Smart trainers provide the most immersive and rewarding Zwift experience since they accurately detect your power output while simulating the hill climbs and descents.
Want to start riding on Zwift, but aren’t sure where to start? Here’s a guide which answers all the basic questions for anyone looking to get up and riding on Zwift with a smart trainer.
Choosing a Smart Trainer
Need help choosing a smart trainer? See our Smart Trainer Index which includes recommendations for various budget levels.
What Else Do I Need?
In addition to your smart trainer, there are two things you must have in order to ride on Zwift:
- A bike (obviously)
- A device to run Zwift (with Internet connection)
Choosing a Bike
If you’re brand-new to cycling and don’t have a bike, we recommend visiting your local bike shop and making friends with the good people there. They can advise you on the best bike to fit your needs, repair/adjust things as needed, and generally support you in your cycling journey. That’s what they do!
If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, you can always find new bikes online, or used bikes on eBay, CraigsList, or elsewhere. But if you’re new to cycling we highly recommend forming a good relationship with your local shop.
In the end, to get on Zwift the bike you purchase needs to be compatible with your smart trainer. Your safest bet is a standard 10 or 11-speed road bike, as this will work on virtually all smart trainers.
Devices Which Run Zwift
Zwift is software, and you must install it on a compatible device in order to use it. Here is a summary of devices which can run Zwift. We’ve also included a note indicating the type(s) of wireless connections they allow:
- Smartphones/Tablets: Bluetooth only
- Windows 7 64bit or higher: ANT+ supported if you plug in an ANT+ dongle, Bluetooth supported on Windows 10 with Bluetooth 4. We recommend using ANT+ on Windows.
- macOS 10.9 or higher: ANT+ supported if you plug in an ANT+ dongle, Bluetooth also supported.
Note: if your device was made in the last few years, it should be able to run Zwift. But you may want to double-check by looking at Zwift’s current device requirements.
As you can see, Zwift supports just two ways of communicating wirelessly: Bluetooth or ANT+. Fortunately, today nearly all smart trainers communicate in both Bluetooth and ANT+ simultaneously, making it easy to connect a smart trainer to your Zwift device of choice.
Which Device is Best?
This is a common question, and there is no single answer. For some, the best device for running Zwift is the one they already own, because they can’t afford anything else! For others, the best device is whatever offers the most immersive experience, regardless of cost.
If you’re looking for the simplest experience, AppleTV is probably it. Of course, you’ll need a TV screen as well, but Zwift on AppleTV is dead simple, affordable, and looks pretty smooth and sharp if you’re using the latest AppleTV (4k).
Looking for the best gameplay experience (fast framerate, highest resolution)? Go with a Windows PC with a quality gaming graphics card. This will provide the most immersive and visually stunning experience when coupled with a large display.
Many Zwifters begin by using a basic device they already own (perhaps their iPhone, or a laptop PC) then upgrade to a higher-end setup once they’ve experienced how cool Zwift really is.
Creating a Zwift Account
Every Zwifter has their own account which tracks mileage and other achievements. Signing up easy–just visit zwift.com/create_account.
You will be given free trial access to Zwift so you can test it out before choosing to subscribe. Subscription cost in the US is currently $14.99/month.
Connecting Your Smart Trainer to Zwift
So you’ve got your bike mounted on a smart trainer, plus a device to run Zwift. What next?
Zwift’s software communicates wirelessly with your smart trainer, allowing your in-game avatar to ride in a way that realistically reflects the effort you’re actually putting out. In addition to sensing your efforts, Zwift also sends terrain information to your smart trainer, allowing the trainer to mimic the feel of hill climbs and descents for a very immersive experience!
Note: if you’re running Zwift on a computer and want to use ANT+ for your wireless connection, you’ll need an ANT+ USB dongle plugged into that computer so it can talk to your smart trainer. See Recommended ANT+ Sticks (Dongles) for Zwift >
For Zwift and your smart trainer to “talk” to each other, you must pair them from within the Zwift software. Connecting your smart trainer to Zwift is quite easy once you’ve installed Zwift on your device:
- Make sure your trainer is powered on
- Open Zwift on your device and log in
- Choose your trainer as both the “Power Source” and “Controllable” Trainer from the Pairing Screen:
Once you click “OK” on the pairing screen, you’ll be greeted with the “Startup Screen” which lets you choose which route to ride, as well as a workout if you’re so inclined.
