Zwift Review: An Online Video Game not Only for Cyclists & Runners (2022)

Zwift Review: Screenshot from Zwift app put into MacBook Pro mockup.

Zwift is by far the most popular indoor cycling app out there.

You are in the right place if you have not tried it yet and you want to learn more about it.

In this Zwift review, I share my experience and compare Zwift with other popular indoor cycling apps.

You learn who Zwift is for, its benefits, disadvantages, and more.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Zwift Summary

Pros

  • Unique virtual world
  • Sophisticated motivational system
  • Huge community & user base
  • Social-interaction friendly
  • A lot of supportive websites with plenty of tips
  • Many events (group rides, races, time trials, etc.)

Cons

  • Routes may get repetitive
  • Graphic design may not suit everyone
  • Sometimes confusing user interface

What is Zwift?
Zwift is an indoor cycling app designed as a game. It features a unique virtual world where you cycle or run with your virtual avatar.

You can ride solo, train, connect with other users worldwide, or race. You gain ‘drops,’ which are a currency for buying better equipment by riding and accomplishing challenges.

Who is it for?
Zwift is ideal for people who lack motivation for indoor cycling. It has a sophisticated engagement system. You ride – You get rewarded.

Thanks to the huge number of users and community, surviving the winter months and indoor training sessions is easier.

Who is it not for?
Zwift is not for people who require route diversity and real-world footage.

Since it is a game that should motivate you to train more, it is not the best choice for people who generally don’t enjoy playing games.

My Experience with Zwift

I used Zwift in winter and these days again for this review. Here are my takes on the ease of initial setup, in-game experience, engagement, and more.

Initial Setup

The initial Zwift setup is straightforward.

The device you connect to (laptop, computer, smartphone) has to feature Bluetooth or ANT+ connectivity to pair with your devices (cadence and speed sensors, power meter, trainer, etc.).

There are plenty of tutorials on how to get started with Zwift, so let me jump straight to the pairing process and my experience.

I didn’t experience any problems when connecting Elite Direto 2 and the HR monitor (Wahoo TICKR).

NOTE: The first setup I used last winter included Inpeak Power Meter, Wahoo TICKR, and Wahoo speed sensor. Everything connected without any issues. Since then, I have connected many other smart bike trainers to Zwift without problems.

It took me about one minute to set everything up. The pairing process is easy and straightforward.

Pairing Process in Zwift app
Zwift Pairing Process

I recommend using one of these smart bike trainers for Zwift to get the best experience when using Zwift.

They will calculate your power and adjust the resistance based on the terrain you ride.

These power adjustments are smooth and pretty realistic, depending on the bike trainer you use.

However, you can use Zwift even if you have a dumb trainer or rollers. You just need a cadence and a speed sensor (so Zwift can calculate your power) OR a power meter.


PRO TIP: Bike trainer accessories will take your indoor cycling to a whole new level. A fan will keep you cooled down, and a trainer mat will protect your floor.


In-App Experience

Zwift is unique.

Their built-from-scratch world will engulf you if you like computer games.

Depending on your goals, you can spin your legs, cruise through different worlds, follow structured workouts or training plans, race, etc.

I used Zwift mainly for preparation for the next season. I took an FTP* test and then enrolled myself in the ‘Active Offseason‘ plan and started training.

*Functional Threshold Power

This 12-week training plan is focused on building endurance and requires about 8 hrs of training per week.

Shorter and medium workouts for up to two hours were fun. I immediately had better motivation when I saw completed intervals, achievements, and other challenges.

The endurance rides above two hours were a true challenge.

I zwifted while watching movies because three-hour rides on an indoor trainer are simply boring and require a lot of determination.

When you ride, the screen shows you all the important information like your power output (eventually, targeted power), HR, speed, time, cadence, etc. Thanks to this information, the workouts are easy to follow.

In the end, I finished all 58 workouts except one or two. So when I saw the following screen, I felt a sense of accomplishment.

Screenshot from my finished Active Off Season Plan in Zwift
Zwift Active Off Season Plan Finished

Zwift also includes racing. Thanks to a vast user base, many races are held daily. You can browse them on Zwift Hacks.

These are categorized according to FTP so that you will compete with people of similar fitness levels.

Participating in Zwift races is a great way to let off some steam and clear your head.

Group workouts are another feature worth trying. You can train with friends (regardless of their location) and train together.

Zwift will keep you together in-game even though your FTPs (and watts) are different. Additionally, you can chat via the Companion App.

This interactivity, social, and game elements (more about them later) make Zwift unique and fun.

Engagement

Zwift is a game, so it uses gamification frequently.

You get ‘drops’ for riding and accomplishing routes, training, etc. You can later use them to purchase better equipment.

