Here are the basics in getting started:
1 - Get the Gear
The gear you need for ZWIFT is similar to what you’d use in a standard indoor cycling setup. You need a trainer (smart is better but a standard fluid or magnetic trainer can be used), fan, a towel, a water bottle, a table or stand that can hold your laptop, tablet and/or phone.
A smart trainer (aka direct drive trainer) is the only way to replicate that true ‘road feel’ experience indoors, where resistance is adjusted automatically based on a virtual course’s elevation changes (you can train for hills indoors!). But ZWIFT also seamlessly interfaces with most standard power meters and can even calculate estimated power output via data from speed and cadence sensors so you can use a standard resistance trainer as well.
You can play through a computer, tablet, phone or AppleTV, but hooking into your TV is a more immersive experience. For the TV experience you can run Zwift on an AppleTV or connect your laptop/computer to the TV via an HDMI cable or use something like AirPlay to wirelessly put your laptop or phone’s screen to an AppleTV or directly to some of the newer TV sets.
You need to connect your smart trainer to ZWIFT through either Bluetooth connection or via an Ant+ dongle for your computer or via a USB cable. Your choice depends on the equipment you have. If you don’t have a smart trainer, you need at least a speed sensor on your bike and the method (BT or Ant+) to connect it to the device you are running ZWIFT on. There is lots of information on the ZWIFT web site https://ZWIFT.com or https://ZWIFTinsider.com.
It’s also handy to have a heart-rate monitor and a cadence sensor in addition to the smart trainer or power meter or speed sensor.
For an optimal experience, run ZWIFT (orange app) on a computer, run ZWIFT Companion (blue app) on your phone/tablet and run the Discord app on your phone/tablet. I have also run ZWIFT on my AppleTV (4k) which works very well, but requires some messing around with using the Companion app to make all the Bluetooth connections you might want/need. You will find lots of help on the web sites mentioned earlier.
It’s also preferable to have earbuds for use with DISCORD as it makes for better voice communication while all the noise of the bike/trainer is happening. Wired earbuds or AirPods both work well. Just make sure your device’s batteries are charged before your ride so you don’t have them quit mid-ride.
2 - Download the Applications
ZWIFT app (orange)
ZWIFT Companion app (blue)
DISCORD app (purple)
ZWIFT is an internet game that you can subscribe to ($14.99 per month) and then ride any of eight virtual worlds, many of which are simulation of real-world locations. It allows for riding in a rather realistic way if you have a “smart” trainer, although you don’t need a smart trainer to use ZWIFT.
Download the ZWIFT (orange) app on either your computer, phone/tablet or AppleTV and the optional but recommended ZWIFT Companion (blue) app on your phone/tablet. The ZWIFT app runs the gaming program and the Companion app runs the cyclist connections and gives you a better user interface for interacting with other riders. It can also help with making BlueTooth connections to your devices.
DISCORD will allow for voice communication during each ride. You can make a connection via DISCORD and then run the ZWIFT Companion app in the foreground on your phone/tablet.
3- Setup your ZWIFT account
You will need a ZWIFT account to participate and although ZWIFT offers a free trial period, you will need a paid subscription ($15/mo) in order to join meet ups and to ride for more than the trial period (I think it is 25 miles or so). When you setup your ZWIFT account you need to enter your birthdate, sex, height and weight and first and last name. For club purposes add the suffix “(FVBSC)” to your last name so the leader can find you more easily in the massive list of all ZWIFT'ers when they are inviting you to the meetup. You can also add an image that is used in the app.
4 - Find your zones
Optional, but recommended.
If you don’t already know your Functional Threshold Power (FTP), you can take the ZWIFT FTP test, which is used to identify the likely max power you can reasonably hold for an hour-long time trial, calculated while you put out your highest sustainable power for 20 minutes. Use your result to set up your training zones. Note - this is optional for use when you do ZWIFT training courses.
5 - Join A Meetup
Simply check the FVBSC RIDE CALENDAR to find ZWIFT Meetups that work with your schedule. Identify who is the Meetup leader, then find and “follow” that person in the ZWIFT Companion app. Note: All FVBSC members are easy to identify as they should have (FVBSC) after their names. The leader will then invite you to the Meetup and you are good to go. Please contact Jerry Shields at email@example.com for more information.
Non-club members are invited to join in the FVBSC Meetups for a 2-ride trial. If you have a great experience (and you will!), please consider joining our club for a $30 annual membership fee.
It is suggested that you log into the ZWIFT and DISCORD apps a 10-15 minutes before the Meetup begins to get things working smoothly (including any Zwift updates) and to do a little warm-up beforehand. You can close any of the available worlds and routes for your warm-up and when it’s time for the Meetup to start, ZWIFT will inform you that the Meetup is about to begin and asks you to join in. You will be placed at the start location for the world/route for the meetup and you will see yourself and any other people who have joined sitting on trainers. Just keep/start pedaling and at the start time, you will all start riding the route together. It’s that easy.
Note - if you are late for a Meetup, you can still join for up to 30 minutes past the start time.
6 - Join the Conversation
Optional, but recommended.
Next open the DISCORD app to communicate, find the FVBSC DS server, and choose #channel-a and press the voice button. The ride posting will have a link to the Club’s DISCORD server and so simply clicking on that link should launch the discord app and take you to our server. The voice channel will normally be #channel-a but there are a couple of other voice channels (b, c) that could be used if there is more than one meetup going at the same time. The ride posting will give you the information as to what channel to use (-a if not otherwise specified). There is also the ability to communicate via TEXT from either the ZWIFT Companion app or the DISCORD app.
When you make your voice connection, please announce who you are so others will know you have joined.
7 - Explore the ZWIFT game
There is a lot more to ZWIFT other than the meet ups (group rides). ZWIFT also support runners (not covered here), structured workouts and more. See their web site for details of the other things ZWIFT offers.
8 - ZWIFT routes
Given that there are 80 ZWIFT routes, it can be difficult to know which route to pick before you get started. Thankfully, here is a handy resource https://zwiftinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/zwift-routes-checklist.pdf that classifies the routes from least to most difficult. The routes are broken into 5 groups, roughly based on difficulty as described by the number of water bottles (bidons) you may need to finish the route.
• 1 Bidon: 34 routes
• 2 Bidon: 19 routes
• 3 Bidon: 13 routes
• 4 Bidon: 9 routes
• 5+ Bidons: 5 routes
Still have questions? Please contact Jerry Shields at rides@FVBSC.org for more assistance.