This post offers options for setting up a Zwift indoor training system on various budgets, from extremely cheap to extremely high end (where money-is-no-object)! The post includes a video that shows the various options. And at the end of the post is a video that gives you an in-depth introduction to Zwift. So you can decide for yourself if Zwift is for you.
Zwift is a tremendously useful training app that enables you to immerse yourself in a virtual training world – from the safety of your own home. The advantage of this is that it makes indoor bike training fun, which means you will do more of it. I grew up doing indoor training on an old-style, uncomfortable, stationary bike. I still remember vividly how utterly boring that was!
Zwift Makes Indoor Bike Training Fun
Zwift is an app that makes indoor bike training a fun experience. You can choose to follow training plans crafted by experts, do fun rides in your choice of three different virtual worlds, or participate in group rides or races.
- Your Zwift experiences can be as solitary or as social as you like.
- The more high end your Zwift set up, the more immersive your experience is likely to be.
Zwift has the major advantage that you will get a better workout because you are focused on the ride, rather than just wishing that your workout was over.
But if you are not sure that Zwift training is for you, you might want to try an ultra-budget option to start out with.
A Range of Budgets for Zwift Indoor Training Systems
First, watch this video that shows a wide range of budget options for a Zwift setup. Then read on for more details about the options. Don’t worry about the fact that the video references British products and prices – in this post we have sourced equivalent North American options for your Zwift setup. Of course, if you are watching in the UK, then the options mentioned in the video are available to you locally!
Video Showing How to Setup a Zwift Indoor Training System on Any Budget
Ultra Budget (Super Cheap) Zwift Indoor Training System
This choice is for you if you want to try out Zwift before you spend much money at all.
Second-hand trainer: Around $200
Zwift fees: Around $15.00 per month
Your own cell phone: 0
Elastic band: 0
You may be able to find a second-hand direct-drive trainer on Amazon or eBay for around $200 or less. Failing that, you can go for a new low-end trainer for around the same price. For example, right now the Yaheetech Fluid Bike Trainer Stand is on sale for well under $200.
With this set-up, you would attach your phone to your handlebars with an elastic band, and use the Zwift app on your phone. Be very careful – dropping and breaking the phone would not be at all budget friendly. (I speak from bitter personal experience.)
The Bluetooth Speed Sensor would enable Zwift to know how fast you are cycling.
How this Budget Zwift Indoor Training System Works
This very basic set-up will enable you do some bike training indoors. Of course, you are using the app on just your phone, so you will not feel immersed in the Zwift action. Also, you will set your resistance manually, so there will be no resistance changes to simulate the feeling of cycling uphill or downhill. That makes it pretty much impossible for you to feel immersed in the action.
Also, you will not know what your power output is.
However, if you manage to keep the resistance consistent, you will get consistent workouts and improve your fitness. You will also get to experiment with the app and see if it works for you. Don’t judge it too harshly when used with this very basic setup, though!
Ultra Budget (Super Cheap) Zwift Indoor Training Setup with Optional Extras
To make the above setup slightly more user-friendly, add in the following:
An old t-shirt: 0
A phone mount is an excellent addition because it makes it easier for you to push buttons without knocking your phone off the handlebars. It also keeps your phone safe. This Taotronics mount is the one I personally use – I reviewed it here years ago, and it is still going strong.
You can position an old t-shirt to keep the sweat off your bike. This is very important, as your sweat can get into all kinds of places and cause problems.
A basic yoga mat will absorb some of the noise from your cheap trainer, and will protect the floor.
How this Zwift System Feels
This one feels much like the previous one, but with more protection for your floor, your phone, and your bike. Also, it will keep you cooler.
Budget Setup – Low-Priced Direct Drive Trainer with Amazon Fire TV Stick and Monitor
This next setup will cost a lot more money, but it definitely will elevate your training sessions to a whole new level.
Second hand TV monitor: Less than $50.