Just click the big orange “Ride” button to get going right away, or click “Routes” to browse the available routes. Keep in mind there are always two worlds available on a given day: Watopia and a “guest world”. Each world has its own unique set of routes, and the guest world rotates based on a monthly schedule.
Upgrade Your Experience
While you only need a few things to start Zwifting, there are some additional purchases you can make to greatly improve your Zwifting experience:
- A fan (or two): read How Much Fan Do You Need When Riding Indoors? to learn why fans are important and get a list of recommended fans.
- A table/tray: you’ll need a place to store towels, remotes, food/drink, and more. A music stand is a good start or something like the Conquer Desk is a solid upgrade.
- A larger screen: try to get a screen that lets you see game details clearly and fills most of your field of view.
- Quality wireless earbuds: soon enough you’ll want to listen to music, podcasts, or interact on Discord as you ride. Read Top 3 Wireless Headphones for Zwift+Discord if you need recommendations.
- A heart rate monitor: it’s nice to see your heart rate on screen, and most Zwift races require heart rate data if you reach the podium. We’re partial to the Wahoo Tickr.
- And don’t forget a sweat towel!
We recommend joining a group ride once you’ve done a few “free rides” on Zwift. The Zwift community rocks!
Additionally, Zwift Companion allows you to see upcoming events, control the game, and interact with other Zwifters from your smartphone. Install it on your iOS or Android device and see how it works.
We’ll see you out there. Ride on!
Ok I have checked and asked and i know it is basic – but if i have a smart trainer tacx flow with a pc and garmin 520 with ant+ cable should i still click on both controllable and POWER source. I dont have a power meter and use speed and cadence with garmin anyway- thanks for help ps the route and badges are addictive.
Yes, pair your trainer as both the Power source and Controllable Trainer.
You can use your Garmin sensor for cadence, but you don’t need it for speed, since Zwift will calculate your speed based on your watts: https://zwiftinsider.com/how-does-zwift-calculate-my-speed/
Thanks for reply i appreciate it
I have a Kinetic Road 2.0 Smart… I calibrated to the K app as recommended but actually needed my son to pedal as I could not reach 22mph based on app… I am now riding basic rides but the warm up targeted 42 watts and I am barely pedaling or putting effort in and to is over 80watts.. did I skip a step? Oh and I really need spelled out steps if is so overwhelming I appreciate any help
Hey Joanna, did you get a reply to this? I had the same problem calibrating my Tacx Flow Smart. I’m 63 and a bit overweight despite cycling all summer and into autumn until it got too cold – hence buying the trainer. I did *just* manage to get up to 30Kph at the first attempt, only to realise I forgot to warm up the trainer. So I pedalled normally for five minutes before making my second attempt on the 30Kph target. Six more times without quite getting there. My partner offered to try and folded his 6’ 2” skelly onto… Read more »
Hi Eric, would love help, other than Watopia rides, my kickr is not smart. Other than Watopia, elevation does not matter, so if I am going 6mph uphill it feels the same as 40 downhill and really trying to pedal faster on the 6mph does not even help. It only works in Watopia … and dare I say, Rouvy, which I don’t use much cuz the graphics are not as good
I don’t think this is an “only Watopia” thing… that doesn’t make sense. But my guess is you’re not pairing the KICKR as a “controllable trainer” in the pairing screen. Make sure you’re doing that, and it should work everywhere.
Also, make sure it’s not connected to, and being controlled by, anything else but Zwift. So no bike computer, no phone app, etc.
“make sure it’s not connected to” – does this make a difference? I have my Cycleops 400 connected to Zwift and on login, it says it is controllable but I have yet to see any difference in resistance when climbing hills. I do have the Cycleops Joule turned on which I use to change the “gears”. Should I turn the Joule off?
A similar thing happened to me with my Elite trainer, I solved it by adding an extension lead to the Ant+ dongle so it now sits on the floor closer to the trainer.
Try 3 fans!
porque no conecta bluethooh con mi mac y si con mi phone
Do I need Swift companion if I’ve been invited to someone’s group ride? I will be using my Mac and Companion is not available for Mac.
