How To Get Started on Zwift with a Smart Trainer

How To Get Started on Zwift with a Smart Trainer

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:

  1. A bike (obviously)
  2. 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
    • iPhone
    • iPad/iPod
    • AppleTV
    • Android
  • Computers
    • 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:

  1. Make sure your trainer is powered on
  2. Open Zwift on your device and log in
  3. Choose your trainer as both the “Power Source” and “Controllable” Trainer from the Pairing Screen:

Get Moving!

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!

Next Steps

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!

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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Lucy
Lucy
10 months ago

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.

Lucy
Lucy
10 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Thanks for reply i appreciate it

Joanna Lacman
Joanna Lacman
10 months ago

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

Carrie Matczynski
Carrie Matczynski
8 months ago

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

Paul Murray
Paul Murray
3 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

“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?

Andy Clare
Andy Clare
7 months ago

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.

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[…] Getting started on Zwift […]

Allmac
Allmac
7 months ago

Try 3 fans!

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[…] How to get started on Zwift with a smart trainer […]

Poet Carlos
Poet Carlos
7 months ago

porque no conecta bluethooh con mi mac y si con mi phone

Tom
Tom
7 months ago

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.

Victoria
Victoria
7 months ago

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?
Thank you!

trackback

[…] get up and running on Zwift the basics include a bike and smart indoor trainer hooked up to an internet linked device running the Zwift […]

Erick Mancera
Erick Mancera
6 months ago

Al término de cada carrera “RUN” las sesiones no se guardan, la pierdo… puedo recuperarlas o, porque me está pasando esto?

trackback

[…] If you’ve never used Zwift, here’s a good intro to get started: https://zwiftinsider.com/getting-started-smart-trainer/ […]

Madison Dubois
Madison Dubois (@thedevilwearsprada)
6 months ago

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.

Craig
Craig
5 months ago

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

Dave
Dave
3 months ago

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

Kevin
Kevin
2 months ago

Do you need to calibrate a Tacx Neo 2? if so how as i cant find the spanner symbol on screen. Thanks

Jose Perez
Jose Perez
2 months ago

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

Adam
Adam
20 days ago

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?

TacxY
TacxY
11 days ago

If I use a Tacx Neo, can I use it directly on Zwift without any setup in the Tacx app ?

TacxY
TacxY
11 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Thank you for your clear and quick answer!

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