Very New to Biking/Zwift Looking for Advice

Hey everyone, looking for a little bit of advice as the title says. I have been looking into getting into Zwift biking for a little while now and unsure if it’s right for me. I have looked at a few direct drive trainers, haven’t purchased anything as of now. I also haven’t looked at any bikes of yet, I would rather look for a bike after I settled on a trainer. I’m a 30 y/o male who has neglected my physical fitness for too long and want to get back into shape. Haven’t done any sort of biking in well over 10 years so I’m very new to all of this as well. I have done a little research here on the forums and have seen multiple threads stating Zwift isn’t beginner friendly due to the lack of workouts or things dedicated for new people. I have seen there are free rides and that is appealing until I can get to the point to do more strenuous activities. But I’m curious to hear what the community thinks/feels or what you would do if you were in my shoes whether its just general advice or opinions on bikes and trainers. I appreciate any advice in advance. Thank you.

I’d first prioritize buying a bike and riding outdoors. If you still like doing that and want to have the option ride indoors I’d try to find a new or used fluid non-smart trainer. A Kurt Kinetic Road Machine fluid trainer is a great start. They are extremely reliable and the one I bought used a couple years ago hasn’t given me any problems.

A new kinetic trainer is still very affordable. It’s not actually a smart-trainer since there is no resistance change but the sensor will register as a power meter on zwift:

Kinetic — Kinetic Road Machine Smart 2 Fluid Power Bike Trainer - Bike Trainer (kurtkinetic.com)

I’d wait to commit to a direct drive trainer and I’d find a used road bike for less than $300. If you want a decent new road bike for an entry level price you can also try bikesdirect.com. In addition you’ll need a trainer tire. You can also buy a kinetic inride sensor for a used kinetic trainer for $50 or less that will track your power (not entirely accurate and not nearly as accurate as a power meter or direct drive trainer) and cadence or opt for a speed and cadence sensor.

If you’re not sure Zwift is right for you, but can see yourself enjoying biking, a used kurt kinetic plus an inride sensor should only set you back $150 or less and a used road bike with a trainer tire would be another $350 or less.

Kinetic inRide Power Sensor-Kinetic - Bike Trainers (kurtkinetic.com)

Worst case scenario, you hate Zwift and choose to ride outside instead and it only sets you back $150, some of which you could get back by selling the trainer. To me that beats going in for $700 plus for just a direct drive trainer that could potentially be a headache and usually only comes with a one year warranty.

Good luck with whatever you choose. At the very least, you should start cycling outdoors. It’s a great hobby and has really helped me maintain my sanity over the last few years.

Agree with the above.

A cheap bike that is the correct size for you would be my advice to get into road cycling as cheaply as possible.
If you like it and persevere, that bike could then become your winter hack or indoor trainer bike when you buy something better (and you will! N+1)

As for trainers, same rule applies.
If you can’t borrow a direct drive, find a cheap as chips wheel on trainer.
You can use the sensors you use on the road bike and again, upgrade should you enjoy indoor training.

One proviso here, a direct drive is such a massive improvement over a wheel on, they are in a different league so if you try a wheel on first, please remember this.
I have a TACX Neo 2T and it is flipping awesome for realism.

Getting into cycling can be a slippery slope into a world of spending but by wisely.

I’ve ended up with 7 bikes, (5 road and 2 MTBs) they all do different jobs but I can’t swap parts between them and I’m still considering buying another.

Why is all of the advice to try and start Zwift as cheaply as possible?

First question: do you want to also ride that bike outdoors, or are you only interested in a smart indoor cycling setup? If you only intend to use it as a piece of indoor exercise equipment, then you can go cheap.

If not, and you’re intending to bike outdoors, being happy with a $300 bike for IRL riding will be quite short lived if at all. I’d suggest simply a trip to local bike shop, or even an REI or similar to start getting an idea of what you want.

