Yesterday Zwift sent a survey to a select group of users, asking them to select which trainer they would likely purchase from a fictional store. Here’s that store’s homepage:
Notice anything especially interesting? We sure did!
The store includes two trainers not yet available on the open market: the “Zwift Ride” and “Zwift Wheel”:
The Wheel is a direct-drive trainer, with a metal flywheel similar to the Tacx Neo. These shots show it without a cassette. The Ride (and this is important to understand) is simply the Wheel with a smartbike frame and front wheel added. So the Wheel can actually be upgraded to a full Ride setup!
We chatted a bit with Zwift CEO Eric Min about the survey and what he’s excited about for the Wheel and Ride. This really is big news in the world of Zwift, because they have “tipped their hand” in a big way. Until now, it’s been well-known that Zwift is working to develop its own hardware. But no images or specs had been released.
Eric told us, “We decided it was worth the risk of leaking the details of our hardware in exchange for the learnings we’ll get from the surveys.”
The key specs and features of the Wheel/Ride shown in the fictional store are as follows (with notes in italics from us):
- Power Accuracy: +/-1%: this matches the Tacx NEO and Wahoo KICKR
- Peak Power: 2200W: again, matching the NEO and KICKR
- Max Simulated Incline of 25%: this can be measured in a variety of ways (no industry standard), but is in the same ballpark as the NEO and KICKR
- Downhill Simulation: aka “downhill drive”, where a motor drives the flywheel on descents so you can coast and get the feel of descending. This feature only available on the NEO currently.
- Road surface simulation: another NEO-only feature, this mimicks the feel of cobbles, wooden slats, dirt, etc by sending vibrations through your chain which you feel in the pedals.
- Braking, Steering, and Game Controls: this is a sort of D-pad controller which is mounted to your handlebars. More on this later…
- Virtual Gear Shifting (Z Cog): a very interesting feature, which we’ll discuss below.
- Immersive Lighting: LED lights around the wheel(s) and in other locations presumably can be changed based on power output or other factors.
Additional specs only applicable to the Ride are:
- Minimum user height of 5′ (152cm), maximum height of 6′ 4″ (193cm): note: the survey actually says 6′ 6″ in a different place
- Dimensions: 5′ 5″ x 2′ 4″ (165x71cm): same width as a KICKR, narrower than a NEO
- Vertically storable: very handy for long-term storage, or tight spaces
- Adjustability: handlebar position, seat position, and crank length are all adjustable
There’s no way of knowing the specific pricing Zwift will use when the Ride and Wheel are released, because this survey showed different prices to different survey participants. That’s what makes these surveys so powerful – they are sent to thousands of users, at different price points, so the responses can show how pricing impacts demand.
The first survey we saw had the Wheel priced at $1000 and the Ride at $2200. But other users reported pricing of $1200 and $2800, respectively. The lower price point would undercut everything on the market today in terms of price/features, while the higher price points would essentially match today’s market pricing.
Unique Selling Points
The specs above look solid, but what makes the Zwift Wheel/Ride truly special? There’s a lot to talk about here, so let’s dig in.
Z Cog (Virtual Gear Shifting)
The Zwift Wheel description includes this: “Z Cog: Zwift Wheel is built around a single cog design with virtual shifting, unlocking compatibility with all bikes from the box.”
We sure would like more detail about how this will work. But we think what Zwift is developing is virtual shifting, where you don’t need a front or rear derailleur. Instead, when you shift, the trainer simply changes resistance accordingly to mimic the feel of moving up or down a cog.
This is what most smart bikes do, and the beauty of it is you can set up your virtual groupset to be anything you’d like. Want it to mimic your outdoor road bike? Done. Want to go with a 1×12 to match a MTB or gravel bike, or just so you never have to shift your front chainring? All doable.
But Zwift is taking virtual shifting to a new level (we think), because it’s being controlled by the integrated controller.
Using an add-on controller lets Zwift bring virtual shifting to users who buy just the Wheel and bring their own frame (and groupset) to the game. This will be especially helpful for MTB and gravel riders who find they run out of real gears on Zwift, where road gearing is really the ideal setup.
But it would also be handy for users of bikes that are older or poorly constructed. These users often struggle to get their bike to work with a “normal” cassette on a direct-drive trainer, but Z Cog would eliminate that hassle, as well as the hassles of adjusting your shifting so it’s consistent and smooth.