No. But you’ll need to click to sign up for the Meetup from the Zwift start screen… then you can go in and start riding, and click to join the meetup when the prompt pops up.
I have “Tacx Neo 2” trainer and “stages” for power and cadence. Do I still pair Tacx as my power and controllable source? Would I pair stages for cadence only?
Should I be doing the same pairing (my trainer paired as the controllable and power sources) if I want to do a “workout” based on power instead of just a ride?
That’s up to you. The NEO2 can handle everything (power, controllable trainer, cadence). Or you can pair your stages for power, especially if you want the same power meter as you use outside.
Al término de cada carrera “RUN” las sesiones no se guardan, la pierdo… puedo recuperarlas o, porque me está pasando esto?
I have a CycleOps Fluid2 trainer that I use with a ANT+UBS Dongle to connect to my Mac Air Book computer using a Garmin speed and cadence sensor.Everything was going fine and all of a sudden no matter how hard or fast I pedal I go very slowly even though the MPH and RPM is high.Now I use my iPhone to connect via Bluetooth with the same result.Is there a reason why i am experiencing this problem?.Thanks for your help.
Can I please have some advice on the best device pick between the TACX VORTEX SMART TURBO TRAINER and the Elite Turbo Roteo Smart B plus direct drive trainer. Of which I have the option of either (used) for the same price …thanks in advance for your opinions. I’m no racer and more of a sedate peddler. Thanks
Relatively new to Zwift I get confused with who I should contact and finding the best means. My Zwiftpower minimum Cat is currently set at C and following a recent upgrade to a smart trainer I’m struggling to get anywhere near the lower end. Can I get this reset as I’m averaging about 2.2w/kg on the Smart trainer and regularly get left during races
Do you need to calibrate a Tacx Neo 2? if so how as i cant find the spanner symbol on screen. Thanks
No, the Neo does not require calibration. One reason why it’s an amazing trainer!
Muy bien trabajada la página, hay mucha literatura para leer, y todas de interés, Tengo una pregunta, con el entrenador tacx neo 2t puede al mismo tiempo el garmín edge 830, o se interfiere cuando se planifica un entreno. gracias
I dont have a smart trainer but want to use Zwift. what do I need so that Swift can calculate my speed in the program?
A classic (“dumb”) trainer and a speed sensor will get you going: https://zwiftinsider.com/getting-started-classic-trainer/
If I use a Tacx Neo, can I use it directly on Zwift without any setup in the Tacx app ?
Yes. Plug and play!
Thank you for your clear and quick answer!
I was hooked into Zwift for months and now my compu-trainer is not listed under the power source, there is nothing. I initially replaced my batteries on my sensors, saw green lights flash, but nothing appears on my power source. The cadence show but that is it. Have not been able to ride in over a week. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the software, nothing!!
wonder if anyone is experiencing this. I have had a kickr bike and tickr connect to apple tv set up since august – bluetooth has worked perfectly. In the last few weeks, bluetooth has started connecting very intermittently. sometimes not connecting, sometimes connecting then dropping. any ideas on how to fix very appreciated. thank you
Will the New Apple iPad (10.2-inch, Wi-Fi, 128GB) – Space Gray (Latest Model, 8th Generation) support Zwift?
Yes, that’s what I use. Some elements on the screen are a bit small and, annoyingly, I have to wear my reading (desktop computer distance) glasses to read them – particularly the details in the Zwifters Nearby list that shows your W/Kg – but there’s only so much you can fit onto a small screen. I’m keeping everything as low cost as possible but I do dream of a bigger screen.
I’m new to Zwift and have a classic trainer – Lifeline TT-01. The Speed sensor icon says I should use resistance setting 1. Do I need to change this when going up hill in the game, and to what setting?
I was wondering this as well, so far as I can tell you are supposed to keep the same setting and just spin hard up the hills.
is there any diiference between the free trial and actual game
The only difference is that the free trial limits you to 25km/month of riding. If you want to do more than that, you’ll need an active subscription. But even in free trial mode, all the features are there!
I think I been dropped by Zwift. Just used it yesterday and it is not there. Em I not in compliance? Please get back to me enjoy this app very much and unaware of any uncomplicated.
