Riding indoors sucks, but a new startup called Zwift is looking to change all that. The company has created a massive multiplayer online game which allows riders from around the world to meet and ride together in an immersive 3D world.
The platform is hardware agnostic. All you need to do to get started is download the application, sign in, and hop on your existing trainer. You will need an ANT+ cadence/speed sensor and ANT+ dongle to push data to the application, but that hardware is available for well under a hundred dollars. Zwift can then convert trainer speeds into watts using its VPC or Virtual Power Curve.
More advanced trainers ad an extra dimension to the Zwift experience, like the effects of a head wind, drafting, or road terrain.
For the data junkies, everything from power, speed, heart rate, and cadence can be monitored.
The data can also be relayed to a smartphone.
The entire experience takes place on Zwift Island. Where riders can track metrics on screen, try to keep pace with friends, or join in a ride with strangers.
Zwift is currently expanding their range of partnerships to give riders more bike and kit options, although the user customization is fairly basic at this point. When signing up, riders are given options for hair styles, kit, and two different Pinarello models – the Dogma and F8.
For the next few months Zwift will be limiting its beta launch to one thousand users, but as the community grows, so will the amount of kits, bikes, and tracks available. The company plans on making the service available to everyone sometime this winter for a monthly subscription fee of $10.
The entire world is beautifully and painstakingly rendered. Music drifts from buildings as riders pass, and the sounds of birds and crickets can also be heard. The game has been in development for three years and started as a solo project for VP of Game Development Jon Mayfield. A long time programmer, he began to work on the project as a way to make his after work indoor training sessions more interesting. When he began posting about the idea on cycling forums, it was discovered by the other Zwift Co-Founders, who have helped develop the project into an immersive social fitness experience.
What makes the idea incredibly interesting is its potential. While at this point users are limited in terms of tracks and physical customization, as the game develops and the community develops, so will the feature set. They’ve already built in virtual rewards like jerseys, but there is just so much more potential. Talking with Scott Barger, Co-Founder & VP of Business Development, the company has big plans which include voice integration, collaborations with race promoters, and expanding the experience to include other types of riding.
If you’re interested in checking out the beta program, sign up at Zwift.com, and they’ll notify you via email once it’s open.