Many Zwifters get into the game at a lower price point because they’re not convinced it’s worth a big up-front investment. Then down the road, once they’re hooked, they spring for the upgrades: a direct-drive trainer. A big screen. You know how it goes…
Zwift has ingeniously built an upgrade path into their two pieces of hardware, allowing Zwifters to begin with just the Wheel, then add the Ride’s frame and front wheel to the mix later. Smart.
The survey says the Wheel/Ride’s lights “bring the Zwift world into your home”. Images show the lights in an orange color, but surely Zwift plans for the lights to change based on one or more parameters.
For starters, the lights could certainly change based on your wattage, like the Tacx NEO. That’s basic stuff.
But let’s take it further.
Imagine if the lights changed to mimic the Zwift environment? We know this is very doable, based on Jon Mayfield’s weekend lighting project almost four years ago. All it takes is Zwift sending some extra data to the Wheel/Ride, and that code is probably already sitting in game.
The Wheel may seem unnecessarily large, but have you ever tried moving a Tacx NEO? “Ungainly” is a generous description.
The wheel includes handholds, while the full bike frame can be rotated vertically for storage. Both of these features could make the Wheel/Ride more easily moveable and storable than some top trainers (and all current smartbikes).
This is speculation, but based on what we’ve heard from Zwift in terms of current hardware “pain points”, we assume their hardware will be built with an eye toward allowing add-on accessories.
For example, an integrated screen option (with the hardware to run Zwift) would be welcome by many. And if there’s enough market demand, why not remove that front wheel and add a gradient simulator like the Wahoo CLIMB or Elite RIZER?
That Tron Look
The Ride is far and away the most “bike-like” of smartbikes in terms of its design. Some may not like the Tron look, but you have to admit it’s genius on Zwift’s part. If you’re looking for a smartbike setup that looks unique and futuristic, while still looking like a real bike… the Ride is it.
If Zwift is able to bring the Wheel/Ride to market within the next year, at a price point in the neighborhood of what this survey used, they’re going to give the Zwift community something to cheer about (and the competition something to worry about).
There’s a big caveat worth mentioning: based on the surveys we saw, the Wheel/Ride offer specs matching or exceeding today’s best trainers, with added features and adaptability today’s trainers can’t match.
But Chris Snook, Zwift’s PR Director, told us, “the survey is designed to help us better understand the hardware product features Zwifters value most by showing a mix of real and hypothetical products/product features. These are shown at various hypothetical prices.” So while the specs look good, the final product may be very different.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Initial thoughts are that this seems really well thought out and positioned. Modularity is a great approach, and if anything it should give the market a kick-start rather than destroy the competition. The key to this is Zwift being open with compatibility and created a platform that anyone can innovate within. For example, the riser unit could be 3rd party, or as Eric mentions you may purchase the frame to work with a different trainer (although with no FD or chainring this is hard to imagine!) I just hope Zwift open up on the software front too. The Neobike has… Read more »
I wonder if braking will become a specific event only option as far as racing goes like steering is?
That is what we saw in neokyo arcade. Now it is made real.
More Interesting to me than the Wheel or Wheel/Bike combo is the ability to use the Bike with another trainer. Zwift has made it hard for manufacturers to use integrated turn buttons (e.g. NeoBike). I think there would be a lot of folks who’d upgrade their existing trainer from another manufacturer with a Bike that had better integration with Zwift, especially if you could store it vertically and add a riser or fan instead of the front wheel.
Probably going to have to get one.
Very interesting. Good concept and design. We all know of initial trainer woes by other companies, so I hope that zwift can get it right as quickly as possible on release. I like that the screen is Not attached to the bike like some other trainer bikes.
But will there be platform lock-in? Zwift is really great and all, but I do like to dabble on other platforms. Will it have full Ant+ and BT support?
Unclear. But I bet it does.
Promising. However if it misses the Climb feature I would have to pass. Hopefully you are right and it’s upgradeable
Yes, would like to think it would be compatible with the RIZER or Wahoo Climb.
That definitely feels like a major shortcoming that I noticed right away. I don’t see a full fork, so it probably wouldn’t work with either of the current products, so you’d need one of their own for full compatibility.
