift Hub controls the resistance that you feel in the pedals. You never shift. Great for interval training, bad for replicating real-world rides.

It didn’t take long for me to buy a MTB cassette for my Zwift Hub. That worked much better, but resistance wise it still felt “off”, there was almost no resistance on the flats and even the steepest hills felt kind of too easy. That was when the awesome QZ app by @Roberto_Viola came into play. This app was my savior for the most part of last winter, as it finally allowed me to get a more or less adequate Zwift experience with my MTB.

Still, in the end, there was no way around getting a road bike. In my opinion, Zwift is so dedicated to road bike riders, that it’s hard to get the most of it when using a MTB. I got a road bike last spring and really enjoyed riding it with my Zwift Hub. It also opened the world or road riding / racing outside and I am glad that, through Zwift, I was convinced to finally try this variant of the sport as well.

Feel free to get in touch if you’ve any questions.
You can read about my inital troubles with Zwift and my MTB here (as it seems I can’t post links, so please browse my profile activity or search for new-to-zwift-hub-trouble-with-mtb-setup-and-resistance in the forums).
@Roberto_Viola was also really supportive if you’re looking to optimize your experience with his QZ app (with is a MUST if you’re on a MTB, in my opinion). I still can’t thank him enough for this help last winter.

The bottom line is:
You can use Zwift with a MTB and have some fun with it, especially if you limit yourself to ERG mode and the training programs. If you can find any way to use a road bike with Zwift though, go for it. Zwift is tailored to road bikes (for the most) and you can feel that everywhere. You’ll be rewarded with a great experience!

Thanks @DirtyHarry !

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There’s a few of us using mountain bikes and racing. I’m using a 26" GT with Zwift hub and competing in Cat B.
I’ve got a 44t front chain ring that helps, and use 30% trainer ‘difficulty’.
I will probably put some rigid forks on it though at some point.

Great to hear that there’s some seriously racing MTB folks here as well! :slight_smile:
Yep, you definitely want a rigid or locked fork when zwifting!

would that not make things worse?
it’d have no effect on the flat and might make downhills less problematic but going up hill would become easier.

It effects the feel of the incline (i.e trainer resistance).

Leaving it at 30% means I still feel the incline change so know to respond with power, but I only need to work with 4 or 5 gears and keeps me on the large chainring to help with shifting losses.

So far, I’ve not run out of gears on the downhill. My record ~1,000 watts for 5 seconds at ~115rpm. I think I had two more cogs left on the cassette. So the limiting factor was me rather than the gearing.

sorry i may have misunderstood.

the problem most people using MTBs have is that the resistance is too low due to their gearing, so reducing the trainer resistance will reduce the resistance further going up hill

He’s running a 44t front chainring though so it’s probably an older bike, most modern mtbs have much tighter spacing in the BB area and you’re limited to sub-36ish chainrings (of course there are exceptions).

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I’ll be honest i’m on the very fringe of my knowledge, the time since i was on a mountain bike is best measured in decades!

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I’m using a 2012 Marin Palisades Trail

I found the stock gearing set up became a draw back after I started improving my fitness levels and ended up swapping the cassette out for tighter gear spacing

So gear ratio wise between shifts is a lot better but I have created a bit more of cross chaining than I was hoping for… The 2-10 and 3-7 spots are a bit noisy but that’s really the only down side

I’m not powerful enough (yet) to run out the 44-11 maximum gear… although one day I hope to have this problem LoL… Maybe at that point I’ll look into a road bike but the price they’re at these days YIKES!

That’s exactly the problem!
There might not even be the space for a 44t front chainring:

IF you manage to run such a setup, reducing trainer intensity is a way to even things out a bit though, that makes sense. However, you’d reach the same results by simply using the QZ app mentioned in my first post without having to alter your MTB setup at all.