What you need for Zwift, Trainerroad, Sufferfest, et al

Setting yourself up to do indoor cycling re Zwift, Trainerroad etc, used to be for the lucky few. Today the cost has come right down in terms of getting yourself online.

However, there is still a world of difference in terms of the type of set up you can achieve. What we will look at here is the basics and, after that, the extras.

None of it will be over the top.

First off, lets make an obvious assumption. You have a bike, right? If not, you should stop reading right now. No, seriously…

What computer/ tablet set up do you need

Yes, the short answer is you need a laptop/pc/ tablet with wifi connection.

But how complex this depends on what application you’re going to run. For something like Trainerroad, you should be able to get away with some fairly old hardware as the interface is pretty much text-based.

For the purposes of this page, we suggest using Zwift as the benchmark in terms of system requirements.

At the time of writing, you can run Zwift on most hardware types, even an iPhone. At a minimum, it requires:

  • Operating system: Windows 7 x64 bit, OSX 10.8
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo
  • Graphics: 1GB dedicated GPU, or embedded Intel HD 4000/AMD R5
  • Hard Drive: 4GB of free space
  • RAM: 4GB

However, be warned you are probably better off going stronger than this especially as Zwift ramps up. Note also that Zwift is just the benchmark. For example, BigRingVR requires an Intel i3 processor as minimum and i5 as standard.

One thing you will definitely need is an ANT+ dongle. This plugs into the USB port of your computer and allows your trainer to send data to Zwift (Trainerroad, Sufferfest, etc).

Get a dumb trainer or a smart trainer

Like a bike, you’re going to need one of these. To be honest, an in-depth review of the smart trainers is well outside this article.

You don’t need the latest Wacx Kickr to get on Zwift. You can use the most basic mag trainer (a dumb trainer) from 2010 and it’ll work fine.

If you go for a dumb trainer you will need two things. A cadence sensor and a speed sensor. The latter is obligatory but to be honest, for any sort of accuracy and to take advantage of Zwift training, you should get a cadence monitor.

Combined this will set you back around $80 (£60). Then you need to set the trainer to the right resistance setting.

Smart trainers

But, if you end up getting into indoor cycling (you will), you will eventually end up getting a direct drive smart trainer with ERG.

These change resistance, monitor power, gradient, cadence, and do it much more accurately than the above set up. To back this up, many races prohibit people who don’t have a smart trainer.

Again, trainers are outside this guide. But you can find plenty on eBay. The main essential is ERG and a decent accuracy level. Gradient is also important but seeing as most of Zwift tops at 15% you should be ok with a middle of the road trainer.
Don’t allow feature creep to come in when buying a trainer – it’s not like buying a bike.

Standup fan vs floor fan

To be honest, you need both. No, you need loads. When you’re banging along out on the lanes you don’t realise how much you leak.

Fact, your body remove excess heat from your core by putting it in sweat. So, it’s essential to remove the stuff. Yes, there is clothing to remove sweat. But you can’t beat blowing air onto it.

But if you have to have one fan, go for a floor one. Pointing upwards, it can deliver air along your whole body rather than just your upper half (which a standing fan would do).

Probably the best is the Honeywell – you’ll find it in most pain caves. Go here for the Top 5 Fans for Your Pain Cave.

Heart rate monitor

You should have one of these already. It’s not essential if you have smart trainer that properly manages power etc as most of the programs will go with this. But it is essential if you want to race or time trial on Zwift.

Bike mat

Why would you need one? A bike mat supports the trainer and the bike, providing an important base. You’ll find there’s a lot of these online, branded with Wahoo, Tacx or whatever. But really it is just a mat, something foamy that supports the trainer.

If you want something branded, it’ll be fine. Or you could do what I did and use a yoga mat. It does exactly the same thing at a fraction of the cost.

Sweat Cover

This one is often forgotten but salty liquid comes out of you (not sure that sounds right) that can be bad for components that use bearings like headsets and bottom brackets. A sweat cover will stretch from the stem to the seat post.