Agreed. I wouldn’t buy this over a Kickr bike. Compatibility means that you have to buy another piece of hardware. The Kickr bike already has virtual gears —so what’s the value added here? The lights? 🤔
If I was in to move from my current setup (Wahoo Kickr v4, Kickr Climb) to a smart bike, I would also need a certain time perspective on the Zwift Bike. Many times first iterations of a piece of hardware come with a learning curve I would not be willing to suffer in a Smart Bike. In any case, the more competitors the best it is for us. It is going to emulate the market and oblige everybody to rethink their positioning.
I’ve been thinking of getting a dedicated indoor bike and this looks cool, but no climb no deal for me.
I agree, without a Climb type feature, it’s a non starter for me. They have an opportunity to combine the best features of Tacx and Wahoo. Not sure why they would not want to differentiate by having both road feel and climb capabilities? A Zwift bike should leverage all the features that the platform has to offer. Ignoring bike position changes as we climb and descend makes no sense. I got rid of my Tacx Neo because of the Wahoo Climb, it’s allowed me to ride much longer more comfortably. My only hope is that this is a prototype and… Read more »
Still just wishlist items, right?
Virtual gearing is nothing new and has been around for over 5 years. Been using it on Magnetic Days trainer.
I currently use the Neo Bike and I’m very happy with it, although I admittedly don’t use the Road Feel as often as I spent on it.
So I could do without that, if that’s reflected in the price I would definitely buy the Zwift option next.
Honestly, there are times that, as a big guy riding a dumb trainer, I like to attack on the downhills when I have the advantage of gravity and others can’t easily respond. I’d hope the motorized flywheel could be turned off.
If its like the Neo then a motorised flywheel won’t offer a performance advantage.
Yeah no, maybe I wasn’t clear. I’d think the motorized flywheel, while making descents more realistic, would be a performance disadvantage if it couldn’t be turned off during races because it would make it harder to respond to attacks from others.
You can use the Neo without plugging it in, meaning no downhill drive. But to be honest it feels weird not having it and I rather take the odd chance of getting attacked on a downhill.
Downhill attacks are so rarely successful that I sort of think of them more as a “well, yeah, I could do them” thing as opposed to something I actually take advantage of. On the other hand, the last 50 m of the uphill of the legsnapper and the first 50 or so of the downhill where I hammered to get up to supertuck speed were part of the difference in how I broke away from my group on Innsbruckring today. However, the fact that weighed 30 more kg than either of the 2 I was with and the fact that… Read more »
How many drops is this going to cost me?
I love the modular idea, and the single cog shifting is brilliant. The fake wheels make no sense. Sure they look kind of cool, but they take up a lot of space, add weight and cost to the product, and just don’t do anything. My Tacx bike takes up a lot less space and has all the same performance characteristics. Glad they didn’t bother with the climb. Another gimmick. But it should have at least a small screen to show gearing like the Tacx, and a place for a phone since we all need to run companion app. They really… Read more »
Speaking about weight, getting the Neo Bike in my apartment as a single skinny dude was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. I would not like the Zwift Bike to be even heavier.
I would buy the hell out of that. Give a 5% discount to anyone who’s already earned a Tron bike as a way to reward long-term customers.
Can’t wait 👍🏽
The survey was also intended to assess price points. In that theoretical “store” the KICKR bike is priced at $2,500 vs. its usual $3,500. If that were a real price I wouldn’t care if the Zwift bike were $300 less; I would be giving Wahoo my money. The Zwift bike offers lights, “road feel,” etc. but the KICKR bike generally matches it where it counts and has CLIMB/Rize ability as well. Given the CLIMB is about $600, the KICKR bike would be the better buy…IF I could buy it at $2,500.
100% this and it’s pretty much what DCrainmaker said as well… tech wise it’s not an industry killer BUT it could be if the price is set right. At 2.2k it’ll do just that imo, the Tacx & Stages are equal tech based so undercutting them by such a margain would decimate their market share, meanwhile also undercutting the Wahoo by 1.3k would make it a hard one to justify such money just for the climb/rizer ability. If Zwift sets the bike in the market for 2.8-3k they have no advantage over the same specced competitors and 500ish more would… Read more »
Kickr bike has downhill simulation too, so not just the Neo.
Do you think if you buy the physical Zwift Tron bike Zwift will auto unlock the in game Tron if you don’t already have it? Could be an interesting incentive for folks that don’t yet have the in game bike
No way that would happen. You have to work for your in game Tron 🙂
There are so many parts of this design which just make me think “GENIUS!”
– The way it stores up right, and looks like a bike.
