What’s the best turbo for Zwift? With such a range of turbo trainers on the market, you need to make sure that you get the right one if you plan on using Zwift to its full potential.
Sometimes we cyclists can use language that sounds like English, but to a non cyclist, it would sound like gibberish.
Turbo? Zwift ? Let’s get the definitions out of the way.
By “turbo“, we mean turbo trainer, which is in essence a device that holds your bike in a stationary position to enable you to ride indoors, whilst it applies variable levels of resistance to make you pedal harder or softer, depending on how deep into the cave pain you want to go.
Most people find them intensely boring.
Zwift is a computer game where instead of a handheld controller, the input device is your bike (attached to a turbo trainer). Sign up for Zwift here.
So what’s the best turbo for Zwift?
There are two crucial factors to consider when thinking about what’s likely to be the best turbo for Zwift.
- How the resistance is changed and calibrated
- How to get a measurement of your power
Basic, less expensive (sometimes called “dumb”) turbo trainers provide their resistance via mechanical means, either magnetic or fluid, and are controlled via a simple lever you attach to your bars.
They offer various levels of resistance but the key thing is that you manually change the resistance yourself.
Measuring power is difficult on a basic turbo too, unless your bike has a power meter fitted.
On the more expensive end of the turbo spectrum, there are “Smart” turbo trainers with integrated power meters, which can vary the resistance automatically say in response to data from a GPX file, or through connections with apps like Zwift.
What difference does it make using a Smart turbo trainer with Zwift?
If you originally just wanted to use a turbo through the worst of the winter, as a last resort for when the weather is just too atrocious to ride outside, you may have discovered that it can be rather, yawn, boring.
So I’m guessing that you may have looked into how to make turbo training less boring and then discovered Zwift somewhere along the way.
If you’ve got no means of producing an accurate power measurement, Zwift can estimate it for you using a combination of your heart rate and other sensors such as speed and cadence.
This will clearly not be as accurate or as responsive (how quick it can react in real time) but it will work on a basic level.
To get the best out of Zwift, however, you need a more hi tech trainer. One that will respond rapidly when you ramp up the power. One that can increase the resistance automatically to simulate going uphill, and ease off on the downhills, to make it feel altogether more immersive and realistic.
I’ve used Zwift on a dumb trainer and it was like trying to paint with boxing gloves on.
Let’s take a look at some of the high end turbo trainers that will make Zwift really shine.
Tacx Neo with Zwift
The Tacx Neo Smart trainer features a silent, powerful and accurate direct drive delivering ultra quiet and highly realistic road feel.
Wahoo Kickr with Zwift
The best gets better. New for 2016 is Wahoo’s KICKR Smart Trainer, the official indoor trainer of Team SKY. Enhanced responsiveness, greater stability, more power output & reduced noise, it’s the trainer of choice for any serious cyclist.