Naturally, there is also a level structure. You gain experience by riding, completing workouts, challenges, etc. – just like getting drops.

Every level unlocks certain items (bikes, components, clothes…) that cost drops. To spend your drops wisely, make sure to check out Zwift Insider’s shopping guide.

Zwift's Garage - choose a frame
Zwift Garage

Zwift is not far from an MMORPG game like World of Warcraft. It tries to keep you engaged and motivate you to ride more. You basically build your character.

Does this motivation work? It depends on what type of person you are. If you are competitive and you like games, then yes, it does.

I have a few friends who tried Zwift, but these gamification mechanisms didn’t work on them. They rode outside during winter instead.

Routes

One of the most significant downsides of Zwift is its limited range of routes.

They will get repetitive. Please don’t take me wrong. Zwift developers work hard to add new routes.

But apps like ROUVY or FulGaz are on another level. They offer hundreds to thousands of routes. However, these routes are pre-recorded footage.

Zwift Routes.
Zwift Routes
Zwift Route detail.
Zwift Route detail

Zwift designers and developers had to build the worlds/maps from scratch.

You will have access to three maps at a given time. Watopia is available all year round.

The other two maps rotate based on a schedule. These maps include France, Innsbruck, London, Makuri Islands, New York City, Paris, and more.

TIP: Browse the list of Zwift available routes on What’s on Zwift.

Zwift’s graphic is more game-like than in Wahoo RGT. I like Zwift’s graphics more, but some people prefer RGT’s real-like graphics.

Training

Zwift also offers an extensive workout and structured plans library. It includes more than 2000 workouts. You can browse them all here.

I absolved the Active Offseason, and except for the 3-hour-long endurance workouts, I pretty much enjoyed it.

I am sure you will find a workout or plan that will suit your needs. And if not, you can build your own using the workout builder.

Zwift Workout Builder with instructions.
Zwift Workout Creator

According to coach Dylan Johnson, Zwift training plans have one big problem, though. They are overly complicated, too high-intensity, lack proper recovery, and are not individualized to meet your personal needs.

This is because they are supposed to keep you engaged. Imagine riding the same tempo for 2 hours. You appreciate every change of it. That’s why so many Zwift workouts are so variable.

I also cannot forget to mention the Zwift Academy. It is a collection of structured workouts designed by professional coaches.

This eight-week structured training should help you understand the training essentials.

You can also take advantage of Zwift’s pace partners. They will guide you through routes depending on the difficulty you choose.

They are suitable for warmups, cooldowns, intervals, etc.

Another feature worth mentioning is the Zwift workout mode. It’s a mode where you train with friends – all at the same effort level.

FTP is calculated as a percentage, so everybody rides together through the Zwift world.

User Friendliness

The earlier versions of the Zwift user interface were hard to navigate. They were too ‘funky’ in my opinion.

So, although I consider myself an experienced technology user, I struggled to find some features.

For example, if my friend hadn’t told me about the ‘Climb Mt. Everest’ challenge, I wouldn’t know where to find it.

The following pictures show Zwift’s old and new dashboards.

Zwift Dashboard screen (available worlds, events, etc.)
Old Zwift Dashboard
New Zwift dashboard (2022).
New Zwift dashboard

The biggest issue I encountered on Zwift was a sluggish interface and longer loading times than in other apps.

I have MacBook Pro 2020 with 16 GB RAM, a 5-core Intel processor, and Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 1536 MB.

These parameters should be enough, according to Zwift’s system requirements. But it seems I need better graphics.

The app also froze when saving workouts sometimes. I noticed this happened, especially when I used Zwift with an external monitor. When I used the laptop screen, saving rides was flawless.

Furthermore, when I turn on Zwift, I can’t browse the internet or watch videos on YouTube.

I contacted Zwift support to find out why it keeps happening, but they couldn’t find the cause.

It is possible it was because of my internet connection. I have a 25 Mbit/s internet with a ping of around 5 ms.

Did you experience similar issues? Let me know in the comments section below.

Platforms Availability

Zwift is available on all major platforms, including iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and Apple TV.

Zwift platform availability (iOS, macOS, Windows, Android, etc.)
Zwift platform availability

I’ve been using it on macOS and iOS. Except for the issues described in the previous section, they worked fine.

The Zwift Companion app is a great extension that sets Zwift apart from other apps.

It allows you to communicate with other zwifters, skip intervals during training, browse events, and much more.

There is always a small percentage of users who can’t get an app working due to unique circumstances. However, positive Zwift reviews prevail, and you shouldn’t experience any issues on any platform.

Zwift vs. Zwift Companion

Zwift Companion is a mobile app that extends Zwift functionalities. It makes interacting with others, browsing events, finding clubs, etc., easier.

When you are on the roads or in a race, you can chat with others, give them Ride Ons, etc. See the following video for more details.

