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12 Zwift tips for beginners

How to get the most out of Zwift's virtual world

Zwift indoor training

At its heart, Zwift is as simple as riding a bike outside – once you’re all connected you just start pedalling and away you go.

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However, to help you make the most of the online virtual training and racing platform, we’ve compiled a list of our top 12 tips.

Otherwise, check out our buyer’s guide to the best Zwift setups and advice on how to choose the right training plan

How to sign-up to Zwift

Visit the Zwift website to sign up for a free 7-day trial. After your trial period ends, Zwift costs £12.99 / $14.99 per month.


Smart trainers aren’t as expensive as you think

A smart trainer will make your Zwift experience much more immersive. While the top-of-the-range models can be pricey, there are plenty of good options at the cheaper end of the scale.

The Tacx Flow Smart, for example, which we gave four out of five stars, has an RRP of £269.99 but can typically be found online for even less.

It’s a little louder than a direct drive trainer, but otherwise it has everything you need to get started on Zwift, including power measurement, the ability to simulate gradients and ERG mode for automatic resistance control during workouts.

If your budget can stretch further, there are also top-performing budget direct-drive trainers, such as the Elite Zumo, available for less than £500.

Zwift also offers financing options on smart trainers through its own store, and if you purchase one there you’ll get 30 days of free Zwift membership to test it out at home. If you’re not satisfied at the end of the trial period, you can return the trainer free of charge.


Use a fan

Without any wind to cool you down, you’ll quickly overheat when riding indoors, so a good fan is invaluable.

If you live somewhere consistently warm, then a big fan is a good idea, but most people will be fine with something relatively small but powerful.


Download the Zwift Companion app

Zwift companion app
The Zwift companion app puts everything at your fingertips.

Available on the iOS App Store and Google Play, the Zwift Companion app has been designed to put everything you need to operate the game right at your fingertips.

It’s the place to control your avatar, view the activity feed, create goals, follow your training plan, sign up for events and create Meetups, chat to other Zwifters and loads more, so don’t forget to use it.


Prepare yourself before you get on the trainer

Whatever you’re doing on Zwift, whether it be free riding, working out or joining a group ride or event, make sure you’re prepared for the full duration of your ride before you start.

You’ll need full water bottles and, if you’re planning a long ride, maybe even some snacks. On top of that, make sure all of your devices are fully charged or plugged in because you really don’t want to run out of battery mid-ride.


Don’t sweat it

A simple headband or classic cotton cycling cap is ideal for absorbing sweat off your brow and stopping it from dripping into your eyes or, more importantly, onto your precious bike.

Furthermore, a towel draped over your front wheel will be easily accessible to wipe excess sweat from your hands and body in between efforts.

A trainer mat will also help protect your floor from sweat (and oil from your bike), plus it can help to keep the noise down by reducing vibrations transmitted through to the floor.


Get some (Bluetooth) headphones

It’s generally acknowledged that you’ll want some suitably up-tempo music to help motivate you on your ride. Let’s be honest though, not everyone else in your house/flat will want to experience the full glory of your Tiësto-fuelled sweat-sesh, so a set of headphones is advisable.

Standard headphones will do if that’s all you’ve got, but wireless Bluetooth ones are better for the simple reason that there’s no wire to get in your way or get caught on your bike.


Be friendly

When you’re riding on Zwift, you’re never riding alone, so be nice and take the time to socialise with those around you, just like you would in real life.

If you see someone giving it their all in a workout, or going for a sprint/KOM, give them a Ride On (a thumbs up) and help them on their way. After all, what goes around comes around, and when you get a couple of Ride Ons in the middle of a hard effort, you’ll appreciate it.

You can also send both public and private messages to other Zwifters through the Zwift app or the Zwift Companion app if you’ve got something more specific to share. 

Plus, if you’ve got a compatible phone, you can tap the microphone icon in the messaging part of that Zwift Companion app and dictate a message – the app will convert your message to text automatically.


Don’t forget about heart rate

Zwift is primarily based on the power you produce, but if you want to get the most from your training on the platform don’t forget about heart rate.

Zwift gives you a whole range of info at the end of a workout, and tracking your heart rate response to various intervals is a great way of benchmarking improvements in your fitness. If your heart rate has gone down for a given wattage/time, for example, then that’s a good sign your fitness has improved.

Zwift mountain biking
Zwift has expanded the bikes and training plans available to mountain bikers.

Sign up for a training plan

Just like riding outside, you’ll probably make much larger improvements if your training is structured.

Zwift has a whole suite of workouts and flexible training plans to suit all types of riders, so whether you’re just getting into training and looking for something basic, or you’re a seasoned rider wanting to push into new territories of fitness, you’re sure to find something that suits.

More off-road specific training plans have been announced recently too, so there really is something for almost everyone.

You can also sign up for group workouts via the events page. The group is tethered together for the duration of the workout, so you won’t get dropped as long as you hit your numbers. These are great for adding a little extra motivation.


Enter events

There’s so much more to Zwift than free-riding and training. It’s also a massively social platform, with events happening every day that enable you to ride, work out and race with others.

You can check out all the different events on the event calendar or via the Companion app, and sign up for anything that takes your fancy.

Don’t be afraid to try out a group ride or race, too – the worst that can happen is that you’ll get dropped, but there’s no shame in that, just use it as motivation to work hard and try again at a later date!

Zwift Pace Partner B
Joining one of Zwift’s Pace Partner bots is an easy way to do an ad-hoc group ride and earn more Drops.

Ride with a Pace Partner

If you’re looking for an ad-hoc group ride without the need to sign up for a scheduled event, Zwift’s Pace Partner bots offer a quick and easy way to join one at any time of day, for as long as you like.

There are four Pace Partner bots in total, each riding a different route at a consistent pace:

  • D. Diesel: 1.5 W/kg. Casual group ride with a few gentle hills
  • C. Cadence: 2.5 W/kg. Moderately paced group ride with occasional hills
  • B. Brevet: 3.2 W/kg. Expert group ride with lots of climbs
  • A. Anquetil: 4.2 W/kg. Elite group ride on a hard route. Expect lots of tough climbs

Pace Partners roam Watopia and the Makuri Islands all day long, and can be joined by selecting one of them from the Home Screen, under the “join another Zwifter” panel.

You’ll be placed in the group alongside everyone else currently riding with each Pace Partner, and staying with the group simply requires you to hold the same watts per kilogram (W/kg) power output as the Pace Partner is set to.

Joining a Pace Partner is also a great way to earn more drops to spend in The Drop Shop (the in-game bike shop), as you’ll get rewarded with an improved Drops multiplier the longer you can stay with the Pace Partner.

This means you can earn Drops at a much faster rate than by simply riding alone.


Record your rides in metric for more XP

While it might not matter much whether you set your bike computer to record in miles or kilometres in the real world, it does make a difference in Zwift.

It’s a little-known fact that whether you’ve set your Zwift rides to record in imperial or metric will actually affect the rate at which you accumulate XP (short for experience points), level up your avatar, and unlock new bikes and kit.

In Zwift, XP is given to you for every mile or kilometre ridden in game. You’ll get 20 XP per kilometre and 30 XP per mile.

It might seem that imperial is the better option, then, but some quick maths shows the opposite is true; you’ll earn XP faster by switching to recording your ride stats in metric – 7.3 per cent faster, in fact.

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For example, if you ride 50km in-game, Zwift will reward you with 1,000 XP, but you’ll only get 932 XP for riding the same distance in miles (31.0686 miles).