You’ll need to contact Zwift support: https://support.zwift.com
I am in the UK and want to know if I can create my own route on Zwift? I am going to cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats. Is this route already available or can it be created on the app? Thank you
No, you can’t create your own routes on Zwift.
After I pair the trainer and go to start I jump past the selection screen and jump to a ride, How do I start at the course selection screen?
Hi… when using my iPad hardwired to a smart TV the pop-up display of “what riders are riding behind me” that are displayed at the bottom of the screen aren’t there!?
I cannot select the route I want. I selected Volcano Flats in Watopia & it put me on Hilly Route in Watopia. I tried 4 times. Wouldn’t go to Volcano Flats.
I plan to use a Windows 10 laptop to connect to Tacx Smart bike. What are the benefits of using Bluetooth vs ANT+?
it looks like I am riding under the wrong flag. don’t know how that happened but how do I fix that?
I’ve just bought a s7 tablet got zwift on big screen all Bluetooth I now can’t synce my bkool to zwift because it’s not ant can it work with Bluetooth
Absolute beginner so please pardon the ignorance. Can a smart watch/Fitbit be used instead of a heart rate monitor
Using Beginner FTP trainer program on Suito 169 Elite smart trainer. Having wild swings of cadence reading: 40-50 is approximately 90-100 on manual count. Does improve somewhat if resistance is increased and as training progresses past the halfway mark.
Also, getting a knock sound in the crank when pedalling particularly at lower power. Again it tends to improve with higher resistance. Hence it is difficult to match the pedal power to the training metric power.
I’m 71 years old, have bilateral hip arthritis, and need to cancel my ZWIFT account for the foreseeable future while I have surgery on both. How do I do that? I don’t see any entry to that process on the app.
Don’t cancel your account – just suspend the subscription. I usurping do this every spring once the weather is favorable to get outside.
What is the best way to interact with a group you are leading? I am without my IPhone temporarily. I have Apple TV, but am unsure how I can interact with my group.
I’m thinking of buy Zwift trainer but where I was going to use it (in my summer house) I can’t get WiFi….. What are my options if any.
Hi Eric – thank you for providing this informative guide to get started with a smart trainer and Swift. My question is how do 2 cyclists, using a single (non smart) TV, work out at the same time together on their separate Wahoo KICKR Bike smart trainers connected to their individual Swift accounts on their iphones?
Not exactly a perfect solution, but you could run a converter cable out of your iPhone into an HDMI cable, and it an HDMI splitter, into your TV.
That would show both your phones’ screens on the TV. Picture would probably be distorted, but it would work.
More info: https://www.pacrad.com/blog/hdmi-splitter-vs-hdmi-switcher-how-to-connect-multiple-devices-to-your-tv/
A question that has me bothering for longer than I’d like to admit:
I use a HR monitor, because I want to see HR during workouts/rides etc. When Zwift ends my ride, it always uploads a picture/screenshot. Is is possible to hide just the HR-data from those pictures? I mean without the ‘remove HUD’ function.
Main reason: I want to know how hard I’m suffering, but I don’t want the world to know 🙂
Great site BTW!
Wondering if anyone can help. Just bought a Wattbike and connecting to Zwift. When I connect via my iPad the gears display but when my husband connects via same iPad the gears are not displayed. is there a setting I’m missing? Any help is very much appreciated!
Should work the same for both – just make sure you’re connecting it as both the power source and controllable trainer on the pairing screen.
Hi- Im new to Zwift, is there a link to understand all the badges and stuff on a ride? I see translucent riders, glowing riders etc- where can I learn about these?
Hi clehman – welcome!
There’s lots to learn on Zwift, but that’s part of the fun.
Translucent riders are RoboPacers: https://zwiftinsider.com/robopacers/
Lots of badges you can earn: https://zwiftinsider.com/route-badges/
I need some assistance getting Zwift to work properly. I just purchased a Wahoo Rollr as well as a 4K Apple TV box. I have paired the trainer, my power meter, speed sensor and HR monitor. Everything seems connected perfectly. When I click RIDE the screen appears with my avatar, however, when I begin to pedal nothing happens. My avatar stays still while everyone else moves on. My power meter and speed sensor show connected, but I’m getting zero wattage and zero MPH. What am I doing wrong?