Advantages of this Zwift Setup
First, the Saris CycleOps M2 Smart Bike Trainer is a great entry-level direct-drive trainer. A lot of users say that they get a great training feel with this trainer, without having to pay the big bucks for a more expensive direct-drive trainer.
A training mat will reduce noise more effectively than a yoga mat, as it will be thicker and wider.
You can use an Amazon Fire remote to run Zwift on a used monitor for a reasonable price. You could also use it with your own TV. Or, pick up a cheap monitor on Amazon. Or even a cheap smart 40 inch TV, such as this one.
We chose an Amazon Fire Stick over an Apple TV because it’s much cheaper, and the remote is slightly less tiny and annoying.
A computer stand is a handy item to hold your monitor at a useful height so you can comfortably view the Zwift action.
And a magic arm holds your phone comfortably in front of the bike. You can use the arm to get your phone into a place where it is easy for you to access.
At this point you can use the Zwift companion app on your smart phone to control the Zwift virtual world that appears on your monitor. As you can see in the video at the end of this post, this gives you all kinds of fun things to do. This will help keep your mind off how hard you are working out!
Finally, a higher-end fan is more powerful than a standard fan, and will be more effective at keeping you cool.
How this Zwift System Feels
Your training experience with this Zwift system will be way better. The key difference is the trainer, which is a smart trainer. That basically means that if your Zwift route is going uphill, the resistance on your bike will change to simulate that experience. This means that the training experience will be much more immersive.
Also, because you are on a much better quality trainer, your pedaling will be much smoother. Plus, distracting noises from the trainer will be reduced.
A Very High End Zwift Indoor Training System
Laptop (mini PC): Use one you already have, or buy something very cheap, such as this one:
The Wahoo Kickr is one of the best high end smart trainers. We have a post here that compares five of the best smart trainers. This level of trainer takes your bike training to new levels.
The Wahoo Kickr Climb basically tilts your bike to simulate climbs, matching up to the virtual reality in which you are cycling.
A Wahoo headwind fan will increase its wind speed, based on your heart rate. So it will cool you down more when you really need it!
A 40-inch TV (or even bigger) will really enhance the virtual reality of your ride. And of course, you will need a TV Stand to put the TV on.
You can use a laptop to control the Zwift app on your TV.
A proper sweat catcher will most likely do a better job at catching your sweat than an old t-shirt!
How this High End Zwift Setup will Feel
You will almost certainly find that this setup feels more realistic, which will help you to stay engaged in your virtual bike ride. You will find yourself focusing on the gradients and the ride, rather than focusing on how long you have been cycling. This is sure to help you train longer and harder.
A Money-is-No-Object, Ultra High-End Zwift Indoor Training System
Laptop (mini PC): Use one you already have, or buy something very cheap
This is the same as the previous system, except that you are no longer using your own bike mounted on a trainer. Instead, you are using a very high end dedicated trainer.
The advantages of this very pricey, high-end trainer are many.
- First, it fits everyone in the house. This is because you can adjust it to your heart’s content.
- This also means that you can set it up to simulate different kinds of bikes, such as a road bike or a mountain bike.
- Also, it has electronic gears; virtual shifting simulates the sensation of changing gears!
- It also can charge your phone while it is cradled in its very own tray.
- And it is almost completely silent, with no drive chain noise. Instead, it just has a very quiet, sci-fi kind of hum.
- It measures your power within 1% accuracy.
- It is the only smart bike with road feel, a feature that lets you experience the sensation of different road surfaces, such as cobblestone and gravel.
How this High End Zwift Experience Feels
This very expensive option offers a very immersive experience. If money was no object, this would be the setup I would choose. I have made a note of it in my “When I win the jackpot” file.
So, decide which setup suits your budget, and choose accordingly. If you are still unsure, watch the video below which provides a very thorough introduction to Zwift.
Video Introduction to Zwift
Related Post: How to Get Bike Fit – Complete Bike Training Plan
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