For a trainer, I’d buy once/cry once. This is as good an article as you can get for overview of options, recommendations and price points. For a direct drive trainer, you will want to realize that the cassette that you have on your bike would ideally want to be same as you’ve installed on the trainer (ie. same ‘speed’).

ttps://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/11/smart-cycle-trainer-recommendations-guide-winter.html/

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Thanks for all the advice so far, I really appreciate it. Will try to address different points from all replies and hope its a blanket effort. Where I live theres not really any good riding areas for beginners if that makes sense, lots of steep hills, very rough terrain in general and the weather is highly un-cooperative lol. Indoor cycling would be much more preferred and then once I’m working myself into shape then would go outdoors on the good days. I do like the idea of the “buy once/cry once” more so than buying multiple things say a year from now or what have you. I see this as an investment into myself which is why I wouldn’t go with the cheapest of options on trainers or bikes. But also still worried about the whole “Zwift isn’t beginner friendly” stigma I have seen. Can anyone shed light on that or at least tell me what a good route would be for a very new beginner?

One reason to start cheap is the OP did not state his interest. Does he want a road bike or touring bike, a mountain bike or just a flat bar exercise bike.

I would recommend a flat bar exercise road bike.
It will be fine for pleasure rides on the road and you can ride gravel and level trails.

If you get into cycling and purchase more specialized bikes, you will still keep your “Jack of all trades” bike because that’s the bike you take to go get ice cream or to the pool or evening rides with the spouse.

I found zwift beginner friendly when I first started but there was a learning curve when it came to 3rd party websites that help elevate the zwift exoerience. I think some people that start off may also have their direct drive trainer difficulty set to 100% instead of 25% or less.

Get familiar with:

You should also consider joining a team which may have private social rides at a far lower power.

zwift is beginner friendly - just choose an easier (flat) route to get started. There are plenty to choose from and you don’t need to get into the training programs until you feel ready. As well, you only ride as long as you want to so you can’t go wrong.
i would go with a bike and a smart trainer if you want to get the best experience. Later once you get in shape you can take the bike for rides outside if you want to do that.

If you can afford it I’d stretch to a direct driver trainer. buying a non-smart training will only be stepping stone to better trainer in the future if you like Zwift.

I’d also recommend the team option as it gives a great resource to ask question and in general is a much better experience to ride with teammates whether that be in group rides or races you’ll get to know people.

The above post has lots of good info in particular zwift insider will likely have an article on something if you are not sure about anything.

and if you are on facebook start with Zwift Riders | Facebook and groups all have their own pages. Lots also use discord for voice chat while riding as well.

Are there many local bike shops where you live? If there are, you can probably find one that will let you demo Zwift on a smart trainer (Wahoo dealers usually have demo stations). Give that a shot first before going down the equipment rabbit hole.

There are a lot of undocumented/poorly-documented features on Zwift, but just getting started isn’t hard. My 70-year-old tech-illiterate mother was able to set up Zwift running for herself. There are lots of flat routes and beginner-friendly slow-paced group rides, so you should be fine as a beginner. You can also set your Trainer Difficulty to 0 and ride any route as if it were flat if you want to explore.

As for equipment… Cannondale CAAD (you can ride this frame forever and upgrade components if/when you need) and Kickr Core.

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If you wanted to buy a bike for the turbo that could also be used on your local roads, it sounds like a hybrid or gravel bike bike would work well (a mountain bike could also work), as they can fit wider tyres (so less pressure needed, giving more comfort). While it’s the overall weight of the rider, bike and bits we are carrying that determines how fast we will climb on a windless day, a lighter bike will feel quicker especially while accelerating. Generally, lighter bikes cost more, shock horror!

Purely as an example if you lived in the UK, a hybrid such as Carrera Subway All Weather Edition Mens Hybrid Bike - S, M, L Frames | Halfords UK would a very robust starter lower budget bike. There’s a standard Subway 2 that’s £75 cheaper, but the extras on this model aren’t bad for the extra cash if you are starting out (mudguards, heated grips, integrated lights).

There’s a few discount schemes out there, but British Cyling membership gives 10% off most cycling goods at Halfords.

In December '17 buying a direct drive turbo seemed a huge financial risk for me, because I had an oldskool magnetic Elite turbo ~15 years ago and it barely got used. But the Direto was £640 well spent and you can currently get them for ~£400 Elite Direto Smart Turbo Trainer | Chain Reaction . My one has been hammered over its lifetime, so immersive, currently semi-broken but useable. Very tempted to get a Saris H3 this time, but not a priority right now, because I won’t use the turbo much now until November unless the weather is awful or I have a health setback.

I completely disagree with the people saying Zwift isn’t beginner friendly.