– The way you can start with a wheel and upgrade to a bike
– The virtual gears, removing the need for a cassette AND reducing wear and tear.
If it works well and reliably, I’d be very tempted. And the look and the LEDs would appeal to my other half.
I like the modular approach, but for a similar price to the competition I’d not be considering it. My concern is quality. Zwift isn’t known for it and they’re new to hardware, a very difficult space.
Yeah, the quality/durability would be big concerns for me with a new product from someone who hadn’t done this before. If they come right out and say “we had Garmin make this for us and are paying them for their tech”, that might change my mind.
For me to change to a smart bike it would have to have proper steering ie turn the bars to turn and there would also need to be a climb type add on.
But the Zwift bike sure looks cool!
I love the Zwift logo rebrand there in the images. Looks super tight. I will be ordering 2 of these beasts.
Wahoo is really close to perfection but a few things would make it perfect perfect imo. Real steering like the Rizer and and a built in rocker plate that mimics outdoor movement.
Curious to see how the Bike connects to the Wheel – hopefully something quieter and lower maintenance than a chain. Or will that be the cost of modularity?
I’m wondering if this bike set up would fit on my Saris MP1….🤔
Interesting but I try to use my indoor set up as little as possible. If the roads are clear then I am outside regardless of the temperature. I realize some people live in urban areas where outdoor riding might be risky or live where there is eternal winter so then it would be useful! For me, I don’t want to overspend on my indoor setup. I hope to use it sparingly.
I was very surprised seeing a zwift bike but it was something I was looking for. I even discussed it with my friends before: I am always struggling to calibrate my shifting correctly, need to lubricate, chain wears out… This is why I would love this product IF (big IF) the ride can be purchased without the actual zwift wheel for a price much less (and we could use any other smart trainer like wahoo kickr, etc) and if climbing stuff could be added later on. I would consider the bike without the trainer to cost around 1000€ or something… Read more »
My next smart trainer purchase will be for one with direct-connect (no dropouts). The rest of it is not a big deal. All the bells and whistles evaporate when you have a dropout that leaves you dropped and disgusted.
Looks nice, but for now it won’t knock me off my Tacx Neo2 mounted on rocker plates. If I were in the market, I would seriously consider the bike.
Wonder if you can ride out of the saddle on it? 🤣
Or if they’ll update the firmware as often as they’ve updated the Tron in-game? I’ve had my Tron 3 years, and the only time they updated it was to make it perform worse.
I look forward to the official announcement. So far, I do not see anything fundamentally new or ingenious in this design. Integration of virtual shifting into Zwift Wheel is a nicely ported feature from full size bike simulators, but this forces users to use some fake attachments to handlebars with buttons instead of real (or real-like simulated) shifters. The bike attachment itself, as it stands now, has only simulation of illuminated Tron bike, I am not sure what it adds if a user already has a bike. Zwift Ride looks cool but does not add new functionality and does not… Read more »
I would like to see this come as I am in the market to move off my neo 2 direct drive ‘works great’ but my retired bike I have on the thing has seen better days and it’s limiting my options … And I refuse to put my fancy and expensive gravel / road bike and it’s GRX group set on to get destroyed via my sweat drops … I was so disappointed when new years came up so my work benefit for health goods reset and finding no Kickr bikes in stock where I found them easily not two… Read more »
I feel like the lighting feature for the Wheel only version is like driving behind SUVs with TVs in the back row headrests. It serves no purpose except to tell other people you dont care about how much money you spend.
awesome blog. please keep writing
he riser unit could be 3rd party, or as Eric mentions you may purchase the frame to work with a different trainer
Zwift being open with compatibility and created a platform that anyone can innovate within. For example, the riser unit could
Hmmmmmm, so many things to wonder: Would I get one even at the specs above? Probably not since the specs are not so much better than my v5 and to me Zwift is about the riding, not how I look while doing it. On another level I wonder: This is the opposite way that BKool went. And while Zwift certainly will not start to become a hardware driven company very soon I wonder if at some point the priorities, development processes, overall experience, etc. will change significantly. I get that on one hand it makes sense to combine the whole… Read more »
Why does a dedicated indoor bike even need a front wheel?
They should focus on improving the gaming platform, graphics, challenges, etc. Leave the hardware to someone else. This is a novelty item that will likely never clear the launchpad.
Take my money!
I like the concept of modules. At home I will train on a full set.
If you need a trip to another city for a while – take your road bike and wheel