Remember, you still need the main Zwift app to ride Zwift, but you don’t have to use Zwift Companion.

Zwift Alternatives

There are plenty of indoor cycling apps out there. However, the following are my favorites.

  • ROUVY – unlike Zwift, ROUVY uses real-world footage of routes worldwide. You move through them with your virtual avatar. Learn more in my ROUVY vs. Zwift comparison.
  • TrainerRoad – is focused purely on making you a better cyclist—no distractions – only structured training plans. Learn more in my Zwift vs. Trainerroad comparison.
  • Wahoo SYSTM – displays your ride data with pre-recorded footage. It is a universal app for cyclists, yogis, and people who want to strengthen their mental health. Learn more in my Zwift vs. SYSTM comparison.
  • Wahoo RGT (formerly RGT Cycling) – is the closest alternative to Zwift in terms of graphics. The RGT’s world is virtual, but it is inspired by real-world roads. Learn more in my Zwift vs. Wahoo RGT comparison.
  • FulGaz – like ROUVY, uses real-world footage of routes worldwide. The main difference is that there is no avatar.
  • BKOOL – uses a combination of virtual and real-world footage. It has much fewer users and worse graphics/footage quality. You can check out my comparison of BKOOL vs. Zwift for more info.
AppPriceFree TrialWorldMultiplayerConnectivityPlatform Availability
Zwift14.99 USD / month7 daysVirtualYesANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth, BLE FTMSAndroid, iOS, Windows, macOS, Apple TV
ROUVY15 USD / month
144 USD / year
14 daysRealYesANT+ FE-C, BluetoothAndroid, iOS, Windows, macOS, Apple TV
TrainerRoad19.95 USD / month
189 USD / year
n/a**n/aNoANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth, BLE FTMSAndroid, iOS, Windows, macOS
Wahoo SYSTM (formerly The Sufferfest)*14.99 USD / month
149 USD / year
14 daysRealNoANT+ FE-C, BLE FTMSAndroid, iOS, Windows, macOS
Wahoo RGT (formerly RGT Cycling)*Free or
14.99 USD / month
149 USD / year
14 daysVirtualYesANT+ FE-C, BLE FTMSAndroid, iOS, Windows, macOS, Apple TV
Android, iOS (remote)
Kinomap11.99 EUR / month
89.99 EUR / year
269.99 EUR / lifetime
14 daysRealNoANT+ FE-C, BLE FTMSAndroid, iOS (screen mirroring available)
FulGaz12.99 USD / month
108.99 USD / year
14 daysRealYesANT+ FE-C, BLE FTMSAndroid, iOS, Windows, macOS, Apple TV
List of the best indoor cycling apps with the info about their price, free trial period, type of the world, multiplayer option, connectivity, and platform availability.
Updated on the 15th of November, 2022.
*You can only subscribe to the Wahoo X subscription and get access to Wahoo SYSTM and Wahoo RGT.
**30-day money-back guarantee

I created a rating system for evaluating the following features. It helps to keep the comparison between training apps consistent.

  • Price – how expensive is the app relative to other indoor cycling apps?
  • Ease of setup – is the app easy to set up with a smart trainer? Can it be used without it?
  • Engagement – does the app keep you engaged and motivated?
  • Routes – does the app offer a wide route library?
  • Training – does the app include prebuilt workout plans? Do they help you get faster?
  • User-friendliness and intuitiveness (UX) – is the app easy to navigate, easy to use, straightforward, and intuitive?
  • Platform availability – is the app available for multiple platforms like iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Apple TV, etc.?

The following table shows my ratings of specific areas on a scale of 1–5 (5 is the best).

AppPriceEase of SetupEngage-
ment
RoutesTrainingUXPlatforms AvailabilityTotal
Zwift355343528
ROUVY354533528
TrainerRoad253n/a*55424
Wahoo SYSTM**454355430
Wahoo RGT (RGT Cycling)**552242323
Kinomap442545226
FulGaz452532526
BKOOL452532425
My indoor cycling apps rating on a scale of 1–5 (5 is the best)
*TrainerRoad is different from other apps and doesn't offer any routes.
**You can only subscribe to the Wahoo X subscription and get access to Wahoo SYSTM and Wahoo RGT.

Zwift FAQ


My Verdict

Do I recommend Zwift?
Yes, to people who enjoy playing games and who appreciate in-game social interactions.

Zwift has a sophisticated motivation system. If you lack motivation, Zwift will probably make you do the work.

Do I recommend it to everybody?
No. Its virtual world may not appeal to everybody. Some riders prefer real-world footage and more routes to choose from.

On the other hand, Zwift has users worldwide. Thanks to the huge community, plenty of races, and structured workouts, it will help you easily survive the winter months.

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