The user-interface is a bit unintuitive at first but watching a few of GPLama’s tutorials and reading some guides will have that sorted. Visit a local bike shop or anyone who already has Zwift set up and have them walk you through what it takes to run it.

Lemme bullet-point this for brevity, with some context:

  • I only recently got back into cycling and this winter was my first full season on Zwift. I’m at level 29 now and have every intent of Zwifting over the summer, with a separate bike for outdoor use.

  • I went “high end” and bought a NEO2T but set a friend up with a Tacx Flow Smart as she’s on a budget. There is NOTHING wrong with going with an entry level smart trainer…but I would strongly suggest making the Flow Smart your baseline - don’t trying to save money going cheaper than that. If you have the money, a direct-drive trainer is an improvement but don’t sweat it if you don’t. Read DCRainmaker’s indoor trainer guide: The Smart Trainer Recommendations Guide: Winter 2020-2021 | DC Rainmaker

  • See this reference: https://forums.zwift.com/t/links-to-zwift-resources/

  • If you have a device (tablet, computer, phone etc) that you plan to run Zwift on, great! If not, you either build a PC (see link in above thread to the ZwiftInsider guide on that) or an AppleTV or iPad which are my preference.

  • The Companion App is your friend. Run that on a separate device (cellphone) mounted on the handlebars and it makes accessing a lot of features much easier.

  • For bicycles, you need one that fits you properly and that’s critical. You can buy on the used market (I did last year) but make sure it fits. If you NEVER ride outdoors, you could even build a “mule bike” that doesn’t have brakes, or even wheels, to mount on a trainer permanently. (This was a GPLama idea from one of his livestreams). Walk into a bike shop and tell them what you’re after - many have parts bikes they might sell you.

Why listen to me? I lost 100lbs tracking what I ate, ditching processed food, and getting on a bicycle. Zwift kept me entertained and riding practically daily over the winter because I just liked being around other people (virtually) in Watopia. The simple addition of live text chat and the ability to schedule meetups, join events and group rides was enough. The most important aspect to fitness is finding something you’ll keep doing.

On the PC vs AppleTV/iPad: IMO, Zwift is experiential - the idea of “click, you’re riding!” instead of booting a PC and waiting reduces friction just enough to make me more likely to hop on the bike and ride. You do you though! Maybe the higher res graphics of a PC are your jam.

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Not sure why you keep saying this. Any PC from the last decade can be in a ride from hitting the power button in under a minute, it’s nothing special.

OK, I tested this just now, “for science.”

The PC is a creator’s laptop, the ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED (K3500, 11th Gen Intel).

Spec: Intel Core i5-11300H CPU, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD,16GB DDR4 RAM, with Windows 11 Professional, and it’s been de-bloated.

From “off” to “riding with a pace partner” took 2 minutes 22 seconds.

I don’t know how the budget PCs would compare but I can’t imagine they’re any better than that.

That’s very slow, I timed mine before posting and it was bang on a minute with my slow AF touchpad and faffing about on the new home screen. I’ve knocked up old prebuilts that boot Windows much faster than my current gen system, which is why I’m confident it’s doable in under a minute if brevity is your aim.

I’ll leave it here so I don’t derail the thread, but I just tested my boggo Lenovo Yoga laptop and allowing +10secs for pairing it took 2mins 20secs from hitting the power button (after a shut down, not sleep) to get to a Pace Partner in Watopia as per your test. It’s got a really weak Pentium Gold 4415U processor in it from 2017, and integrated graphics. There’s something amiss with your laptop, which is slowing it down massively and unduly influencing how fast the ATV feels by comparison. 2mins 22secs with those specs is really pants and not at all representative of how quickly a dedicated PC can get Zwift going - even one fashioned from an old prebuilt.

I live in the middle of no where New York so theres not too much around. I think there is 1 small bike shop but its mostly a repair shop. I have planned to head there soon to check what they have.

Count me among the people who endorse getting some kind of smart trainer if you can afford it. I tried Zwift on a dumb trainer once and then suspended my subscription until I could get better equipment. I found the D pace partners and easy group rides were a good way to learn the platform. It does take some time to learn how to ride with the pace partners due to the weird physics of the game (riding at 1.5w/kg does not mean you will stay with the pace partner riding 1.5w/kg) but there are group rides available for all levels of fitness. There is good energy from the pace partner bunch, and from mellow group rides.